slip-sliding away…..

Let it flow (part 2)

Posted by Yacoob on December 1, 2015


This is a follow-up that’s long overdue. It’s almost 2 years now since I published part 1 – which was a look back on some of the more creative posts on this blog over its history. I’d intended to do the follow-up a few months later, but like so many things in life, it never materialised.

So here goes….

Remember me was a reaction. An outburst of frustration, prompted by my severely-inhibited opportunities to let my heart flow into poetic verse. Marriage – though it was all I’d wanted for so many years – had eaten up much of my time, and mental space, to the point where living with someone – combined with a new job – deprived me of the solitude and reflective stretches of time I’d become so accustomed to in my single days. This piece proved to me that I still had it in me, but all I needed was the chance to indulge again.

That sentiment was echoed a while later, with Fire – which felt like the start of a new period of poetic prosperity. Alas, it was not to be. But I still appreciated the desire that lingered within. The poet in me was not dead, and for that, I was truly grateful.

Speaking of creative struggles, State of the workplace encapsulated the first months of my new job – in what has been the most boring physical location I’ve ever worked in. Not only was the outside environment dull, but the work was also mind-numbingly boring – to the point of depression at times. I struggled a lot in those first 6 months, but eventually settled and ended up staying almost 5 years in that job.

On a more positive note, Remembrance came at the tail-end of Ramadaan 2008 – the first and only Ramadaan my wife and I had alone (before our first child arrived). It was a fitting crescendo to what was a beautifully-spiritual period in which we both strived together – engaging in a depth and quantity of worship that we’ve never been able to match in subsequent Ramadaans (given the attention our kids have needed).

My 28th birthday inspired the aptly-titled 28, which was a partial reflection on where I’d come from and where I was in life at that stage.

Mash was really unique, in that I wrote it over two very different periods. As the name suggests, it was a mixture of stuff on my mind at the time. Part 1, from January that year, captured my feelings of swimming in the ocean again – for the first time in maybe 15 years. Israel’s brutal assault on the Gaza Strip (Operation Cast Lead) was in force at the time, and that also played on my mind. So too was the thought of my first child, who was but a tiny bean at that stage – only a few months into pregnancy. Part 2 came a little after her birth, and is predictably dominated by early sentiments about fatherhood and my daughter’s future.

She was a real joy, and her opening 8 months inspired the wonderful She Flaps, which was followed up by For Toddles later that year. It saddens me that I’ve never written such words for my second daughter – but I hope that she’s felt just as much love through the way I’ve taken care of her over the course of her short life thus far.

The frustration of work and other time-deprivation suffocating my poetic soul came out in The succession of previous pursuits, when a career in writing was top of my wishlist. Sunrise in Paradise also reflect frustration – this time of missing out on nature’s beauty due to the daily grind and routine of work and life. Train of thought came about when I first started taking the railway to work – something that continued for a year and a half after that.

Reset was a pre-Ramadan reminder of just how special the coming month was, while after Ramadan, the yearning to perform Hajj was sparked and grew to a burning inferno that drove such strong duas and desires to make it to the Holy Land as soon as possible. Dreams re-awoken captured that, and when I finally made it to that blessed journey a year later, A most blessed rooftop was a perfect collection of thoughts and feelings from the 10 days spent in Madinah.

Winter Sun took me back to my former days of solitude, in my favourite season, while Summer Daze was nostalgic, reminding me of childhood Summers, and reflecting on the horrors of school (or as I called it, “educational imprisonment”) as my daughter was preparing to re-enter the system for her second year of pre-school.

And that, dear reader, is where it ends. I don’t know if I’ll ever be inspired again to write such pieces, but I hope that, as time passes, and life gives me more free time and mental space (largely based on the kids becoming less needy as they grow), inspiration will return – along with opportunities to express myself on the spot – when I need to. Because such matters don’t stay “on hold”. They need to flow immediately, or they never come back.

So with this review, I hope that these pieces will inspire you to express yourself in whatever way is best for you.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to give your feedback either in this post or in the individual pieces linked from here.

Posted in Meanderings, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Halfway to Seventy

Posted by Yacoob on November 27, 2015


Today is my birthday.

I’m now thirty five. It’s a big number, but really, inconsequential to me at this time. Looking back, when I was small, my physical resistance to fruit and vegetables had me thinking that I’d be dead by 21. Parents, or others, probably tried to scare me into eating fruits with such consequences – citing a lack of vitamins and healthy stuff as the cause of my future rapid decline. But I didn’t care. Death was not a worry back then. And 21 seemed far, far away.

