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Let it flow (part 2)

Posted by Yacoob on December 1, 2015

River-Long-exposure_photography_2

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

heavenlyroad

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.”


 

Syria

 

Posted in Food for thought, Uncategorized, What's going on | 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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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:

https://dreamlife.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/hajjchronicles.pdf

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

slip-sliding away.....

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 |

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Family comes first: a reminder

Posted by Yacoob on October 21, 2014

Quran Weekly – Nouman Ali Khan

Transcript here or download here.

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Love, marriage, and fairytales

Posted by Yacoob on January 28, 2013

A beautiful message for those still waiting for that special someone. Spoken word poem by brother Kamal Saleh.

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Remember, remember

Posted by Yacoob on December 20, 2010

The following was written mostly after last Friday’s Jumuah. It’s more a personal reminder for me than for others – but if you can take something from it, I hope it will be a source of great benefit for you.

“Remember frequently the destroyer of pleasures” – goes the reported hadith (reported in Tirmidhi, Nasaa’i, Ibn Maajah).

There was a funeral prayer after Jumuah, and it got me thinking of the fragility of life. I thought of how literally it can be ‘one moment here, the next moment gone’.

How I expect to keep living – yet no such guarantee is given to me.

Why is that? Why do I just have this over-confidence that I won’t die at any moment? I could…I could go any time.

Yet I don’t remember that. And when I do, the impact of that thought doesn’t last long.

What about all the plans I have, or things I want to do?

What about Hajj?

What about the upcoming holiday I’m so looking forward to?

Why do I always assume I’ll have years – until maybe 60-odd – to live my life and improve?

The truth is, an instant, I could be gone. The end of my road. The beginning of my qiyammah – all within a second.

And I leave behind a mourning wife and daughter. My parents and brother. My family.
This work, which I try to do well, but struggle with so often in some ways.
My Islamic knowledge and books, lectures, ideas; and volunteer work.
The home that my wife and I have with our child.
The pieces I still want to write, and the impact I want to have on others.
The prayers I have yet to make; along with the fasting.

The moments I’ll regret – spent on too much luxury or leisure. Too much ‘relaxing’ non-beneficial, artificial things; and not enough time sitting alone – in nature, or just reflecting quietly – trying to gain that solitude I used to yearn so much for.

If I knew I was to die in a week, I think I’d spend my time much more wisely.

 

But now – knowing I could die any moment – why does that not inspire me to live better NOW? Why will I forget all these thoughts soon after I stop writing – and get back to work, and life?

Before I get to real taqwa – consciousness of Allah – isn’t a great starting step to have consciousness of death at all times?

Because I know that the moment I die – my book is closed (except for the few actions whose rewards go on). Do I want to die with regrets?

I pray for the help to truly live that hadith – ‘the destroyer of pleasures’ …I need to remember those words; and that phrase especially – because much of my life is ‘pleasures’ – which I justify indulgence in because of the responsibilities that so greatly fill my life. Like I need these things as a ‘break’….but Allah knows what is legitimate and what isn’t. While I often delude myself, and know – when it’s over – that those things cannot bring real happiness.

I wish, and pray, that I could live my life remembering my death. Because that seems the surest way for me to live a more conscious life.

Posted in Meanderings, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

There’s more….

Posted by Yacoob on September 17, 2010

Do you know those times when you have something to say / write / post – but you just don’t get round to it?

Well, this is one of those times for me. I have many ideas floating for this here blog. Picture posts to go up; and stories to tell; plus some new links to bloggers that have captured my imagination of late.

But all of that has to wait for now – since time is short, and opportunities few.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

By the way…

Posted by Yacoob on January 27, 2010

Please welcome a very special (to me) new blogger, and visit her site: http://kukumom.wordpress.com/

Thank you :)

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