Aiming for Perfection

Learning to Break my Fall

Five years ago, when I was just emerging from the ashes of my marriage, I recall a few friends telling me to keep myself occupied.  The idea was that being distracted would prevent me from sliding down the slippery slope into the past and into despair. 

Easier said than done,” I thought as I silently rebuked them. 

At the time, I couldn’t understand why people were giving me impossible goals to set my sights on.  I was too crushed to do anything except deal with the day I was living in.  As much as I understood that they were right, I wasn’t quite ready to heed that advice.  I knew I needed to go through the motions of shock, anger, frustration and hurt.  There was no way that purging process was going to be rushed.  I had to ride it out; I had to allow the wounds to heal naturally before I could remove the bandage.  But knowing that in itself was how I knew I was going to be OK, inshaAllah.  I always had that belief. 

Years later, I’ve since gone back to work and become involved in other personal projects in-between.  Sometimes I feel I’m running to stand still but I relish the busy life that I have. When I do take a brief pause, it is to recharge and enjoy the peace and calm that surrounds me at that moment, Alhamdulillah

As I write today, I am on holiday for the Christmas and New Year period.  This then, is a longer break than normal.  I am on a complete hiatus from my normal routine for a couple of weeks and this is my Achilles heel.  What I’ve discovered is that my mind has already begun to feel distracted.  That monolith called ‘The Past’ has already reared its ugly head and threatens to drag me backwards.  It’s for fear of this happening – and happening too often – that I even became engrossed in different long-term activities in the first place.  To be fair, my past life was not a Shakespearean tragedy.  On the contrary, a lot of it was wonderful, Alhamdulillah and I am especially talking about my married years.  But it’s precisely for this reason that divorce was an even greater shock for me.  The writing was never on the wall, at least not my wall.  What tainted the last year of my marriage was the way in which I was served my notice and, for me at least, the unknown reason/s for it.  So, when I think back on the past, it is particularly ruminations on that last phase of my married life that totally confuse me and it’s those endless unanswered questions that I don’t want to revisit.

Running So As Not to Stand Still

In my life now, as I throw myself into my deliberately serried projects, where there is little chance to pause for idle thoughts, I am actually very content, Alhamdulillah.  I feel a sense of purpose and being valued.  That is a healthy state to be in.  I know this is where I am meant to be.  The other advantage of being on my own again is that I get the independence to choose where I want to be heading too.  Finally, I’ve learnt the sagacity of my close friends who offered their advice a few years ago.  I get it now.  

Yet there will always be that internal contradiction.  Despite the great strides I feel I have made, there is still some mental and even spiritual cleansing to be done. To be honest, even after all this time, as much as I have emptied myself of anger, frustration and shock, there is a tiny residue of all those emotions combined which will never leave.  I compare this residue to an oily sludge at the bottom of a vessel which ambushes everything it comes into contact with.  When I am not preoccupied with my daily grind, this is when the sludge resurfaces although its impact is lessening and lessening over time, Alhamdulillah.  I must confess too that listening to my own self and hearing those same thoughts whizz through my mind, can become exhausting.  I am tired of the inner battle I have had these past years especially when I know the person who is responsible for all this has long since severed ties with his past. 

How many more weeks, months or years am I going to relive things in my head, albeit less so?  I do strongly believe that having things to do, people to see, and most importantly, Allah alone to worship and praise, have helped me immeasurably.  My rational self knows that every time I question past events, I have achieved nothing but going round in circles.  But every time I go round in that frenzied circle, a little piece of my fatigued emotions comes away.  Soon, I will be the perfect stoic.  InshaAllah.

Almost there….

Sick of the Sycophant

Because some people have not yet discovered the word ‘No’

There are several lessons I have learnt in the last few years since I started life out on my own with my children.  All of them have been rude awakenings and the one I want to focus on today is no exception.

Despite my best efforts to tell – or rather, show – the world that I am a whole person and do continue to exist as such after divorce, it seems some people simply can’t accept that fact.  The world is a cruel place no matter how you choose to define yourself.  Your self-perception doesn’t seem to matter.  A woman is only viewed by others in one of three categories: 1. waiting to get married; 2. married;  3. divorced.  It is definitely true in Asian culture and perhaps others too.  Even if she aspires to be anything more than one of those categories, it will be overshadowed by her marital status.  This is what defines her. 

