Friday, June 21, 2013

 

On: Solitude

This morning a friend sent me a text with two questions:

How does one seek and find solitude?
How does one become used to solitude and cope alone?

Solitude on the one hand is all around us and on the other hand we can never attain truly.

I have reflected on this myself in the past and continue to do so now in the present. Man on the one hand is a loner. Born alone, dies alone. On the other hand man is never alone because he is under the Watch of the Almighty Lord. Man is surrounded by angels; several of them. He is surrounded by living matter all the while. So a true solitude is something he never arrives at.



However if one defines solitude as the absence of other humans then that is a different matter. Much has been written by people of all times and a simple search will bring many things to the top. Solitude is important and we all need it from time to time. People need their 'space' to think, reflect and draw upon inner strengths. This is why so many people even to this day go into seclusion for period of days or months. Sometimes being around others can just be too much.

Here are some pointers which may help in approaching the two above questions:


1. Recognise that truly we are and never will be alone. Review your relationship with God Almighty. By accepting that He has Lordship over you, you will allow yourself to develop the understanding that He is your Guardian. This is a lifelong task and you will have moments of success and failure in achieving it. But the more you can open your heart towards the fact that you are under God's Care, the better you will get at grasping it's fruits. Some people call this Submission.


2. If we are never 'alone' then we cannot get used to 'coping' alone. The concept is void. Instead of trying to 'cope' by yourself, review your support structure. Nobody is an I-land. Looking at the example of the Prophet Alaislam reassures us that we do nothing wrong when we call on friends and family for assistance. In the absence of people, we have the Holy Text which provides instruction and develops the capacity within us to deal with life, universe and everything within it. For example the statement from Chapter 2 that "On no soul doth God Place a burden greater than it can bear." shows quite clearly how the Holy Text can provide a viable coping mechanism.


3. Simplify things by adopting the Prophetic narration:

Solitude is better than being in bad company, and being in good company is better than solitude. Saying what is good is better than silence, and silence is better than saying what is bad.


4. There is a difference between solitude and isolation. It was during the state of solitude that the Prophet had his first revelation - however he was not isolated as his wife Sayida Khadija would still bring him food. Solitude is empowering and isolation is disempowering. Solitude leads to reflection but isolation can lead to negative self-talk. Solitude can help attain a greater awareness of life but isolation can lead to withdrawal. Solitude helps us grow and become stronger spiritually but isolation can bring our faith in God Almighty down. Review exactly what it is you mean by the term solitude and if it sounds like isolation then abandon it.


5. Each of us has a different set of challenges to deal with. By focusing on our God-endowed strengths we can overcome, learn and grow. If we take a glance at the First Prophetic Revelation which occurs at Mount Hira, when Sayida Khadija consoles the Prophet Alaislam she says: "You keep good relations with your relatives, help the poor, serve your guests generously, and assist those hit with calamities." In so doing this she brings his strengths and good qualities to the forefront and believes firmly that God Almighty would always do things for the best. Implementation of this can emancipate an individual.


6. There are times when an individual is unable to deal with the circumstances they find themselves in and find it easier to shut others out of their life. If one finds that negative self-talk is taking over and the capacity to see one's strengths and blessings is diminishing, then it is advisable to seek talk therapy. If such a state continues unchecked, it can hinder one's personal growth and lead to emotional unstability. Both of these are health disaster zones.


Pictures: Almeria, 2005.



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Monday, January 14, 2013

 

On: The Process

This post is inspired by a teacher whose simple advice is timeless.

I was fortunate enough to attend a class held by the wise teacher, Shaykh Muhammad Ba'Shuaib a couple of years ago. He said a simple thing but one which really helped me try to understand the nature of life. The words here are some of my own and some paraphrased from his advice.


He said that for Allah Almighty to give something is not at all difficult.

Neither is it difficult for Him to change a scenario.

or remove an obstacle.

or alter a circumstance.

or show the way forward.


So we should never assume we will not come out of a given situation. However it is the Process which we undergo which is important.


This is because it is here where our growth as human beings occurs.

This is where we learn to appreciate our humanity.


This is the place for the blossoming of new thoughts, ideas and visions.

This is where we learn about our strengths and weaknesses: what we have and what we lack.


This is where our development for personal change takes root.

This is where the seeds of faith grow into mighty trees.


