Faith: opening and closing doors

This life is full of change: people come and go; jobs come and go; new family members; new situations.

The fact is we often see life as a series of doors opening and doors closing. Whether simultaneously or one after each other.

Sometimes these are doors we willingly close, in fact we are – and have been – asking Allah to close. Then they close and it turns out that Allah’s Plan matched your own wishes. Other times these doors close without us asking for them to close. In fact, painfully, sometimes these doors in our lives are ones that we hoped would never close: lost loves, lost jobs, lost friends.

New beginnings.

Flowerpot, Engine, Heart, Earth, Grow

But when we look at it closely – as slaves of Allah – we must accept that Allah’s Plan is The Ultimate Plan. Our wishes pale in comparison. Who are we to question how our story unfolds? Who knows better – Allah or you? Who has more knowledge – Allah or you? Who knows the Unseen – Allah or you? Exactly.

When you ask yourself these questions, that closed door you’re crying over doesn’t seem so significant anymore.

Actually, when you think about it, when we pursue what we’re meant for in life, we may lose people along the way. Now let me clarify this – I’m not talking about people you have deliberately cut out from your life because you have become so engrossed in fulfilling your purpose and ‘living your best life’. I’m instead talking about the people who don’t support you in your endeavours; the ones that slowly begin to fade from your life when you start pursuing a life that looks different to theirs.

You start to question if what you are doing is worth it; if it’s just a mad phase and you’ll get over it. Simply because the people around you are acting indifferent or worse, jealous.

When you reflect on it, it starts to become apparent that in the end Allah – in His infinite Mercy – removes from your life the ones that don’t belong there. Reflect on that for a bit.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had one of the – if not the – loneliest of missions of mankind. Yet, the people true to him; the ones that were meant to stick around did and did so fiercely – Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him); Khadija (Allah be pleased with her); Abu Talib (Allah be pleased with him)…the list goes on.

So, don’t drop your dreams for the doors that close, be they people or opportunities. The people who are meant to find you will.

Keep chipping away at that goal. The growth, the joy, the lessons are all in the pursuit.

Until next time, in sha Allah (God willing).

Faith: patience and gratitude

Like breeds like.

Have you ever been in a situation where the people around you are complaining about the smallest of ‘problems’? Think back to one of those moments. As you reflect, you probably realise the effect of their actions on what you chose to do next. Either:

1. You cringed (internally) and tried to move the conversation along and/or eventually left when you realised it was to no avail.

2. Actually joined in and started complaining yourself.

In the case of number 2 above, in sha Allah you felt an inexplicable sense of remorse afterwards – your faithful heart telling you that complaining didn’t feel good.

Ibn Qayyim (Allah have Mercy on him) wrote that gratitude is half of faith/iman; the other half being patience. Shukr is the concept of gratitude and its opposite is actually kufr which means ingratitude or being ungrateful. If we reflect on this, we realise that when we complain we are being ungrateful to Allah and the blessings He has given to us. Allah Himself asks us in Surah Rahman which of His favours we will deny. Think about this next time you feel like complaining. It should be noted that it is completely acceptable to complain to Allah in the same way that Yaqub (alayhis salam) complained of his suffering and grief to Allah (Quran 12:86). But if we reflect we will realise that complaining to creation – and not The Creator – can bring about nothing but more ingratitude.

How does this fit in with patience then? If gratitude is one half of faith, where does patience fit in?

Again, Ibn Qayyim highlights that we show different types of patience in terms of our faith. For example, we need patience when carrying out our religious obligations such as salah five times a day, but also when we refrain from that which is haram/prohibited by Allah. He also mentions that refraining from ‘wrong actions of speech’ is one of the hardest forms of patience along with controlling wrong sexual actions.

My understanding (may Allah guide me if I am wrong) is that complaint could be categorised as a ‘wrong action of speech’. Indeed, it sure is easy to complain about anything and everything especially when we are surrounded by such energy. Refraining from it requires patience and we experience that when stopping ourselves from complaining in such situations.

Therefore, we can see how patience and gratitude are closely linked: a grateful slave is a patient slave; a patient slave is a grateful one.

May Allah make us of those who are both patient and grateful for His Sake. Ameen.

Source: Ibn Qayyim – Patience and Gratitude (Uddat as-sabirin wa dhakhirat ash-shakirin)

Faith: Post-Ramadan reality check

The truth is when Ramadan feels like a distant memory, we can start – or tend – to romanticise it. We start to conveniently remember that all of that ibadah and closeness to Allah (swt) was simply a result of the month itself being special. No doubt about it, the month is special. However, to forget that the worship we carried out took work needs to be remembered and remembered often.

I say this because in order to continue with even a fraction of the good deeds from the month, we need to be realistic in recognising that we have to put in the effort just as we did in Ramadan. We need to remind ourselves that there was struggle in the month: when we felt too weak to stand for taraweeh; when our bodies were screaming out for sleep; when we awoke before fajr to eat suhoor.

So why is it that we expect the same feelings of contentment outside of the month when we aren’t even struggling? Rose-tinted glasses.

When we reflect on this we realise that Ramadan was simply the beginning. The catalyst for how we choose to live out the rest of the year. By showing us what we can do when we really commit to it, the month taught us to strive outside of it.

So, set those targets just as you did in Ramadan. Even if they are few, remain steadfast and ask Allah (swt) to make it easy for you. After all, the best of deeds are those which are consistent (Sunan ibn Majah).

Faith: controlling your emotions when you feel like doing anything but that

Chances are we have all dealt with rude people at some point in our lives. People who make us wonder why they are behaving that way towards us.