That kind of misconception or preconception is especially more irksome from those who should know you better.  At least, with the public at large, who do not know you personally, they can be forgiven for their ignorance.  However, I can’t afford the same excuse for those who know me.  For some reason, I feel some people in my inner circle can’t get past the official label that says ‘divorced’ and insist on viewing me through that lens – and that lens only. 

So, what has all this got to do with the title for this week’s blog? 

A lot.  That’s the short answer. 

The longer answer is that since I came to be on my own, I’ve learnt to make decisions for myself and sometimes on behalf of my sons.  Just because I am no longer married, that does not make me a whimsical, flippant or frivolous person. 

I have a new kind of independence now but that is not a synonym for recklessness. Independence comes with a huge responsibility.  For that reason, I don’t say ‘yes’ to everyone or everything. My primary aim is not to please people. If they happen to approve of my decisions or actions, that is simply a coincidence but has no bearing on my life choices. Ultimately, my reference point is Allah and His acceptance. Alhamdulillah, my independence has not made me delirious with all the freedom that I now have.  I have my feet firmly planted on the ground. In fact, I have become even more conscious of maintaining a lifestyle that is in keeping with Islam.  That is essentially because I alone serve as a role model for my sons. I feel accountable to them as much as anything else. 

A healthy spiritual lifestyle is not just about observing the absolute basics such as the five daily obligatory prayers or wearing hijab.  It’s also about the more subtle things interwoven in our daily routine such as social etiquettes and Islamic financial matters.  The fact that I never relied solely on my ex-husband to inculcate these principles into my existence is something I wonder if people actually understand.  Even after his departure, I never sacrificed my faith at the altar.  Alhamdulillah, I never surrendered my soul to anyone or anything which is why I managed to get back on my feet again after divorce. I aim to adhere to the truth even if I lose favour with others in the process.  (It wouldn’t be the first time).  I have ruffled feathers before but now it feels that people are asking themselves what credibility factor I dare have given I am a divorcee?

Unlike many women who I have seen blindly towing the line of the majority trending opinion (mostly in error), I refuse to be a sycophant.  I have observed how these women hold their silence ostensibly for the sake of peace. But it is more sinister than that. They are not in control of their own lives. More often than not, they have surrendered their mental or emotional independence to the men who control them. They refuse to admit that their mind and freedom have been sold down the river…

Am I allowed to answer?

The disparaging attitude of others towards me does not dent my confidence.  In fact, it gives me even more resolve to stand my ground.  Even when I was married, I never identified with being “the wife of Mr. So-and-So”.  I recall one occasion years ago at a dinner party where I was asked who I was.  Of course, I knew exactly that I was being asked to introduce myself as “The wife of……” Instead, I simply stated my name.  I sensed the irritation from the questioner but I did not care.  The question was about me and my status should not have been derived through my links to my husband.  Throughout my life, I have always maintained that a woman does not exist simply in terms of those three categories I mentioned at the very beginning of this post.  She is much more than the appendage of her husband.  Now that I am divorced, I feel even more justified for having that viewpoint. 

Today, as a fully independent woman once again,  the need to hold my own is even more paramount.  I want society to know that I am not concerned with aligning with popular opinion.  I may be divorced but I am not weak.  Let’s clear that confusion up right now.  My principles are inshaAllah aligned with Islam which is an independent, timeless paradigm.  This is my source of strength, Alhamdulillah.  So, people can gawp at my audacity to go against the grain and disagree with their baseless views but that’s fine.  They are not my shepherd and I am no sheep. 

I know this blog post exudes a lot of defiance.  But this is a justified defiance against ridiculous people-pleasing behaviour which in itself serves no purpose except to pacify our aggressors.  The right decision is not always the most popular one.  There are enough parables in the Quran which remind us of the ultimate success for those who dared to stand up and fight. For that reason, my concerns will never be what the majority thinks.  Even if I die today, I hope to be remembered for being true to my Islamic principles whether others understood them or not.  At least I have never hid behind a smokescreen. 

So, especially to all my divorced Muslim sisters out there, let my story serve as a warning to you.  Whether you like it or not, you have a fight on your hands.  Be bold and be principled.  Do not succumb to bullies and do not be a pawn in their hands.  The envy out there is real.  

A diamond is just a piece of carbon that handled stress exceptionally well.

What can a Mother Teach her Sons?

