slip-sliding away…..

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.

Yacoob

Posted in Ramadan preparation | Tagged: | Leave a 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,
Solitude,
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…

Posted in Meanderings | Leave a Comment »

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 »

In sickness and in health

Posted by Yacoob on May 20, 2015

I’m down with a throat infection at the moment ( ‘ pharyngitis ‘, if you want to make it sound serious), and it’s the first time in quite a while that the pain is bothering me.  Usually,  I embrace the fever and aches – knowing that each bit of sickness is actually a blessing – an expiation of sins. This time,  however,  it’s worse than usual.

I’m not complaining though,  because I get time off work – which is always good.  Best of all is the actual space and time – free of the usual pressures of life.  I can sleep until 9a.m., take really long,  hot showers (which counteract the chills of fever), and enjoy undisturbed afternoon naps – giving my body the physical rest it needs (but most often doesn’t get).

What I love most about fever,  though,  is sleep.  Fever-infused sleep is amazing because dreams are so much more intense and varied.  For example,  last night I took an incredible journey through the solar system – somehow passing very closely by the moon and planets

.

The depth of sleep also is different.  Sleep – especially at night – feels so incredibly lengthy…where 2 hours feel like 5, and even though you don’t feel  

tired, you can just close your eyes and go back to bed.

Such luxuries – though free – are rare in life today,  and I imagine I’ll never know them for an extended period until I hit retirement age (30 years to go!).

So for now,  I take this blessing of sickness and am grateful for the little things that come with it. I think everyone deserves times like these once in a while :)

Posted in Food for thought | Leave a Comment »

London Calling

Posted by Yacoob on April 13, 2015

London underground

Mind the gap

I’ve been fortunate to have visited London many times in my life. In the space of 16 years, I probably went about 8 times. The last of those times was 2007, and this Easter, we had a family holiday there – which was an awesome and valuable experience that I’ve been reflecting on recently.

Things change

The major difference, for me, was the change of dynamics. In most of the previous times, I went as the youngest of my family. Now, for the very first time, I went as a husband and father – meaning that the experience wasn’t just about me having a holiday. It was also different because, with my parents getting older – my father in particular – it was strange for me to have to take more responsibility for logistical matters, and be more careful and alert about making sure that things weren’t lost or misplaced.

This time, too, was the first visit in the age of smartphones – where quick Internet access is at your fingertips (LTE in many places – which is still relatively rare in South Africa). You no longer need to plan your routes and do research on paper long before. TripAdvisor, Google Maps, and an awesome London Underground app make it easy to find out about places, and find them, very quickly. For example, you would never know that, just 2 blocks off Oxford Street, there’s a little masjid nestled amid the restaurants and shops.

Familiarity

But many aspects of the place felt familiar to me, because I’d experienced them so many times before: the gloomy weather; the constricted way that the houses were tiny, identical, and cramped into the streets – like the inhabitants of this city having their lives literally boxed into these miserable little physical spaces. The feeling that there seem to be more foreigners than Brits. That everyone was really polite – even complete strangers who would accidentally bump you on the street.

It was encouraging to see so many Muslims in the city – many dressed modern, but not afraid of ‘looking’ Muslim (wearing hijab or a beard – though beards seem to be a fashion at the moment for non-Muslims). We saw an unusual number of orthodox Jews as well (instantly recognisable by their clothing and sideburns), out in the parks, spending family time together. It was nice to see, because I haven’t noticed much of that back home much: i.e. people of another religion, in traditional religious garb, out and about like that in large numbers. The political issues between Muslims and Jews are so heated and divisive, yet these simple experiences showed the ‘other side’ in a completely different light – as normal, family people – like us – just living life.

Materialism and commercialism is still rampant, with advertising at every corner – though in many instances, paper-based posters have been upgraded to huge digital displays (something that wouldn’t work in South Africa, given our country’s electricity supply perils). I took special notice of the style of language in those ads as well as the newspapers – such as the Metro, which is free on the Tube.

Oxford Street was still busy as ever, and major chain stores like H&M, HMV, Marks & Spencer, Harrods and Tesco still seem to dominate the commercial landscape of the city.

