All posts by Maryam Qadeer

About Maryam Qadeer

An avid reader, who is always in the process of trying to figure out things. Important: Keep it as you would want it to be.

Of Misery Untold

It isn’t usually so complex a task, that of translating thoughts into words in print. What impedes the process however, is the distinct possibility of baring one’s soul to those not quite privy to it…

“What are they doing Asma? This country…they are going to kill everybody’s fathers and then what? Our school, they trained us so well Asma, dad wanted us to have the best…” She continued talking between sobs and I was struck speechless as always; silent and leaking.

What had started as a harmless protest against the privatisation of a government institution quickly turned ugly when the policing agencies did not stop at firing gas shells and water hosing the people, but went on to fire random shots amongst them too. Bodies went down and one was instantly pronounced dead – that one happened to be my friend’s wonderful-as-only-amazing-dads-can-be father.

It hits like a stunning blow to the head until disorientation and misery are your sole companions. Yes, life is temporary and living in Karachi never lets us forget it but maybe that is wherein the problem lies. One man down is merely all in a day’s work.

I am reminded of a distraught woman’s plea on national television once. She’d said, “What are you all waiting for? Will you get up when they get to your family, your children?!” And frankly, had it not been a personal tragedy, I would have preferred the escape route. It would have been filed away amongst the numerous tragedies already in store in a dark chamber of the mind. It would have hurt and clawed and bled on the inside, but disgustingly helpless, it would only have simmered until time healed the wound somewhat.

I don’t get it. What are we to do? Why did this happen? How is it that an intelligent person is wielding a dim-witted weapon, yet doesn’t honour the sanctity of human life? Our hands don’t shake anymore, our eyes have run themselves dry, our hearts have nary a care for honour…

You know how Allah says their hearts will be harder than stone for even stone gives way against a steady drip of water? God forbid if this were so, but could He have meant us? We are the ones who chose precisely these people to rule over us. Why don’t these chosen ones address the issue with the people- their own people? People make the institution after all.

And what do you say to the afflicted? Allah has sent in balming patience to run through their veins, yes. Couldn’t think at first, now coherent thoughts are forming…couldn’t eat but now the body rebels against the absence of food, the hypothalamus shall have the final say…couldn’t talk, but now you can make the effort slightly, as years of living with humans has conditioned you to…couldn’t stop weeping, but now you can at least steel yourself to hide them when you really wish to.

So what really do you have to say to such brave people? What can you say except maybe try to hide your face as you miserably go about your business..? We have failed you, ya Allah. We have failed your messenger. Please guide us, for we want to be united with your favourite people in Jannah. Please ya Allah!

The Eagle Has Fallen

What have we done? Pray, what being have we morphed into?

As a kid, my mother would say that I am the kind of person who, if it came to eat on a rubbish heap, would clean the small patch of a bed for myself and turn in. Such was my laziness and lack of will for any order or cleanliness. I would be outraged but she would point at the chaos that was my bedroom including my bed, and the only clean small place near my pillow where I curled up to sleep. She had a point, as always.

Today, ten years later, I look at the carnage around myself and I wonder if mom wasn’t stating some universal fact. Have you looked around lately? I’ll explain.

The heat wave came about and it was absolute devastation. Scores died with an even higher number affected trying to get better in the absence of funds, proper hospital care and state intervention. There were pleas for help, volunteers and donations on social media. And right in the midst of it, there would appear bright status updates of people checking into restaurants for a lavish meal with loved ones, going out for iftars and shopping trips, et cetera.

Oh pssht. There you go again calling me an extremist without letting me finish. See, what if you were tending to the dead and wounded of your side on the battlefield and someone started shouting, ‘Hey I just had a blast with friends eating ice cream sundaes!’, or ‘Yum, pizza and coke are the perfect end to a hot day!’?

Please don’t advertise it. A little dignity for the dead please, a modicum of respect for those going through the harshest of ordeals?

