Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Being an Only Child

People are moving on with their lives yet I am still at a standstill. Sometimes this makes me feel sad and other times it makes me dig a little deeper into my realm of existence. As people are busy with the external aspects of life, I am busy with my internal aspects of life. All this time has allowed me to figure out who I am not only as a Muslimah, but as a human being.

 I guess I can say that all this time alone has given me the opportunity to really understand and learn what it is like to live life as a Muslimah. I feel like if I started a family early on and lived that "family life" like everyone else, I would have been too caught up with my external surroundings and totally would have neglected my Self- wa Allahu 'Alim.

I think being an only child has really helped me connect with My Self. It has forced me to become very introspective and because I always had/have time alone, it has allowed me to get in touch with myself. It has allowed me to reflect and respond to my inner cries, my inner struggles, and my inner aspirations.

Growing up, I was always very social. I enjoyed interacting with others and I always thought going out with friends or going to family gatherings was something exciting. At that time, being alone was something boring to me and I would romanticize the idea of being busy running around from point A to B meeting X, Y, and Z. Just thinking about that in my head right now makes me feel exhausted!
In high school I always envied the busy bodies and I always wanted to have a very active social life. I couldn't because I lived too far away from my school and my parents were quite overprotective. So when I was more independent, I went all out and made myself into that socialite that I longed to become.

That life was so exhausting. People became exhausting to me and I began to embrace that low key life I once had in high school. How funny is it that when I had what I wanted, I didn't want it anymore?! I was all partied out and I preferred to just spend my time with one or two friends doing something that required very minimal effort. I didn't like big groups of people and even though I could socialize and people often mistook me for an extroverted social butterfly, I actually preferred to stay home and be away from annoying humans. I just recently found out that this is what we call "introverted."

When I first became Muslim, I somehow forgot that I was a natural introvert because all I wanted to do was meet new Muslims. I thought that going to social gatherings was something that I really enjoyed doing. It turns out, after a while, I retracted back into my introvert shell.

Since I have been back in Toronto, I have embraced that fact that I am an introvert. Loud people annoy me, big groups overwhelm me, and long hours of being out exhaust me. I prefer to be at home in my room and keeping to myself. I don't have to answer to anybody (except my parents lol) and I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and nobody can bother me (unless I allow them to). I am an introvert and I am proud to be one.

Being an introvert has many beautiful benefits and it is only these past (almost) two years that I have realized what a blessing it is to just enjoy your own company, without all the outside noise (well literally in my parent's place there is a lot of noise but I have learned to drown it out). When you can just sit and think about life and reflect upon yourself and your actions, it really allows one for self growth.

At first I thought that spending too much time by myself and being "idle" would make me more depressed because I would focus only on the negative aspects of my life.
For a long while, this is exactly what happened and I would drown myself in my own self misery. I would compare myself to other's lives and feel sorry for my own "boring", "lonely" life. Of course, I am not free from that still (lol) as I am a human being so weak by nature that it is only normal that I will retract into this from time to time, but Alhamdulillah, Allah has helped me along the way and allowed me to see the benefit in being alone.

I now realise that being an only child has really benefited me in more ways than I can imagine. It has allowed me to realise that I can turn loneliness into solitude. Solitude for me has become solace. It has allowed me to hold myself accountable for my actions. It has allowed me to reflect upon life. It has allowed me to embrace and enjoy my own company. It has made me realise that at the end of the day, I will return to Allah alone. Nobody will be in that grave with me and nobody will be standing beside me on the Day of Reckoning. It will just be me, myself, and I with my Lord.

Alhamdulillah, by the Mercy of Allah, I have found the advantages and full benefits of being an only child and they all work in my favour - Allahumma Barik. Of course there are sometimes disadvantages because I can easily detach myself from others and because I seem to put my needs before anyone else, I may come off as selfish or self-centered. But to be honest, I feel like we all need to treat ourselves sometimes like we are only children (even when we are not) because it is only then when we focus on ourselves and keep ourselves in check that we can live an effective life as a Muslim.

Don't get me wrong, though, I do wish sometimes that I had a big family and children of my own because as busy as that kind of life can get, it does have its rewards and benefits as well. But because this is what Allah has given me, and even though I saw it as a negative thing for a long while, I have come to embrace it and accept it thanks to Allah. Through the pain, the tears and the sadness that I experienced by myself, Allah allowed me to see the benefits of being in the current situation that I am in.

I always had low self- esteem and self confidence issues because I thought acceptance comes from other people and from my external environment. But as I spend more time alone, I realise that, as cliche as it sounds, acceptance comes from within. When you accept who you are, that is when you are able to make the necessary adjustments you need in order to be a better Muslimah. Often times we think that we have to become better for the people around us but when we do that, we will only end up in failure. When we know ourselves, then we can get to know Allah and once we know Allah we can be a better sister, daughter, mother, wife, and friend. We cannot know Allah before we get to know ourselves because if you think about it, it was only through me knowing myself that I was able to open myself up to knowing Allah and finding Islam and knowing it was the true religion; I knew my life was empty, I knew the parties and drinking were destroying me, and I knew that there was something more to life. It was because I knew these things about myself that brought me to Allah and Islam.