It’s not about me

For me, the tourist attractions weren’t that interesting. Yes, I’d seen them before – but even so, I think the main reason I didn’t feel awe was that my focus was on my kids. For us as parents, we had to take care of them all the time – carting them on and off trains and busses (which becomes routine very quickly), running around after the toddler (she’s a few months short of 2 years old), and trying creative ways to make things seem exciting for them.

I wasn’t trying to enjoy this trip as a tourist, and didn’t go there for shopping either. I wanted this to be a period of happiness for my kids – letting them have fun, creating happy memories, and experiencing the excitement of a foreign land. And for me, I took more pleasure in seeing them happy – rather than any excitement I should have felt by visiting these world famous places.

The older one (5 and a half years old) will probably remember all of this, while the younger one won’t – but we have hundreds of pictures and videos for them to view when they’re older. It was enough, for me, that they enjoyed themselves. The toddler, especially, had a ball, with her happiness and cuteness lifting everyone’s spirits and making experiences joyful. (There was a lot of stress too, of course – but for me the good outweighs the difficulty.)

What I realised, a number of times, was that the best things in life really are free. The kids enjoyed simple pleasures, like playing in the parks, more than the (insanely) expensive outings like the London Eye and Thames River boat ride. (An exception, though, was Legoland in Windsor – which was a pain to get to, but worth it for the awesome time the kids had.)

Perspective, and positive change

The most valuable part of the trip, for me, was the change in environment. With life and work staying routine for years and years, it’s so easy to get into a mental rut – stagnation and dullness which isn’t even broken by short trips away for weekends. I’ve felt that way for a long time, having not been out of the country since Hajj 4 years ago.

So, being in a very different place, with such an wide array of cultures and people, and a fast-paced life that’s not very similar to Slaapstad (a nickname for Cape Town) – it helped to refresh my mind from the lull I was in. I took it as an opportunity to break one of my most time-consuming addictions, and feel – well, hope – that as I move forward, I can take positives from this trip and make beneficial changes that will help hold me over until the next time, God-willing, I’m afforded an opportunity to visit some far-off destination.

It’s always different when you come back home and see the places that are ‘normal’. Things feel different, yet familiar, and it takes a little while for your mind to adjust to the reality that the time away was just a break from the norm. If I needed an extra push in that direction, I got it the very next day, when stage 2 loadshedding was implemented.

Welcome home ;)

Posted in Milestones | Leave a Comment »

Surrender

Posted by Yacoob on January 15, 2015

The piece below was written by a blogger called Maliha, whose work was really inspiring for me in my early years of blogging. Sadly, her blog (http://lightnessofbeing.wordpress.com) is now either offline or just innaccessible.

Regardless, please enjoy and ponder upon this particular writing, which made a big impact on me at a rough stage of my life.


Surrender

Imagine you are going into the unknown. It is dark. Terrifying. It holds all
your fears; yet all that you desire lies a little yonder. Imagine you are in
a tunnel and the light is beckoning to you from the other side. You have a
choice to hold on to the walls; to remain cooped up in your self made
prison; or take the first step. The catch is, you never know if the step
will ever land. There are no guarantees. You might fall deep, deep, down
into an abyss or fly. You might first fall then fly. You might not fall at
all.

Or imagine it’s a maze. There is a tangle of bushes all around you and a
path barely decipherable for you to walk on. You have a theoretical map that
tells you how to get out of it. It’s not enough though. You know there is a
way out; you know the base laws are constant; yet there are many surprises
along the way. The theoretical map is just one tool you have. You also have
your senses and instincts to guide you. The thing is, you always have to
keep a clear head and a placid heart and this will take up most of your
energy. When things flip up, and the unexpected (and usually what you
perceive to be unpleasant) occurs; you absolutely have to go with the flow.

At any moment, you have to be willing to let go of what doesn’t work. You
have to be a lover of leaving; even if that leaving requires you to abandon
pieces of you that are holding you back. There is no meaninglessness here;
everything is purposeful. Every thought matters. The actions that follow are
deliberate. To proceed in this journey you must both master your self and
let go at the same time.

For example, if the path is straight and relatively easy; then all of a
sudden a huge wall appears out of nowhere; you can not bang your head
against it. You must take a deep breath; collect yourself; and find a way
around it. Sometimes the wall is an illusion; you poke it and it crumbles.
Sometimes it’s brick. You have to either walk around it; or scale it.
Sometimes, it requires you to stop. To just stop and look around a little.

