Blog Post

A Reminder From Sistani

“Beware of skipping into a constant doubt about the proven principles [of Islam] in order to justify the validity of your wrong conduct and behavior, whereby you

(a) pursue ambiguities that you never took the time to analyze patiently and disprove

(b) place your trust in immature thoughts

(c) become allures by life’s pleasures and vanities, or

(d) resent the exploitation of religion by some people who use it for their personal interest [resulting in the weakening of your adherence to the proven principles of Islam].

The measure stick of truth is not people. Instead, people are measured by the truth.”

-an excerpt from Sayyid Ali al-Sistani’s letter to today’s youth.

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Reminder: let’s be grateful for a moment

Sit down, put the phone aside (or actually hold that thought until you’ve reached the end of this post) and just breathe.

I want you to truly reflect and feel grateful for what you have and where you are in life.

People. Think about the people in your life that really light up your day, or who bothered to check in on you today, or who you have plans with today. Or it could even be someone you may no longer be in contact with, but share a great memory with. If you allow old memories to make you feel bitter and angry and embarrassed; why not let some of your memories make you feel good, and loved and cherished? Revel in that memory. Be thankful for the people that have been a part of your life. I mean it, be grateful for everyone you have shared a laugh with or been able to be yourself with. It’s a gift, and there’s nothing wrong with focusing on what you have instead of what you don’t have.

Sustenance. If you are reading this I already know you have both the time and money to have access to the internet which automatically tells me your financial life can’t be that bad. Am I saying you’re not struggling? No, I don’t know that. But you’re probably not hungry either, and you’re probably not sleeping on a bench somewhere outside in -3 Celsius weather for the 78th night in a row. I can assume that much.

With that being said, we have the tendency to take for granted the things that are consistent in our lives. Such things, are food on the table and a roof above our heads. Security and stability, a bed to sleep on, a closet filled with clothes, and shoes and countless accessories and things that we actually don’t even really need. Yet, ironically in this mess of stuff that we have, we also find ourselves wanting more and feeling like we have so little and there’s so much more that we want, that we can’t get.

I understand this. You want this and you want that, and what you have isn’t that great (or whatever) but you need to be thankful for these things. Imagine if you didn’t have them. Imagine if your closet was empty and you only had the clothes you are wearing right now. What would that feel like? Think about that. Imagine if your fridge was empty except for one of your shelves/drawers. How would that make you feel? Don’t just say you’re grateful for these things, reflect on it, understand it, feel it. Feel how lucky and rich and what a state of abundance you are living in.

I could go on and on about all the different things you could be grateful for beyond just people and sustenance matters. Your physical health, your mental health, your career, your family, your education, your journey. Your current existence. I mean hello, people die from car crashes and airplane crashes, and all sorts of other random weird stuff all the time. The fact that none of this has affected you alone is something to be grateful for.

So for the rest of today, I’d really like you to ask yourself this question every time you interact with someone or something. Ask yourself, what if I didn’t have XYZ?

What if I didn’t have this car to drive to work? What if I didn’t have a job to be stressed about and go to? What if I didn’t have any of my friends? What if, what if, what if. Ask yourself.

 

 

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Blog Post, Spiritual Matters

How do you “plan” your Faith?

Do you plan your life around your faith? Or do you plan faith around your life?

Is your salat (daily meditation) done in a last minute frenzy of rak’a (prostration) after rak’a? Or is it a time of khushoo (sincerity & focus) to meditate and recite the words of Allah (swt)?

In the university I attend, we have a “meditation” corner where people can go to meditate. Even though it’s an open space for everyone, the majority of the people in it are muslims at any given time. And as time has progressed, I noticed that there are three types of muslim students that attend this space, and I noticed that their prayer habits revealed a lot about their relationship with the faith.

The first, are the muslims who start out by scheduling their classes around prayer time. They have taken time to consider this before signing up for classes, and if they miss a prayer, it’s not because they didn’t try, it’s because the classes they wanted were either too full or didn’t work out with their schedule.

