Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Lailatul Qadr

“Verily! We have sent it (Al-Quran) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree), And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is? The night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months. Therein descend the angels and the Ruh [Jibrael (Gabriel)] by Allah's Permission with all Decrees, Peace! (All that night, there is Peace and Goodness from Allah to His believing slaves) until the appearance of dawn.”

(Al-Qadr 97:1 - 5)

Therefore, worshipping Allah in that night is better than worshipping Him a thousand months! Which is about 83 years and 4 months! This is probably longer then most of us will even live! So which of us will be crazy enough to waste this opportunity?

When is the Night?

Narrated Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her): Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) said,

"Search for the Night of Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan."

[Saheeh Bukhaari, Volume 3, Book 32, Number 234]

Therefore, it could be 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th. Some narrations indicate its on the last seven days and others say 27th. However, its best to seek it on all the odd nights (only 5 days!) and perhaps you will be rewarded for a lifetime!
One thing to note, we start our nights at maghrib. So, say today is the 20th fast. However, the prayer of tonite is the 21st. If you recall, we startd taraweeh the night before fasting. Also, when the moon is sighted at the end, we dont pray taraweeh the night before Eid.

Narrated Aboo Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

"Whoever fasted the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith (i.e. belief) and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his past sins will be forgiven, and whoever stood for the prayers in the night of Qadr out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven ."

[Saheeh Bukhaari, Volume 3, Book 32, Number 231]

Make Dua

Remember, ask for whatever you wish, but dont forget to say for forgiveness, because the last place we all want to end up is in Hell.  Just in case you're not sure what to ask for:

• Forgiveness for yourself, your family and the whole muslim nation (ummah)

• Guidance to the straight path

• Purification of mind, body and soul

• Knowledge of the religion

• Wisdom

• The best of the world and the next

• A righteous spouse

• Paradise

Dont ask for worldly things like long life, more money, job promotion, etc because all of this has already been apportioned for you and it cannot be changed.

As for those of who you may not be able to pray, you should recite Quran instead. Quran can be recited in any state, according to the strongest opinion, so don't follow the views of those who dont know! Allah would not restrict the Quran to certain people and certain times only!! So recite Quran, perhaps recite a soorah that you love and read its translation. Or you can read other stuff like islamic articles, or some of the stories of the Prophets, or even ahadeeth. The point is to do something good. and after that, make your Dua sincerely.

Be consistent

Its only 5 nights, don't waste them. Repeat the same thing every night. Anyone and everyone who trys to distract you in these nights, are no doubt soldiers of shaytaan. Any friends who ask you to go out on this night, are the ones that will lead you to Hell. So take heed of your actions and Fear Allah in all you do.

Remember..this might be your last Ramadaan! The last thing you want is to be in your grave, regretting not being a better Muslim in this life. Once you die, your judgment starts and there is no returning back!

JazakAllahu khairan kathira to Imran Ayub for sharing this with me.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

London beige his lollibum...

Baby porcupine was singing softly to herself one evening.

"London beige his lollibum...
London beige his lollibum...
Ma fair bebey"

I was stunned at my seat.
 She was singing her very own version of "London bridge"


It sounds terribly funny!

And awful!

*sigh and slap forehead*

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Precious moment in life...

This was taken 2 years ago. From left at the back row, my brother Mohamad Fadzil, my husband Mohamad Salini, my nephew Mior Azam, his father, Mior Azmi, my brother Mohamad Farid and his wife Najwa. In front of Farid is my son, Muhammad Irfan. Sitting in the middle is my mom. On her left is my sister, Nor Shaida and myself. On mom's right is my sister Norlina and my sis-in-law, Azlina. Front row occupied by happy children, left to right: Aida Amani, Muhammad Amar, Aliya Irdina, Amirah Izzati and Yang Azizah. Sadly, my youngest brother, Muhammad Firdaus was not in the picture. He was working double shift and could not join us. May Allah ease his burden in life. Ameen.

I am so looking forward to meeting my family this coming Eid Mubarak. Masya-Allah! I missed them so much! I pray I'll still be given the opportunity to reunite them this year. Ameen.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A powerful dua

“And remember Dzhu-n-Nun, when he departed in wrath. He imagined that We have no power over him! But he cried through the depths of darkness: “There is no god but You; Glory to You; I was indeed wrong!” (87)

So We listen to him. And delivered him from his distress. And thus do We deliver those who have faith. (88)

SURAH AL-ANBIYA’(21):87-88

A few days before we welcome the sacred month of Ramadhan, I experienced great pain in my mouth. It was a terrible toothache. At first I thought perhaps there’s food stuck in a hole inside the tooth that caused pain. I’ve tried to remove whatever that I thought was the cause of pain, but yet still it won’t go away. I took some painkiller, but it didn’t work. Since Ramadhan was approaching, I decided to go see our family dentist and let her investigate.