Not the traditional classroom

Well, a lot actually.  Firstly, I want to debunk the myth that the gender difference would be a limiting factor. With me being a woman and my sons being, well males obviously, some might think that this lesson will be off to a bad start from the outset. Actually, I think that’s exactly where its strength lies. Getting a group of young men to think outside of their male egos (and I don’t use that phrase with derision) would be a great first challenge for them.

To be honest, when I first thought about that question, I was tempted to write a shopping list of things that my boys could learn from me as their mother.  However, I knew I had to break it down a little.  I believe there are two broad categories of lessons to impart to my sons: 1. the tangible, routine things like cooking, household chores etc. and 2. the spiritual lessons which are more implicit but talk to their higher being.

From the surface, it would appear that any attempt for a woman – a mother – to teach her male offspring anything, is doomed to failure.  Wrong.  Alhamdulillah, I have always made it a point that that fallacy is hammered on the head right from the start.  Irrespective of my situation now, on my own without their father, I continue to consciously make sure that my sons grow up to be self-aware of their actions (or even inactions) and how all this impacts those around them.  I don’t know how to measure how successful I have been, if at all, but it’s a principle that I hold dearly. 

I’ve never subscribed to the traditional Asian mentality that says that sons are to be revered and held above our heads.  That is just so wrong!  I grew up in that environment myself although I exonerate my mother for doing it.  It was all she knew and that kind of thinking was what she had inherited herself.  However, it is a potential breeding ground for resentment.  There are many cultures that favour the son over the daughter although I am not quite sure why.  (That is another discussion in itself. ) Conveniently, I don’t have any daughters but I have always maintained that my sons would learn to appreciate the role of a woman, namely their future wife, in their lives.  What better place to start than with me, their own mother?

As such, from a young age, they have not been strangers to household chores – from mopping floors to washing dishes and, more recently, cooking meals.  Some readers might gasp thinking that I must be a cruel slave driver.  Images of me sitting with my feet up in blissful oblivion whilst my children rush around like minions are maybe what come to mind.  That is not my style.  I have never shied away from housework.  Yet, now they are much older, I definitely allow myself days here and there to resign all responsibility of the house over to them.  It is not a punishment.  It is a subtle form of training for life. Rather than give them rambling lectures on how to prepare for their future, it is better to give first-hand practical experience. That kind of lesson is never forgotten.

A life of Multi-tasking

Nobody can appreciate the work of another unless they step inside their shoes.  It’s for this reason that I make sure my sons know the relentless role of a homemaker. Even down to the nitty gritty things such as knowing how much laundry detergent to use for a load of washing, or when to put the rubbish out in time for the bin collection…these are seemingly trivial, yet immensely important, skills to learn for life.  In honing them, they might just appreciate how effortless their mother -and many women worldwide – make these tasks.  This is where the deeper lesson of respect towards women as a whole will be garnered because, more often than not, it is women who take on these thankless tasks day in and day out.  So, the ultimate plan is to help them to help themselves in later life should they one day live independently but also to never take things for granted.  Moreso, I never want them to take me for granted.

As I mentioned already, in the process of understanding the dull monotony of life’s daily chores, my hope is that the future generation will be better prepared to help out their own wives should they get married one day.  There is nothing worse than having raised a young man who feels entitled to be satiated by his every whim and sees his role in the family as only a financial one.  For both the wife and husband, there has to be a suitable overlap of responsibilities and which is mutually agreed upon.  I am not a modern-age feminist who has clear role definitions for men and women. In fact, I am more a traditionalist and do believe some roles will always inherently be the domain of one individual or the other. However, respecting the input the other party makes is what my focus is here; being flexible enough to take over a task, even temporarily, when the need arises, is a mature outlook.

So, how does this all link to the spiritual being?  Unlike a job in an office, which produces tangible results, a woman’s work in the home doesn’t end up in data charts or end of year profits.  It is a wheel that just goes round and round and more often than not, there is not much to show for it.  I’m of the opinion that empathy towards the role I have in my home will automatically plant the seeds of respect towards not just me, but women/mothers overall.  If my boys get involved, they will learn to appreciate the behind-the-scenes juggling act which I effortlessly balance to keep this household ticking over. They will never consider themselves above these tasks.  It is a vital lesson in humility. 