And now I sit bang in the middle of my 30s – five years after a critical formational period (my 20s), and five years before that magical age of maturity (40). And I don’t feel young, nor do I feel old. Truth be told, age really hasn’t made much difference to me at all for quite a while.

Psychologically, at least.

Physically, I’ve seen the results of a slowing metabolism – with little will to reverse or even fight the outward consequences.

In terms of maturity, I’ve felt incremental gains over the last few years. Wisdom has, I hope, come in bits and pieces, and I’m no longer as selfish, judgemental, and narrow-minded as I once was. But there are still plenty of character flaws, and much work to still be done as constant refinements to a self that will never be perfect….but still needs to strive to improve all the time.

As for where I am in life, I’ve never been one to set time-related targets…or indeed, targets at all. Call me unambitious, fearful of the future, or just plain lazy – but I don’t do benchmarks. I don’t do 5 or 10 year plans. And maybe that’s why I haven’t really achieved much in the worldly sense.

I sometimes come across the social media profiles of those I went to school with. Guys that have risen to the top of their fields – executives, managers, prominent positions – climbing that corporate ladder; finding success. Even though, back in junior school, I did better than most of them academically, all of that counts for nothing – because ambition, opportunity, and most of all hard work, gets people to ascend and achieve such accomplishments.

And good for them.

But I’ve never had career ambitions. I’ve never been motivated by wealth or material success, because – alhamdullilah – I come from a stable background, where poverty was never a threat (at least for the vast majority of my life). But I’ve also never been motivated by wanting to change the world, or be some other kind of large-scale transformative force. I’ve always been pretty self-focussed, though that has changed tremendously over the last decade – with marriage and then children completely re-orienting my natural tendency to think of myself first (though I still do…just less nowadays).

Do I feel like a failure? Like a mediocre, average person?

If I dwell on things, perhaps. But my wife shared some highly encouraging insights with me a few weeks back, as we talked about where we are in life, and where we’ve come from. And I realised that I should never compare myself to others, because we all have different paths. Some have excelled in the worldly sense, others spiritually, and still others seem to have hit the jackpot by finding great balance between both sides…yet they have all had their own struggles, and they still do have their own struggles. And neither I, nor anyone else looking from the outside, know the challenges they battle with every single day. We only see the outside – the appearance of success and contentment. But in their hearts, and in their minds, each of them – every human – has battles that rage.

And in the end, the only measure of success is where you stand in the eyes of your Lord. A measure which none of us can gauge – because it’s an attribute unseen to our earthly eyes.

I also need to step back and look at the bigger picture, too. How I see myself now, how I feel, and what I think I have and haven’t achieved – all of that is not isolated and confined to this moment in time. Ten years from now, where will I be? These little challenges now – will they contribute towards positive character development, and lessons learned? Or will they be marks of failing – regret – which would still be positive, because we learn more from the bad times and mistakes than we do from the good times.

It reminds me of the hadith:

“Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affair is good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him” (Saheeh Muslim #2999)

So in all of this ramble thus far, perhaps I’ve come across as melancholy and disappointed at my station in life. But that’s not at all the case. I guess I just express myself in more negative terms than positives – because I’m not a naturally optimistic person.

But in all honesty, aside from the irritations of life and challenges I am not fighting hard enough, I really feel quite content with where I am. Alhamdullilah.

That said, I hope that the coming years will bring an accelerated pace of development and goodness, because by the time I hit 40 – if I make it that far – I hope I’ll be contributing much more to the world, and doing a lot better in all the areas that I aspire to.

That is all. For now…

Posted in Milestones, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Of refugees having it easy…

Posted by Yacoob on November 19, 2015

Note: This was not written by me, but I found it too powerful to not share. Original writer is Faz Ali (who I know nothing about).

You’re 29 years old with a wife, two children and a job. You have enough money, and can afford a few nice things, and you live in a small house in the city.
Suddenly the political situation in your country changes and a few months later soldiers are gathered in front of your house. And in front of your neighbours’ houses.
They say that if you don’t fight for them, they will shoot you.
Your neighbour refuses.
One shot. That’s it.

You overhear one of the soldiers telling your wife to spread her legs.
Somehow you get rid of the soldiers and spend the night deep in thought.
Suddenly you hear an explosion. Your house no longer has a living room.
You run outside and see that the whole street is destroyed.
Nothing is left standing.