Initially your meeting is going ok: not overly friendly, but not overtly horrible either. But all of a sudden the person/people become very dismissive and treat you as if you’re not worth their time. Or perhaps they are rude. Shout at you perhaps. You’re on your best behaviour, but somehow it’s not good enough for them.

More often than not your initial reaction is likely to be taken aback and hurt and offended. You wonder why they are treating you that way. But then clarity kicks in.

When people lash out or are horrible or do something wrong towards you, generally it is nothing personal against you, rather it is a reflection of their personal state in that moment. If they can’t keep their cool or control their emotions in that moment, you cannot control that, but you can control your own response.

Dear sisters, one of the greatest blessings and biggest responsibilities of being chosen by Allah to be Muslim is to represent the true Islam to others. As Muslimahs, if we are observing hijab then we can immediately be spotted as Muslim and therefore, before we even open our mouths, people have preconceived notions about us, and more to the point, about our beautiful religion. Our job isn’t to dispel their issues, rather our duty and ultimate mission, is to simply show them the true Deen. Once they see you behaving according to the true teachings of Islam, they will automatically realise how beautiful Islam is. 

So whenever a situation like the above arises, the first thing to do is take a step back to remember the other person may not be aware of how they are coming across. Also take into consideration any personal issues they may be going through. This does not justify their behaviour towards you, but immediately your reaction becomes affected in a positive way when keeping this in mind: you start seeing the person as more than their actions in that single moment. Rather you see them as a whole: with issues and problems and a to-do list taking up their brain just like the rest of us.

The greatest man to have ever walked this earth (rasool Allah sallallahu alayhi wasallam) used to respond to people in the most dignified of manners no matter what befell him.


In the Seerah (life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) we learn that his opponents put animal carcasses on top of him (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) during his salah. He didn’t stop praying. His response instead was to prolong his sujood (his (peace be upon him) daughter Fatima (Allah be pleased with her) removed it). 

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked from Allah, The Only One that can give; the Only One able to save us from calamities. Such were his beautiful manners (alayhis salaatu wasalaam). 

Moral of the story: when faced with bad behaviour from others, he (alayhis salaatu wasalaam) responded with kindness and the best of manners. Likewise we should do the same. 


He (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was sent as a mercy to mankind. so we have much to learn from him dear sisters. 

So what does this all actually mean in practical terms? It means forgiving people quickly, sometimes even on the spot. You do well to remember some things in those moments:

1. You yourself are not perfect. 

2. Sometimes you have to be the better person. 

3. Allah is your Witness.

4. Allah does injustice to nobody.

5. Your self-esteem should not come into question simply because somebody decided to treat you badly.


It is a way better feeling to be dignified in your responses to such people and situations, than to retaliate with the same. If you do the latter, trust me you’ll regret it later and you will have achieved nothing, except probably riling the other person up further. 


Most importantly, you would have given Islam a bad name. People will associate your behaviour with Islam, so behave wisely. 

Remember sisters, Allah forgives us repeatedly, sometimes for the same mistakes, over and over. 


So, a point to reflect on is: how can we expect to be forgiven by Him, if we cannot even bring ourselves to forgive others?  

Until next time in sha Allah. 


Image credits

1. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/d3/2d/47/d32d4700e2a75740ea05d83a88e9aa08.jpg
2. http://file1.hpage.com/009821/45/bilder/mercy.jpg
3. http://mothersniche.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/forgiveness.jpg
4. http://islamicartdb.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/forgiveness1.jpg

Faith: trusting Allah after a decision

We all have to make decisions. Some big, some small. But it happens on a daily basis. Some might say we have come to an age of ‘decision fatigue’. There’s just so much choice for every.tiny.little.thing. Go to the supermarket to pick up some cooking oil and you’re faced with a whole wall of different oils: vegetable, sunflower, light, spray oil, olive, avocado, almond, coconut etc. etc. etc.

So much choice ma sha Allah. It can be nice. But sometimes it really is overwhelming! Whatever happened to the age when we could just go in and out of the shop without so much decision-making involved? Just like we live in a world of information overload, so too it is decision overload. With more information comes more decision-making.

Oil isn’t exactly a life changing decision (well it could be in the long term, depending on how you look at it). But, there are certain points in our lives that we need to make big decisions:

  • buying that house
  • leaving your job/accepting a new job
  • staying at home with the kids 
  • marrying that man
  • starting that course
  • moving to another city
  • working part-time

Some examples. But you get the picture: these aren’t split-second decisions. More specifically they are usually either-or decisions. Let me explain.

Let’s take the example of buying the house. Most likely the process, up to finding ‘the one’, goes something like this:

  1. brainstorm/talk about the type of house you want and the location
  2. do a lots of searching online and at estate agents to find the perfect one
  3. go to view different houses that either, fit or loosely fit, the bill
  4. narrow it down to a few
  5. have a really good feeling about one in particular, but doubt yourself because of practical reasons
  6. pray istikhara once you have your mind made up
  7. reach the point of wanting to buy that house

So you see, the house buying scenario is either-or. It is either go for the one with the good feeling, or choose the more practical option. On paper it seems easy to say: of course you go for the one with the good feeling. But if you really reflect on this situation, then it becomes clear that in reality it’s not so straightforward. We usually have more than our own feelings to take into consideration.

