Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Clock is Ticking

I was cleaning up my inbox and came across an article my sister sent me a year ago about the importance of work-life balance. The body of the email had a saying (Hadith) from the Prophet Muhammad PBUH about understanding that every aspect of our life has rights upon us – family, friends, our bodies, and of course, our Lord has rights upon us too. The Hadith, as further explained by the author, highlights the point that when we weigh our responsibilities in one area more than the other (such as work for example), the price to pay, obviously, is that our other responsibilities suffer.

One area that I think many of us, myself included, undermine is sleep. For many years, I would run on four to five hours of sleep, and compensate my tiredness with a triple Venti Vanilla Latte. In those years, without a doubt, I would get sick at least five to six times a year, and literally go to the doctor and ask her to prescribe me antibiotics, because I didn’t have “time” to get sick. But it wasn’t until I truly stopped to figure out what was going on, that I realized, after many scoldings from family and friends, that I couldn’t keep functioning at this sleep-deprived-caffeinated pace. My body needed sleep, and islamically, my body also had this right upon me that I was so seamlessly denying.  

In Islam, (took me a while to figure out, but hey, better late than never right!), God has created a balanced lifestyle for us. Even when it comes to our spiritual responsibilities, Allah SWT has made it realistic plan for us to balance our worship to Him (five beautiful times throughout the day), while also fulfilling our responsibilities here on earth - earning an honest income, providing for our families, and enjoying time with friends and family.

Aside from this invaluable and timeless lesson that I have sitting in my inbox, I also have the one liner my sister sent me along with this email. It simply said this:

"This one is for you right now."

My response back to her at the time was, "Word [I was pretending to be cool by saying "worrdd"], I slept yesterday." 

Fast forward to this very moment right now. I came on to start blogging and found a blog post in my drafts folder. I opened it up, and all it had was the title you see before you: "The Clock Is Ticking." As I think back to the time my sister sent me this email, my response to her, and the title of the then, un-finished blog post, I can't help but wonder - can I truly say that every single aspect of my life, whether it be my relationships, my work and/or my community work, and sleep too - are they all constantly worked upon with the intention of presenting it to Allah SWT one day as a form of worship, hoping that will it grant me entry into paradise? I can't say that I consciously go to bed every night thinking this is a form of worship too, and then get up every morning and think that I'm doing x, y, z for the sake of Allah SWT, and I'm going to keep my relationship with x, y, z based on these Islamic principles and values. But perhaps this is why, it was Allah SWT's plan that I come across this Hadith to remind myself first and foremost, that yes, while I love being busy and doing 50 things at once, I need to reflect on the various aspects of my life, and ensure I'm giving each aspect  it's due right. It is also a timely reminder, with the blessed month of Ramadan not too far away, inshAllah, to reflect on things I do, and in turn, we all do, and how it's truly preparing us for our after-life. 

Just some reflections....and with that, I shall give my body it's due right, and go to sleep. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Post-Single Life Relfection

Yes - it's completely intentional that my last post was about the single life, and now, here I am, writing from the married life perspective.

Before I got married, people used to tell me don't worry, once you get married, it'll all be perfect. After I got married, a few of my single friends would look at me with a longing look, asking me if it was all over-rated or if it's actually really awesome. 

This one is for all the single folks - the truth is marriage is amazing alhamdullilah. But, there's a lot that the facebook posts and new couple pictures don't show (yes, I'm guilty of this too :D). 

Here's a brief snippet: 
  • You have to have a complete work-life balance overhaul  
  • You now have to manage two of everything
  • You have to figure out the "we-time" and the "me-time" 
  • You have to figure out time management
The point is - I wrote it in my previous post, and I'll write it again here - Allah swt has a time and place for everything - including marriage. Have faith and know that at the right place, and at the right time, the right person will come along; now that I reflect back to a couple of years ago, I know without a doubt that I would never have been able to survive or even know how to cope with the changes that come with marriage. But today, in this very moment, I thank God for his epic timing - I couldn't have planned it any better; and know that for you too, He has a plan. Trust Him. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Single Life - Community Reflection

I write this post not as Aisha, but as a single woman. It's a very short and simple message:

Over the years, I've met countless women and their stories when it comes to marriage and why they're not married (not that I ever asked). Here's just a snippet of what they had to say:

  • I haven't met the right person yet
  • I'm in the recruitment phase and it's taking longer than I expected (aka. trying to find someone)
  • I'm not ready
  • Not right now - School, Work, Career etc.