You take your family back into the house, and then you run to your parents’ house.
It is no longer there. Nor are your parents.
You look around and find an arm with your Mother’s ring on its finger. You can’t find any other sign of your parents.


“But asylum seekers have so many luxury goods! Smartphones, and designer clothes!”


You immediately forget it. You rush home, and tell your wife to get the children dressed. You grab a small bag, because anything bigger will be impossible to carry for a long time, and in it you pack essentials. Only 2 pieces of clothing each can fit in the bag.
What do you take?
You will probably never see your home country again.
Not your family, not your neighbours, your workmates…
But how can you stay in contact?

You hastily throw your smartphone and the charger in the bag.
Along with the few clothes, some bread and your small daughters favourite teddy.


“They can easily afford to get away. They aren’t poor!”


Because you could see the emergency coming, you have already scraped all your money together.
You managed to save some money because of your well paid job.
The kind people smuggler in the neighbourhood charges 5,000 euros per person.

You have 15,000 euros. With a bit of luck, you’ll all be able to go. If not, you will have to let your wife go.
You love her and pray that you the smugglers will take you all.
By now you are totally wiped out and have nothing else. Just your family and the bag.
The journey to the border takes two weeks on foot.

You are hungry and for the last week have barely eaten. You are weak, as is your wife. But at least the children have enough.
They have cried for the whole 2 weeks.
Half the time you have to carry your younger daughter. She is only 21 months old.
A further 2 weeks and you arrive at the sea.

In the middle of the night you’re loaded onto a ship with other refugees.
You are lucky: your whole family can travel.
The ship is so full that it threatens to capsize. You pray that you don’t drown.
The people around you are crying and screaming.
A few small children have died of thirst.
The smugglers throw them overboard.
Your wife sits, vacantly, in a corner. She hasn’t had anything to drink for 2 days.
When the coast is in sight, you are loaded onto small boats.
Your wife and the younger child are on one, you and your older child are on another.

You are warned to stay silent so that nobody knows you’re there.
Your older daughter understands.
But your younger one in the other boat doesn’t. She doesn’t stop crying.
The other refugees are getting nervous. They demand that your wife keeps the child quiet.
She doesn’t manage it.
One of the men grabs your daughter, rips her away from your wife and throws her overboard.
You jump in after her, but you can’t find her again.
Never again.
In 3 months she would have turned 2 years old.
Isn’t that enough for you? They still have it too good here and have everything handed to them on a plate?

You don’t know how you, your wife and your older daughter manage to get to the country that takes you in.
It’s as though everything is all foggy. Your wife hasn’t spoken a word since your daughter died.
Your older daughter hasn’t let go of her sister’s teddy and is totally apathetic.
But you have to keep going. You are just about to arrive at the emergency accommodation.
It is 10pm. A man whose language you don’t understand takes you to a hall with camp beds. There are 500 beds all very close together.

In the hall it’s stuffy and loud.
You try to get your bearings. To understand what the people there want from you.
But in reality you can barely stand up. You nearly wish that they had shot you.
Instead you unpack your meagre possessions:
Two items of clothing each and your smartphone.
Then you spend your first night in a safe country.
The next morning you’re given some clothes.
Among the donated clothes are even branded ‘label’ clothes. And a toy for your daughter.
You are given 140 euros. For the whole month.


“They’re safe here. Therefore they should be happy!”


Outside in the yard, dressed in your new clothes, you hold your smartphone high in the air and hope to have some reception.
You need to know if anyone from your city is still alive.
Then a ‘concerned citizen‘ comes by and abuses you.
You don’t know why. You don’t understand “Go back to your own country!”
You understand some things like “smartphone” and “handed everything on a plate.”
Somebody translates it for you.


And now tell me how you feel and what you own?
The answer to both parts of that is “Nothing.”




Posted in Food for thought, Uncategorized, What's going on | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

When giants fall

Posted by Yacoob on October 11, 2015

Shaykh Abd al-Rasheed Brown

Shaykh Abd al-Rasheed Brown

He was 46 years old. A well-known, well-respected religious figure in our community. A man blessed with a love of the Quran – no doubt instilled into him by his father and the Quran-centric environment he had growing up. He was a hafidth, renowned qari, and teacher of Quran.

He had established an Islamic school – incorporating a hafidth academy, taught many, many courses both locally and internationally, and had more recently taken on a leadership role in an esteemed multi-national religious institute.

His name was Shaykh Abd al-Rasheed Brown, and a few days ago, he left us – departing to Allah’s mercy after suffering complications from a heart operation.