And not to mention, food is ALL that we think about lately. The day starts and ends with what we can stuff down that day. Having fun consists of food, relaxing is food, partying is food – and not even a wholesome meal, it all comes out of paper bags or cardboard boxes!

(يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُبِينٌ)
[Surat Al-Baqara, Verse 168]
O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.

And did you know, food in excess was never part of the grand plan anyway? In fact, it kills productivity and makes ‘ibadah a burden.

(إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُدْخِلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَتَمَتَّعُونَ وَيَأْكُلُونَ كَمَا تَأْكُلُ الْأَنْعَامُ وَالنَّارُ مَثْوًى لَهُمْ)
[Surat Muhammad, Verse 12]
Indeed, Allah will admit those who have believed and done righteous deeds to gardens beneath which rivers flow, but those who disbelieve enjoy themselves and eat as grazing livestock eat, and the Fire will be a residence for them.

And that, is that.

Unnamed and Uncoloured

I did not wish it to be ‘now’ that I finally blogged. Nor did I ever come close to thinking the post shall be quite this informal, blunt, personal, exposed and maybe even ill-timed with the list of things-to-do hanging over my head. But then, who am I to plan when the Highest of planners is there Alhamdulillah (all praise and thanks belong to Allah)? And procrastination is my strongest suit after all.

To begin with, Pakistan is near enough blacklisted for the kind of atrocious attacks, and terrorism episodes that the sky and all its inmates witness each moment of every hour. We had another one yesterday morning (16th December, 2014) when some killing machines in the guise of men entered into a private school of Peshawer, the city to the North of Pakistan, and the major city of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Mindlessly (machines, you see), they opened fire upon the living souls present (mostly small buds, with their teachers), until they were destroyed by soldiers of the Pakistan army.

Yes, it was heinous, unthinkable and inhuman. It was very easy to cry and mourn the loss. They were the future builders after all, and the hope that is tomorrow. Somebody said it is only a matter of time before everybody forgets it and resumes normal, merry lives. Well, why shouldn’t they? Yes, the grief shall remain, but we will have to commit to something lasting than mourning. How long will you sport black, I ask you? How long will you cry? How long before you stop praying for them? How long before God forbid, another loss? A parent’s loss survives time.

Do you not see? I do not care who it is that did this or why. It is enough that I have a vague idea. However, I do care what lesson, if any, we learn from this. Do you continue to think prayers, fasting, ‘ibadah is all for naught? Do you continue living the heedless life of one who remembers Allah only at time of distress? Do you spread and endorse hatred for anyone who sports a beard, or dons a scarf? Do you still cheat, steal, kill chances, discriminate? Do you maybe think only one kind of education is necessary? Do you think weird accents shouldn’t be allowed? Or that there’s only one colour of skin? Or that there is just black and white, no grey between the boundaries?

Why should we forbid happiness? Shouldn’t one be allowed to celebrate happiness? Wouldn’t you go get a new dress, or eat out with friends, have a party at home? It wouldn’t be fair to erase all happy matters for the aggrieved nor would it be fair to shout happy in front of them. They need time and space. Let us make some resolutions today though.

Ichanged

First, learn, know and then move on. NO ONE who practices religion is bad; it is their wrong understanding that makes it wrong. Second, keep mind open at all times; it is infinitely better to think good of a bad person than to think bad of them. Third, killing innocents shall always be INHUMAN; Islam does not endorse it and neither should you. Fourth, the only solution always, irrespective of time or scenario or country or a people, shall be to defer matters to the Book of Allah; you are shouting for capital punishment today but you were the one who protested long and hard against it yesterday – correct implementation of the laws ordained by Allah (and that understanding requires time, humility and patience) is the only solution, because humans are flawed. Fifth, be fair to every single human; a Muslim needs to uphold the civic laws of the state. Sixth, do not stand ANY injustice. Seventh, be true to Allah, yourself and to others. Eighth, there is goodness in accepting defeat sometimes, just make it for the right reasons. Ninth, study the religion and do it with truth and an open mind, sans bias or prejudice. Tenth, love.