Let’s look at another example: leaving your job and/or accepting a new job. Most likely the scenario plays out something like this:

  1. come to the realisation that you need to change your job (for whatever reason: perhaps financial; perhaps location; perhaps it is time for a new challenge)
  2. begin searching for relevant jobs according to your skill set and/or dream
  3. wait and wait for responses…nothing
  4. wait some more
  5. finally receive some interviews. Two to be exact. One in a place you would love to work at; the other somewhere that pays more and is closer to home
  6. you are torn
  7. you ask for advice
  8. you think you have reached a decision
  9. you pray istikhara
  10. you’re ready to accept…

Even after istikhara, sometimes we second-guess ourselves. We somehow don’t trust our own decision. And we want reassurance somehow. But the truth is: you won’t actually know for sure if it is the correct decision until you live out your decision. Meaning you won’t actually know if you made the right choice until you start living in the house; until you marry that man; until you take that job. That’s life. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual.


Such moments in life are actually a test of faith I believe. They are nice ‘problems’ to have: choosing between two houses; choosing between two jobs; choosing between working or staying at home. Remember sisters: some ladies don’t get a choice, some aren’t even in such a privileged position. 


So what do you do when you’re unsure?What do you do to feel confident about your choice? What do you do to feel convinced you haven’t done something stupid when all around you seem to be advising you otherwise?


You put your trust in Allah.

Now this trust is most likely with you all the time. But just like faith, I believe it comes in ebbs and flows. I do not believe it is a constant thing. We’re human after all. That is not to say we ever think Allah is at times not doing what is best for us. Astaghfirullah. But being human, sometimes we put the blinkers on and get blinded by our wants. And sometimes we’re too egotistical, dumb, blind, head-strong, insert similar appropriate word to see and realise that Allah has got our back, just as He always has and always will.  


We’re too blind in those moments sometimes to realise that losing out on what we want is actually best for us. See a previous post of mine about dealing with loss: Utilising the pain of loss 

In that moment when you lose your job, when you marry that guy, when you stop working full-time, that trust has to be there. The trust that He’ll see you through. Before even experiencing it, before living it, that trust needs to be there before and during the decision-making process. 


But even when you make your own decision; even when you have consulted others; even when you have prayed istikhara until you tell yourself you’re sure, sometimes doubt creeps in. Sometimes the ‘what-ifs’ creep in. You’re human. You can never be 100% sure. That is where you need to bring in the tawakkul. You need to make a decision at some point, and you have to commit to it. 

There’s incredible beauty in this. Just in the same way that a child relies fully on his/her mother. We too should rely fully on Allah. When you do, a wonderful thing happens. You stop worrying and realise that whatever the outcome – even if it doesn’t match up with what you yourself chose (based on your decision-making process) – it’ll be for the best because Allah has got your back.  

If the decision you made comes through, then alhamdulilah it was what Allah had decreed for you. If the decision you made falls through then alhamdulilah it was what Allah had decreed for you.


Sometimes we miss the way we were meant to take, even after istikhara. Either way, the outcome is good. It almost sounds too good to be true. But the fact of the matter is: we are incredibly blessed to be in the situations we are in; to be having to make such decisions. At the end of it all: it is all for khayr. 

And when you think of it like that, it almost becomes comical that we stress and worry over the decision. Because ultimately, when you fully trust Allah with your entire being, your decision becomes easy. You’re not forcing anything anymore – you’re letting Him take you by the hand and guide you to that which is meant; to that which is best for you. You know that even if you make a wrong turn, with the help of Allah, you’ll end up where it is you’re supposed to be going anyway!


A comforting and beyond-words-beautiful thought.


Until next time ladies. 


Image credits
1. http://data.whicdn.com/images/53368580/original.jpg
2. http://data.whicdn.com/images/165344902/large.jpg
6. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/dd/a8/20/dda820a0b6637acb6bee1b97b1ef4049.jpg

Faith: stepping towards wearing hijab

Before we get started, I just want to put a bit of a disclaimer out there: I cannot, and in sha Allah never will judge another Muslimah on her actions or intentions or anything related to her deen. I can’t dictate that you should wear hijab or when the best time is to do it. I can’t judge you for not wearing it, likewise I can’t judge how you wear it, if you already wear hijab. I can simply give advice based on what is a common reading of Quran from learned scholars: hijab is compulsory for both men and women and it’s way more than just a piece of fabric that women wrap around their head. I’ll only look at women’s hijab in this post (and I won’t go into the discussion of what actually is proper hijab) particularly geared towards those sisters looking to start wearing it: new Muslimahs or perhaps those who didn’t wear it before. Whatever the reason, in sha Allah the blog post will help.   

‘Oh, what makes you so qualified to talk about such matters Musing Muslimah?’ I hear you cry. 

Good question. I’m no scholar. I’m just your average Muslimah striving to please her Lord just like the rest of you lovely ladies. I understand the struggle you are going through, I understand there are some days where it feels difficult to put it on, where you feel different to others. I understand you might not even understand where the ruling for hijab comes from (I’m not tackling that in this post, there is plenty of evidence out there already). 

Believe me: keep striving for Allah’s sake, purify your intention for wearing it, and watch great things happen. I can’t promise when or how the change will come, but trust me when I say: you will never regret donning the hijab. How can you ever regret doing something that is commanded by The One that knows you the best and knows what is best for you? He can see inside your heart, He knows your struggle. Trust Him – He’ll see you through. Every.single.time. 


It’s all well and good talking about it. But if you are new to hijab, it can feel daunting to know where to start. Do I just put it on my head and roll with it? Do I announce it on Twitter? Do I tell people personally? Do I not say anything at all? What do I do?!

Below are some steps that will in sha Allah help you through the new-to-hijab maze. 

Understanding and committing to your decision

Ok, great ma sha Allah, you’ve made the decision to wear the hijab. You’ve checked your intentions. Alhamdulilah. So you’re doing it for Allah. Him alone. Alhamdulilah. I’m happy for your sister. What next? 