The janazah was packed to the brim, bearing testament to the impact this man had had on hundreds, if not thousands of individuals over the course of his life. Tributes poured in for him in the media, and his family, students, friends, and colleagues all mourned his loss – with special programmes set up to perform good deeds on his behalf, to insha-Allah benefit him in the barzakh.

Deep impact

I had first encountered him early in my own spiritual transformation. At the time, he was giving the post-taraweeh lectures at my masjid, and I had never before been so inspired and moved by an imam. Maybe it was because I was at the start of my spiritual journey. Or maybe it was because he was so different to the other imams I’d heard my whole life. Imams, primarily, from a certain cultural group whose focus and style had never really touched my heart in a meaningful way – though their messages had been good.

This man, however, stood out among them all. He was much younger – in his mid-30s at the time – and his words were infused with passion, knowledge, and vision.

When I got married, he happened to be the imam in the masjid near us. And what he did there was truly incredible. His work at that masjid – the level of activity – made it come alive, in a way I’ve never known any other masjid to be since. His school was based there, and the adult education arm of that was also run there – with frequent night classes. He would teach tafseer, mostly, but also taught a very lengthy but extremely inspiring and beneficial seerah class.

My wife and I loved his tafseer classes. He always stressed how timeless the Quran is. Times change, but people – the nature of man – remains the same. And so, though the context and environment may be different, the lessons and principles of the Quran are eternal and will always be the best of guidance for humanity.

In his classes, he often sprinkled in lessons from his own life. One particular theme which he put across was overcoming adversity. Hardship, he said, is a school that teaches us endurance. As for actual school, he didn’t do very well. He struggled a lot. That admission came as a huge shock to me – given the level of education he later achieved, and the intellectual demeanour he carried with him in general. As he told us once, your attitude  – not your aptitude – is the most important thing. You must strive to have the right attitude.

Another point was that he used to stutter badly. Again, a shock if you knew the eloquence with which he spoke later in life. But he fought to overcome that, and used positive, verbal reinforcement to help him build his self-confidence.

I also got the chance to attend other courses he taught – including tajweed, which is so critical an element of the deen, yet often overlooked when we grow up and think that we already know how to read Quran (even though we may have learnt incorrect pronunciation – a legacy of generations before who just kept teaching the same way they were taught).

Ramadans at this masjid were something really special. Aside from his nightly naseehahs, there would be weekend programmes, early morning tafseers, tahajjud programmes and more. I appreciated how the khattam of the Quran was always held off until the 29th night – unlike most other masjids, where they finish on the 27th and the attendance and intensity rapidly declines thereafter.

I would also look forward to Sunday nights, when – after Maghrib – he would give a short naseehah to the congregation gathered there. A look back at the week that had passed, and some words of advice for the week to come.

Moving forward

It was during one of those talks that he told us of his impending marriage. He’d been divorced at a young age, and had lived alone – actually, near us. He was a neighbour, so we would see him often and saw the normal, non-official side of him. As Muslims, we often only see our ulama at the masjid, or at official religious events. We rarely think of them as ordinary people – who go shopping, relax at home, and lead normal lives. So it was good to experience a different side of one such person.

Anyway, so his wife – who also had kids from a previous marriage (he had kids of his own from his first marriage too) – was a student in one of his classes. She had proposed to him after a charity walk, and he accepted.

We were so happy for him. In one particular conversation with him, I’d felt the pain he had experienced from being divorced. He had 2 teenage kids, who would sometimes come stay with him at home, yet his life was lived alone – which could not have been easy at all.

His has re-married just a few years after our marriage, and he and his wife lived in our complex – a few blocks away. Children soon arrived for them – a son first, who his wife would bring to classes on weeknights; followed by a baby girl not long after.

Now, I imagine all the dreams he had for them. The ambitions. How he would have wanted them, too, to be people of the Quran. To be hafidth. To live the deen. To grow up to be of exemplary character – leaders in their community – and always helping and benefiting others, as he himself had done. And now, they have to grow up without a father. Without that tremendous, guiding force which is so critical in youth especially. But they are in good company. As he had pointed out in the seerah class, the best of all creation was also orphaned. And it was Allah Who took care of and raised him (obviously through other people…but essentially, he lost those nearest to him in his youth).

A few years later, he left his position as imam of the masjid. He moved his school elsewhere, and moved to a new home. We hardly saw him again after that, but heard about his activities: he had moved onto a more spiritual path, taking up leadership at the local chapter of Shaykh Ninowy’s Madinah Institute.


