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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 | 1 Comment »

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 »

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…

Originally posted on 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:

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

Originally posted on 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 |

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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:

Thank you :)

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Do what you love…love what you do

Posted by Yacoob on October 15, 2009

When I was very young, from what I remember, I used to love to write. Creative writing was a passion in my earliest school years. I remember silly stories about a Monster Party where the partygoers played “Pass the person,” and a Time Machine story where victorious German soldiers (during World War 2) used spears in their battle.

My teachers would encourage me to write at home, as an extra-curricular activity. But I don’t think I ever did.

Although I loved to write at that age (roughly seven years old), I didn’t see it as a viable career choice. I worried about writers’ block. I decided, way back then, that I couldn’t base a career on creativity – because there was no guarantee that the stories and words would come. I couldn’t take creativity for granted – because this was my future livelihood on the line.

I grew up, going through junior school, thoroughly enjoying reading the stories of others – because fiction opened my mind to other worlds, and excited my imagination beyond the ordinary confines of normal life. As time passed, my teenage years saw this reading disappear altogether; and my writing, which was done only for schoolwork, became relatively dull and uninspired. There was so much else that took my attention in those years, and the never-ending slew of futile occupations that consumed my time ensured that my creativity remained subdued – a thing forgotten.

This stage continued into university, until I reached the turning point in my life: a series of events that brought my spirit back to life – woke me up and inspired in me perhaps the greatest change I’ll ever encounter. And from that point on, the introspective side of me began its journey to a path of self-expression – a state of being where I was free to let loose what I held inside, without fearing my innermost thoughts being discovered by prying eyes.

Although this state of being was in the works for some time, it was an online acquaintance that first encouraged me to express myself in writing. And, over time, I began to do that, and the feelings, thoughts, dreams, and fears therapeutically poured out of me into what seemed* like well-crafted poems and pieces that reflected who I was, who I wanted to be, and what was most important to me.

(*I say “seemed” because the words and structures just came across as if they were well thought out. But, in reality, I didn’t plan much at all. I favoured the free-flow method: where I would just write as it came – without giving much thought to stopping, thinking, or editing. Natural was best, in my eyes – because I didn’t want my self-expression to be stifled by the left-brain processes which, I thought, would only hamper what I was writing).

In terms of my career, I had, up till that point, been in an IT position that wasn’t really conducive to interesting writing – because it was pretty much business and technical-related. I then moved into another IT role, but this time one that centred around technical writing and communications. Although this role was, again, business and technical-related, it somehow opened up new doors to me – showing me that I could use my writing skill for my career.

It was also in this period that I began blogging, starting this blog in 2006. My blog began with just photos, because I wasn’t confident enough to post my writings yet. But, over time, I became more comfortable, and introduced written pieces to the blog.

For a long while, this blog served as a great comfort to me: a place where I could post my self-expressions (both visual and written), and get feedback and encouragement from those of you who took the time to visit and comment.

With regard to writing, I also branched out into other forms of writing – applying myself to Islamic-related articles. When I finished the communications job, I ventured into the field of volunteering – doing communications work at two Muslim organisations. I enjoyed this work immensely – because I was getting to do what I loved to do (i.e. write), and apply the skills and knowledge I had learned (i.e. communications) – all in the field that was most important to me: Islam. And, of course, when you work in that kind of organisation, even mundane tasks can earn you Divine rewards – if you do it with the right intention.

I’ve continued to work with one of these organisations up to this year, and I’ve been blessed to be part of some great projects over the last few years. At one point, when they were thinking about appointing a full-time staff member, I considered applying – because I would dearly love to do that kind of work as a full-time career.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. And, as I came to see, there aren’t many opportunities for full-time work in that field. At least, not opportunities that pay market-related rates.

It’s a difficult position for Islamic organisations, because they do such great work, and they could probably do so much better – but many of them don’t have the proper support: financially, structurally, and in terms of high-quality professionals that are dedicated to the organisation on a full-time basis.

Many of these organisations struggle to survive; and they just cannot afford to pay the rates that professionals can earn in the corporate or even academic worlds.

So I saw that, if I wanted to work in that field, it would take financial sacrifice. But, being newly-married and newly-financially independent, I didn’t feel it was a sacrifice I could make at that time.

My current job – which I’ve been in for almost two years – makes use of my writing ability, in subjects that are not technical or IT-related (for the most part). Because of this, I enjoy the content of my current work more than any previous jobs.

Yet, I still sometimes find myself frustrated; believing wholeheartedly that I could perform so much better if I were writing about the things that were most important to me. I strongly believe that, if I were given the opportunity to use my abilities for subject matters that resonate strongly within me, I could, insha-Allah, be so much more productive, and hopefully produce work that could be beneficial to those who read / see it (not that my current work is not beneficial…because it hopefully is).

Undoubtedly, one field that this can be achieved in is media – and specifically, Islamic media. However, although I’ve had a few pieces published in printed publications over the last few years, my most recent attempts to break into this field have failed.

So, then, there’s always the Internet. And, of course, blogging – because blogging is really the ultimate personal medium: it’s a platform where you can write about what’s most important to you; hopefully have a positive influence on people; and receive feedback from the readers.

Lately, I’ve been thinking again about my career – wondering if I’ll ever get to do what I love doing as a full-time, decently-paid job. (Note that the financial-sacrifice thing is even less realistic at this point – because I now have a wife and baby to support.)

Not many people get to do what they love as a career. But for those that do – you can see the passion in them, and you can feel the energy that they have in carrying out a ‘job’ which they do out of love – and not just for the money.

Going forward, I wonder what the future holds for me in terms of getting to that career goal. I know I could probably do with some further studies, because:

  1. I lack journalistic training (which is actually fine by me, because I don’t want to be a journalist. I’ve heard that it’s a field I would not enjoy).
  2. I don’t have formal communications training (despite almost 2 years in a largely communications-based role).
  3. Other than my professional training, I haven’t taken any further courses in any kind of writing – be it feature writing, creative writing, or anything else.

Other than that, opportunity is the big issue. Part-time freelancing doesn’t seem like an option right now, because I just don’t have the time for other projects. I don’t even have time to write the things I want to write.

But I do want to try to keep writing – so that that part of me remains active, and hopefully sticks around for the time when, insha-Allah, a proper, full-time opportunity presents itself.

Where that opportunity would come from, I don’t know. I guess the key is to find a way that I can add value to an organisation – an organisation that does the kind of work I want to be involved in; an organisation where I can have the platform to advance their work as well as my own ambitions.

Anyway, like the title of the post says: “Do what you love…love what you do.” That, really, is my ultimate career ambition.

I just wanted to share that here. Any feedback, ideas, or offers would be much appreciated.

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