Other times, the only way out is to crawl on all fours; taste a measure of
humility. Sometimes you kiss the ground and the path miraculously unfolds.
Miracles happen when palms open too. Letting go is key.

Resistance is futile. Resistance is death. Everything is fluid. Nothing is
what it seems. Stressing for the path to bend to your will; is ridiculous.
It’s as if someone is perched on a swollen wave, either wholly complacent
that it won’t crash or striving to hold on hoping that they won’t be flung
off. We are all perched on that swollen wave.

When you are flung into deep waters, you must master the art of letting go.
Limb by limb, you must relax, let your self go limp; and then miraculously
you are floating. You are one with the water. Alternatively you can learn
how to swim and practice, practice, practice; so that when you are flung
off, you master the water. Panicking and thrashing about is death. Cursing
the fate that had you thrown off is pointless.

Remember reading all the maps in the world (alone) will not get you
anywhere. You can argue and compare who has the best map; you can burn other
maps to prove your loyalty; that still won’t get you anywhere. You can get
on a podium and chant MY MAP IS THE BEST AND ONLY MAP THERE IS; you’ll still
be in place. You can have study circles and discuss the map; you haven’t
gone anywhere either.  You can judge/condemn others or use them as a pretext
for why you haven’t done anything about yourself yet; it won’t help. You
might spend all your time trying to instruct others on what you know
(theoretically) of this journey, it will be hollow. You might try to save
others from drowning, but the likelihood is you will all sink.

Memorizing the twists and turns of other people’s journeys might give you a
clue as to what to expect. But at the end of the day, you must take the
first step, and the next, and next* At the end of time, all the mazes,
walls, water and illusions dissipate and you are left in stark aloneness
wondering what held you back.

Surrender is not that hard. Just do it.

Sourcehttp://lightnessofbeing.wordpress.com/2008/01/26/magnifying-moments/

Posted in Inspiration, The words of others | 4 Comments »

Family comes first: a reminder

Posted by Yacoob on October 21, 2014

Quran Weekly – Nouman Ali Khan

Transcript here or download here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Beyond Hajj: Reflections 3 years later

Posted by Yacoob on October 1, 2014

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

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

Three years ago, I experienced my first magical moments in Madinah. It was the opening destination on my first and only Hajj, and I was awe-struck and honoured to be in so blessed and peaceful a place…a little piece of Jannah.

As the days passed, Madinah’s glow wore off, and I moved on to Makkah, where, despite being initially underwhelmed, the place soon grew on me. In particular, one special night in the haram stood out – wherein I finally found what my heart was seeking – what I would need, internally, for the upcoming 5 days of Hajj.

Lethargy and laziness followed – my biggest regrets about Makkah – before moving onto Aziziah, which was to be our final stop before the days of Hajj began. There – free of the luxuries of Makkah – I managed to get back on track, preparing for the biggest five days of my life – with the Day of Arafah being the most critical of them all.

Hajj itself was a mixed bag, with incredible experiences on Mina, Arafah, and a misadventure on the way to Muzdalifah (and beyond); but some disappointment on the days of tashreeq that followed: once the intensity had departed after Eid, that spirit of striving was clearly gone – both in myself and in the others on the journey.

At the end of it all, what I was left with was:

  • A (hopefully) clean and pure heart, forgiven from my lifetime of sins and spiritual dirt.
  • Beautiful memories of 6 weeks on this different, separate planet (because it’s a different world, divorced from the realities of life at home).
  • Spiritual ambitions. Intentions for change. Desire for self-improvement. A mission…a lifelong mission to’live’ my Hajj for the rest of my life.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Crashing back to Earth

Like everything in life, Hajj had to come to an end. The beauty of the Holy Lands, the spiritual purity felt after Arafah, and the general goodness of dedicating a portion of your time to this mission – free of worldly work and responsibilities…all of it couldn’t last forever, no matter how much I wanted it to.