Just like no one blatantly asks married people why they haven't had babies yet (well they do - that's a whole different topic but you get my point), let's quit asking the single women (and men) in our communities why they're not married yet. If they want to share their story with you, they will. 

But let's not be nosy. 

And for all of us single men and women out there, remember that at the right place, and at the right moment, God will send the right person along. Not in the time you think is good. In His time. 

And until that happens, don't wallow or put your life on hold. Marriage is one aspect of life - there's so much more! Go out and remember why God put you on this planet. To worship and submit to Him - let that be a reminder to you every day when you go to work, when you go into the community - believe that and act upon it, and I promise you, that will be more than enough for you to focus your life. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

God's Perfection - Trust and Hope

I went to a salon recently to get a haircut. It was clear from the way the owner looked - an old white man - that he may not be aware of the needs of a muslim woman who covered her hair. This was clearly a fault on my part when it came to assuming the worst of our society as of late, especially with all the anti-Islam rhetoric we're seeing through niqab controversy to say the least. Anyways, the man looked at me and asked if I would require a private room and I said yes. He then took me to the back area and said ok, if you'd like to wash your hair, you can get that done but the only issue is the men are here; I'll just ask them to look away from you - would that be comfortable for you? I kindly declined, saying that I wouldn't be comfortable and that I'd be fine with a cut in the room, without a wash. He then looked at me and said you know what, how about one of us will hold a cloth, curtain type around you so no one can see and then you can head into the back room right away to get your haircut. I looked at him, ever so grateful for being so innovative and ready to accommodate me. I then smiled and told him, it would have to be a female holding the cloth and not him and he, without any hesitation, agreed right away. And so it happened - one woman washed my hair while another one held the cloth up so men couldn't see. And as I was getting my hair washed, I thought of how, despite all the negativity we see in the media, our city and our communities are filled with good, kind-hearted souls who are here to help and support one another.

The lady who was cutting my hair shared her story with me. I didn't say much and just listened to her story. She told me how she came from Lebanon with her two kids for her ex in her late 20s to Toronto. Left alone after coming to Toronto with two kids, she struggled - she told me a couple of times how difficult and challenging her life was for her. She told me about people who always wanted to put her down and didn't want her to succeed. But she told me twice, that if it wasn't for God by her side, she wouldn't be where she is today. No matter what struggle she went through, she would always find God by her side.

My sister a couple of days ago told me to just open the Quran to a random page and so I did; I landed upon the passage in the Quran where God tells us the beginning of the story of Prophet Musa (Moses) and the commandment his mother followed through on:

Chapter 20, Verse 38-40:

"When we inspired your mother with that which We inspired; Saying: Put him into a box and put it into the river (Nile); then the river shall cast it up on the bank and there, an enemy of mine and an enemy of theirs shall take him. And I endued you with love from Me, in order that you may be brought up under My Eye; When your sister went and said: Shall I show you one who will nurse him? So we restored you to your mother, that she might cool her eyes and she might not grieve"

Behold - God's perfection - from the interactions we have to the verses we read - time and time again, remind us to have trust and faith in Him and Him alone.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Seek. Aspire. Accomplish.

"What do you wanna do when you grow up?"
"I want to change the world" 
"One person can't change the world. Stop and relax - sleep, eat, and enjoy life" 

"The unexamined life is not worth living" - Socraetes

I've been on this mission for about two years now to figure out what it is I want to do with my life, and finding a career path where I can give back to the community and make a meaningful difference. I've met many other young adults who are struggling with the same challenge and are out, just like I am, in search of an answer.