I personally think the more you think about it, the more Shaytan is going to try to meddle with your thoughts and put you off the idea completely. In sha Allah no, but the risk is always there. My advice? Just start wearing it. Whenever. Don’t set a date. Don’t turn it into some big occasion that you have a countdown calendar to. It’s just building unnecessary tension. It is of course a big occasion. Huge in fact. But don’t tell yourself that. Just take it in your stride and commit! Even if you don’t fully understand hijab yet, and what it entails, just like any fard in Islam, just do it and continually strive to perfect it. You don’t miss your salah because it’s not perfect yet. You just pray, and strive for the best. Treat hijab in the same way. Trust me: once you start wearing it, naturally you will progress with it in sha Allah and begin to learn that it is about way more than clothing alone. 


Start with what works for you. It should be a natural progression. It’s about sustainability. You’re not suddenly going to be Miss Pious 2016 just because you changed your outfit into full hijab, but it’s a good place to start. In sha Allah it will be easier for you if you follow what feels right for you, rather than trying to emulate others. Remember sisters: this is your personal journey. Yes, it is a very visible part of your journey, but the intention is yours alone. The conversation is between you and Allah alone. The thing I would emphasise at this stage is: put it on for the right reasons i.e. Allah, and in sha Allah you’ll stick with it. And everything will fall into place. 

The above is easy to write, but if you’re still struggling to put it on, then you’re more likely to be saying the below:

I want to wear it. I want to behave differently, but it just feels so difficult, like something is stopping me. 

Yeah, that’ll be Shaytan and your Nafs


Any of the below scenarios sound familiar?

Practical barriers

‘But I live in a Non-Muslim country.’
‘But my friends are telling me not to wear it and some of them don’t wear it themselves. What if I lose my friends?’ 
‘But my job: what will my boss say? Will my colleagues laugh at me?’ 
But…
But…
But…

Sisters, it’s not going to be easy. There really is no point in me sugar coating it. If you’re struggling, the truth is those first few days may make you feel extremely self-conscious. But they fade super quickly when you realise other people don’t have a problem with you, you’re actually imagining it. One minute you’re wearing hijab, the next you’re not. The truth is: the more you ‘but’, the more you’re just procrastinating. Without realising it, a lot of sisters are actually usually observing hijab in their clothing before wearing a headscarf. This in itself is a part of hijab. So don’t second-guess yourself my gorgeous sisters. There is no ‘I’m not worthy’ when it comes to hijab. In the words of a famous sports brand:  


Psychological and societal barriers

People’s views
This can be a tricky one. You don’t want to lose the people around you or push them away by your actions. But equally your heart is set on wearing hijab. Yet you have this niggling feeling that just won’t go away. You know hijab is fard after your research, but you’re worried what your friends, colleagues and even family might say. I think the common theme here is: just do it. Shaytan will try and try again to convince you not to wear it. More often than not, the actual doing is so much easier than the thinking about the possible what-if scenarios. 

Only hijabi in the family
Once you start wearing hijab, perhaps you’ll be the only hijabi in the family. Either you’re a new Muslimah or the women in your family don’t wear hijab. 
This one can be testing. Your family love you so much. Yet if they haven’t researched hijab in the same way you have, they may struggle to understand why you’re wearing it. They may comment you are taking Islam too far. They may say many things which contradict what you now know to be fard. Again, in this case, once you start wearing it, your family will simply get used to it. Once they see your conviction in wearing it, in sha Allah they will respect your decision even if they don’t agree with your views. That’s the beautiful thing about families. After a short time, your hijab will be a non-issue for them – it’ll simply be part of what makes you you. 
I’ll look ugly…I’ll lose my identity
Alert: reality check needed!
Sister, I know all women want to look beautiful, and contrary to popular belief, women tend to want to look good for other women, not for men! We love it when a woman compliments our outfit or our hair. Great, this can still happen, but the location of where it will happen has simply changed. So rather than complimenting you in a public place, it’ll just happen in private once the hijab is off. Sister, remember: you’re still you. Wearing hijab doesn’t change that. It really is about shifting perspectives. Again, realise this is Shaytan whispering to you, because he knows this is a weak point he can pursue and potentially get you on. You need to remember as well: you’re wearing this for Allah. You’re adapting your behaviour dependent on location for the His sake alone. There is incredible beauty in that. If you are beautiful for Allah, who cares what His creation thinks?!


I’m a bad person therefore cannot wear hijab. Only good Muslims wear hijab
I think there’s a serious misconception out there that hijabis are by default pious and devout Muslims. This cannot be true. We are human beings with faults just like everybody else. Hijab or the state of it, is not the be-all and end-all of your piety. It is simply one – prominent – aspect of your relationship with Allah. Only Allah knows the mistakes you have made in the past, but the truth is: the fact that you want to wear hijab, the fact you have started making the intention is a good sign that He is bringing you back to Him. 

Overcoming the barriers, embracing hijab and sticking with it

It is pretty easy to see that the psychological barriers far outweigh the practical. The main reason being, it’s actually Shaytan trying to trip you up. He is relentless. As he himself has said to Allah: 


Make lots of dua, embrace your decision and stick with it


Go shopping. 
Make it fun! 
Take it step by step. 
Start off slowly if you think wearing it altogether will be too much. Over time with Allah’s help, the outer hijab begins matching the inner hijab. If a scarf on your head seems too overwhelming then start with your clothes. Longer tops, looser trousers. Switching to skirts. Gradually start to wear a scarf on your head, either loosely or tightly – depending on how you feel comfortable. As with anything if you start off too strong and feel uncomfortable then it will not be sustainable. Starting off imperfectly and sticking with it in the future in sha Allah is better than starting strong and leaving it all behind after a few weeks or months. I think one of the most important things is to always remember that without Allah we cannot achieve anything in this life. So sisters, my humble advice to you is: keep making that dua, pray to Him, ask Him to make it easy for you, for Him to turn your heart and helps you to love wearing it. 