The differences between Planet Hajj and the rest of the world were brought firmly into focus as soon as we arrived at our next stop – waiting in transit at Cairo’s airport. Whereas Madinah and Makkah were (relatively) spiritually clean – free of sexually-driven advertising, indecent music, and other vices of the outside world, in Cairo’s airport, these things came flooding back into consciousness – sensorial assaults from the sick, degenerated, fitra-robbed environment that I knew all too well from life in South Africa and other Western-influenced societies.

Over the next week, as we spent time in Palestine and then Cairo again, the euphoria of Hajj continued to fade at a sadly rapid rate. When we got back to South Africa, the world felt even more different, and I braced myself for reintegration into the society I’d known and lived in my whole life.

Gone were the days of building an entire schedule around time in the masjid. Gone was the time to spend in self-reflection and writing. There would be no further long stretches of dua on a consistent basis. And I would no longer have the chance to undertake night-time excursions to the Kabah.

From that point on, the external environment would no longer drive my spiritual ambitions. On the contrary, conditions on the outside would now chip away at my spirituality; so I faced a harder fight to simply maintain focus – let alone build something greater than the state I was in after Arafah.

Hanging on

The first few weeks back home were relatively good. I tried very hard to maintain my levels of spirituality – despite being plunged back into the working world and the rigours of fatherhood (we had a 2 year old daughter). I used the still-fresh emotions of my journey to keep some level of momentum going, with taqwa, dhikr, dua and self-reflection as my companions.

In terms of work, I faced a potential crisis when – a few weeks after my return – news came that the company was at the very real risk of going under, and much of the workforce would have to be cut if they were to survive. I tried to put a positive spin on it for those who I could make some kind of impact on – urging them (and myself) to see the bigger picture, and always have hope that Allah would take care of them.

In the end, I ended up keeping my job – though I knew that it was time to start looking elsewhere. 6 months later, I was on my way to a new challenge – a job that brought intellectual stimulation and variety back to my working life – which had, in my previous job, been largely stagnant.

The years that followed found me getting more and more entrenched in my work – which was a demand of my new position, while conversely, my spirituality sank more and more (as realised in Ramadan 2013).

But there were still good points, with the first year or so being extremely fruitful in terms of my personal writing, and some good habits becoming more entrenched. Subsequent Hajj periods (the months of Dhul Qada and Dhul Hijjah) were also amazing, because following the Hajj via TV and social media always reminded me of my own experience, and helped rekindle the yearning to go back.

Those Hajj periods, in particular, helped to remind me that while the emotion and nostalgia was so strong, and the desire to go back was heightened, I needed to convert those feelings into practical actions. I needed to strive, once more, to ‘live’ my Hajj. To show my gratitude via action, for if I am grateful, insha-Allah I will be blessed with another chance.

Game over?

A little over a year ago, my life changed significantly once more, with the birth of our second child – another little girl who immediately captured my heart, attention, and time.

By then, I had already slipped far from the standard I’d hoped to live after Hajj – in terms of personal character and behavioural changes I’d wanted to implement. Old habits die hard, and in the absence of immense striving, my habits were resurrected, dusted themselves off, and made themselves comfortable in my life once more.

And if I thought I had hope of making a comeback to the standard I’d aspired to, the demands of fatherhood quickly shattered those illusions. Along with the new baby, there was also the older child to see to – with her adjustment to being a big sister (and no longer the centre of attention) being relatively difficult.

When things let up a bit, I fell into an old addiction of mine. Nothing haraam, of course, but something very time-consuming which – I first rationalised – I needed as a means of de-stressing from the burdens upon my shoulders. A new, potent enemy which I’ve been fighting – on and off – for the last year.

My problem is that I’m extreme in indulgence. I don’t know how to be moderate; balanced. It’s a quality that can be very beneficial if used in productive pursuits, but detrimental when applied to self-satisfying, otherwise-useless initiatives.

We also went through an extremely traumatic period earlier this year, which really drained us and for me – personally – strengthened me internally, but also knocked out my hope of an internal revival. That may seem a contradictory statement, and because I’m being deliberately vague here (since I won’t explain the details publically), it might not make sense.

Essentially, it strengthened my imaan – so there was spiritual growth; but at the same time, it took its toll mentally and psychologically – such that I felt like I was in too weak a state to build up again, to strive for the lofty ambitions I’d held after Hajj. Like I was now too far away from those days of Hajj – both in time and inner purity – to seriously think that it was possible to achieve what I wanted to achieve.