Though our time with him came to an end quite a while ago, the impact he made on us was significant. He was our imam for the important early years of our marriage, and we took valuable counsel from him on private matters that we – the un-learned and inexperienced – needed guidance on.

We learnt so much from him. He played a crucial role in our lives in a phase where we were both still changing, growing, learning. Becoming better people. Leaving behind our days of ignorance and striving to walk the path of Islam.

Though 46 seems a young age to leave this world, the reality is that his time was always decreed. It’s just that Allah alone knew….and none of us knew.

People have a purpose in life, and in his years of being a teacher, imam, leader – he achieved so, so much. Much more than most of us will, and thus we can never say that his passing was untimely – or his life was ‘cut short’.

He inspired so many of us. Touched so many hearts. Taught so many minds. Influenced so many lives.

And he leaves, in this world, a tremendous legacy. A legacy which, I hope, will be continued by all those who were blessed to have encountered him and learnt from him.

May Allah make that legacy continue, spread, and multiply – so that the knowledge he left behind with others, and the goodness that remains in this dunya of him – becomes the greatest sadaqah jariah for him.

And may Allah grant his family and loved ones the most beautiful of sabr, and the steadfastness to continue in this world in the best possible way, and make him proud by the way they live their lives.

Posted in Milestones | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Beyond Hajj: Five ways to maintain your Hajj for life

Posted by Yacoob on October 6, 2015

Some hopefully-beneficial pointers for those of you that have just returned from Hajj…

slip-sliding away.....

Sunset on Arafah – Hajj 2012 (Picture courtesy of Shaykh Muhammad Al-Shareef)

Hajj is now over, and as the pilgrims return home to their loved ones, they take back with them a multitude of precious memories from the journey, lessons they’ll hope to apply for the rest of their lives, and an elevated sense of spirituality.

Back to reality

But for many, those feelings can quickly fade once they arrive home, because the contrast between the lands of Hajj and the ‘normal’ home environment is as striking as day against night.

It’s almost as if Madinah, Makkah, Mina, Arafah, and Muzdalifah are not the real world. Divorced from the responsibilities of family, work, and home life, the journey of Hajj is like an experience in another galaxy – one where everyone is geared towards worshipping Allah; where there’s no crude advertising, music, and images smacking you in the face every…

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Living in the past…hoping for the future

Posted by Yacoob on September 21, 2015

Mina on the final morning of Hajj 1432 (2011)

Mina on the final morning of Hajj 1432 (2011)

Here follows a ramble of thoughts, on the eve of tomorrow’s Hajj…

I’m immersed in memories. Memories of four years back, when I was on the cusp of my first and only Hajj. We were in Aziziah, doing last-minute stuff before we’d leave for Mina the next day.

Trying to find a shop that sold airtime was surprisingly difficult – but I eventually did. Walking around the massive Bin Dawood and being tempted by the confectionary delights – yet settling for just a little, as I hoped to restrain myself on the 5 days. Waiting in that line to pay, hearing a man use his time wisely – his tongue wet with the remembrance of Allah. It hit home with me – that particular act. An act we’re advised to always do, yet something I’d never witnessed before, nor thought – often enough – of doing myself whenever I was faced with a queue.

The Day of Tarwiyyah – 8th Dhul Hijjah – is the first of the five days. For us, it fell on a Friday. As usual, we were rushing to get done on the morning. We ended up being late to join our group and missed everyone pronouncing their niyah for Hajj in unison…so we did it on our own, hurriedly, when we got there.

Walking, in my ihram – which I had by that time mastered – up that hill, next to the highway, and into the tunnel that led to Mina. That tunnel with those massive air vents on the ceiling, which tin cans had somehow gotten stuck to.

Arrival at our tents, and the choice of who to sleep next to – brought up familiar childhood insecurities – yet I still had a companion.

Reflections from that first day – self-restraint, busying myself in acts of worship, and noticing how the tent was a lot like a graveyard: each of us having our own small, confined space with no luxury. All lined up in rows. All wrapped in 2 white sheets – the same ones that will cover us when we enter our next homes…the hole in the ground that we’ll occupy until Qiyamah.

I’m more familiar with that hole now. Late last year, and earlier this year, I entered those graves for the first time – participating in burials of family members. The impact of death was strong on me back in Madinah – when I witnessed a burial in Jannatul Baqi. But that faded soon after.

Now, again, the burials at home reminded me of the Reality that I will face – at any time, with no notice.