Generally, these are the people that you will find in the meditation corner, their studies are a priority, but they are mindful of their religion and they don’t let everything up to chance. They think and plan ahead because they value their religion and they understand the importance of the duties Allah (swt) has commanded us to do. Whether they are old and wise enough to be conscious of the the reason as to why it’s important or not is irrelevant, they do their daily prayers and fast the month of ramadan.

The second are the muslims who’s relationship with their religion is convenient. I fall into this category by the way, and I think the majority of people fall into this as well. These people are mindful of their religion when it’s convenient, but fail to deliver when there are obstacles or any hurdles in the way.

Praying is done just so that it can be done for the most part, schedules are not planned around prayer times unless it’s easy to do so, and there is a lot of combining of prayers and late prayers (dhur + asr etc.)

While prayers are done on a daily basis and ramadan is fasted, the rouh, (spirit) or quality of these actions is primarily to get things done and out of the way more so than it is for the value and importance of these actions in their lives. Regardless of intentions, the output is slapdash work where there is a lot of room for improvement.

And there’s also a lot of loss in terms of the “return on investment” in this case. The first group does these actions with intention and focus, like a student who’s been consistently and studiously immersing herself/himself into a subject to understand it. Versus the second group, who is more like the student who crams the night before the exam.

You might both pass the exam, but in the longterm, the one who studied studiously on a consistent basis is the one that truly benefits since they maintain that knowledge as they move on in contrast to the “crammer” who forgets it the next day. One does salat so that they can say they did it, the other does it to connect with their Lord; to lose their ego, to lose their stress, to lose their greed, to gain clarity, peace and feel centered and connected.

Moving on to the third group; this is the group that you don’t see in the meditation corner. Sometimes it’s because they care but not enough to ever show up, sometimes they care but don’t know how to show up, and sometimes simply because they don’t care, and don’t want to know or show up, and their lives are all about just that; their life, this life. This dunya is their only care.

I can’t say anything in regards to this group, because you never know whether it’s because they grew up in a household where salat wasn’t emphasized and prioritized, or because they are going through something on a personal and spiritual level. It’s not my place to judge or say anything other than the fact that I don’t see them there, and each has an individual story as to why that is.

This brings me back to the whole “plan your faith” thing. How do you plan your day? How is your relationship with Allah (swt) lately? Are you knocking off salat just to check a box and be done with it? Or are you showing up fully with focus and sincere intention?

Remember, to do these acts hurriedly to get them out of the way doesn’t serve you any good. I understand that not every salat is going to be “a marvelous healing and engulfment of peace and tranquility experience,” but it should be one where you leave your prayer mat feeling both lighter and fuller at the same time. Lighter in terms of the stresses of this world and daily rat race, and fuller in the heart with purpose and love (cheesy I know) and peace. I hope you keep this in mind the next time the athan (call to prayer) goes off. Don’t settle for less, put in the extra 10% effort to reap the full rewards.


Author’s Note: Did you know I recently made a new blog over at ullascheik.wordpress.com? I mostly post things related to mindset, motivation and success. If you’re into that type of stuff you should head over and check it out 🙂 

 

 

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Blog Post

6 Movies I recently Watched and Liked

I’ve probably seen twice as many movies this year, than I have in my entire life. Some of these movies are new releases, some are old (but gold) movies that I’ve finally found the time to watch. Either way, hope these brief personal reviews give you a better idea of whether you should invest your time to watch them or not 😉

  1. Miss Bala (Recently Released)

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So, I’m going to be honest. I don’t like action-type movies, and I usually tend to stay away from them, but my girl Gina Rodriguez was in this one so I had to watch it. Duh. Her performance was phenomenal (as always) and the movie was great, although it could’ve definitely been much better if there was more dialogue instead of action going on. But either way, I’d still recommend watching it. It’s got a great plot overall, and it was beautifully directed and the main lead roles were amazing. 🙂 

You can watch the Miss Bala trailer on youtube HERE

    2. The Switch (Old)

This is a pretty old one, and I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before. Jennifer Aniston decides to have a child through artificial insemination, she seeks out a donor and long story short, her best friend hijacks the insemination and she ends up having his kid without realizing it. The movie is quite funny, and definitely a feel-good type of movie. 