And on top of that, my life was dramatically different now as compared to those days after Hajj. There was the more hectic job, for one. But there were also the challenges and demands of two young kids now: a baby and a school-going child….instead of just one toddler (which was the case when we got back from Hajj).

Thinking of all of this, it seemed hopeless.

What’s next?

But was it, really? Does it mean I have given up all hope? That ‘living my Hajj’ is now just a distant, beautiful-sounding dream that was just a foolish ambition of my younger self?

I hope not. Because if that was the case, I would be throwing away much of what I gained from the journey.

I can’t just confine my Hajj to good memories and long-gone spiritual achievements.

So, what I needed to realize – and it took me a long time to figure it out, despite it being SO obvious – is that I can no longer see my life through the lens that I’d envisioned it three years ago. I can’t look at myself and my life in the same way, because my life has shifted. So I have to shift my gaze too.

Now, three years later and in very changed circumstances, I need to start my post-Hajj mission again. I need to start fresh:

  1. Analyse what I want, in my overall vision of my life (both worldly and beyond).
  2. Look at the demands and challenges I face now and in the coming years.
  3. Redraw that list of ambitions, pulling it into a realistic, measurable plan of how I will get from here to there.

And even if I don’t succeed in some or even all of those plans, the most important quality I need to apply is persistence. For so long, I’ve let myself be deceived by the idea that if I can’t achieve success in a plan, or if I can’t at least be consistent in a certain initiative, then it’s not worth even bothering with that initiative.

Perhaps that attitude is a reflection of my perfectionist tendencies. Or perhaps it’s from the whisperings of the devil – who doesn’t miss an opportunity to try to impede my spiritual growth and success.

Whatever the case, I need to change that mindset. I need to consciously realize that such thinking is false and actually counter-productive.

I need to just keep trying, because all that I’m responsible for is intention and action. The results are in Allah’s hands.

So now, as I sit here three years later, with this year’s Hajj due to begin tomorrow insha-Allah, I feel a renewed sense of purpose. A re-commitment to the mission I accepted, and was so excited about, all that time back.

I ask that you, my dear reader, please make dua for me in this road ahead; as I make dua for you too.

JazakAllah

Yacoob

Posted in Hajj-related, Meanderings | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

When death speaks to you

Posted by Yacoob on September 22, 2014

Sometimes, we live moments that feel unreal. Emotional. Out of normal reality. This evening was like that.

To put this into context: by the time I got to high school, I felt like I’d seen more than my fair share of death. In junior school, I lost 3 grandparents, a young uncle, and – hardest for me (while I was 8 years old) – a beloved baby cousin. The day before my 18th birthday, another uncle passed, and my auntie (his wife) went a few years later. Them aside, I haven’t really faced many deaths in my family – or to those close to me – in my adult life. Especially since my life changed.

This afternoon, I got the message that my wife’s cousin was in a very bad state. Touch and go. We were to go to the hospital that evening. He’d struggled with cancer for much of this year, and chemo hadn’t helped. A week ago, he had a bone marrow operation – a very risky op, which was a long shot. It didn’t turn out well. He’d withered away to almost nothing over these last few months. His immune system was non-existant, hence he was in isolation. His 2 small kids – a 5 year old boy and a 2 year old girl – had to see him through glass, with tubes in his nose. His wife was still amazingly strong, through this. We saw her and the kids a week ago, at a children’s birthday party.

We got to the hospital half an hour before Maghrib tonight, and the room outside his room was very full. People were spilled out into the space outside the building. Everyone was somber. Some read Quran. Many were crying. About 15 minutes before Maghrib, I went back in with my older daughter (I was keeping her company outside, since she didn’t want to be contained inside). The mood was devastating. Everyone was crying. Shattered. He had passed on.

It was incredibly sad. Most of my wife’s family was there, and everyone had just broken down. I’d never, in my adult life, been around death. Been so close to it. And here it was – right with me.

The most devastation I remember is a vague memory: when i was 8 and my grandmother died. My eldest aunty was hysterical and inconsolable. I think they had to give her a tranquiliser or sedative to calm her down.