This is the melting pot of all our hopes and fears.

And the end result is with God Almighty.


The faith teaches us that whatever happens will be for our betterment.

A new us will come out of the Process.


The pictures show a pin-cushion I made today at a craft group. It took between 2-3 hours and has been hand-stitched entirely. It is a beginner's cathedral window patchwork.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

 

Review - 2011 & 2012

Talk about an overdue review!

I posted less in 2011 and even less in 2012.

There was reflection on Blessings and a reminder to Reach Out.  A trip down memory lane with my Nostalgic Work Journey and given that 2011 was a sunnier year than last; A Few Petals From The Garden. Ramadan came and a treat for my Manager's Diary. The year ended On Marriage, thanks to my 28 respondents it helped me as I tied the knot.

Then came 2012 and I blogged just twice - my record low!

5 Ways to Maximise Ramadan was the ice-breaker and sadly the loss of a good friend Pauline Hurd.

It was a year filled with change on so many levels. I have many things I want to share but for one reason or another I have not had the opportunity. Let us see what 2013 brings.

Peace to all.

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Sunday, December 02, 2012

 

Farewell Pauline Hurd - Hameeda

As I was scrolling through my FB notifications yesterday I came across an event.

I was a little perturbed and logged into my email account to check for the surname of my own friend, Pauline. Inna Lila Hi Wa Inna Ilai Hi Rajeun - From God Almighty we come and to Him is our return.

I met Pauline in 2005 through a mutual friend and since then we became friends. We attended a number of events together and Pauline was such a joyful character to travel with. We met whilst I was on sick-leave from work and her warmth and caring words would fill me with a sense of hope. Pauline herself had Lupus and spoke about wanting to do an awareness day with us young ones about it some day.

As the years passed and my health started to get better, I had to get back on track with career. I still remember Pauline telling me how important it was to ensure I got my expenses paid if I volunteered somewhere. She really looked out for me and gave me good advice.

One day during a telephone conversation for some reason I was a little down and she said:

In the Caribbean we have a saying which goes:

What is meant to be for you - can't not be for you.

I scribbled it down at the back of an envelope and kept it on my desk to remind me - it gave me so much strength.
Pauline had some cards painted by me. We infused my 'Finding God' theme into the colours of the Jamaican flag: green, yellow and black. She told me to make her a few and that she would sell them too. She always tried to help me in whatever way she could.

My last contact with Pauline was in March this year. I had misplaced her number and thus had not been in touch with her. At the same time, there was a friend who wanted to get in touch with a marriage counsellor: one of Pauline's friend. I emailed her requesting both her and her friend's number, ending the email with the following:

Btw I am married ;-)

Pauline replied with:

Alhamdulilah BTW I'm married lol, what a statement.

 My husband saw one of her emails and said he really liked her closing email signature which she had set as:


"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him"


I called Pauline but she was busy, she emailed me to tell me she had been busy all day and had a cold. Little did I realise that this would be our last contact.

I feel very sad that our joyful friend has gone and that myself and my friend will be amongst many who will no longer be able to hear her cheerful voice. I still feel in shock but I am happy that Pauline was able to perform her pilgrimage before her departure. As my friend said this evening: "Now we know someone whose buried in Mecca!"
//

A memorial service to honour Pauline Hurd will be held on Saturday 8th December 2012 at the Drum, Potters Lane, Aston, Birmingham B6 4UU. The memorial service will begin at 2.00pm and finish at 18.00 hours.

Pauline died on Sunday 21st October 2012 having completed the Umrah during her pilgrimage to Mekkah, Saudi Arabia.

Pauline had a real passion for community, championing the cause for the marginalised and those with ‘no voice’, particularly young people. Those who know Pauline loved her zest for life, her vision and the dedication she showed in what she believed in.

Pauline had worked in Birmingham in areas such as housing, regeneration and community development for many years.  Latterly, she was particularly focused on issues around access to community resources and community safety.  She also volunteered on a number of committees related to community safety and justice.

Pauline leaves behind her elderly mother, her two beloved sons, her grandchildren, daughters in law, sisters, brothers, her nieces, nephews, extended family and last but not least her community family.

This memorial is in recognition of the love that her family and the community had for Pauline and for her contribution to the development and well-being of the community.