To my surprise, she told me the cause of my severe pain was coming from a wisdom tooth that tried to emerge but did not manage to come out properly in full. In other word, half of the tooth has surfaced, but the other half was still deep inside the gum. Judging from the improper positioning of the tooth, the dentist predicted that it’s going to be a very, very slow process and that I’d be suffering along the way. Ouch! It hurt so much, even to hear the dentist explained that to me. Well, who would have guessed at the age of 38 I still grow tooth??!?

She recommended extraction of the tooth.

Of course I was nervous about it. I can’t sleep. I can’t concentrate on my study. I can’t even smile properly (that’s my husband’s observation on me!). The next appointment was a day before our first fasting. I then made up my mind to get rid of the tooth.

I thought my problem would be solved that very day. Obviously I was wrong. It was a strong, healthy tooth I tried to pull out, so it didn’t even budge a bit! Astaghfirullah hal‘azim!

“Your body is so stiff! If you don’t relax, I’ll never be able to pull out the tooth!!”

What!!! The dentist blamed it on me? Oh! Pity me!

So the first attempt failed. The tooth hurt even more now. I was badly bleeding. The dentist told me to go home. She prescribed a medicine to reduce the swollen gum and set another appointment for me.

I was sad and disappointed. So was my husband. I called my mother and told her about the toothache.

She suggested me a dua to recite continuously.

She said it is a powerful dua.

"La ila ha illa anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimeen"

So what's the story behind this ayat?

Our prophet Muhammad (Salallahu alaihi wasallam) said in the hadith recorded by At-Tirmidzi and others:

“The invocation of my brother Dzhu-n-Nun: None has the right to be worshipped save You; Glory be to You, far removed are You from any imperfection; I have been amongst the wrong-doers. None who is experiencing difficulty employs it except that Allah SWT would relieve him of his difficulty.”

The dua is actually taken from Surah Al-Anbiya’ (21:87). The story behind this powerful ayat is about Prophet Yunus (‘alaihis-salam) who was sent to the people of Nineveh (which was a city where the modern-day Iraqi city of Mosul is). Prophet Yunus preached the message of Allah to these people for a very long time, but they did not respond well to his call. When he felt that his preaching was not going to make them change their ways, he took off in anger. He boarded a ship filled with other passengers. After some time, the ship ran into a storm. The people on the ship cast lots, with the idea that the person whose name shows up should be thrown overboard. The name of Prophet Yunus (alaihis-salam) came up in the drawing three times, after which he threw himself into the sea. Allah commanded a huge fish to swallow Prophet Yunus (alaihis-salam) without hurting him or breaking his bones. Prophet Yunus (alaihis-salam) realized that he had made a mistake by leaving his town and its people without the permission of Allah. This was why he was now imprisoned in this strange way in the belly of a fish in the depths of the ocean.

Upon realizing his error, he repented sincerely to Allah, and called out to his Lord in the following words:

“La ila ha illa anta subhanaka inni kuntu minaz-zalimeen”
(There is no God but You, Glorified be You! Truly, I have been of the wrongdoers).

Allah was so pleased with his repentance that He brought Prophet Yunus (alaihis-salam) out from the darkness of the fish’s belly, and the fish threw Prophet Yunus (alaihis-salam) on a flat and plain shore. The supplication that Prophet Yunus (alaihis-salam) made was loved so much by Allah that it not only earned him his release, but is recorded in the Qur’an and was praised by the last of the Messengers, our Prophet Muhammad (sall-Allahu alaihi wasallam). This is one good example that shows the benefits of repentance (that is, apologizing to Allah about one’s mistake or error) by reciting the dua repetitively.

Sa’d ibn Waqas reported that our Prophet Muhammad (sall-Allahu alaihi wasallam) said,

“The supplication made by the Companion of the Fish (Prophet Yunus) in the belly of the fish was, La ilaha illa anta, subhanaka, inni kuntu minaz-zalimeen (there is no god but You, You are far exalted and above all weaknesses, and I was indeed the wrongdoer). If any Muslim supplicates in these words, his supplication will be accepted.”


