The Arrogance of feeling incensed…How difficulties expose the diseases of the heart


The Arrogance of feeling incensed…How difficulties expose the diseases of the heart

Umrah’s Life Lessons #5:  The Arrogance of feeling incensed…How difficulties expose the diseases of the heart So everyday I get a little wiser in the dua I make all along the walk to the Haram. I prayed for a space that no one would crowd in on me in, and my spot seemed invisible to those late-comers looking for half a space. The next day I prayed that I would have space and be early enough to be allowed inside, and we prayed in a lovely, albeit hot, place on the second floor (that was the day the young girl from Aleppo accused me of wearing makeup). Tonight I pray for space large enough for the two of us, inside the Haram, peaceful and air-conditioned (ok, so I forgot to say facing the Kaba!). My wish seems almost impossible as we are turned away from door-for-women to door-for-women. Finally we are directed to a mixed entrance and ushered down an escalator. We are going down to the basement. I have a mild case of claustrophobia, but I try not to remember that we are underground. We look around: there isn’t a place for a slip of a child to stand. I turn to the guard, “Please,” I say, “we were directed to come down here and there is no room. Could you possibly find us a place somewhere?” “Follow me,” he says and off he goes. We walk through wide corridors full of men praying, we walk through enormous halls filled with men praying. We walk for maybe twenty minutes going deeper and deeper inside, I get nervous the prayer is going to start and here I am lost in a sea of men. Finally behind the brass book shelves at the far end of a hall is a closed-in area for women. I believe we are now under the Marwa. I thread my way past the first three or four lines of women and then stop. There is nowhere to spread a tissue much less a prayer carpet. The women look me squarely in the face, protective of their spaces. Go to the back, go to the back they motion in a dismissive manner. I almost start to until I realize they just want me out of their way – they haven’t even looked behind them. The few places I find that could fit us, I am waved away. One woman holds up two fingers, for people that are coming, one holds up three. A woman shakes her head and mimes wudu’, she is holding the place for someone making wudu. I send Fatimah three times to comb the lines all the way to the wall at the end and back, with no luck. Two boys push past me to stand with their mother; they are perhaps seven and nine. I begrudge them the place they take from us, but say nothing. More and more women arrive, as I stand clutching my carpet. They ask the guard to push back the bookcase to give us more room, and he objects.  I have been standing for close to forty five minutes now and my throat chokes on tears of disappointment, estrangement, and defeat. It will be time to pray soon and I cannot face that long walk through the men’s section again.  I feel like a total outcast.

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On Three of the Components of Happiness…and making anyplace ‘home’


On Three of the Components of Happiness…and making anyplace ‘home’

Umrah’s Life Lessons #4: On Three of the Components of Happiness…and making anyplace ‘home’ The day we performed Umrah was a long day. It started in Medina, walking, walking, walking to visit the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, walking back to the hotel elated, packing and taking the trip to Abyar Ali to do Ihram for our Umrah; then the long trip to Mecca. In Mecca too, another two hours of driving during and after Maghrib to reach our hotel, on account of getting lost and traffic, and then the walk to the Haram. By the time we had finished seven times of tawaf and seven times of sa’ee, we were exhausted. The walk back to the hotel must have been the hardest thing I had to do on the whole trip. My feet felt like two stumps of throbbing agony engulfing me in excruciating pain, what with the fact we had not eaten yet and I probably had low blood sugar, it was understandable that visions of foot amputations danced in my head. So was it any wonder that my face did not show any happiness on the long walk back? But that was commented on, too.

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The Deprived Citizens of the Land of ‘Good-Enough’


The Deprived Citizens of the Land of ‘Good-Enough’

Umrah’s Life Lessons #3: The Deprived Citizens of the Land of ‘Good-Enough’ Did I mention that it was a twenty to thirty minute brisk walk to the outer premises of the Haram from our hotel? Any other month, a car would have taken us along the freeway practically to the door of the Haram. Now all traffic was blocked from the surrounding streets and we had to walk the most direct street down to the Mosque. First we went under several freeways, then there was a souk reminiscent of Middle Eastern souks only it wasn’t covered, this continued to include a few empty lots full of rubble, a small mosque and a few hotels.  Then another street merged into this one, turning the two into a wide street with fancy tower hotels and food shops on either side. Halfway down that street was the ‘tent’. Wide swaths of semi sheer cloth were draped from one side of the street to the next creating a delicately shaded area. Now it was a mere ten minutes to the outer vicinity of the Haram. We took this path back and forth at least twice a day.