On a personal level, I want to help this new generation of would-be husbands and would-be fathers understand that having humility is a check on arrogance itself.  Arrogance should never be given the chance to rear its ugly head.  It is, arguably, the root cause of so much self-destruction and often overspills into family disputes and even wider society at large. I can testify that if I have been dealt any signs of that from one of my sons, I have countered it by asking them to do a menial chore such as cleaning the toilet. It is surprisingly more effective than exchanging words. As the old adage goes, “actions speak louder than words”.

So, not having father around isn’t a loss per se.  Alhamdulillah, I have the spirit and determination to try and fill his shoes too.  If anything, one of the inadvertent repercussions of his departure is that he taught the boys exactly how not to treat a wife.  And those are not my words…

More Space for Me to Fill…

The Blame Game

What will be your next move?

This title needs no introduction.  At some point in our lives, we have had encounters or relationships with people and somewhere along the line, they have let us down.  Disappointment in others is part and parcel of life.  Finding perfection in others is an ever-elusive goal.  To be honest, who are we to seek perfection when we ourselves fall short of it?  It works both ways.

But it’s easy to pin the blame on other people when our expectations of them are not met.  We would never point the finger at ourselves.  And yet that’s exactly what we should be doing! Why? Because the mistake lies within us.  We are foolish to think others can offer solutions to our problems or situation.  Nobody can be expected to secure our own future.  Inevitably, at some point, in some way, they will let us down.  The responsibility of our future lies in our hands and along the way, people will show up and retreat again.  We should never place too much emphasis on another person’s role or involvement. 

Be ready to let go

I would argue that the biggest mistake a person can make is to expect too much of this duniya (world) in the first place.  As the famous adage goes, “We need to hold the duniya in our hands and not in our hearts.”  If we truly understood the depth of that line, a lot of trauma and heartache could be avoided.  We need to be cautious that the duniya does not own us.  We can’t be slaves to it.  As it is, though, we are too engrossed in competing for this and that in this life, forgetting that all of it is simply a means to an end.  And what end is that?  To meet our Maker on the other side.  Just as a workman has his tools to do a job, so is everything we encounter in this world our ticket to the Hereafter. 

That seems rather cold and detached.  Are the people we know or meet to be viewed in the same way?  Are they just tools for a job?  Well, to some extent, I’d argue, “Yes.”  One stark difference is that, unlike inanimate tools that we use to do a job, with human relationships there are obviously emotions involved.  Any interaction we have with another person will involve some kind of emotional or mental transaction on both sides.  For that reason, they cannot be treated as mere objects for our use or disposal.  But the distinction we need to make in our minds is that nobody belongs to us, be it our children, parents or friends.  At some point, there will be a few who have to – or want to – leave our side.  This is the reality we need to be prepared for and if we are, then there should be nobody to blame.  Understanding that everyone and everything, in this ephemeral life that we have, is on loan from Allah, will help us shift the blame away from others when they do actually leave or fall short of our expectations.  That’s not to exonerate those who treat us badly.  There is no excuse for that.  However, ultimately, we can only blame ourselves for expecting too much. Nothing lasts forever.  Not even life itself.

The key to accepting the loss of a friendship in a disagreement, or a spouse through divorce, is to accept that very few relationships last forever.  We need to change our mindset.  I send this message particularly to those who, like myself, have gone through divorce and are wondering, “What went wrong?”  My advice would be to stop questioning the actions or decisions of the other party.  The marriage ended and chances are those questions will always hang in the vacuum, never to be answered.  Instead, we need to know that everything and everyone in this life are on a temporary loan.  That is not the same as having social detachment.  Rather, it is a mental preparedness for things to take a different course and never to be complacent about anything. 

Looking back, I wish I had understood this much sooner. Perhaps it would have spared me the fruitless effort in trying to understand why my ex-husband chose to part ways.  Instead, I could have stepped back and viewed the situation objectively from a distance.  Had I done that, I would have seen that the mistake was mine alone – I had allowed myself to be consumed by the duniya and be enslaved by it.  To be honest, there is no point in shifting the blame onto the other person.  Given nothing is static and we are all constantly evolving ourselves, it might seem inevitable that we fall in and out of relationships with others.  The mistake is to expect the variables in life to always be the same.  To be honest, that would be even ridiculous!  As harsh as this may sound, we need to keep everything and everyone at arm’s length, ready to let go if need be.  And that isn’t always a bad thing either.  The duniya in the heart is only ever going to be a formula for disappointment.  It is far better to hold it in the hands and very tentatively at that.    