Three days later I came back to see the dentist. From the very moment I left home, I kept reciting the dua of Prophet Yunus (alaihis-salam) non-stop in my heart. I prayed this time the tooth will come out.

Masya-Allah! It took less than half an hour to extract the tooth, painlessly, compared to the first attempt of almost an hour or so.

“That’s how you do it!” the dentist smiled at me when everything was over. I tried to smile back, but it felt awkward with this bulging cheek of mine. In my heart, I kept saying thanks to Allah for making the task easy. Alhamdulillah.

It IS indeed a POWERFUL dua.

Now I am sharing this with all of you. If you are in pain, if you feel hurt, or if you are miserable, stressed up, sad, angry or disappointed, then recite this powerful dua and leave everything in God’s hands. SubhanAllah. He is the Almighty. He will listen to you. Insya-Allah.

Note: For picture and ayats, credits to IslamiCity and Asim Imam. JazakAllahu khairan kathira

Friday, 20 August 2010

Mornin' quickie

Mother's Day is way over, but just thought I'd share this with you. (Credits to the original author, whom I can't trace. JazakAllahu khairan kathira)

A young child walked up to her mother and stared at her hair.

As mother scrubbed on the dishes, the girl cleared her throat and sweetly asked;

"Why do you have some grey strands in your hair?"

The mother paused and looked at her daughter.

"Every time you disobey, I get one strand of grey hair.

If you want me to stay pretty, you better obey."

The mother quickly returned to her task of washing dishes.

The little girl stood there thinking.

She cleared her throat again.

"Mother?" She sweetly asked again.

"Yes?" her Mother replied.

"Why is Grandma's hair ALL grey?"

Hahaha...! If you were the mom, what would be your answer then?

Have you called / talked to your mom today?  Have a nice fasting and take care!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Let's not forget them in our duas

The University of Malaya is organising a talk on "A moment with Palestine" by Associate Professor Dr. Hafidzi Mohd Noor, followed by iftar tomorrow at the madrasah of Academy of Islamic Studies. Alhamdulillah.

In time when we are thinking about what to choose for iftar from massive variety of food available, let us not forget how our brothers and sisters are suffering from hunger and pain and trying to survive in Palestine not only during Ramadhan but at every moment in their lives. Let's make dua for them that Allah protect them from harm and evil and give them strength to continue fighting for their rights. Ameen.

My heart will always be with them.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Missing her dearly...

My husband received a phone call from a relative informing that an auntie of his was admitted to the hospital due to 'unexplained' complication in herself. When asked what sort of complication, he shrugged his shoulder and said, "She talked to herself non-stop".

So we hurriedly went to the hospital to visit her. That was at about 4.30pm and it was raining outside. When we reached the hospital, my husband dropped me off at the lobby and told me to wait for him inside while he find a parking space. There were many people who took shelter from the rain at the lobby. Voices of children crying can be heard amongst the conversations of adults. I proceeded to the elevator area and waited for my husband there.

I waited for about 15 minutes then. I understood it wasn't easy to find an empty space during visiting hours, especially on weekends. Three elevators busily transported commuters to their desired levels. As I watched the people nonchalantly, the elevator in the middle opened its door and people started flowing out. That was when I caught a glimpse of a person very familiar to me. When her eyes met mine, I was dumbfounded. Heat rushed to my face. I felt as if my heart stopped beating for some good few seconds before I struggled for air. She was still standing amongst other people in the elevator, looking at me, when the door closed again. The moment she completely disappeared, tears were falling down my cheek. I couldn't help myself from crying.

"What's wrong?" My husband touched my shoulder. He has just arrived from the parking lot.

"I saw my sister" I tried to hide my face from the public and also from my husband. I didn't want anyone to see me crying.


"Hafiza. I saw Hafiza just now. In the elevator." It was too strange for me to mention her name. As a matter of fact, it was also strange for my husband to hear her name coming out from my mouth. For a while he stood quietly in front of me, not knowing what to do. Later he took my hands and squeezed it gently.

"Let her go, dear. Allah loves her more than we do."

I wiped my redden face with a tissue he gave me, took a deep breath, looked up straight and tried to smile.

"Shall we go now?" I pulled my husband who was still staring at me. He nodded and led the way.