The community have asked that a bench be commissioned to commemorate Pauline’s contributions. Donations are welcomed and will go towards this lasting tribute.

For further details please contact:

Camille E Ade-John

Mobile: 07983 581 994

camille@cvwm.org

Cllr Paulette Hamilton

Mobile: 0787 8437 661

Facebook Page


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Friday, July 27, 2012

 

5 Ways To Maximise Ramadan By Serving Others

There is a wealth of material online which can help provide many ideas on making your Ramadan spiritually more uplifting. My piece here is a tiny addition to all the wonderful stuff that is out there.




Many people cannot fast. There is a whole catergory of individuals who do not fast and this is available through the links above. When we generally think of an individual who cannot fast due to health reasons who do we think of? Someone in a hospital bed with machines all over them? A diabetic? Or someone with kidney failure? Or someone receiving chemotherapy? It seems that some of us think that you must be quite poorly (physically) to be considered exempt from fasting. However, the wisdom in Tradition allows a whole host of different illnesses to be considered valid conditions for not fasting. Sometimes fasting may be delayed until the individual is feeling better, but other times the individual may have a continuous health condition meaning they will not make up those fasts.









Some people who are not fasting may appear healthy-looking with a lot of energy but removal of food and drink would not be conducive to their wellbeing. It is important never to question the sincerity of an individual who is not fasting, for that is between them and God Almighty.

The Tradition teaches us that the Prophet Alaislam was the most kindest person and he was even more generous in Ramadan. Serving others is one unique way in incorporating this characteristic into our lives. Here are some things you may wish to consider if you are not fasting to help maximise your day:






1. Housework

Helping an individual who is fasting can really be appreciated, especially given the length of the current fasts. Help with housework chores including cleaning and preparing food can go a long way. This would be particularly welcomed prior to the end of Ramadan when Eid preparations begin and the house can do with a good ole scrub!







2. Clear out

I have written before about doing clear-outs for charity here. It really is a fantastic way to combine both helping others aswell as letting go of possessions and taking a few steps towards freeing yourself from material chains. 






3. Child minding

As more children are on holidays this Ramadan, this can cause additional work for families in terms of feeding them and keeping an eye on them. Children can consume more energy in the holiday season because they get bored so easily and are always on the look-out for fun activities. You can volunteer your time to assist in this process by spending some time with children on a worthwhile activity. 






4. Gardening

People who have gardens to take care of will know how keeping on top of it all can require a considerable amount of time and energy. Weeding itself can be very time-consuming. With all the rainfall we have had, many people's gardens have not maintained a good shape. Helping someone with regular maintenance (even a few hours per week) can contribute significantly in reducing the workload they have. If you know of people with allotments, then you can volunteer to assist with that too. Gardening in the summer can be very testing as the heat can cause dehydration - a fasting individual would be unable to have regular drink breaks. Any help therefore would be great.






5. Shopping

Who enjoys shopping on an empty stomach? We don’t but we must get in essentials! Helping someone by doing their shopping for them can save them valuable energy, time and unnecessary queing!





So there you have it, a few things you can do in Ramadan to attain goodness through your service to others!




Ramadan Blessings!

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Monday, September 26, 2011

 

On Marriage

I have been thinking about writing about marriage for a year or so now. This has been in the backdrop of a number of people I know either undergoing divorce or being separated.

There is no doubt that the number of resources on marriage have increased and diversified to address this issue in our communities. It is therefore hoped that this piece will add to the resource bank on marriage that already exists.

I decided to approach married friends to ask them what they thought were the two qualities which they have found to be the most important in making their marriage work, progress and be a means of positive growth for them. I received 28 responses from friends and their spouses. The responses are categorised by gender to help readers understand the ‘other’.

The respondents come from various backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, age, location, class and profession. Some have been married over two years and others over two decades. All respondents are Muslim. I am indebted to everyone for their contribution and honest insights and hope that this benefits all.


Last year I asked my Christian colleague who has been married for almost three decades to tell me what he thought was the secret of a long-lasting marriage. He replied with a simple message: If we can have a good relationship with God Almighty, we will find that we have a good relationship with our spouse (and everyone else).


Of course you will find many words repeat themselves here but I hope it will highlight the importance of those qualities and hopefully motivate us all to work towards developing them in our relationships. Enjoy!