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On Dirty Clothes and the Volume of Sin


On Dirty Clothes and the Volume of Sin

Umrah’s Life Lessons #2: On Dirty Clothes and the Volume of Sin No one packs a suitcase like my daughter Ruqaiyah. Ever since she was a child she’s had a knack for folding that renders the item of clothing, towel or sheet to its original store-bought pristine shape.  On our previous Umrah she went with us, and when we saw her neat little sandwich-bag packages, each holding a complete set of underwear (undershirt, underpants and long pants), we all wanted her to pack our bags for us. This trip, my husband took a small bag, Fatimah and I shared a medium-sized bag, and we each had a carry-on as well. Inside, thanks to Ruqaiyah, our bags were fit for display!

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The Chained Chair…The Blessing of Having a Guide


The Chained Chair…The Blessing of Having a Guide

I would like to share a series of reflections that were written last year after I went on Umrah with my husband and ten year old daughter. Our accommodations were at a good distance from the Haram, we had no one with us to help and the crowds were greater than ever before, a grand seven million! I am not saying I wouldn’t do it again in an eye blink, I am not saying we did not benefit and enjoy our stay. Just that things were more difficult than I expected, and that each situation was laden with myriad pointers.   Lesson One: The Chained Chair…..The Blessing of Having a Guide Our last day in Mecca was physically grueling. We were up almost all night, then fajr jama’a, then over an hour’s search for an empty space to pray Eid, then another two hours to get to the Kaba and tawaf of farewell, and then the long walk back to the hotel. After some quick last minute packing, the two hour trip to Jedda is something I am looking forward to. I can’t wait to get into a cool spacious GMC car to catch up on some sleep.

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Becoming More Aware of Our Blessings


Becoming More Aware of Our Blessings

So how does one develop the skill of “seeing” all that Allah has blessed her with? Gratitude itself is one of the greatest blessings, but it can be practiced and acquired. First, one must practice the art of keen observation as the Prophet SAW advised, “Look in worldly matters to those beneath you and look in matters of religion to those who are above you.” When you notice those whose health, homes and paychecks are less than yours, it helps you appreciate that which you have. Greed and competitiveness in material and worldly matters breeds jealousy, creates grudges and develops feelings of bitter dissatisfaction. Therefore one should always be in touch with those less fortunate than him, that she may appreciate her lot and that she may extend a helping hand, share her wealth, health and time trying to alleviate their hardship, all the while becoming acutely aware of what she has.

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The Wedding Song


The Wedding Song

A New Door A new door tonight has opened For me may it become a token Of my commitment to Your path Of my avoidance of Your wra~th A new dawn tonight has broken For me may it become a token Of my resolve and constancy A chance to prove my loyalty May you become to his heart, pleasure May you be coolness to his eyes May your love be deep for each other Islam the strongest of your ties May your support make him feel tall The greatest in your eyes of all May his gentleness and his kindness Surround and warm your very soul

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The Traits of Trials


The Traits of Trials

Difficulties and hardships are an integral part of our lives. We are constantly reminded by God the Most Gracious, Most Merciful how we must expect trials. But just as we need to understand that trials are normal, so it is that we should understand the traits of trials: 1. Trials are always cushioned in ease. In surah al Inshirah we read, {So verily with hardship there is ease, verily with hardship there is ease} and so it has been commented that no difficulty sandwiched between two words of ease can overwhelm. Think about the difficulties you have faced; was there a new closeness to your Lord that you experienced? Was there a friend that stood by you? Were there certain circumstances that made it more bearable? Ease comes in the form of people, instances and feelings that help you handle the difficulty and allow you to be grateful. Umar bin al Khattab used thank Allah thrice for each difficulty he experienced, and he would explain, “Alhamdulilah that it wasn’t worse, Alhamdulilah that I get reward for bearing it and Alhamdulilah that the calamity did not touch my faith.”

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Impossible Recompense


Impossible Recompense

Gentle, enveloping me in warmth. Wholesome, nourishing my thoughts. Airy, filling my eyes with light. Scented, wafting through my head. Lifting Intoxicating Filling Overwhelming Your care vibrates in my life leaves me gift-struck, stunned and staggered capable of everything – feeling anything’s within my power except for the skill of thanking You enough…  

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The Characteristics of Blessings


The Characteristics of Blessings

Many, many years ago, when my oldest was about a year old, I witnessed my friend play the ‘Thank you Allah’ game with her two year-old daughter. A few months later when my round-the-clock ‘morning sickness’ turned me into an invalid, unable to even prop up a book to read lying down, I found the game to be both a beneficial and fascinating distraction. In my adult version of the game, I classified the blessings I wished to thank Allah for.  There were the blessings I shared with anything in existence — how special am I to be brought into existence by the Divine and to be given the chance to witness the wonder of creation and the Greatness of the Creator?  Then there were the blessings I shared with anything living: the sun we all experience, the air that we breathe, the life-span we were granted, the ability to function each according to its species.  Then those blessings I shared with people: the special gifts we have as humans, our ability to think to feel to plan to do.

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