As I walked down the hallway, I didn't dare look at the faces of the people that passed in front of me. I was scared I would meet the familiar gaze again. Hafiza left us all four years ago in February. She was heavily 9 months pregnant when she passed away peacefully in my mother's arms. Until today, we never knew what was the cause of death. She went away with her unborn baby girl, never had the chance to say goodbye to all of us. She was an obedient daughter, my best sister, a faithful wife and a dedicated software engineer. I missed her so much that it hurts inside when I think of her.

May Allah bless her soul. Ameen.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Things to avoid during Ramadhan

These are common  mistakes we normally make in Ramadhan. I post this as a reminder to myself and to all my friends out there. Let's make sure not to repeat the same mistakes again this year, Insya-Allah.

May all our ibadahs be accepted as complete by Allah S.W.T. Ameen.

Taking Ramadhan as a ritual

Come Ramadhan, we refrain ourselves from food and drink, but we fail to increase our ibadah and dua. We fast only because everyone around us is fasting too. In other words, Ramadhan becomes more of a ritual than a form of ibadah.

Distraction from ibadah

Some of us automatically link up the month of Ramadhan with activities related to food. We spend the day planning, cooking, shopping and thinking about only food, instead of concentrating on prayers, reading Qur’an and other acts of worship. We make sure our tables are full with varieties of food, sweets and drinks. This is the month of mercy and forgiveness. So turn off that stove and turn on your Imaan!

".....and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifoon (those who waste by extravagance)"
[al-Araaf :31]

Sleeping all day

Some of us spend the entire day (or a major part of it) sleeping. We move less for fear we’ll be exhausted at the end of the day. We miss the purpose of fasting and are slaves to their desires of comfort and ease. If this is how we spend our days in Ramadhan, we get nothing but negligence on our part!

Wasting time

We tend to waste our time watching TV, playing video games or listening to the music, as if this is another ordinary month. The month of Ramadhan is precious, for it is the month of Allah Almighty. Before we know it, this month of mercy and forgiveness will be over. We should try and spend every moment possible in the worship of Allah so that we can make the most of this blessing.

Skipping sahoor

Because we ate too much at iftaar, we feel too exhausted and sleepy, our stomachs are full and therefore reluctant to get out of bed for sahoor.

The Prophet (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said: 
"Eat sahoor, for in sahoor there is blessing." (Bukhaari, Muslim).

And he (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:
"The thing that differentiates between our fasting and the fasting of the People of the Book is eating sahoor." (Muslim)

Not fasting if we missed sahoor

What is the big deal if we missed a few morsels of food? It is not like we are going to die. Remember, obedience to Allah overcomes everything.

Organizing iftaar ceremonies

Although inviting each other for breaking fast is something good and encouraged, we sometimes go too extreme, with lavish Iftaar parties that cause disobedience to Allah, from flirting, mixing of the sexes, hiiab-less women, showing-off and extravagance and music, that we do not regard our prayer and dua seriously.

Delaying breaking fast

Some of us wait until the adhaan finishes or even several minutes after that to break fast. However, the Sunnah is to hasten to break the fast, which means breaking fast whenever the adhaan starts, right after the sun has set.

Aishah (RA) said:
“This is what the Messenger of Allah (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) used to do”. (Muslim)

The Prophet (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:
"The people will continue to do well so long as they hasten to break the fast." (Bukhaari, Muslim)

Eating too much

Some of us eat too much during sahoor, because we think this way will not make us go hungry during the day. And some of us eat too much at iftaar, as if we’ve not eaten anything at all for months. Why? This is completely against the sunnah of our beloved prophet Muhammad Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam! Eating too much will only distract us from ibadah, makes us feel lazy and heavy and also makes the heart heedless.

The Prophet (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:
"The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach; for the son of Adam a few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight. If you must fill it, then one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air." (Tirmidhi, Ibn Maajah. saheeh by al-Albaani).

Eating continuously until the time for Maghrib is up

The sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) was to break his fast with some dates, then hasten to the Maghrib prayer. As for us, we tend to put so much food in our plates when breaking our fast and continue eating, enjoying dessert, sipping nice drinks, and so on until we miss Maghrib. Why can’t we follow the sunnah? Once done with the prayer, we can always go back and eat more as we wish.

Missing the golden chance of having our dua accepted

The prayer of the fasting person is guaranteed to be accepted at the time of breaking fast.

The Prophet (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:
"Three prayers are not rejected: the prayer of a father, the prayer of a fasting person, and the prayer of a traveler." (al-Bayhaqi, saheeh by al-Albaani).

Instead of sitting down and making dua at this precious time, some of us forego this beautiful chance, and are too busy eating, talking, and drinking. Think about it....Is food more important than the chance to have our sins forgiven or the fulfillment of our duas?