The time in the grave worries me, yet I’m cautiously optimistic…optimistic that if I try to live properly now, despite my character flaws and habitual deficiencies, insha-Allah my grave will be a place of peace, and not torment.

Moving on from Mina, there are parallels between Qiyamah and the Day of Wuqoof. Both days in which we stand before our Lord – utterly poor, utterly desperate, in the most need of His Mercy, Forgiveness and Kindness. Hajj is a journey to Allah in this life, which prepares us for the journey to Him in the next life.

The morning of that day, on Arafah, we just made it onto the bus – but I had to stand. The car-sickness that hit me – nauseous for most of the ride. Then the tents on Arafah. Red carpets, I remember. A looser seating arrangement than Mina.

The seriousness of the men around me. We were all serious. We were all focused. This was the biggest day of our lives. In a few hours, we’d be in the very essence of our Hajj. 5 weeks, 4 weeks, 3 weeks…however long our trip had been up till then – it all built up to one afternoon. One period of a few hours – when we would stand out in the sun, or sit in the tent…pouring our hearts, minds and souls out in dua. Dua. Begging, pleading, bawling our eyes out. Our special moments with our Rabb – Who comes so close to us in that time. Who boasts to His angels about us. How we have come to this place, in this dishevelled condition, seeking His Mercy.

And how they bear witness when He confirms that He has forgiven us.

My own wuqoof was cut short. A few hours only, because the group left hours before sunset. My frustration at having to zoom through most of my extensive dua list because of time pressure. A laundry list of a lifetime’s worth of pleadings – reduced to a thick pile of papers, which I couldn’t even read through to the end, let alone make each dua with sincerity or concentration.

If I ever came back, I told myself, I wouldn’t cut my time short. I would take as long as I needed and leave only at Maghrib…even if it meant inconvenience of being late to Muzdalifah.

Then, of course, came my biggest test of Hajj. A logistical mix-up leading to the next 9 hours being all alone – walking from Arafah to Muzdalifah for half that time, then all over Muzdalifah for the other half…yet never finding my group. The night when a famous hadith mirrored my life: Part of it being:

“…And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you.”

All those police officers, soldiers, group guides, taxi drivers, my wife, her companions….all tried to guide and help me, but none succeeded. And so that was my time alone, with only Allah as my companion. And just when I reached my emotional breaking point – a little after midnight, on that packed – yet lonely – land of Muzdalifah, was when Allah guided me to what would finally re-unite me with my wife and those I was supposed to be with all along.

Only, I wasn’t supposed to be with them. We plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners. His plan was always for me to do it alone. And, me being a creature of solitude, I see His Wisdom in that. Despite the stress, anxiety and physical discomfort, I actually enjoyed that whole experience.

It was the highlight of my Hajj, and a real-life, custom-made lesson in tawakkul – reliance on Allah.

Walking under the monorail track back to Mina; then another while of wandering around (feeling like an idiot); before finally getting back to my wife. It was maybe the happiest we’d ever been to see each other, other than on our wedding day.

Our solo pelting of the jamaraat; shaving my head in that crazy-packed barber shop on Mina. Then our lengthy detour throughout Aziziah – getting lost on our way back to our hotel. It characterised us. We’re not the most geographically-inclined couple.

Fajr in Aziziah in an almost-empty masjid – the residents had gone to the Haram of Makkah for Eid salaah. A little sleep, then waking up – to the most liberating, beautiful, pure feelings. The feelings maybe others felt after Arafah. But ours – mine – was delayed until the next morning.

I’ve never felt that good. That clean. Words cannot describe it…nor should they, because some things cannot be encapsulated in the mere confines of human language.

Spiritually, things went down after that. How could the spiritual and emotional intensity remain so strong after Arafah?

But there remained benefit in those final few days.

My misadventures continued, though – to the extent that each day I expected something to go wrong.

I learnt, the hard way, not to take a phone into an Eastern toilet cubicle. I learnt, the hard way, that it’s better to wait to cross the road for 10 minutes – rather than risk crazy Arab drivers running you over (even if the one that hit me was a wild youngster…the older ones sometimes aren’t much better).

And then, that epic, final departure from Mina. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it. 6 weeks in these blessed lands, all culminating in these 5 days…now over. The last time walking out of Mina. Sun growing stronger in those early hours of the day. Streets still filled with signs of the millions that had been there with us. A sad, sad walk for me…yet one I still took lessons from.

The yearning to go back still remains. It’s faded each year, but is strong again this year.