 

  3. Aquaman (Recently Released)

This movie was amazing. I’m not a marvel comics/characters fan, but this movie was seriously pretty awesome.

Loved Jason Momoa in this, there were great supporting roles, the plot was easy to follow and the graphics were relatively good. Funny story, his step-brother in the movie plays the role of the donor in the previous movie I mentioned, The Switch. Small world isn’t it? Lol. In any case, highly recommend this movie, it’s got lots of action and plenty of jokes, will keep you entertained the whole time for sure. 

    4. Mary Poppins Returns (Recently Released)

Not going to lie, this movie was pretty awesome, until it got to the cartoon parts. Unfortunately, adulting has taken its toll on me and I no longer enjoy cartoons any more. Sad I know 😦 The story line revolves around the Banks kids who are grown up now and have children of their own. Mr. Banks is a widow and is about to lose his house, and Mary Poppins returns to help the kids deal with the loss of their mom and the home disaster situation going on. The acting was great, and some of the tunes were pretty catchy, I would recommend it 10/10 as a family movie to watch with kids. 

    5. Mona Lisa Smile (Old)

This has Julia Roberts in it, so of course I’m going to say good things about it. The story follows a liberal-minded college professor as she embarks on a personal challenge to teach in a very conservative college. The movie is more of a message regarding a truth in our society and it’s interesting to see how the lives of her students play out. Some fall under the status quo of marriage over education and others take other paths. Not to say which is right or wrong, but it just shows different perspectives on the matter which I thought was neat.

   6. Second Act (Recently Released)

This movie revolves around Jennifer Lopez who plays the role of a woman seeking to change her career path. In the process, she stumbles into one of her old hidden secrets and has to face it. The plot overall is good, the acting was also good, though I didn’t particularly think Lopez and Hudgens displayed good acting chemistry, but I’m not complaining. 

That’s all I can say for the movie though, it was good, in a plain way. It had so much potential, yet for some reason it just didn’t work. It’s not to say that it was bad, there was just something about it that made it absolutely forgettable and un-relatable on some level. Oh, I will say one thing though, Leah Remini was probably the highlight of the movie for me, her jokes cracked me up. Honestly, I would’ve probably left the theater if it hadn’t been for her energetic presence and jokes. Lol. 

There are some other movies I would’ve liked to include, but I’ll stop the list short here. 

What good movies have you seen lately that you recommend I watch? 


P.S Just a heads up, I’ll be changing the name of this blog to muslimgal.com pretty soon. 

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Gibberish. Going Nowhere.

It bothers me how slow life progresses in all the ways that I desire. 

Want to build a stable and successful business? Check back in 3-5 years. 

Want to get a degree? Check back in 3-5 years!

Want to to slip and get a concussion and break your leg permanently for the rest of your life? 10 seconds. 

Like why. That’s just frustrating. It feels like everything takes so painstakingly long to build, and only a fraction of that time to destroy and pulverize into dust. I kind of wish it was the opposite. 

The reason this is on my mind is because I’m really, truly tired of school. I’m still working on my bachelors and there’s so much other stuff that I would like to do, and so many opportunities I’d rather be pursuing. And having to work while studying is the worst; caught in the middle with one foot in each in a constant balancing act. 

It would be much easier to only focus on one thing. This is tiring. Draining. 

And the worst part is, some unforeseen circumstances made me stop going to school for a period of about 2 years. Meaning I’m already 2+ years behind my peers at this point. 

InshAllah this will be my last year, if I somehow manage to pass my current chemistry class, which I absolutely can’t stand as of this moment (it’s only been 2 weeks since the semester started). 

To make matters worse, I’m currently studying biology which I don’t even want to do, but it’s too late to change my mind at this point and I have to go through with it. I’d much rather do something in marketing or business, but this is how it’s going to be because I’m not trying to start from square one again and collect more credits. So over credits and the whole damn system. Just. Let. Me. Graduate. 

The rant is hereby officially over. 

The main reason I wanted to share this, is because sometimes things suck and we have to let them just suck. This doesn’t come from a place of pessimism or negativity and whatnot; it comes more of a place of acceptance

Yes, there’s nothing wrong with hustling and working hard, and spending your days being overly-productive and efficient to build and design your future. Being persistent, and positive and all that. It’s great, really. But some time, at some point, we also need to remind ourselves that life is not a rush to beat who we were yesterday.