Fasting, but not praying

The fasting of one who does not pray WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED because not praying constitutes kufr.

The Prophet (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:
"Between a man and shirk and kufr there stands his giving up prayer." (Muslim). In fact, NONE of his good deeds will be accepted; rather, they are all annulled.

Fasting but not giving up evil

Why fast when we can’t give up lying, cursing, fighting, backbiting, cheating, stealing, dealing in haram activities, gambling, selling alcohol, fornication, etc. Have we forgotten that the purpose of fasting is to not only stay away from food and drink, rather the main aim behind it is to fear Allah?

The Prophet (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:
"Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, and ignorance, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drink." (Bukhaari)

Fasting, but not wearing hijab

As we all know, not wearing the hijab is one of the major sins in Islam as it is obligatory for Muslim women. So if we fast but at the same time we do not wear hijab, certainly an enormous reward of fasting will be taken away from us.

Mixing fasting and dieting

Oh dear sisters! DO NOT make the mistake of fasting with the intention to diet. That is one of the biggest mistakes some of us make. Fasting is an act of worship and can only be for the sake of Allah alone.

Wasting the last part of Ramadhan preparing for Eid

This is common all over the world. We tend to waste the last 10 days of Ramadhan preparing for Eid, shopping and frequenting malls, etc. neglecting our ibadah and the Lailatul Qadr. Buy whatever you need for Eid before Ramadhan so that you can utilize the time in Ramadhan to the fullest.

Aishah (RA) said:
“When the (last) ten nights began, the Messenger of Allah (Sal Allahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam)) would tighten his waist-wrapper (i.e., strive hard in worship or refrain from intimacy with his wives), stay awake at night and wake his family.” (Bukhaari and Muslim).

I would like to thank Al-ustaz Adil ibn Manzoor Khan for sharing this with me. JazakAllahu khairan.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The virtue of Ramadhan


Narrated Talha bin 'Ubaid-Ullah (may Allah be pleased with him):
A bedouin with unkempt hair came to Muhammad S.A.W. and said,
"O Allah's Apostle! Inform me what Allah has made compulsory for me as regards the prayers."
He replied: "You have to offer perfectly the five compulsory prayers in a day and night (24 hours), unless you want to pray Nawafil."
The bedouin further asked, "Inform me what Allah has made compulsory for me as regards fasting."
He replied, "You have to fast during the whole month of Ramadan, unless you want to fast more as Nawafil."
The Bedouin further asked, "Tell me how much Zakat Allah has enjoined on me."
Thus, Muhammad S.A.W. informed him about all the rules (i.e. fundamentals) of Islam.
The bedouin then said, "By Him Who has honoured you, I will neither perform any Nawafil nor will I decrease what Allah has enjoined on me".
Muhammad S.A.W. said, "If he is saying the truth, he will succeed (or he will be granted Paradise)."

Saheeh Bukhaari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 115; Saheeh Muslim, Book 001, Number 0007

Narrated Aboo Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him):
Muhammad S.A.W. said,
"Allah said, 'All the deeds of Adam's sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.' Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, 'I am fasting.' By Him in Whose Hands my soul is' The unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting"

(Agreed Upon); Saheeh Bukhaari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 128; Saheeh Muslim, Book 006, Number 2566

Narrated Aboo Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him):
Allah's Apostle S.A.W. said,
"By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allaah than the smell of musk. (Allah says about the fasting person), 'He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times."

Saheeh Bukhaari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 118

*Pictures all taken from Microsoft

Saturday, 7 August 2010

University of Malaya - Convocation 2010

The grand hall where history is made every year

This week from 2nd August to 7th August witnessed some few thousands of students of University of Malaya graduated and received their scrolls. Alhamdulillah, we are proud to continuously produce doctors, engineers, educators, chemists, town planners, lawyers, auditors and other professionals, for more than a hundred years now since the establishment of University of Malaya in 1905.

There was this strange feelings inside me when I joined my ex-students on their graduation day. I mean, well.. I taught them Financial Accounting and Reporting subjects last four years and here they were, celebrating their graduation day when I am still struggling to complete my study! Anyway, I believe Allah knows what is best for me. I've worked hard all this while and will double the effort so that next year, my turn will come to walk on stage and receive my scroll. Insya-Allah. Please pray for me, dear friends.

I have snapped several pictures to share this joyful event with you. As you know, I only have my Nokia N70 in hand, so please forgive me if the quality of the pictures are bad. Enjoy!