Is it normal to want to go back this soon, even though I’m still relatively young? It’s not that I want to make up for anything. I don’t regret anything. But just that this trip is one that made such a deep impact that my naturally nostalgic self can’t help but want a repeat. It’ll never be the same, of course. You only get your first time once.

But who’s to say that subsequent times can’t be even better?

The news that the haram expansions are almost done, and quotas will be relaxed, give me a renewed sense of hope. Maybe it will be possible to be back within the next decade. Possible, but probable? Rationally, there’s so much against that possibility. But I’m a dreamer, and with Allah, all things are possible. In the hadith I quoted earlier – about all the people gathering to help, but not being able to – the converse part of that hadith is that no matter what anyone does, if Allah has prescribed something for you, nothing can stop it.

As I’ve said before, it perhaps comes down to gratitude. If you’re grateful, He will give you more. In this case, I take gratitude as meaning there needs to be sincerity. Sincerity in trying to live the Hajj you’ve already had. Prove to Allah that you’re worthy of going back.

And then – no matter what factors appear to be against you – insha-Allah it’s only a matter of time before He invites you to be His guest once more.

May Allah make this year’s Hajj the greatest experience for those honoured guests this year. And may He help them, and all of us who have been before, truly live the Hajj for the rest of our earthly days.

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Leaving for Hajj soon? Download these tipsheets

Posted by Yacoob on August 13, 2015

Resources for those going for Hajj soon. Remember that you can also download the entire Hajj Chronicles ebook:

Please share, and most importantly, comment here to let me know how your experience goes :)

slip-sliding away.....


One of the most important objectives of this blog is to share beneficial knowledge and advice – whether that comes from experts or just my own (or other people’s) experience. For prospective hujjaaj who are going this year, it can be hectic getting your logistical stuff sorted out, making the social arrangements for your departure (the greetings etc before leaving), and – most importantly (but sadly neglected sometimes) – your own personal mental and spiritual preparation.

There’s plenty to do…and it can be overwhelming.

Drawing from my Hajj Chronicles series (which covered my own Hajj experience from 2011), I’ve extracted lessons and advice gained from the trip and compiled them into tipsheets which I hope will be useful for this year’s hujjaaj.

Please download, use, and share with all who you feel would benefit – whether they’re going this year or just hope to go in future years:

Madinah tipsheet |

View original post 60 more words

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Call on Him

Posted by Yacoob on July 16, 2015

This Ramadan, the recurring theme for me and my family has been dua: supplication; calling on Allah. Mufti Menk often says that whatever message reaches you (whether that be something you heard or saw) – it’s meant for you. Don’t take it as some general advice to the masses. Allah specifically chose that message to get directly for you. So you need to pay attention to it.

And this Ramadan, time and time and time again, myself, my wife, and even our daughter – all of us – have been getting this message of calling upon Allah.

Personally, I know that it’s something I really need. When I came ‘back’ to Islam, it was through dua. It was through need. Immense, desperate need which drove me to one direction alone – Allah. And so this form of worship – the very essence of ibadah – was essentially my ‘first love’ in Islam.

But over time, as responsibilities grew and my spiritual side became buried under the dust of a more hectic life, I lost that lifeline. Don’t get me wrong, dua was always there, and I was still making dua consistently. But the connection to Allah seemed lacking. The feeling, the sincerity, the intimacy of this most important relationship with my Creator. It eroded and almost disappeared as dua became more of a routine. For the most part, it was reduced to a daily habit of making the same duas, over and over – with little concentration and little focus on what I was really asking for.

More often than not, it was only in times of difficulty that my ‘dua life’ was really revived. When it comes to that which draws one closer to their Creator, there’s nothing more effective than trials and struggles.

Institutionalising the bond

This Ramadan, I took an online course which centred around goal-setting but wrapped in dua.

While I wasn’t able to make the most of the course (due to the rigours of normal working days and family responsibilities), I believe that I have – insha-Allah – still taken great benefit from it. Part of the course included visualising various aspects of your ideal life, working hard to define some “dream duas”, then institutionalising those duas – making them a daily habit.

Now, obviously as time passes, the feelings and excitement of those duas will fade, but that is natural. What’s most important is to strictly set yourself a single time every day where you will make these duas. That way, every single day, you will be asking from the One Who provides – for these things which are so important to you.

Then again, 6 months later, you start the process again and select some new dream duas (or reworked versions of some previous ones – if you’re still passionate about them).