I’ll leave you with an on-point comment about hijab, from the wonderful Yasmin Mogahed.  


Remember ladies, wearing it does not make you an angel; does not give people the right to judge you more; does not equal your destination.


Wear your hijab with pride. Know what an honour it is to wear this ‘badge’ of Islam. To show the world through your actions that your One True Love is Allah, and only Him. 

In sha Allah I hope this post was helpful. If it contains any mistakes, they are my fault alone.

Until next time ladies. 

Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah


Image credits
1. https://faithrehearsed.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/tawakkul.jpg
3. http://i.imgur.com/vdHrfCs.jpg
4. http://s8.favim.com/610/150902/allah-hijab-hijabi-islam-Favim.com-3229859.jpg
6. https://twitter.com/YasminMogahed/status/702661439111110656

Faith: Thank You Allah

Some days, you take a step back from your day, and you’re overwhelmed with gratitude. Everything you see around you. All of the blessings, you just can’t even count. You are completely lost for words at the amount of Love that they show from Ar Rahman. You’re lost for words. The only words that possibly cross your lips mixed in with your tears of joy and gratitude and humility are:

Subhan Allah

Alhamdulilah

Today is one of those days. Ya Rab, there are no words. There really aren’t. Thank You for everything. Today I ask that Allah makes us of those who are grateful. Ameen.

 
Image credits
3. http://i.imgur.com/VIQj0a2.jpg
4. http://40.media.tumblr.com/7e65e6415f17902206134dbf270bc816/tumblr_nsujj2dJNP1qapk2qo1_500.jpg
6. https://www.alquranclasses.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/say-ALHUMDULILLAH.jpg
9. http://36.media.tumblr.com/ec3207ce4f464bb7c69cd28f98c9689d/tumblr_n2hegzRwhl1qapk2qo1_500.png
10. http://momentsofperfectclarity.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/love-allah.jpg
11. https://1averagebint.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/wpid-img_20150415_213955.jpg

Health: viewing food as fuel (and still loving every bite)

I’ve always viewed health as way more important for a good body than simply looking good. The problem is nowadays there are so many fad diets out there and we seem to have lost patience as times have become more modern. People want quick fixes. They don’t know the state of the bodies on the inside, but as long as it starts looking how they imagined on the outside then they feel they’ve achieved success. But that’s just the beginning, that’s when they realise that they need an equally quick fix to help them keep the weight off. With a bit of commitment and sacrifice, anybody can lose a bit of weight (as long as they don’t have underlying health problems which prevent their weight loss), but keeping it off is the real life journey test.

So on the surface, fad diets might seem amazing, they might kick start your weight loss. But there is one huge issue with them: they don’t change your mindset. You lose the weight but you’re still thinking it’s ok to devour the whole box of Krispy Kremes in one sitting; to order the XL coke at the fast food chain and to eat six slices of toast for breakfast. 
Hunger is not a sin. Neither is eating. But the way we stuff ourselves these days, like food is going out of style, or we need to store it up like camels is just getting a bit extreme. Whatever happened to moderation? 
 
Hard as it might be to hear, there are no quick fixes to a healthy body. Note: I didn’t say slim. A person can be skinny fat, so keep that in mind sisters. Healthy bodies can be strong and weigh more on the scales than your ideal number, but who cares when these very same bodies are strong, able to move every day and do some form of daily exercise.
So what do you have to do to achieve said healthy body? I’ve learned over the years that the only way is by two steps. Steps which you may be tired of hearing of, but steps which I want to spin on their heads:
1. Portion control
2. Light exercise daily (later building the intensity and variety)
Let’s talk portion control. This one has definitely needed me to rewire my brain. I love food and I’ve always had a big appetite. But the truth is, eating beyond the point of satisfaction does nobody any good. It leaves you feeling sluggish and bloated. But if you’re used to eating more than a usual portion then how can you start cutting back without starving yourself and in turn becoming miserable, and binging to soften the blow? 
Water and food swapping are your best friends.
Water
Drink plenty throughout the day. And drink plenty before your meal. This will mean you’re not as hungry to begin your meal and in sha Allah will enable you to recognise that full feeling quicker.

Listening to your stomach
Slow down next time you eat. Chances are you’ll notice a natural pause in your eating. Pay attention to your stomach in that moment. Are you still in need of food? This my friends is your body telling you to stop. Oftentimes we’re eating so quickly that we either miss this call from our stomach or we’re enjoying the food so much that we just don’t want it to stop.

Tell yourself one thing: I can always come back for more. 

This way you’re giving your body a chance to digest the food, and if after some time you’re still hungry, you can go back for more.

Start noticing the difference between want and need. You should only be filling your stomach up to the point of need. It doesn’t matter how much you like the taste. Control your nafs.

Who can honestly say they enjoy that overly-full-feeling after eating too much?

Food swaps
If you’ve had pasta for dinner and are still hungry afterwards, I suggest waiting 20 minutes. This time usually changes how full you feel as the stomach registers the food. Remember sisters, you should be eating enough to satisfy your hunger and function properly. It really is not about stuffing your stomach to the brim. Always apply the third rule according to the sunnah above. 
If you are still hungry after those 20 minutes, don’t have the same helping of the same meal. But have something which counters your meal. E.g. If your meal is pasta, then don’t have a carb-heavy extra on top. Instead opt for some protein or some fruit or veg. And vice versa, if you had veg and protein for dinner, then have some carbs for your snack. The key is moderation and most importantly variety. I think the reason so many diets fail is because we’re always feeling deprived in some way. Food is there to be enjoyed and there is absolutely no reason to cut out whole food groups if you stick to the sunnah way of eating and sensible add-ons, if you still feel hungry after your meal. 
Some ideas for satisfying post-meal hunger:
  • Apples and peanut butter to dip into are great and satisfying. They also make a great post-workout snack. 
  • Anything with crunch or texture is also satisfying. Have some carrot sticks on hand in the fridge. Dipped in houmous =  tasty snack or light lunch. 
  • Fennel tea can make you more aware of your stomach and digestion in general. IT is soothing and filling after meals.
  • Water too – don’t forget we sometimes mistake thirst for hunger. 
Listen to your body. You don’t fill your petrol car with diesel and likewise it’s probably not such a good idea to fill your body with things which you know make it feel rotten and generally in need of a ‘service’. Is it really worth eating that whole pizza if you lie on the couch afterwards unable to pray on time? Is it really worth eating that ice cream when you know it always gives you a headache? By all means eat the junk food, but don’t do it every day.

The state of our bodies and how they look physically give us clues as to what is going on inside. If you’re always getting spots, look closer at your diet to rule out any possibilities. If you’re always getting stomach ache after a certain food, again try cutting it out to see what happens. Tell yourself you’ll start eating it again, and to be honest chances are you’ll not even miss it. 

I think the biggest step to take is: committing to it. Understand this is not a short-term commitment. It’s a once in a lifetime decision and there is no turning back afterwards. Your body will thank you for it. Remember ladies: your body is amana from Allah. It is our duty to take good care of it. Not only for Allah’s sake, but we will also feel and see the benefits too in sha Allah. Make lots of dua that you can stick to it and in sha Allah you’ll never look back. 
In another health post, I’ll tackle the light daily exercise part and how you can learn to love it and incorporate it into your daily routine. I’ll also tackle some great healthy eating ideas in another post in sha Allah. 
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a nutritionist or doctor and any of the above advice is simply based on my own experiences. Everyone’s body is different. So, please check with your doctor before embarking on any new fitness or diet plan. May Allah make it easy for you. 
Share your own tips below. 
Until the next time in sha Allah. 
third sunnah eating infographic credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/54/7c/2f/547c2fdc337ccc039c87e2b7a6f64d6e.jpg
sunnahway Image credit: https://starmuslimah.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/419300_3046826127370_1164677266_32417123_217363655_n.jpg

Faith: don’t wait for the storm to pass

Today’s world is characterised by a sense of impatience: phones ringing, notifications for a million social media outlets, rushing from here to there. Everyone is just so busy. Or at least seemingly busy. Every.single.second.of.the.day.  We’ve become more anxious as a result too. I really believe this. What else makes us check our phones so many times a day? What else makes us feel guilty for having some time to ourselves? What else makes us feel like we’re missing out when all of a sudden our phone dies or we lose internet connectivity? There’s this constant need to be moving. And those who aren’t, get labelled old-fashioned or the antithesis of ambitious.

The thing is, the world we live in today – I believe – is actually weakening us and our ability to cope with life’s challenges. Even in our positive moments, it’s weakening us. In the past, we didn’t feel the need to take selfies and post them on social media so the world could tell us we looked beautiful. We just knew it. We didn’t need to take pictures of the beautiful dish in front of us to induce envy in our followers. We just ate it (and enjoyed every mouthful). We enjoyed the moment we were in then. But nowadays we’re already looking towards the future before we’ve even lived the present moment. We’re already anticipating the likes and the comments, and what we’ll say in return.

This behaviour just screams dependency. I’m sure there must be the rare few sisters out there who manage to post their pictures of food and forget about it and don’t anticipate the next comment. Well done to you and I’m genuinely happy for you, because the truth is many young women and girls are constantly struggling to maintain the social media bubble. They have almost become dependent on the likes and validation they get from all the comments. That’s why it hurts so much when the haters start their rampage. But if these women and girls were not dependent on the comments for their self-esteem then the comments really wouldn’t hurt so much.

So what has this got to do with the title of today’s post? A lot actually.

When hard times hit, the biggest thing we need is:


And we will be rewarded for it in sha Allah.


Moments of crisis or tragedy in our lives often strip us to our bare minimum. The bubble bursts and it’s just you and the pain. Sure you can hang out with your friends, talk it over, you can get support from your family but at the end of the day it’s just you and the pain. You’re the only person that has to deal with it 24/7. And it’s in these moments that living in the present is all you can do. You can’t hurry a storm along, you just have to ride it out. 

So how on earth do you do that in a world in which you struggle to just be? And is it all doom and gloom? 

Absolutely not. But you have to do one thing: live for now (and not in the sense of forgetting about Akhira). Don’t run from the pain, face it head on. 

When hard times hit, you often just want the pain to go away. But it doesn’t. It’s there, deeply rooted within you. You can’t escape it, no matter how much you try. And that’s the beautiful part. When you learn to accept what is befalling you, your attitude changes. And if it doesn’t, I’m saying it should. That impatience and anxiety that makes us check our phones so often, also yearns to get out of this chapter of our lives as quickly as possible. Here’s a novel idea: what if we used that same anxiety and channelled it to actually deal with the pain? Instead of that bubble and reliance on others, actually feeling the pain. Every.single.second.of.it.