Families travelled from near and far to celebrate this long awaited moment. Congratulations to all students on your victories.

I am sure the parents are happy for their children

Masya-Allah, she is so sweet. Congratulations, dear sister!

To ensure everything runs smoothly, he turned to be the busiest person!

May Allah bless you always, dear sister.
Working environment will be a new test ground for you.

Come with me! Let's visit the souvenier stalls!

I took the opportunity to check on some clothes at the temporary
bazaar in conjunction with the convocation

Masya-Allah, beautiful modern hijabs are up for grab at very low prices

More hijabs with latest design. Adorable.

Long, full covering, loose shirts designed specially for muslimahs.

Wordings written on one of the muslimah shirt

Malaysian women's national dress - the baju kurung

Tiny-miny dolls as key chain....

Many gifts to choose for beloved ones on their graduation day

Flower bouquet will always be a favourite gift

....and teddy bears too...!

All Winnie the Poohs in the world graduate today! hahaha...!

I spent only two precious hours at the carnival before rushing back to the office. Rain was coming. Just exactly when I reached the office building, it rained heavily. I pray all the people at the convocation carnival managed to seek for shelter somewhere and that they didn't get wet on this day when another history is made.


I'm happy for all. Alhamdulillah.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Excited to welcome Ramadhan again...!

Bikini or headscarf -- which offers more freedom?

Krista Bremer and her daughter, Aliya

Nine years ago, I danced my newborn daughter around my North Carolina living room to the music of "Free to Be...You and Me", the '70s children's classic whose every lyric about tolerance and gender equality I had memorized as a girl growing up in California.

My Libyan-born husband, Ismail, sat with her for hours on our screened porch, swaying back and forth on a creaky metal rocker and singing old Arabic folk songs, and took her to a Muslim sheikh who chanted a prayer for long life into her tiny, velvety ear.

She had espresso eyes and lush black lashes like her father's, and her milky-brown skin darkened quickly in the summer sun. We named her Aliya, which means "exalted" in Arabic, and agreed we would raise her to choose what she identified with most from our dramatically different backgrounds.

I secretly felt smug about this agreement -- confident that she would favor my comfortable American lifestyle over his modest Muslim upbringing. Ismail's parents live in a squat stone house down a winding dirt alley outside Tripoli. Its walls are bare except for passages from the Quran engraved onto wood, its floors empty but for thin cushions that double as bedding at night.

My parents live in a sprawling home in Santa Fe with a three-car garage, hundreds of channels on the flat-screen TV, organic food in the refrigerator, and a closetful of toys for the grandchildren. An inheritance story you won't believe

I imagined Aliya embracing shopping trips to Whole Foods and the stack of presents under the Christmas tree, while still fully appreciating the melodic sound of Arabic, the honey-soaked baklava Ismail makes from scratch, the intricate henna tattoos her aunt drew on her feet when we visited Libya. Not once did I imagine her falling for the head covering worn by Muslim girls as an expression of modesty.

Last summer we were celebrating the end of Ramadan with our Muslim community at a festival in the parking lot behind our local mosque. Children bounced in inflatable fun houses while their parents sat beneath a plastic tarp nearby, shooing flies from plates of curried chicken, golden rice, and baklava.

Aliya and I wandered past rows of vendors selling prayer mats, henna tattoos, and Muslim clothing. When we reached a table displaying head coverings, Aliya turned to me and pleaded, "Please, Mom -- can I have one?"

She riffled through neatly folded stacks of headscarves while the vendor, an African-American woman shrouded in black, beamed at her. I had recently seen Aliya cast admiring glances at Muslim girls her age.

I quietly pitied them, covered in floor-length skirts and long sleeves on even the hottest summer days, as my best childhood memories were of my skin laid bare to the sun: feeling the grass between my toes as I ran through the sprinkler on my front lawn; wading into an icy river in Idaho, my shorts hitched up my thighs, to catch my first rainbow trout; surfing a rolling emerald wave off the coast of Hawaii. But Aliya envied these girls and had asked me to buy her clothes like theirs. And now a headscarf. How do you get your daughter to talk to you?

In the past, my excuse was that they were hard to find at our local mall, but here she was, offering to spend ten dollars from her own allowance to buy the forest green rayon one she clutched in her hand. I started to shake my head emphatically "no," but caught myself, remembering my commitment to Ismail. So I gritted my teeth and bought it, assuming it would soon be forgotten.