Some people don’t really like the approach of the teacher (Sh. Muhammad Al Shareef, of Al Maghrib Institute), but personally, I find that this kind of practical approach is what I personally need. Spiritual feelings are, of course, amazing, but we cannot make these the driving force of our acts of worship.

We need to draw closer to Allah via acts of worship consistently – even when it doesn’t feel very sincere or spiritual.

And so this ‘dua habit’, I hope, will be the first step on a road to many good things in my life.

Parting words

As Ramadan will soon leave us, sadly, many of us will fall back into the same old slumps we were in before the month arrived. We hope to take forward at least some of the goodness and new good habits, but keeping up with them becomes exponentially harder as time passes – especially with the shayateen unchained and running wild for the 11 months between Ramadans.

My advice – to myself and you, dear reader – is to make dua right now, asking Allah to help you retain at least a few core elements that made this month special for you. Ask for the toufique to continue to do your part, and His help in manifesting the spiritual benefits from those actions.

We’re fortunate to still have the most blessed 10 days of the year coming up (1st 10 days of Dhul Hijjah), but after that, it’s a loooonnnnggg stretch until the next major period of spiritual striving.

So, make your intention now – in these precious final moments of Ramadan. Ask Allah now – in these remaining hours of the blessed month.

Then go forward with hope and a proactive attitude, so that insha-Allah your Ramadan will continue to benefit you all the way until next year, insha-Allah.

Eid Mubarak to you and your family.


Posted in Ramadan preparation | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Winter Sun

Posted by Yacoob on June 16, 2015

Winter sun
How I miss you now.

When days are filled
With work, work, and more work.

I first got to know you in very different times
Paradoxical in
that they were the dark days of my life
yet your warmth brightened my heart
and radiated through me –
giving me peaceful interludes
in an otherwise lonely and sad existence.

Moments spent basking in your light
Reading books on my balcony.
No work to do
Nowhere to go
Nothing urgent demanding my time or energy.

I’d sit there in solitude,
Observing the harmony of nature
Hearing the human activity
And playing no part in either.

In the years that fill
The gap between then and now
I’ve occasionally stopped to experience you again
Though only for fleeting moments.

For now life is much more full.
Filled to the brim
With all the burdens of grown-up life,
From work to wife,
Child to house,
Admin to maintenance
All encompassed in a life which –
Back then –
I dreamed of,
But now
Sometimes find overwhelming –
Though still manageable.

Years have passed
And the poet in me has withered and died
These words being the first verses that have come forth
In many, many months.

I know not if they shall ever return after this,
But for now I shall savour
The feeling of
Once again –
Letting loose this heart;
As words flow from it,
Through my limbs,
Onto the page.

And it all stemmed from you,
Winter sun.
From a few stolen moments
Spent basking in your warmth
On an otherwise
Routine, reflectionless day
Where being busy is a constant,
And stopping to just do nothing –
Totally free of thoughts and words and plans and fears
and all that otherwise occupy
my every waking moment.

So in these days leading up
To the Blessed Month
I pray that
I will again experience moments with you
And re-align myself
To the inner peace,
And warm contentment
That you evoke.

This piece was written 2 years ago on the eve of Ramadan. The catalyst was a few moments outside in the warmth of a sunny Winter’s day – which reminded me of previous experiences similar to that – mostly during times of unemployment, when I was still single – where I had the free time to enjoy these moments without the pressures of working life and family responsibilities. Now, in 2015, parts of it still ring true – but sadly, I don’t get moments of inspiration like this anymore. If I did, you’d see a lot more poetic ramblings on this blog…

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Get ready….

Posted by Yacoob on June 1, 2015

With Ramadan almost here, it’s a good time (even if a bit late) to start planning how we’ll spend the month. In the video below, brother Nouman Ali Khan gives some critical advice for preparing. Even if you’re not able to follow it all, try to implement some of it.

Also on the topic, here are some other resources that might help:

  • The Ramadan Planner: MS Word template to help you plan your Ramadan.
  • The Ramadan Early Bird series: An in-depth planning series that helps you to gradually improve various aspects of your life – with Ramadan in mind.
  • The Fasting and the Furious: A lecture by Sh. Muhammad Al-Shareef focussing on having a consistent Ramadan – especially avoiding the middle of the month dip.

If you have any other resources that would benefit myself or others, please feel free to post them in the comments section.

May these last couple of weeks bring us maximum benefit, and help us to build enough momentum to kick start our Ramadan and take the most out of it.

Posted in Ramadan preparation | Tagged: | 2 Comments »


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