Should we be always striving to become better? Of course. Should we beat ourselves if we completely fell short on certain things every once in a while? Absolutely not. 

In these moments, we have to realize that the best thing to do, especially in the situations that frustrate us the most; we have to accept and let it be. Notice I didn’t say give up, I said accept and let be. 

For instance in my situation, I know that I’m doing all I can; planned out all my credits, taking my classes, passing them and making the necessary progress to achieve my goal. But there are things that are out of my control. I cannot rewind back time and graduate on time with all my peers (nor is it fair of me to place this expectation on myself), and completing the remaining credits will take a lot more time. And that’s not something I can change. It’s out of my control. I let it be. 

I did my part, now I let go and move on. 

Sure I think about it sometimes (a lot actually, especially when stressing for an exam or a long essay like “damn it, wish I’d already graduated and don’t have to deal with this!”. But at the end of the day, I don’t beat myself about it, and it’s more of a fleeting thought, not a constant, throbbing, toxic reminder that I’m not where I want to be. 

Everything is a process, and everyone’s process looks different. We need to accept ourselves for our differences in how we develop and grow as individuals. And at the pace which our lives unfold.

Our journeys are all so different, and we need to accept that about ourselves first and foremost. Everyone has a different “right age to graduate” or “right age to get married” or buy a house or move away from family and so on and so forth.

I’m putting this out there, just as a reminder for everyone to take a break from their “daily grind & hustle” and to just let things be for a moment.

That’s all. 

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Is Hijab the Man’s obligation?

I came across this twitter thread from Qasim Rashid and found it to be interesting. I usually get triggered by men who talk about hijab because mostly they dismiss it with something that ends with “woman, it’s your duty not mine” and don’t think for a second about their obligations.

So to see more men speaking up about their obligations

Thoughts on this?

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Immigration.

Immigration. While I definitely believe that people should have the right to relocate to different countries if they need/wish to, I also often find myself wondering if it’s worth it in the long run.

Is it really worth it to be separated from family, friends and relatives?

Is it worth the language barrier and the feeling of being half in one world and half in the other trying to balance it all out, while still trying to figure life out at the same time?

Is my life really that much better than it would’ve been if my parents had remained in Iraq? These aren’t just questions for me, they apply to the millions that have fled their home countries in search of “better lives” and I fear that it’s not any better for some of them.

A little over a year ago I volunteered to translate for a group of refugees in Germany, and as heart warming as the experience was, there was one particular incident that really made me question whether leaving Syria and Iraq was the best decision for these individuals and families to make. I was translating to a Syrian boy no older than 19, explaining to him that he can not move out of the city that he’s registered in.

He complained because this would mean he would have to stay in the refugee camp until they could find housing for him, which was nearly impossible since this particular city was packed with refugees and not enough housing to accommodate them all. Not now or anytime soon; it would take years.

What really got to me though, wasn’t the housing situation, it was this little boy who was thrown into this foreign country “seeking a better perhaps” with no family, no way back, and no one to support him. There was no one to guide him or look after him or care about him. He thanked me after we left the building and hopped on his worn bike and pedaled away to wherever it is that forlorn boys go in Germany.

And maybe if he hadn’t been so young, his aura that of a child’s, and still so naive to the world, then maybe it wouldn’t have made me think this, but it did. His chance here isn’t any better than it would’ve been in Syria; just different forms of broken. One in the shape of broken buildings and homes and brick, the other shaped like something that will keep looking for itself and never quite find it.

In many ways, this is how I oftentimes feel. Neither this nor that. Neither understood by this group or that. I am the unwanted Arab Muslim in America, and I am the foreign American in Iraq.

The worst part, is that it’s true. I really am not American. And I really am not Iraqi. I’m both and I’m torn between the politics of the two whether I like it or not.

And that’s why sometimes, I find myself envying those who’s lives have been lived within the same city walls of where they were born. A city witnessing their life from birth to death, home to every moment they lived; entitling them to truly call it home. I will never have that nor will I ever be able to have that.




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