Learning to break the loop…

Blessings Are a Test Too

Chapter 70, Ayah 5, Al-Quran

We all know the need to bear patience when things don’t go to plan.  Our plan.  How many times have we heard someone give that timeless advice to keep positive, understand that when things go seemingly wrong, it’s Allah’s way of testing us to remain calm?  We need to put our wholehearted trust in Him.  I totally agree with that advice.  

We also believe, as Muslims, that any suffering endured with grace and dignity in this life is a means of purification and redemption on the other side of this life, insha’Allah.  Having patience is invariably associated with negative life experiences.  Whilst being in that composed state in the thick of all our troubles is an admirable goal, I have recently become more aware of how it is only part of the whole picture.

Humans are inherently myopic and impatient and it is rarely understood that having patience is also an essential characteristic in times of ease and comfort.  I know that seems illogical.  What is there to be patient for when life is already full of goodness in its many forms?  Isn’t having patience a waiting game that we need to master in the face of adversity only?  Wrong.

To be honest, I never gave the idea of being patient in good times much thought.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic has opened my eyes to such a nuanced perspective on life, I cannot possibly encompass it all in one blog post.  For now, I just want to mention how I realise I am extremely fortunate with my lot in life, Alhamdulillah.  Good fortune itself is not always a tangible entity.  It is not always measured in commodities, cash or a career.  Sometimes, it is simply a state of peaceful inner acceptance of one’s circumstances.  With good fortune follows the need to bear patience and have responsibility in the handling of these blessings.  In the wrong hands, blessings of a material kind can be the downfall of someone.  For example, it’s possible that a person is blessed with wealth of different kinds but, in haste, squanders it on futile pursuits.  It’s this type of situation that requires a heightened awareness of patience.  Comforts in life often bring with them a certain heedlessness as well.

Coming back to today, I sit here in my home and wonder about the human suffering which exists across the world – be it physical, financial or emotional.  I admit I feel a sense of guilt for having escaped some tests which others have faced.  I wonder what I did to deserve this privilege?  And yet, I console myself by reminding myself that, for now, Allah has not chosen those trials and tribulations for me.  Of course, He knows what each person can bear and allocates their lot accordingly.  He gives everyone their share of grief and their share of calm.  Yet, in all those situations, the unwavering constant is the need to remain patient.  Arguably, striving for that in our quiet phases of life is an even bigger challenge since the smokescreen fools us into thinking there is nothing left for us to do.  Life is good. We can simply cruise through on autopilot.

Do I, therefore, wish to avoid complacency and be kept on my toes?  Do I want Allah to put me through trials just as a reminder of my ultimate purpose in life?  I think that would be foolish.  Arguably, having comforts in life are as much a test as they are a blessing.  We can easily become lost in moments of unguarded arrogance.  On this Earth we tarry for some time but the amusements are as consequential as the hardships.  So, in fact, nothing and nobody is unaccounted for.  Being short-sighted as we are, we only remember Allah in our desperate times but the truth is, it’s a remembrance that needs to happen always. 

He wants to hear from us not only when we are at our lowest moments but also when we are soaring with happiness.  So, my blog post today is a testimonial to all the good I have witnessed in my life, the things I am aware of and unaware of and all else in-between.  Alhamdulillah.

Flying High in Spirits

From Confusion to Fusion

Looking to Change the Response on the Form

Occasionally, I look back on random posts I have written over the past year and ask myself how much I have healed since my divorce. Why, after five years, have I not completely buried the past and moved on? Why do I sometimes rant about the past when I know deep within that I am living my best life now, Alhamdulillah? The truth is, that being a mere mortal, my overall progress is still sometimes punctuated by a state of numbness to life where my mind is temporarily whisked back to the past. Fortunately, those lapses occur less often nowadays. With the gap growing in time between the past and present, I have had increasing opportunities to re-evaluate my life. I realise that everything that has happened in it is meaningful, not meaningless. Even the events that didn’t turn out quite as I had wanted, were not a loss per se.

You see, life itself is one huge constant spiritual experience which transcends the material dimension. It is not simply an existential experience. Each and every encounter we have with other people, the comforts we enjoy in this world and the plethora of experiences we have along the way, all collectively work to inform the spiritual workings of our being. How we process those human and non-human interactions also determine our relationship with Allah Himself. And this is why all of it is meaningful. Nothing that happens to us is left to chance. In His own subtle and mysterious way, Allah is directing us to Him and yet it is upto us to decide if we accept this invitation or not.