That afternoon, as I was leaving for the grocery store, Aliya called out from her room that she wanted to come.

A moment later she appeared at the top of the stairs -- or more accurately, half of her did. From the waist down, she was my daughter: sneakers, bright socks, jeans a little threadbare at the knees. But from the waist up, this girl was a stranger. Her bright, round face was suspended in a tent of dark cloth like a moon in a starless sky.

"Are you going to wear that?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said slowly, in that tone she had recently begun to use with me when I state the obvious. Your kids are different...and it's okay

On the way to the store, I stole glances at her in my rearview mirror. She stared out the window in silence, appearing as aloof and unconcerned as a Muslim dignitary visiting our small Southern town -- I, merely her chauffeur.

I bit my lip. I wanted to ask her to remove her head covering before she got out of the car, but I couldn't think of a single logical reason why, except that the sight of it made my blood pressure rise. I'd always encouraged her to express her individuality and to resist peer pressure, but now I felt as self-conscious and claustrophobic as if I were wearing that headscarf myself.

In the Food Lion parking lot, the heavy summer air smothered my skin. I gathered the damp hair on my neck into a ponytail, but Aliya seemed unfazed by the heat. We must have looked like an odd pair: a tall blonde woman in a tank top and jeans cupping the hand of a four-foot-tall Muslim. I drew my daughter closer and the skin on my bare arms prickled -- as much from protective instinct as from the blast of refrigerated air that hit me as I entered the store.

As we maneuvered our cart down the aisles, shoppers glanced at us like we were a riddle they couldn't quite solve, quickly dropping their gaze when I caught their eye.

In the produce aisle, a woman reaching for an apple fixed me with an overly bright, solicitous smile that said "I embrace diversity and I am perfectly fine with your child." She looked so earnest, so painfully eager to put me at ease, that I suddenly understood how it must feel to have a child with an obvious disability, and all the curiosity or unwelcome sympathies from strangers it evokes.

At the checkout line, an elderly Southern woman clasped her bony hands together and bent slowly down toward Aliya. "My, my," she drawled, wobbling her head in disbelief. "Don't you look absolutely precious!" My daughter smiled politely, then turned to ask me for a pack of gum.

In the following days, Aliya wore her headscarf to the breakfast table over her pajamas, to a Muslim gathering where she was showered with compliments, and to the park, where the moms with whom I chatted on the bench studiously avoided mentioning it altogether. Why her faith is colliding with her workout routine

Later that week, at our local pool, I watched a girl only a few years older than Aliya play Ping-Pong with a boy her age. She was caught in that awkward territory between childhood and adolescence -- narrow hips, skinny legs, the slightest swelling of new breasts -- and she wore a string bikini.

Her opponent wore an oversize T-shirt and baggy trunks that fell below his knees, and when he slammed the ball at her, she lunged for it while trying with one hand to keep the slippery strips of spandex in place. I wanted to offer her a towel to wrap around her hips, so she could lose herself in the contest and feel the exhilaration of making a perfect shot.

It was easy to see why she was getting demolished at this game: Her near-naked body was consuming her focus. And in her pained expression I recognized the familiar mix of shame and excitement I felt when I first wore a bikini.

At 14, I skittered down the halls of high school like a squirrel in traffic: hugging the walls, changing direction in midstream, darting for cover. Then I went to Los Angeles to visit my aunt Mary during winter break. Mary collected mermaids, kept a black-and-white photo of her long-haired Indian guru on her dresser, and shopped at a tiny health food store that smelled of patchouli and peanut butter. She took me to Venice Beach, where I bought a cheap bikini from a street vendor.

Dizzy with the promise of an impossibly bright afternoon, I thought I could be someone else -- glistening and proud like the greased-up bodybuilders on the lawn, relaxed and unself-conscious as the hippies who lounged on the pavement with lit incense tucked behind their ears. In a beachside bathroom with gritty cement floors, I changed into my new two-piece suit.

Goose bumps spread across my chubby white tummy and the downy white hairs on my thighs stood on end -- I felt as raw and exposed as a turtle stripped of its shell. And when I left the bathroom, the stares of men seemed to pin me in one spot even as I walked by.

In spite of a strange and mounting sense of shame, I was riveted by their smirking faces; in their suggestive expressions I thought I glimpsed some vital clue to the mystery of myself. What did these men see in me -- what was this strange power surging between us, this rapidly shifting current that one moment made me feel powerful and the next unspeakably vulnerable?