Now, at the age of 33 (almost 34), I was in a room – right next door to a young man, 6 months older than me – who had just died. Just like me, he had 2 young kids. Though I didn’t really speak to him much, he was always around at the family functìons. He was my age. He was in my situation in terms of marriage and kids. And he was taken from this dunya.

‘Shattered’ is the word that describes the scene best. They all were shattered. It was incredibly sad for me too, though not as strongly as everyone else since I had only seen him on rare occassions over the last 7 years, and not known him a lifetime.

My eldest daughter (who is 5 years old) didn’t know what was happening, and despite my telling her, I don’t think she understood. She was still wanting to be a little wild and uncontained. My youngest daughter was surprisingly calm – for her 13.5 months – when she’s usually so active.

The cousin who passed – his sisters – were broken. His father was devastated, but – by the mercy of Allah – he managed to regain composure and strength a while later. I didn’t see his mother. I can’t imagine how awful it was for her. His younger brother didn’t want to leave his side, so I didn’t see him either.

His grandmother – now in her 80s – was crushed. She’s faced so much tragedy in recent years – an array of family crises – and now this. Allah must really give a special level of sabr and strength to the elderly when they can see their family members go through such trauma, and yet they still go on.

I didn’t know him well. But, like many times before when I experienced a funeral, I felt the closeness to him. I felt the desperation. The feeling of his time being up. That now, the angels were taking his soul up. And soon they will send it back to earth, and it will enter his grave. His companions will cover him with dirt. He will hear the footsteps as they depart. His grave will constrict, squeezing his body. Munkar and Nakir will make their entrance. He will be questioned. And his answers will come not from intellect, studying, or wisdom. It will come purely from the way he lived.

And I feel for him. I feel so close to that experience – the sheer desperation, most of all. He has no more chances to prepare for these monumental events. His Qiyamah has begun.

And I made dua for him. Deep, sincere dua which connected me to his situation right this moment. Because I will be in that position one day. And when I think of it, and know that – at this very moment – he’s going through it; it connects me to death. It connects me to reality.

I remember what awaits. I truly, truly, truly know that all the frivolous pursuits of this life – the time spent ‘destressing’, the pleasures of food and entertainment, the lack of adequate effort in spiritual striving….I truly feel and know that those things are worthless. Because when I’m in his position, it will all count for nothing. It will count against me, if I went too far in them without balancing them out with enough good deeds.

And I never know when I will be him. When I will be in his position. Lying there, lifeless. Unable to speak, breathe, communicate with my grieving loved ones. Yet my soul being alive. Seeing them all. Worrying about how they will go on without me – my final worldly concerns as I’m about to embark on my journey to Eternity.

‘Remember frequently the destroyer of pleasures’….

If only I could take these feelings, internalise them so deeply, and make them last for as long as I will live beyond this moment. I so want this experience to permanently change me. I so NEED it to change me. But I faced the same 3 years ago, in Madinah on my first and only visit to Jannatul Baqi. And I was so confident and hopeful then – that that experience would solidify this reminder forever…and yet it faded so quickly.

I make dua that this experience stays permanently imprinted in my heart, soul and mind. That the feelings I feel right now will make a lasting change – even when the intensity and memory fades.

And I make dua that for him, his months of suffering have purified him; and that he embarks on his journey in a state as clean and beautiful as the day he was born. And that this tremendous, devastating loss serves as a motivational force – a catalyst – for his family, loved ones, and all whose lives he touched…a means by which they will all come even closer to Allah. A means by which they…WE…can all remember the reality, the impermanence, of this life.

To Allah we belong, and to Allah is our return.

May we all make that return in the best possible state.

Baqi grave

Posted in Meanderings | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Leaving for Hajj soon? Download these tipsheets

Posted by Yacoob on September 19, 2014

Kabah

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 | Makkah tipsheet | 5 days of Hajj tipsheet or

Visual presentation of all 3 tipsheets

JazakAllah for reading, and I hope this is of maximum benefit.

Yacoob

Note: While much of these points are from my own experience, I’m also sourcing tips from other places too – such as Muhammad Al-Shareef and Muslimahlifestyle.com. So jazakAllah to them as well.

Posted in Hajj-related | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers

%d bloggers like this: