Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Let Quran be Our Beauty Expert

When it comes to TV ads, there is no shortage of products that promise to whiten us, make us more beautiful, remove all skin imperfections, you know....the dekhnay wala dekhta hi reh jai.... type ads.

With so much focus on outer beauty we seem to have neglected the need for inner beauty. This Ramadan why not let the Quran be our beauty expert? (heard this line in a lecture and it resonated with me so much that i wanted to share it with everyone here)

Just like we look into the mirror to see if our lipstick is applied correctly or whether there's a pimple forming on our forehead or whether our mascara is not running down our eyes, why not look at the Quran to remove the imperfections of the heart and soul. There are numerous verses in the Quran that tell us Allah does not like so and so or Allah loves those who display certain qualities. May Allah help us to focus on those traits which make us beautiful from inside and remove the smudges and blots on our heart.

"Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto him in repentance.” (Surah Baqarah 2:222)

“Verily, then Allah loves those who are al-Muttaqun (the pious).” (Surah Imran 3:76)

"Truly, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).” (Surah Baqarah 2:195)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Can We Mind Our Own Business Please!

“Married for three years? Why don’t you have children yet?” 
“You are still single? Why didn’t you marry?” 
“What’s your husband’s salary? “Are you happy with your husband? What time does he get home?” 
“What grades did your children get?” 

Sometimes I feel that we have no concept of what it means to mind our own business. During any family function, various aunties ask the most personal questions without batting an eyelid and to add salt to injury, offer advice, comments and solutions that would put psychologists, paediatricians, gynecologists and marriage counselors to shame. 

Many times, these opinions result from genuine concern and sympathy but there are occasions when women poke their noses into other people’ s affairs out of sheer malice, spite and thirst for gossip. 

One of my dearest friends is a mother to a lovely daughter. For the past 17 years, one question that gets asked of her every time she is in a family gathering is “Do you have only one daughter? Why didn’t you have more children?” 

I wonder what makes people think that they have any right to ask such personal questions? And this is usually followed by “My daughter had four children within 5 years of her marriage. Allah has given her a complete family.’ So having daughters is not equal to having a “family” in their opinion? A mother of two daughters gets to hear, “Oh two daughters. Now you should really try for a son.” As if trying for a son involves some secret recipe that is known only to a blessed few. 

One unmarried friend gets to hear, “You are still single? Why aren’t you married yet?” Married friends get asked, “How do you get along with your mother-in-law? Is she possessive about her son?’ 

One of my friends decided to delay having children after she got married to complete her education. “Everyone would ask me, “Why aren’t you having children? Is there a problem? Have you consulted a doctor?” she recalls with a laugh. “It was so hard to attend social functions as it seemed that I had become the focus of everyone’s attention, in fact almost an obsession just because I was childless for three years.” 

Mothers-in-law get asked, “What time does you bahu get up? How many times a week does she go to her parents’ house? Does she help in household work?” 

As a society, we seem to have a penchant for poking our noses into affairs of everyone around us. We ask the most private and personal questions and are offended if a person tries to maintain his dignity or privacy. We seem to thrive on gossip, with women being its most expert practitioners and ironically its most vulnerable target. 

 “You look tired.” “You seem dark.” “Have you gained weight?” “Didn’t you wear this dress in last week’s party too?” The comments that are made and opinions that are aired are usually aimed to make the other person feel inferior and embarrassed. Isn’t it time we stopped interfering in matters that have absolutely nothing to do with us. 

We never realize how much we can hurt people with our seemingly innocent remarks and questions. We never know how much a childless couple is hurting and maybe they don’t need to know that other people are discussing them. Maybe they are not ready for children or there’s a medical issue or other problems that they don’t want to disclose. 

Perhaps an unmarried girl has taken responsibility of her aged parents or younger siblings and has not found a life partner who is willing to share her problems. Unless we are in a position to genuinely help her, maybe we could refrain from making her realize that she is growing older and there are no “rishtas” for old spinsters in our society. She definitely does not need to hear” Umer nikal gaye to rishta nahin milay ga.” 

A whiff of a broken marriage or engagement can send these aunties in a state of tizzy. They can’t rest unless they get to know all the details of how, when why, what and kia huwa and kiya ho ga. And all the details are whispered from one ear to another with lots of “mirch masala” till the story resembles an 800 episode long Indian soap. 

A wise person once said, “To be busy minding other people’s business, is to leave one’s personal business unattended to. While you are too busy minding other people’s business, who is busy minding yours?” Making personal remarks or asking intrusive questions are not healthy for relationships. 

If someone asks you for help, advice or opinion feel free to air your ideas, otherwise it would be better for us to stop interfering into things that are no concerns of ours.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Say MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa Billah

After Alhamdulillah, the second phrase which I feel we should all start using frequently is MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa billah (Surah Kahf: 39).

Whenever you see something good or hear something good regarding yourself or another person, say this phrase with sincerity. Admiring someone’s house or car or children or their trip to foreign countries, see someone is a pretty dress or just feel you are blessed in some way, say MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa billah.

We all know and fear evil eye, nazar-e bad but, as per my understanding, it is not necessarily from an evil relative or a jealous friend. A child can get it from his mother, a sister from sister or we can even get it from ourselves if we neglect to say phrases like MaShaAllah Laa Quwata illa billa.

This phrase negates arrogance and jealousy. In Surah Kahf we read about two men who both had beautiful gardens but one of them became arrogant and thought that nothing could destroy his wealth and might. The other person cautioned him to say MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa billah (What Allah wills [has occurred]; there is no power except with Allah). The rich man did not pay any heed and his garden was ruined before his eyes because of his arrogance.

Another event which I read about was about a companion of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ who was very good looking. While travelling towards Mecca, another sahabi admired Sahl ibn Haneef’s good physique. Immediately afterwards, Sahl fell ill. Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ words are very important here. He asked “Which one of you did this to his brother?” meaning when a prayer of blessing or words like MaShaAllah La Quwata Illa billah while admiring something are not said, it is actually similar to killing the other person with evil eye.

I remember one of my dear friends did not have children for a number of years. Another friend had a son and her attitude changed completely and she wouldn’t let my friend hold her son. I remember her saying something very beautiful. She said, “Agar meray bachay nahin hain, to iss may mera kia qasoor hai and agar kisi kay bachay hain to iss may uss ka kia kamal hai?” I never forgot her words. The one who didn’t have a child was being tested and the one who had a child was also being tested. Everything we have or do not have is because Allah wills it and tests us through it, not through some preference of one person over another. Kamal bhi nahin, quwat bhi nahin aur taqat bhi nahin to phir gharoor aur akkar kis baat ki?

I feel that saying phrases like Alhamdulillah and MaShaAllah frequently and sincerely wash away many of the negative emotions that incite arrogance, pride, anger, envy, jealousy and ill will towards each other. Jealousy is actually our anger or disapproval or dissatisfaction with how Allah distributes His blessings and which one of us can actually dare challenge Allah this way.

(Everything that I write here is per my own understanding. I just pen my own thoughts and if you see a mistake please correct me and guide me)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Say Alhamdulillah!

During their childhood, we try to teach our children the magic words: Thank you, Please, I’m sorry, you are welcome etc. It is true that that children who use these words appear well mannered but I feel that we adults need to learn a few magic words and teach them to our children as well.
The first word is Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah is a unique words that contains in it all aspects of gratitude and praise to Allah. It is an acknowledgement of all the favours bestowed upon us by Allah. Saying this word with sincerity drives away all traces of all negative emotions like distress, sorrow, envy, jealousy, depression, pessimism etc.
The word is literally like an antibacterial soap. It makes you grateful and it makes you thankful and it gives you a positive outlook on life.
So say Alhamdulillah when you wake up in the morning, when you sit in your car, when you drop your children to school, when you eat food, when you wear a dress, when you open the door of your home and your office, when you buy fruits and vegetables. Paying your bills, say Alhamdulillah for you have a home where you use water, electricity and gas for how many do not even have a roof over their heads. 
Say Alhamdulillah if you sleep on a soft mattress and have a blanket to cover you fo how many people are shivering in the winters. Say Alhamdulillah when you enjoy a cup of hot tea or coffee or when your children eat chocolates for these are luxuries millions cannot afford. Say Alhamdulillah when your children sit down to do their homework for how many children are unable to read a single word.

Saying Alhamdulillah makes you look at the positive side of life. And when you thank Allah for His blessings sincerely, Allah's promise becomes binding.

“And remember when your Lord proclaimed, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you in favour. But if you deny indeed, my punishment is severe.” [Quran: Chapter 14, Verse 7]

Why wouldn’t you thank Allah for the countless blessings that have been bestowed upon you? Please make it a habit to say Alhamdulillah frequently and with sincerity.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Story Time: The Spirit of Freedom

Flag, Banner, Nation, Emblem, Country, National

Baber was playing cricket with his friends in the street. His family had recently moved into this neighbourhood. Every evening, the children would come out to play cricket, ride bicycles or just get together for a chat. Babar was a very well-mannered boy and a good cricketer. He soon made many friends.

As they played, a small boy ran up to them carrying the ball which Babar had hit for a six. The boy was small and dressed in old, stained clothes. His plastic slippers were too big for him and his hands were dusty. Baber smiled at him and stretched his hand forward to accept the ball.

“Hey you! How dare you touch my ball?” Umar said in a furious tone.

“Here, give it to me. You have made it dirty,” Umer snatched the ball from the young boy’s hand and pushed him away aggressively. The boy ran away with a frightened look in his eyes.

Babar was stunned for a minute. He could not understand Umer’s anger.

“Why were you so rude to him Umer?” Babar asked. “He was only returning the ball.”

“You are new here, Babar. You don’t know these dirty children,” Umer said with contempt. “Our parents have told us not to go near them. They might have lice and they are always dirty and smelly. Don’t encourage them or they will want to play with us. And we won’t allow that.”

Just then Babar’s mother called him inside and their conversation ended. But Baber could not get the image of the young boy holding out the ball out of his mind.

The next day, he asked his own maid about the kids.

“Those are poor maid Kalsoom’s kids,” replied Sakina. “Her husband died of kidney failure a few months ago. She has four children and no one else to take care of them. She is working in many homes to make ends meet.”

“Do the children go to school? Baber asked sympathetically.

“I think the older one used to but since their father died, he works as a gardener’s help in a house. Others are too young to work so they stay at home.” Sakina said clearing away the breakfast table.

The next week, it was August 14. All the children were excited. They had been planning for Independence Day celebrations with great fervour. Umer had bought yards and yards of paper flags to decorate their house. Kamran was putting up a huge green and white flag. Some children were planning to decorate their home with candles. Some had been collecting money to buy firecrackers, balloons and badges.

“What are you going to do on 14th August, Baber?” Umer asked. “We are planning to have dinner in a five star hotel. It would be so much fun.”

“Dad says I can buy as many firecrackers as I want,” boasted Noman.

“Last year he did not get any money and he threw such a tantrum that my father has promised to give him lots of money this year,” his brother Junaid chimed in.

“You are very quiet, Baber? Aren’t you going to celebrate Independence Day?” Junaid asked.

“I am planning to light three candles this year,” said Baber mysteriously.

“Just three candles! How can you be so stingy? If you wish, I can share my flags with you,” added Kamran generously.

“No thank you. I have enough for my needs.”

The next day, the children saw something very strange. First Baber came out with a long plastic table. Then he dragged some chairs around it. He arranged a stack of books and some stationery. From the other end of the street, the children saw maid Kalsoom’s children make their way hesitantly. Baber smiled at them and told them to sit down.

Baber gave a colouring book and some colour pencils to the youngest boy. He then turned his attention towards the other two. “You will come here every day at this time to get your lessons. I will teach you to read and write.”

Tears glistened in Hassan’s eyes as he opened his copy. With great difficulty he wrote the words “Pakistan”. By this time, Baber’s friends had gathered there to see what was going on. They looked confused.

“Baber, have you gone mad? You are going to teach them?” Umer asked.

“Why not? Our country cannot be truly free while it suffers from poverty, illiteracy and inequality. We must remember what the Quaid said to the youth, ‘I look forward to you as the real makers of Pakistan. Create amongst yourselves complete unity and solidarity. Set an example of what the youth can do. Your main occupation should be to devote your attention to your studies. With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.’

“I am going to light my share of candles today. This is what our country needs more than firecrackers and parties.” The children stood silently, then Junaid said, “I will help you too. There is no better cause and no better way to celebrate the Independence Day.”

First Published in Dawn, Young World August 12th, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book review: The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, by Roald Dahl

“The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me” is a delightful book about a young boy named Billy who meets three amazing animals, a giraffe, a monkey and a pelican and together they get up to some thrilling adventures.
Billy often stood outside a queer, old building and wondered about its past and the shops it used to hold. One day strange things begin to happen inside the building. Billy then meets the Giraffe, Pelly and the Monkey who were the new owners. They were no ordinary animals and had started the Ladderless Window Cleaning Company. They wanted a job and some food. The Duke of Hampshire sends his chauffeur to hire them as he needed someone to clean 677 windows of his sprawling Hampshire House
The crew of the Ladderless Window Cleaning Company does a sterling job in cleaning windows that had not been cleaned for forty years. While working on the top floors, Pelly captures a notorious cat burglar Cobra who was stealing the diamonds which belonged to the Duchess of Hampshire.

The Duke was extremely pleased. He invites the giraffe, the pelican and the monkey to live on his estate for the rest of their lives. They also get a lifetime supply of walnuts for the monkey, fresh salmon for the pelican and rare tinkle tinkle flowers for the giraffe. As for Billy, the Duke buys the building for him and turns into a marvellous sweet shop
I enjoyed this book because it is funny with adorable characters. It also teaches children about power of team work. Young readers would love it because it shows that dreams can come true.
Illustrated by Quentin Blake, it is a great addition to any library for young readers. 
Short and entertaining!
• Age Range: 8 – 12 years
• Grade Level: 3 – 7
• Paperback: 80 pages
• Publisher: Puffin Books;
• Language: English

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

An Unwelcome Guest

“Fahd, have you brushed your teeth?” “Yes mom.” Fahd yelled back from his bedroom.

“Okay, son, then good night.” “Good night mom,” Fahd replied slipping into bed, grinning.

He had fooled his mom again. He hadn't brushed his teeth. In fact, he hadn't brushed them in the morning either. He had got up rather late and instead of bothering to clean his teeth properly with toothbrush and toothpaste , he had just rinsed his mouth and rushed out of the bathroom. Not bothering to brush his teeth had become a habit now and while his toothbrush looked new and shiny in the blue ceramic mug on the bathroom shelf, his teeth looked yellow and slightly stained.

Sometime around midnight, Fahd woke up with a start. What had just happened?? He saw a small impish creature looming in front of his eyes. It was holding a spear like thing in his hand. The tiny creature pointed his spear towards Fahd, and the frightened boy felt a sharp jabbing pain on the side of his head and cheek.

“Ow, Ow!! Stop that!” The creature laughed mercilessly and danced about in the air.

“Hello, Fahd. How are you feeling?” It cackled. “Who are you and what you doing in my bedroom?” Fahd asked straining to see clearly in the dark.

“I am your guest and you invited me to come here,” replied the creature. “What? That’s impossible. I don’t know you and I would never invite a…a terrible, ugly and cruel monster like you into my bedroom, “Fahd spluttered.

“But you did, dear boy,” replied the cheeky little creature still dancing in front of Fahd’s eyes. “Are you calling me a liar?|”
“I am telling you. I DID NOT invite you, “Fahd replied furiously.

“Well, you are a little liar, aren’t you?”Said the creature slyly. “You lie everyday whenever your parents ask you if you have brushed your teeth or not. You trade your sandwiches and chicken nuggets for lollipops and candies in school and let your mom think that you eat a healthy lunch.”

Fahd felt very ashamed as well as scared. This creature seemed to know his habits quite well.

“How did I invite you? I mean, did I send an email or a letter or call you by phone?” Fahd asked timidly.

“Oh no, you invite me every time you don’t brush your teeth. Whenever you eat sticky toffees, gummy sweets and lollipops and don’t bother to even rinse your mouth, you send out an invitation to me,” it replied smugly.

Just then, the creature lifted his spear and Fahd again felt a horrible pain on the side of his face again. “Ouch!! Stop that,” he yelled.

“Sorry I can’t. You see you have invited me into your life and now you will have to face the consequences. I am not a pleasant guest to have around and it is quite difficult to get rid of me once I come to stay,” the little monster replied.

Poor Fahd was feeling awful by now. His cheek and neck were throbbing and it hurt even to turn his head. “You still haven’t told me who you are, “he cried desperately, holding a hand to his cheek. “Tch, tch. Haven’t you recognized me as yet? I am Tooth-Ache. Children who don’t brush their teeth regularly and do not practice good oral hygiene habits get to know me very well. I am a great friend to bacteria and plaque that live in your mouth. I like to live in cavities in the teeth and today I have come to stay in the home that you have provided for me,” the creature answered and loomed towards Fahd.

Fahd yelled and tumbled out of his bed and rushed to his parents’ room. His parents were very worried to see Fahd’s face which had swollen due to the massive tooth-ache. They all passed a terrible night.

Next day his mom took him to the dentist who gave Fahd a long lecture about taking care of his teeth and dangers of not brushing them properly. He had to have the cavities filled and it was not a happy experience.

“Now remember Fahd. You must brush your teeth twice a day, especially before going to bed. Also brush them after eating sweets, chocolates and toffees etc. or at least rinse your mouth thoroughly with water. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and avoid snacking on sugary food stuffs and fizzy drinks that are harmful for the teeth.”

Fahd listened to the dentist’s advice carefully. After all he didn't want any more unwelcome visitors at night. I am sure neither would you!

First published in Dawn, Young World, March 19th, 2015

Let Quran be Our Beauty Expert

When it comes to TV ads, there is no shortage of products that promise to whiten us, make us more beautiful, remove all skin imperfec...


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