The reality of the situation is that it's going to be challenging finding this fulfillment and desire no matter where you go or what you choose to do; you could be on the ground working in the community, as a front line worker. As rewarding an experience it is to come home each day knowing you made a difference in someone's life, this path comes with it's own set of challenges - overworked, underpaid, funding issues, and the list continues. You may choose to pursue a path in for-profit organizations and government; here, again, while the pay may be great, you may feel demoralized with the work, unmotivated because you may feel that you're so far removed from the reality of things...

I write the above to make a very simple point which I've learnt from some very important and valuable people in my life; find something you love to do; what excites you every morning and every night; what is that "thing" that when you talk about it or read about, you can't stop and want to keep doing more and more? Once you find that "thing," no matter where you choose to work, you'll make a difference in the lives of people whether you may see it or not - whether it be on the ground, working with them one-on-one, or on a more strategic and systemic level.

I'll leave with one last point someone told me that hit really close to home. The problem with our generation is that we're so obsessed with changing the world and making large strides through our volunteer and regular work that we lose sight and focus of the little things we do in life that have an impact on others; whether it be something as simple as holding the door for someone or giving a dollar to a homeless person, or speaking out on an issue like violence. Take each day as it comes, with a commitment to making a difference - no matter how small or how big. This is not to say that we don't plan for the future; of course, we must do that and that's an important aspect of success - but do that while using each day as a stepping stone, leading up to that - and enjoying every moment.

For at the end of the day, it's really about those small moments that come to define us as we create our big moments.

"Life is tough, that's a given. When you stand up, you're going to be shoved back down. When you're down, you're going to be stepped on. My advice to you doesn't come to you with a lot of bells and whistles; It's no secret: you'll fall down, you'll stumble, you'll get pushed, you'll land square on your face. And every time that happens, you can and [and you must] get back on your feet. You [must] get up just as fast as you can, no matter how many times you need to do it. Remember this: success has been and continues to be defined as getting up one more time than you've been knocked down."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Youth Suicide in the Muslim Community

Yup. It exists. Read it again. Absorb it. Accept that it is an unfortunate reality of the times we live in. Now, let's start by discussing and then committing to doing something about it.

The current of generation of Muslim youth are a product of mostly a previous immigrant generation. Our parents came to North America in search of a better life for us and for them in those times, it was about finding a job and putting food on the table so that we could go to school, become educated and not have to struggle as much as our parents did. As we were growing up and as our parents tried to hold on to cultural and religious values, as a society, we failed to address the challenges and peer pressures we're faced with growing up in the west.

As an entire Muslim community; from within the home to the institutions we have in place (Islamic school, masjids etc), we somehow were under the impression that the Muslim youth would be immune to the mainstream pressures every single child/teenager/adult faces. The reality is that we were and we are not immune. Drugs, alcohol, the dating culture and everything associated with it...these are all the realities of Muslims today. I know young Muslim brothers and sisters who are:

  • Addicted to drugs and alcohol (beginning in their early high-school/university days and now in their early to mid-20s, still doing that while parents are asking them to settle down with good, religious men/women). 
  • Dating and having relations outside of marriage - and yes, I'm talking about kids both inside and outside Islamic schools (yes, Islamic Schools) 
The above are just two examples (I bulleted the above two points so that they would stand out). I need not go through the entire list - I'm sure you can keep the list going. The unfortunate reality is that these issues are now trickling into our society and have manifested into many more complicated problems - the immediate effects include mental health issues including depression, and when the youth can't take it anymore, suicide is the ultimate, final resort. 

I know of two completed suicides of Muslim youth, and one, was ready to do so but alhamdullilah, found some support. At a lecture I was recently at, an Imam talked about how he was getting calls from Muslim families of youth who had committed suicide, and was asked to silently come, complete what was needed to be done and leave - the family not saying a word, in fear of shame of what people/society would think. 

As Muslims, one of our obligations and rights is to our neighbours. Here we are, in 2014, where Muslim youth are committing suicide and what are we doing about it? Absolutely nothing. What are we going to say to God when He asks us what we did to help them? Nothing? 

We have to come together, unite and help the Muslim youth. They are the future of Islam and tomorrow's leaders. 