WOMEN

Respondent 1:

1. Communication
2. Forgiveness
3. Appreciation

I had to add the third although you asked for two. I've found the above three things to be equally intrinsic to a healthy marital relationship.

Communication is the basis of any relationship, and helps build friendship, trust and intimacy with one's spouse.

Forgiveness is essential because we have to realise that we're not perfect and nor is the other person. If we can't forgive each other our shortcomings, mistakes or even at times a real emotional injury, how can we sustain a relationship? Sometimes we wrong those we love or they wrong us, if we're to have lasting relationships we have to forgive and continue building or rebuilding the relationship.

Appreciation keeps one grounded in the reality of the blessings one has. It prevents satan from creating boredom, distance, resentment, or other negative feelings in the relationship. It's so easy to take for granted what we have. In the same way children can - as youngsters especially - take their parents and all they do for them for granted, I think there is a danger of this happening in marriage too. Appreciating the other person and what they do for you etc can help keep bonds of love strong.


Respondent 2:

1. Trust / reliability
2. Friendship


Respondent 3:

1. Patience and a mother with good morals and values, whose always taught me from right to wrong and again brought me back to that very word – sabr (patience).
Reality is, I confide in her and only her, I know her advice will be selfless and unconditional, she has foresight which only comes with her experience and the authority to make me listen to that advice because she's my 'mum'.

2. Second quality - is doing things for the sake of Allah, often I remind myself when in difficult situations, what is the purpose of my marriage?? Who in reality am I pleasing: Allah or husband? By making him smile, in essence I have made my Creator smile.. It makes everything so easy

Why are there so many failed marriages around us, I often ask myself, what are my husband and I doing that works???
In answer, we’re best friends, we talk, we work things out, we don't shout and scream - yes disagree respectfully...
Take into consideration each other’s feelings...
Respect one another...


Respondent 4:

1. Listening and Understanding - try and see it from the other person’s perspective and taking their feelings and thoughts, into account, understanding that marriage is about the two of you not just you.
2. Patience and Communication are vital.


Respondent 5:

1. Mutual love
2. Mutual respect

It didn't require much thinking! And meant to say that my dear dear grannie used to say NEVER GO TO SLEEP CROSS WITH EACH OTHER!!!!


Respondent 6:

1. Caring concern
2. Appreciation


Respondent 7:

I would say that for the other half and myself, listening to each other is the most important thing - i.e. good, honest communication.

Second is to make time for doing things together (even if for a short while) that isn't related to chores or work. There's always a danger that the responsibilities take over, and you never unwind and relax in each other's company.


Respondent 8:

1. Respect
2. Patience


Respondent 9:

The two important qualities that I would classify as essential are:

1. Listening
2. Talking

Now this may sound so simple and to be honest it is, however, in order for you to do these two actions you are facing other challenges, such as swallowing pride, admitting you’re wrong, becoming humble and being completely exposed.

Listening, all you have to do is be quiet...BUT we have a tendency to interject or make our point or just flatly ignore what the other person is saying because we think they are wrong. However listening helps us see a whole new perspective it helps us understand where our partner is coming from. It creates respect and love because we have given time and been given access to go into and explore the beautiful mind of our other half.....as we are not mind readers. So why would we deny ourselves of such treasure.

Talking, if we can talk to our partner about our needs, wants, dreams, passions, then what else do we need. I find that if a husband and wife are not able to communicate then they will feel a void, a need to express themselves to another person, whilst they are just going through the motions of life with their partner. What is the point if your spouse cannot be your friend as well. Through discussion you can plan together a life that is more fruitful and help each other on the mission to God.

There are other things I could mention but these two are definitely my top priory because we know that communication is the birth of any action.


Respondent 10:

1. Trust
2. Communication


Respondent 11:

1. Trusting each other in every matter

2. Having made a decision to follow the Islamic way of life, so there is no conflict. Before we made this decision there was a lot of conflict between us due to cultural and extended family pressures.


Respondent 12:

1. Patience - think twice before accusing / criticising / complaining.
2. Say Salam (Greeting) with a smile when you leave each other / see each other everyday.