No need to fan the flames

To arrive at this understanding takes a long time and even as I write here, I know I haven’t completely suffocated the dying embers of anger and frustration that still linger after my divorce. After all, so many more terrible things could have happened and so far I have been spared of them, Alhamdulillah. But, it’s true that the consequences of such a drastic change in one’s life reverberate long after the incident itself has passed. And this is what I am still going through since my marriage ended. Some people take longer than others to regain their footing on the threshold of their future – I guess I am one of them. I also know I need to stop comparing myself to others who have not cast a second glance behind them and managed to move forward. I can’t pretend to have been so strong and resolute but I know I am moving in the right direction, inshaAllah.

I understand that life is a series of tests, some bigger than others. Even a day which may seem uneventful and routine, brings with it little challenges; questions such as, “Should I delay my salat (prayers) and finish watching something less important on Youtube?” or “Should I refrain from being part of an idle conversation and find something more wholesome to do instead?” I believe that all these seemingly trivial incidents, and how they are handled, determine the final outcome for the believer on the other side of this life. And none of these encounters and happenings are accidents. They are, in fact, the perfect design of Allah. On our path to Him, some of these things exist as small pebbles, some are big stones and others are just colossal boulders over which we need to climb and exert all the energy we have to pass them. Of course, in reality, the boulders are often humungous life-changing events such as divorce, long-term illnesses or the death of a loved one. I pray that I will never come across a boulder and look at it and think it is insurmountable. If I am true to my faith, that word (insurmountable) should not even figure in my head. This is the ultimate lesson I have been learning recently.

Each life is so unique and the set of circumstances people face are so particular to themselves but those lessons can be shared easily. So, even through my early days of post-divorce where I was consumed with anger and frustration, I know I had to go through those motions to exorcise the negativity within. Through a great deal of confusion, I gradually trained myself to think positive, to carry the best parts of my past existence and move forward with them. I may be divorced but I don’t have to be totally divorced from the positive elements of my past. I still celebrate the happiness that I enjoyed back then. What I have to purge myself of is the pain, that’s all. I honestly have given up trying to understand the inner irrational workings of people’s minds. Rather, it is a far better investment if I stay focussed on the cards I have been dealt with now and use them on the journey trying to get even closer towards Allah.

Stepping over stones to reach a wonderful view

The Catapult Effect

Be prepared for the consequences

It’s a known fact that parenting does not come with its own handbook.  There are no hard and fast rules about how to raise your children.  There is also no single approach to this daunting task and that’s true whether you are working from within cultural, societal or religious boundaries or not.  For the most part, it occurs ad hoc and along the way parents learn as much about themselves as they do about their own children.

The one thing I have discovered over the years is that parenting will never be a success story if it is only ever concerned with setting down rigid rules and regulations for children.  Discipline must be complimented with fun and laughter.  I also believe that, in most families, the father figure represents the former whilst the mother embodies the latter.  Nothing wrong in that.  It is what comes naturally to each parent in keeping with the fitra (the innate disposition of humans).  Of course, there will always be fluidity between those self-assumed roles and no parent can say, or should say, they have only ever been one of those things and not the other.  Somewhere between these two behavioural parameters, harmony in the home will be found, insha’Allah

In my own personal experience of marriage, I believe my ex-husband and I represented the archetypal situation described above.  The problem was, once I was left to take charge of my brood, I had to suddenly become all those things – disciplinarian and friend – all at once.  Whilst that is a formula that most parents should aim for anyway, the difficult thing for me was to find my own particular brand and replace the vacuum which my ex-husband had created.  Initially, I found myself trying to imitate the version of authority he had advocated.  However, it wasn’t long before I realised I had set myself an unrealistic and unyielding proposition.  I was not him and accepted I should not even try to be.  Besides, given my disappointment with him and now that I was in full control of my life, I was free to create my own version of familial harmony.  I had to trust myself with my own ideas and methods.