Sometimes we just need to connect with ourselves by ourselves for ourselves because at the end of the day, nobody will do that for us. Using the excuses I once used to use, " I don't have a strong Muslim community near me", "there are no good Muslims around me", " I live in a non Muslim country" are not sufficient enough. Do you see the way the prophets used to struggle when all there were were non Muslims around? They did not live in the luxury of many Muslims at the beginning of their journeys of spreading Islam! Our connection with Allah does not rely on the people around us because as I mentioned, on the day of Judgement, we will be alone before Allah and in the grave, we will also be alone. Who can we rely on then?

Every time I write these posts I want to remind you all that I DO struggle, I DO cry, I DO feel sad and I DO fall into despair.
Sometimes it may read as if I have everything all figured out and that I got it together. That is not the case at all. I struggle each and every single day. Even as I write this, my emaan is struggling. I do not want you to think that I am some strong Muslimah who has the best relationship with Allah.
The only reason I write is because it makes me feel better and it helps me organize my thoughts. I write because I want others to know that my situation has forced me to dig deeper within and to try to find coping methods so I don't wallow in self pity. It has forced me to look at the positive aspects of my life even though many times I feel like there are none.

I feel it is important that I express this because a lot of the times, when we read people's blogs or we are on social media, we think that the person behind the screen is someone who does not struggle or go through hardships. We think that they are some pious person who knows how to deal with life. Well, that is not me and I don't ever want anyone thinking that is how I deal with life. You do not see what goes on behind this screen and you do not know what kind of challenges I have to face. So whenever you read any of my posts, please take it at a surface level. If you can benefit from it or it makes you reflect upon your own life, then alhamdulillah- ultimately this is my goal.

I wish that everyone who reads my posts will always be honest with themselves and ask themselves the same questions that I have been forced to ask myself during these challenging times. Do not wait until it is too late and do not keep making excuses for yourself because at the end of the day, your life will pass you by before you know it and as soon as your busy life slows down, you might be hit all of a sudden with all these things you never thought deserved any attention. When that happens, it may break you and you may not know how to deal with your life. That has happened too many times to the people around me and because they neglected themselves for so long, they fall into severe depression. Do not let yourself get to that point. Always try to find time to reflect and be alone with yourself even if it is for 20 minutes a day. Hold yourself accountable and be responsible for your relationship with yourself and with Allah.

Monday, October 2, 2017

When things don't go my way...

"And Allah is the best of planners " (3:54)

For as long as I remember, since I became Muslim and even a little bit before then, I can safely say that things never went my way. I always planned and expected all these things to happen but they never did. Even to this day, generally, things have not gone my way even when I imagine them strategically planned out in my head and telling myself "it is only a matter of time before it comes true!" 

I wanted to write about this because as much as I wish things went the way I wanted them to, things haven't,  and that is OK. I think the biggest part of my struggles is/was coming to terms with what is/was happening in my life and truly accepting everything. I knew that I had to accept all the things that happened, are happening, and continue to happen but I was stubborn and I just did not want to. I know this is a whole exercise of complete sabr and tawwakul but I really didn't want to admit to myself that this is the main way I am going to increase in sabr and tawwakul which is by accepting my reality. I still find it difficult to accept the fact that I may be 'stuck' here for a long while and that I may never lead the external, material life that I long to live and that is OK. I just have to accept that maybe Allah has better plans for me here and that is OK. External, material life is this dunya life, and I know that I should never place too much emphasis and importance on this fleeting worldly life. 

Things are not meant to go the way I plan because I am not the writer of my destiny. Allah is in full control and He is the one who has everything already written for me. I think coming to terms with this is something difficult for me and for all who are struggling with some form of hardship in their lives. Accepting that things do not always go our way is something that doesn't come easily. 

For as long as I remember now, I always try to picture these perfect scenarios in my mind and imagine that they will all come true. I built up all these different types of situations and expectations hoping that they will happen. I gave things a deadline and expected things to happen within a specific timeline. I now realise that this was/is mental torment and this is something that causes anxiety, depression, and sadness. When I expect something to happen at a specific time and I put all my hopes and thoughts into them, and when they don't happen, I become devastated and I start to blame Allah (astaghfirullah) and then I lose hope and become negative and it just goes into a downward spiral from then on. I have gone through this vicious cycle too many times to count. 

I don't want to even admit that I would fall into blaming Allah because - oh the blasphemy right!? But the reason I wanted to share this is that I wanted to remind myself and everyone reading, that we are all human beings- weak creatures who stumble and crumble during vulnerable times. It is ok to be vulnerable and emotional. This is how Allah created us and I know there are so many people who can probably relate to me and have gone through this feeling of blaming Allah, once or even twice in their lives. Sometimes it even turns into anger (audhubillah) because as humans, during times when we feel weak and helpless, we do not know how to channel those emotions into a positive way so we just naturally blame others and get angry. I can't even express how normal it is to feel this way but this is not something that we should feel comfortable with. In fact, guilt should overcome us and we need to stop ourselves and remember to make duaa in those very moments. 