Respondent 13:

… there are two things that my marriage has lacked to a great extent and I would advice all married people to make these two things part of their lives:

1. Communication
Communication is the most important thing if one wants to make a marriage work. Talk to one another about anything and everything. Tell each other how your day was; tell one another what you’re thinking and feeling, and just be open and honest with one another. That is the best way to not only get to know one another but also to build a good understanding and appreciation of one another.

2. Make decisions together
This is so important. No matter what the decision is: big or small, make that decision as a couple because you should both be happy with what's going on and what's gonna happen.


Respondent 14:

1. Trust
2. Acceptance

(Ultimately good character flows through the above two qualities when they are being used / tested. If good character wasn't present when trust and acceptance is being tested, then think we would have broken up by now).


Respondent 15:

1. Most important thing for me is communication... being able to talk about a situation that may be bothering me or my husband and getting it out in the open. Once that's done you have cleared the issue or problem or blockage and can move on to the next task.

2. Spending real quality time together. Having some down time, the reason why you got together in the first place was because you displayed the character of "you". The man or woman you were before you got together was obviously endearing and so marriage should not be the reason why that character gets lost...


Respondent 16:

Ability to:

1. Communicate
2. Compromise


Respondent 17:

1. Patience
2. Self-sacrifice



Respondent 18

1.Communication
2. Trust

1. I believe it is very important for spouses to remain open and engaged with each other and to talk and listen to each others views, opinions, general feelings and even day to day talk about how their day was etc. This keeps the couple close and also prevents bad feelings being bottled up.

2. Trust is also key to a relationship, spouses do not need to live in each others pockets, they should both lead their own lives, have their own friends and trust each other with their wordly affairs. They should be able to condife in each other with trust.


Respondent 19:

After some consultation, my good lady and I came up with:

1. Acceptance of the other as they are, and willingness to be flexible and not rigid (being willing to sometimes sacrifice what I am for what he/she is).

2. Patience.


MEN

Respondent 20:

Marriage much like the alchemy of happiness is a complex but wonderful mix of many different ingredients and components.

What makes a marriage work on a Monday could result in it becoming vulnerable on a Thursday.

I was asked to consider two qualities I thought would be important in a marriage, I should point out that the two qualities I've highlighted today may not be the same as what I may have said next week if I was asked the question then. Relationships never follow linear routes, marriage may be seen as conventional and traditional but it is anything but on a day to day basis as you face the many different challenges and blessings thrown your way.

Marriage like eman (faith) fluctuates requiring lessons and inspirations to be drawn from different components of it’s fabric and DNA, in much the same way that we call upon Allah in our time of need by His different Names and Attributes according to our need and our circumstances of the time.

A marriage without trust is like a sea without water or a religion without prayer. Trust is the foundation of any marriage representing an unspoken contract that if not breached will be the glue that holds a relationship together. Where there is doubt there is human failing, where there is trust there is success that comes from the strength of the other.

Eman (faith) is also a key component of a successful marriage. A good marriage will strengthen one's faith and strong faith will strengthen a marriage: they are as complimentary as the Quran and the Sunnah. Strength in the deen (religion) comes from having compassion and a strong marriage requires compassion and understanding of the other. Through compassion we learn forgiveness and acceptance of both our own and our partner's shortcomings. It is a virtue that too often can be breached despite one's best intentions and when we lose compassion we find the destructive ability to inflict hurt to those we love.

May Allah make us of those who are compassionate and understanding and not of those who desire to judge or harm.


Respondent 21:

1. That which engages the soul.
2. That which engages the body.


Respondent 22:

1. Abiding by the rules of Allah Ta'ala and the ways of the Prophet (Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasallam)

2. Realising each marriage brings it's own unique qualities...fun, laughter, sharing


Respondent 23:

1. Upholding good character, especially restraining negative emotions and negative words.

2. Mercy and concern for one's spouse

… both, for the sake of Allah, seeking Allah therein and thereby.


Respondent 24:

1. Patient
2. Forgiving


Respondent 25:

1. Mutual respect for each others family.
2. Concern for each others aakhirat (Hereafter).

Cause I'm sure girly stuff like love, trust, flowers will be already mentioned by others.


Respondent 26:

1. Space for each others growth and expression. Acceptance of difference.
2 Mutual and deep understanding of each other.


Respondent 27:

1. Tolerance
2. Forgiveness




Respondent 28:

My wife's - and I agree:

1. To trust each other
2. To be friends with each other

Both can take time.

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