Arguably, one of the most crucial things I learnt was that I had to be in tune with my own children’s emotions.  Not only were they also coming to terms with our new-found situation, but I couldn’t ignore that they were simultaneously going through their teen years where hormones were pirouetting and skydiving within.  Enforcing lofty expectations for my sons would have produced catastrophic results.  My situation was compounded by the fact that I was also returning to the UK from Saudi Arabia so that in itself required some major adjustments to all our lives.  Against that backdrop, I knew that I needed to be prepared for seriously wobbly moments both in my own parenting skills and in my children’s responses.  There were often times I had to resist calling them out on things which did not meet my expectations.  This could have been on matters related to their studies, behaviour or even connection to their religion. 

Alhamdulillah, my sons have never exhibited any major deviations from the life of a Muslim to the extent where I have been irrevocably concerned but I have learnt how to walk a fine line between finding compassion and being resolute in my parental dealings with them.  I have tried my best to avoid any potential ruin where they would blame Islam for dealing them the wrong cards.  My knowledge of my faith teaches me that life will always present challenges which are there to constantly create better versions of ourselves.  Whilst I know that truth for myself, I had to allow my sons time to figure it out for themselves.  Meanwhile, I had to adopt a revised approach to parenting which would find me filling in the shoes of both mother and father…

Delicate but beautiful

At times, being at the helm of a family on your own feels like trying to walk through cobwebs without damaging their form.  It’s a tricky and very delicate situation.  However, I have always tried to empathise with my sons before I tackle an issue like a bull in a china shop.  Essentially, I am afraid of something I call “The Catapult Effect” – a situation where placing harsh restrictions on someone will cause them to break and simply rebound in the opposite direction with even more devastating consequences.  I have seen The Catapult Effect in all its ugliness in so many different families, observing it both as a child and later as an adult.  Somewhere along the way, some parents forget what it means to be young and confused and afraid.  It isn’t realistic to impose our understanding of the world onto our children when so many other different variables are at play.  No one life is identical to another.

So, in fumbling through my own journey as a parent, and especially on my own for that matter, I have actually discovered that Allah has given me the highest honour in raising my children singlehandedly and thereby potentially accruing more reward for this onerous task, insha’Allah.  Should I not be grateful for that unusual privilege?  Of course, it hasn’t been easy and I doubt it ever will be.  As they get older, I will simply swap old concerns for new.  However, I have never needed the catapult to enforce my principles or to protect them, Alhamdulillah.  Arguably, their father would have been more ready to use it than I.  As it is, the five of us have come together to function as normally as possible without a father/husband in our midst.  Most importantly for me, by being more empathetic with their emotions and struggles, we have found a middle ground to work on where they do not compromise nor question their own Islamic identity.

Anomalies don’t necessarily make for deficiencies.  They are simply a variant way of existing or doing things.  Insha’Allah, I hope I have proven to my own sons that, even with the voluntary departure of their father, their lives have not been wanting of anything which has caused irreparable damage to their future.  If anything, the last few years have revealed lots of hidden potential in each of us and something we will continue to develop with whatever time we have still, insha’Allah.  

Light will always overcome Darkness

40+ years and a Cup of Coffee

21 Best Quotes About Coffee | Inc.com
Coffee & Conversation: Can’t go wrong…

This is one of those blogs where I am simply going to write as the thoughts come to my mind, minus the typos inshaAllah.

Today, I met up with a school friend from my childhood after 41 years! Over a cup of coffee, we settled in our seats ready to enlighten the other about our time on this Earth to date. Where do you start with someone who you haven’t seen in over forty years? As expected, we only just scratched the surface, reminiscing on our school days, wondering where others were now and discussing the different things we have accomplished in the years gone by.

What was quite lovely to note was that although this friend of mine is a devout Christian, and myself a Muslim, sitting there reflecting on our lives, we both observed that there is a wonderfully shared commonality between us. Yes, our lives are bound by different religious belief systems but at the core of those systems, our principles are the same. There is a great overlap where we share the same values such as a deep belief in one God, respect for human life and a sense of accountability for our actions. But neither of us were on a proselytising mission. We had just come together for a few hours to enjoy each other’s company – and we did. Finding that common ground, above and beyond our early school days, was refreshing.

Then there was the thought permeating my mind throughout that, Alhamdulillah, I have experienced so much in my life and yet here I was today reconnecting with my past. In doing so, I got to hear myself speak about my life and mentally acknowledge how much I have actually achieved, Alhamdulillah. It isn’t a life that anyone will talk about in a public setting years after I have gone but that’s OK. I am so immensely grateful to Allah for giving me every single positive and negative experience, for it is with the good, bad and the ugly that we are strengthened through life and become resilient to the things that it throws at us over time. Am I making any sense? Perhaps only in my own head. I would ask my readers to forgive my incoherence.