It all comes down to us failing as a community. We need to realize that Muslim youth are prone and are facing the same challenges non-Muslim youth are facing. There are numerous support systems that are available for non-Muslim youth and they are able to take advantage of it. For Muslim youth, there are a two main challenges I see: 
  1. If they are going through issues (drugs, alcohol etc), they know it's forbidden in Islam. As a result, out of fear, they don't talk to anybody, and don't know where to turn to for help or support. It is this lack of support and hopelessness that is potentially leading them to commit suicide.
  2. Our masjids and communities - very few - have designated services, most importantly counsellors for Muslim youth who they can talk to to help sort out and work through these challenges - at a spiritual, emotional and practical level. 
Alhamdullilah, I think our communities are starting to change and we have religious leaders who can relate to youth start talking about some of these issues but I have yet to see someone explicitly say, ok today's talk will be on suicide. Again, it's a taboo topic in our community but it's up to us to untaboo it so we can talk about it, make the youth who are struggling to realize that there is a way out, there is help and there is hope. 

If you're a teacher, an educator, or work with Muslim youth in any capacity, be a source of support who they can talk to - youth need someone who they can trust and relate to, and before you know it, they will open up and express their fears. 

Please also refer anyone who may be going through any situation and need a confidential support, there is the Naseeha Muslim Youth Helpline (1-866-NASEEHA,

I'm hoping to focus and do more work on this, so stay-tuned inshAllah. In the meantime, please feel free to comment. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gratitude to the One and the Only

I've been sick with the flu now for exactly 10 days, going on my 11th day today. It's so funny how frustrated we get when our worldly order is disrupted - be it as simple as the ability to get up every morning, get ready, read, pray, stare at randoms on the subway, get to the office, get work done, bond with fellow colleagues, return the same route, contemplating the worldly happenings, do some personal work, and then crash and burn, only to repeat the same routine once again. Yet, when this routine is disrupted, as has been for me for what seems like forever, it's these very moments that make us grateful for blessings we take for granted.

Last week, right when I felt the comings of the flu, I remember grabbing a green tea on my way from work to see a friend at the hospital, hoping it would soothe my throat and the pounding headache, so that I could ignore it and sit with my friend. I remember taking the elevators up to a section of the hospital where every room and every bed it seems was taken up by extremely old and frail looking people - some of them had family members around them while others just lay there, helpless and quiet as they were taken care of by nurses.

I had gone in to see a good friend of mine. She's approximately 27 years old and we both went to university together. She has two young little kids now who are absolutely adorable mashAllah. The journey she has been through will leave you and me speechless. Over the course of her young life, she's had 15 surgeries, two strokes, and since last week, had been in the hospital, constantly for over 2 months now - and the doctors have been trying to figure things out.

I remember as I sat there, watching how frail she'd gotten over time and how much weight she'd lost, I had to fight back tears; but then I realized, the one who should be crying should be me - but I was crying for the wrong reason. I should be crying for being so ungrateful;

Let me explain.

As we were talking about her road to recovery, her sickness, she sat there and asked me, "Aisha, how is it outside. I haven't been outside in the last three months - and the windows here don't open for fear of people committing suicide." I joked at the time and told her she didn't miss much - it's been a brutal winter. We joked somewhere, chatted, and then I left. On my way down the elevator and this entire week - that's what I realized. We as human beings are so ungrateful. I realized I could easily be in her position. I could easily be any of those people who I saw on my way out of the hospital - paralyzed, blind, mentally disabled, blind, not able to go to the bathroom - but I'm not.

And this my dear readers is the point. How many times do we get up and are truly grateful and truly say Alhamdullilah (all praise, gratitude and thanks is to the Almighty) -from our hearts- for the clothes on our back, for the food on the table, for the eyes that let us see, the hands that let us type, the heart that beats every single second for every single day, the family and friends we have....I've been sick - and I've been frustrated and fed up - but it could be worse. It could always be worse.

Be grateful - someone would give up their whole life to be where you and I are today.


"And He gave you of all that you asked from Him, and if you count the Blessings of Allah, never will you be able to count them" - Quran - 14:34