As I mentioned, I have been through this vicious cycle one too many times and it takes a heavy toll on you. When we blame Allah and become angry at His decree, it is a very dangerous state to fall into; we can end up feeling resentful and in response to our feelings we end up committing haram as a way of rebelling. This does not harm anyone except ourselves. That "oh well, nothing is going my way anyway so what is the point of this all" mentality does not harm Allah, nor does it change our decree. It only harms us in the end. Everything is meant to be a test and remember, this dunya is not our friend. We should not trust it nor should we get too comfortable with it. I try to remind myself that the more I am being tested is not because Allah hates me and wants harm for me, but it is because He loves me and wants the best for me. Honestly, though, sometimes it is so hard to keep myself in check and I do fail countless times.

I came across the tafseer of this verse and I couldn't help but share it because it felt so relatable to me: 

"There are among men some who serve Allāh, as it were, on the verge: if good befalls them, they are, therewith, well content; but if a trial comes to them, they turn on their faces: they lose both this world and the Hereafter. That is the evident loss." (Sūrat’l- ajj: 11)
 The majority of the mufāsirūn said that عَلَى حَرْف (on the verge) means ‘in doubt’. As if a person who is standing on the edge of a mountain, a person who worships Allāh on the verge is unstable, flustered, weak and doubtful.  Some mufāsirūn said that it means ‘with condition’, i.e a person will continue worshipping Allāh if he acquires good, but he turns back to disbelief when he is afflicted with things he dislikes. Ibn Abbās explained this situation further in regard to people who came to Madinah to declare themselves as Muslims. He said:
“One of them would come to Madinah, which was a land that was infected with a contagious disease. If he remained healthy there, and his mare foaled and his wife gave birth to a boy, he would be content, and would say, `I have not experienced anything but good since I started to follow this religion.” But if a fitnah (affliction) strikes him (i.e. the disease of Madinah befalls him, and his wife gives birth to a baby girl and charity is delayed in coming to him), the Shayān comes to him and says: ‘By Allāh, since you started to follow this religion of yours, you have experienced nothing but bad things’, and this is the fitnah” .Tafsīr al- Qur’ān al-Adheem, Imam Ibn Kathīr

I find myself at times feeling frustrated, irritated, and annoyed with the way things have turned out because I had envisioned something totally different in my mind. I know I am not the only one who feels this way because after all, we are human beings. We have to constantly remind ourselves that we are human. We make mistakes, we become negative when things don't go our way, and it is normal to feel sad. Even though things have not turned out the way I wanted to at THIS moment, it doesn't mean that it will always be like this. 

Allah has promised us victory and ease after hardship. Many of us forget that duaa has power to change our outcomes and as well protect us from harm and evil.  Rasūlullāh (allallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Caution will not be any benefit against predestination, but du‘ā’ benefits (matters) that have occurred and that are (yet) to occur. And indeed, du‘ā’ meets with a calamity, and fights it until the Day of Judgment (Reported by Al-Hakim, graded hasan by al-Albani) 

There is so much power in duaa and no matter what, we need to keep making duaa. Even if things do not happen right away, they will happen insha'Allah, if we are patient and continue to hold on to that hope. Honestly, sometimes I have trouble believing this because after a while when things haven't changed or things don't go the way that I wish (hence why I'm writing this post) I start to feel a little stagnant and hopeless. 

Sometimes my external environment makes me feel extremely negative and I just want to give up altogether in making duaa. But the people around me remind me to keep making duaa no matter what and to always believe in Allah and have sabr. Sometimes this is not the advice I want to hear because how can I have sabr and faith in Allah when things have not been going my way? Just how??! But then I just force myself to continue to strive even if I don't feel it in my heart. This is what Allah wants for me right now and this is what is best for me at THIS moment. 

We can't just stop doing something because we don't feel it in our hearts. If we lived our lives giving up and not doing something because we "don't feel it in our hearts" then we will never succeed, right? Look at all the successful people in this world, there must have been moments when they did not feel like doing something but they pushed themselves to do it and not give up because they wanted a successful outcome in the end. They had a long-term goal and even though there were many obstacles along the way and they wanted to give up many times, they didn't. They were persistent and resilient! Many of them don't have Islam in their lives and yet they still prevailed, so what about us? We have Allah and Islam, the best of tools to get us through life! So a message to myself, there is no excuse to give up.

We can't give up. We have to strive on just a little more, just a little further. Even if it feels merely impossible, we really have no choice because giving up is when we have truly failed. When we fail, we never grow and we never learn. Learning and growing give us humility and
what is more beautiful than a believer who has humility towards herself and towards Allah? 
Realising that tests and trials are meant to give us sabr and to also show us that we truly are weak and can only get through this life with the help of Allah is the point of this dunya

Growing pains are never favourable but at the end of the day, they are exactly what we need in life to help us carry on, move forward, grow, and most importantly, stay humble.