In a nutshell, I guess I am simply trying to say that I am so eternally grateful for my life. Every day that comes and goes, I become increasingly aware of this gift. I do believe that experiencing life beyond our four walls is so important. I have been blessed to have had such interesting encounters with people from all walks of life and backgrounds and I’d like to think that on many occasions, the feeling was mutual. It is warming to know that your life, your presence, has touched a few lives and made them better for it. If that is my legacy to this world, then I simply say, “Alhamdulillah”. Whatever I have left of my time here, I hope to continue to embrace all that comes my way and always know that I only get one chance at it.

Robert T. Kiyosaki Quote: “You get one life. Live it in a way that it  inspires

Health (& Humility) = Wealth

A Simple Recipe for Success

We all know too well that when we are not feeling at our finest, in terms of physical health, everything else pales into insignificance.  All the intangible aspects of our being, our pride, our social status, our academic learning etc., suddenly seem so inconsequential when faced with physical challenges that inhibit our very existence.

To a lesser or greater extent, we have all been in that situation.  Be it a common cold or a major surgery, there have been times when all we could think about was getting better and living a normal life once again.  As painful as these episodes are, they are necessary to remind us of our puffed-up pride and the fragility of life itself. 

I’ve often wondered how these kinds of scary experiences do not give some people an opportunity to reassess their perspective on life.  Sometimes people go through very difficult journeys related to health and yet learn nothing from it.  In my own situation, I see that Allah is keeping me rooted in humility lest I should forget that I am in control of nothing and become arrogant.

The adage, “health is wealth” is one which universally agreed upon.  Ask a rich person if all the money in the world could avail them when the diagnosis of a terminal illness has been given and I’m sure they will answer “No”.  Yet, human nature dictates that we are forgetful and conceited which is why I believe many make the most irrational decisions at the height of their power.

When a person, man or woman, decides to upset a perfectly normal family life and break away, I wonder what more it is that they want from life?  Excitement?  Money?  More adventure?  Of course, there are plenty of cases where divorce is actually a healthy option.  The two parties will be at peace on their own and be able to follow their individual versions of happiness.  However, there are many occasions where divorce is a totally illogical and irrational response to a situation which was probably only existent in the imagination of one of the spouses.  Furthermore, the instigator is probably someone who chooses not to confront his/her own shortcomings and instead, projects their own failures onto their spouse. 

Distorted Images from a distorted mind

That’s how I saw my life.  I never imagined divorce would be on the cards.  There were no warning signs.  If anything, I thought we were doing just fine.  Like everyone else, there were disagreements and struggles but none that suggested my marriage was in trouble.  My theory was, and still is, that when a man (or woman) is at their peak in life, when they feel invincible either because of their status at work or money in their pocket, it can destroy their perspective on things.  The ego becomes inflated and the desire for bigger or better is an aeroplane taxiing on a runway and waiting to take off. 

Having power of this kind means that there is no need to try repair anything that is seemingly damaged.  It is far easier to replace it.  Unfortunately, I have seen too many examples of this behaviour.  Poor people will work hard to repair something they own as they know these things are not dispensable.  The rich don’t have the same time or patience. 

This leads me to conclude that being tested in health, or money, or anything else for that matter, though taxing on our physical and mental wellbeing, should be taken as an opportunity to reflect on our very purpose on this Earth.  Life was never meant to be easy but I do feel some people choose to make it unnecessarily difficult.  The insatiable appetite pushes them to believe that what they have now can be improved upon; that change is invariably a good thing – an improvement upon the latter.  Of course, that is a lie.  What we constantly need to change is that which is within us, the intangible being which is connected to the soul.  Outward worldly change is not always destined to bring us greatness or happiness.  Moreso, if it has been attained at the cost of dismissing the hurt caused to those nearest to us, then the price paid for it was undoubtedly too great.  Sooner or later, it will come crashing down. 

I don’t believe in reciprocating hurt with hurt.  I have long resolved that the best thing I could do is direct that energy on myself.  I have invested in me and my sons and hope to continue to do so, inshaAllah.  Allah will take care of everything else.

Muslim Speaker Mike Ghouse: Islam Misunderstood: Tawakkaltu Ala-Allah, In  God we Trust
Put Your Trust in Allah

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