A wonderful things happens when you begin to accept what is happening. You quit resisting and you embrace it. There’s a reason it’s happening and Allah chose it for you. He’s testing you and shaping you. Moulding you into that survivor you are.

See, when you realise all you truly have is you and Allah, your attitude to coping completely changes. Whereas before you were so reliant on others to either make or break you, you rely only on yourself and of course Allah to get you through each day. There’s a beautiful simplicity in this. And I will vouch for it: it works. When you sit with the pain. When you really taste it. You realise nothing can break you. It’s the avoidance that actually weakens you. We’re so scared of facing it, we hide. But eventually it catches up with you. So save yourself some time and extra heartache: just face it head on. Easy to say. How to actually do it?

Cry as much as you need – it is not weakness, just emotion and release
Cry as much and as often as you need. Some days, cry all you want. Other days – when you need to get stuff done, and sitting in your tears won’t quite cut it – then give yourself a time limit or cut off point. Say to yourself: you’re allowed x amount of crying time and after that you have to get on with your day. Crying is not a weakness. It is just a release of intense emotions. Cry in private, cry to Allah, cry with your nearest and dearest. But understand that: this too shall pass. No matter how much it feels like it won’t. It will. In sha Allah. No state in this life is permanent.

Allah is your best friend
The fact is, some days there will be nobody around to lean on. The social media attention won’t be enough. And all your ‘real’ friends and family might be busy. What’s a Muslimah to do?

Turn to Allah.

He’s been looking out for you all along. He already knows the state of your heart, and the pain, and how much you are trying to muddle through this test. Keep relying on Him. He is the Only One that will never let you down. Call on Him, whenever and He will answer. Cry to Him whenever, and He will comfort. Ask of Him whenever, and He will guide you to how best deal with the test. He already knows you inside out and He already knows what’s best for you. Rely on Him to see you through and you will begin to gain strength, because The Possessor of all Strength will have your back. With Him you are never alone.


Bring it back to basics – nurture yourself, treat yourself how you would others
Sometimes in times of test and hardship, we don’t know what is best for us. This is the time to bring it back to basics, and care for yourself as you would for others who might be going through similar. Eat nutritious food. Eat on time. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Drinking enough water. It might sound trivial, but at times of hardship it’s the fundamental physical things which will provide the bodily strength to keep going. If your physical state is also deteriorating, then what hope do you have to tackle the mental strain?

Dress up, show up
You might not feel like facing the world. But some days you’ll need to force yourself to put on a brave face. Get dressed and go do what you need to do. Even if you have nothing to do, just go for a walk. Being out and about will be healthy and the general doing gives a sort of accomplishment in such times. Trust me, you’ll feel much better after you get home knowing you had the dignity to go about your business, in spite of everything else happening in your life. Our lives are not uniform. We have different aspects to them. Just because one part is being tested, it by no stretch of the imagination means all of your life is falling apart. You can still be presentable in such times, and more likely than not, it will actually affect your mood for the better.

When you take each day at a time, you’re not avoiding the pain. You’re living it. And in sha Allah getting rewarded for it. I’m not saying it’ll be easy. The brutal truth is: sometimes it’ll hurt so much you honestly won’t know what to do. You won’t feel like yourself. You’ll feel a void. You’ll feel inadequate. But sister, Allah is seeing every single second of it. It is being noted. And your beautiful patience is full of dignity. Patience is not suffering in silence. Patience is how you deal with what comes your way.

Remember this: this life is not the permanent abode. It is a temporary place. We’re just travellers. There’ll be ups and downs. Sometimes more downs than ups. How you deal with them will be what matters. Instead of living for when the pain and test has passed. Savour every minute. Embrace every second, and realise the blessing to be alive and even be tested by Allah. The more tests, the more He loves you in sha Allah. Every single hardship brings you back to Him. The more trials, the closer you get to Him.

When you look at it like that, it doesn’t seem like a hardship at all. Rather the biggest blessing. Alhamdulilah.


Image credits:
1.http://40.media.tumblr.com/56b0238692bd8f747a53b733358aef73/tumblr_mr1gcqrmw81qapk2qo1_500.jpg
2.http://41.media.tumblr.com/40c605e17e256c9ef2f47c3a1e9ff09b/tumblr_mrwn8kKxe71r75xe0o1_500.jpg
3. http://www.pureella.com/wp-content/uploads/positive11.jpg
4. http://data.whicdn.com/images/110762420/large.jpg
5. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/5b/fb/56/5bfb569940e1a3761f31a859b0dcf676.jpg

Faith: using your time productively

When I look back on my life, I want to be able to say I:

a) achieved the goals I had set out to;
b) achieved something which will carry over into Akhira;
c) tried to minimise time-wasting in dunya.

The thing is, I think we’ve come to a point in time, in society, in the world, where time-wasting is almost a ‘thing’. Like a trend. Has it had a hashtag yet? #time-wasting

I mean there are so-called trends which in the past were seen as a little bit sad. Staying home and watching TV at the weekend was viewed as hermit-like-can’t-find-any-friends type of saddo behaviour. But now binge-watching YouTube is an actual thing that people do. I like to veg out just as much as the next person, but it’s concerning how much of a ‘thing’ it’s turning into.

We as Muslimahs know that Allah comes first in our life. We also know that our purpose for being created in the first place is above and beyond anything that dunya can offer us. So isn’t it time we sat back a bit and instead of #YouTubeOverdose we started #usingtimewisely? And actually preparing ourselves for the Hereafter?

I thinks humans have a funny way of comforting themselves. We have this habit of pretending that things don’t exist if we don’t face them head on. Death is the one certainty in life. One which every single living creature is going to have to face. Yet, it’s quite possibly one of the things we think least about! No matter how scared we are; no matter how rich or poor; and no matter our age. Death will come. We just don’t know when. The not knowing when can be used to our good, or in fact be our own downfall. We can bury our heads in the sand or we can wake up and make something of our lives.

It all depends on how you use your time.

Case 1
Muslimah 1 spends her days day-dreaming and on Pinterest. Each day is starting to look the same and she doesn’t really know where Saturday ends and Sunday begins. Time in general is speeding by. She’s seemingly happy on the surface. She’s praying her 5 a day. She’s reading Quran when she gets the chance. She’s not committing major sins. Generally, she’s on the straight path. Yet something is missing. She gets to the end of each day and she doesn’t really have much to show for the past 24 hours. She passed the time in a nice way. She enjoyed it. But she hasn’t really added much value to herself or her book of deeds. It’s nothing overtly bad. But, it’s not exactly screaming productive either. 

Case 2
Muslimah 2, like Muslimah 1 also spends some time day-dreaming and on Pinterest. She also prays her 5 a day and some extras. She reads Quran. On the surface her routine is the same, but the feeling she gets at the end of it is not the same as Muslimah 1. She feels fulfilled. Each day feels unique. The days don’t merge into one. And she actually is adding something to her book of deeds in sha Allah.

So how are the two cases different when in fact they look the same? The difference lies in:

1. how the Muslimahs approach their time and
2. being aware of their limits.

Muslimah 2, even though she’s doing pretty much the same as Muslimah 1 is striving for that bit extra. She’s not perfect, but she’s constantly questioning her behaviour and actions in order to use such reflection to better utilise her time. She’s not content with each day being the same, and she’s very aware of the fact that this is one area of life she WILL be questioned on. She has a reason for logging on to Pinterest and when she’s completed that task, she logs out. She day-dreams with purpose: thinking and planning how she’ll complete her next project. She reads Quran, but actually tries to implement the lessons in her life. She keeps her intentions in check. She constantly tries to remind herself:

This last thought is the game changer. It has the potential to prevent you from wasting time by making you stop for a second, and making you think: does this action actually have a purpose? 

Think about it for a second. Before you start eating, if you think to yourself: this is for You Allah, then you’re unlikely to stuff yourself to the point of spontaneous combustion. You’ll take your fill and stop. When it’s for a higher purpose then the moderation kicks in. Another example: you find a good news story worthy of sharing, you log onto Facebook, share and log out. Compare this with logging in, and then aimlessly stalking cruising around people’s pages. It’s like leaving the house without knowing where you’re going. Of course you’ll just drive any-which way. There’s no specific direction, so you end up just going with the flow. Hours become days, days become months. Same-old, same-old.

Let’s break it down. I’m the type of person that believes all things can be beneficial to some extent (within the realms of halal of course), but that it’s our responsibility to realise when to stop. For example, our bodies need sugar, but eating 10 apples a day really isn’t going to do anyone any good. Unless you’re an apple pie. Life is about variety, it’s about zest, it’s about the ultimate: the Hereafter. 

I’m pretty sure nobody would say they’re not bothered about answering the questions on Judgement Day without fear or shame. May Allah protect us all. One of the things you’re going to be questioned on is how you used your time in this life. That is first and foremost a reminder to myself. Time is not given. My life could end right now. I’m pretty sure #AimlessHoursOnPinterest is not what you want to be answering when your Akhira depends on it!

Now, let’s just be clear here: I’m all for me-time, relaxation and #chilling. Whether or not that includes TV is a different argument and not one I’m qualified to give advice on – I cannot give a fatwa (I cannot give fatwas full stop) on whether or not you should be watching TV/films/documentaries etc. That responsibility lies with you, and is between you and Allah alone.

But I think the important takeaway from this is: everything in moderation, everything with purpose (again, within the realms of halal). We’ve heard it a million times over, so much that it’s kind of not even effective as a form of moderating our behaviour anymore. But when it’s something that Allah reminds us of, I think that warrants – without a doubt – reflection. More than pondering over it, actually actioning it. One thing that we seem to have forgotten is: yes, the Quran is beautiful and it speaks to our soul when recited, the more we recite the more it moves us. But it’s not an ornament, solely for beauty. It’s sheer wisdom. It’s pure guidance. It needs to be actioned.

Now I’m not going to give you a list to tell you how you should be using your time. That’s your job. I’m not going to tell you to quit this and that. Even if you listened to me, how long would it truly last, given that the motivation didn’t come from the very depths of your own soul?

You’ll find your way. You already know how and when you’re wasting time not using your time wisely. It’s those moments that niggle at you when you go to sleep. Those moments that you feel kind of empty, perhaps regretful when you realise the hours days? have passed and you don’t have much to show for it. Spiritually, physically, mentally. You know what feels right and what you simply need to give up, or at the very least reduce. You know it, otherwise you wouldn’t have ended up reading this blog post. You brought yourself here because you want to change. But you’re struggling. Keep struggling sister – it’s a sign of the journey. The fact you want to change is the start. Start taking the small steps today.

Surround yourself with anything that motivates you, keep it close and check back with it often. Start living the life you want. Carve it out. Nobody else will do it for you.

Until the next time in sha Allah.

Stay blessed.


Image credit: http://jewelcdn.yournextshoes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/stacked-wrist-americana-classic-Nordstrom.jpg