I imagined Aliya in a string bikini in a few years. Then I imagined her draped in Muslim attire. It was hard to say which image was more unsettling. I thought then of something a Sufi Muslim friend had told me: that Sufis believe our essence radiates beyond our physical bodies -- that we have a sort of energetic second skin, which is extremely sensitive and permeable to everyone we encounter. Muslim men and women wear modest clothing, she said, to protect this charged space between them and the world.

Growing up in the '70s in Southern California, I had learned that freedom for women meant, among other things, fewer clothes, and that women could be anything -- and still look good in a bikini. Exploring my physical freedom had been an important part of my process of self-discovery, but the exposure had come at a price. Why women are the future of education

Since that day in Venice Beach, I'd spent years learning to swim in the turbulent currents of attraction -- wanting to be desired, resisting others' unwelcome advances, plumbing the mysterious depths of my own longing.

I'd spent countless hours studying my reflection in the mirror -- admiring it, hating it, wondering what others thought of it -- and it sometimes seemed to me that if I had applied the same relentless scrutiny to another subject I could have become enlightened, written a novel, or at least figured out how to grow an organic vegetable garden.

On a recent Saturday morning, in the crowded dressing room of a large department store, I tried on designer jeans alongside college girls in stiletto heels, young mothers with babies fussing in their strollers, and middle-aged women with glossed lips pursed into frowns. One by one we filed into changing rooms, then lined up to take our turn on a brightly lit pedestal surrounded by mirrors, cocking our hips and sucking in our tummies and craning our necks to stare at our rear ends.

When it was my turn, my heart felt as tight in my chest as my legs did in the jeans. My face looked drawn under the fluorescent lights, and suddenly I was exhausted by all the years I'd spent doggedly chasing the carrot of self-improvement, while dragging behind me a heavy cart of self-criticism.

At this stage in her life, Aliya is captivated by the world around her -- not by what she sees in the mirror. Last summer she stood at the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway, stared at the blue-black outline of the mountains in the distance, their tips swaddled by cottony clouds, and gasped. "This is the most beautiful thing I ever saw," she whispered. Her wide-open eyes were a mirror of all that beauty, and she stood so still that she blended into the lush landscape, until finally we broke her reverie by tugging at her arm and pulling her back to the car.

At school it's different. In her fourth-grade class, girls already draw a connection between clothing and popularity. A few weeks ago, her voice rose in anger as she told me about a classmate who had ranked all the girls in class according to how stylish they were.

I understood then that while physical exposure had liberated me in some ways, Aliya could discover an entirely different type of freedom by choosing to cover herself.

I have no idea how long Aliya's interest in Muslim clothing will last. If she chooses to embrace Islam, I trust the faith will bring her tolerance, humility, and a sense of justice -- the way it has done for her father. And because I have a strong desire to protect her, I will also worry that her choice could make life in her own country difficult. She has recently memorized the fatiha, the opening verse of the Quran, and she is pressing her father to teach her Arabic. She's also becoming an agile mountain biker who rides with me on wooded trails, mud spraying her calves as she navigates the swollen creek.

The other day, when I dropped her off at school, instead of driving away from the curb in a rush as I usually do, I watched her walk into a crowd of kids, bent forward under the weight of her backpack as if she were bracing against a storm. She moved purposefully, in such a solitary way -- so different from the way I was at her age, and I realized once again how mysterious she is to me.

It's not just her head covering that makes her so: It's her lack of concern for what others think about her. It's finding her stash of Halloween candy untouched in her drawer, while I was a child obsessed with sweets. It's the fact that she would rather dive into a book than into the ocean -- that she gets so consumed with her reading that she can't hear me calling her from the next room.

I watched her kneel at the entryway to her school and pull a neatly folded cloth from the front of her pack, where other kids stash bubble gum or lip gloss. Then she slipped it over her head, and her shoulders disappeared beneath it like the cape her younger brother wears when he pretends to be a superhero.

As I pulled away from the curb, I imagined that headscarf having magical powers to protect her boundless imagination, her keen perception, and her unself-conscious goodness. I imagined it shielding her as she journeys through that house of mirrors where so many young women get trapped in adolescence, buffering her from the dissatisfaction that clings in spite of the growing number of choices at our fingertips, providing safe cover as she takes flight into a future I can only imagine.

Krista Bremer is the winner of a 2008 Pushcart Prize and a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award. She is associate publisher of the literary magazine The Sun, and she is writing a memoir about her bicultural marriage.

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