If there is any good that has come out of this misery, it is the sight of all of us united, and standing tall with each other. It is the sight of our political leaders sitting together for a cause. For once, it is not about this university grad, that liberal guy, that weird girl or this ninja; it is about being a united and strong front to our enemies.

My ummah. Mine.

(Originally published here.)

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She walked with a steady pace born of resignation and sank to the floor for a respite. It was uncharacteristic of her as most days she would get to work straightaway.

Lady: Would you like some tea, N?

N      : No ma’am.

Lady: Have some breakfast then, you must be hungry.

N      : *after a pause* Ma’am, why do men love to hit so?

Lady: Who-?

N      : My brother. If I’m even a little bit late to make his roti, he hits me. He threw a mug at me yesterday.

Lady: What th-? Isn’t your brother younger than you?

N      : By 10 years. Doesn’t stop him though.

Lady: But your mother, she doesn’t say anything to him?

N      : She says he is a guy. He can hit.

Lady: That’s faulty logic! Why don’t you tell him he can’t have his roti if he hits you?

N      : I did. He says he doesn’t care. That he’ll get his food from anywhere.

Lady: He is pathetic, but he is just the way he has been brought up. If your mother is strict with him, he won’t be able to touch a hair of your head.

N      : But it’s always been the way ma’am. We saw our mother being beat up every day by father. My cousin’s husband is an ‘aalim and educated. He beats her like crazy.

Lady: Isn’t she the one who goes around kicking up arguments?

N      : *tiny smile turning up one corner* Oh she is, but her ten year old brother hits her too. It’s just the way…

Her story is nothing short of bleak and agonising. The above is just a brief glimpse into her life. There are countless N’s out there, and are in desperate need. We have to reach out to them. This is my ummah.

cupoftea

2

She was having the time of her life. Two good friends beside her as they walked towards the university gate after classes, making fun of the third amongst them.

Her: Hahh, you’re under-weight they said and low Hb too!

A    : Oh shut up, you!

T    : But that’s just the simple truth, A. You, can’t give blood. We, on the other hand-

A    : Yeah, yeah, whatever. You just watch out for yourself. Don’t go fainting anywhere now that you’ve given blood.

Her: Hmph. I feel perfect, and good. You eat, dearie. You couldn’t donate.

T    : Heheh. A, I feel for you, really I do. *snickers* That’s my bus, ta!

A    : And that’s mine. Thanks a lot for making me feel good!

Her: Ahan, completely my pleasure.

A short while later, Her feels the energy draining from her. Listening to some inner voice, she rushes to the nearest shop and asks for two toffees while she rummages around for change in a sense of urgency. They say things done in haste are the work of the devil (i.e. they don’t go well), and lo and behold, the first sweet found itself upon the ground soon as it was out of the wrapper. The second one landed in her mouth and as she chewed she found some energy coming back. “Lord, please, let things be okay!”

But the next minute, darkness was clouding Her’s vision, and as the brain started calling upon its troops, vision and balance were the first to go. She crouched on the ground clutching on her bag for support, trying to hold herself steady. Hearing was sharper now, and she heard a clear, male voice nearby.

Guy: Please see what’s happened to her.

Girl (coming closer to speak to her): Listen, what’s happened to you?

Her: I can’t see, I can’t see at all!

Girl: She says she can’t see.

(To her) Listen, can you walk? Please get up.

Meanwhile there was talk of calling the ambulance! To cut down on the long story, the girl supported her to a nearby rickshaw, and then force-fed her cookies, while the guy stood watch and sent his friend to bring a pack of juice and a cold bottle of water. They then made her eat and drink until she came to herself, chatted with her a little bit, exchanged numbers in order to check up on her, and sent her home in the same rick.

This is my ummah too, Alhamdulillah. Do you know how long and how often she prayed for those who helped her at her time of need? Definitely not enough, for those unnamed individuals who forgot their lives for that short span of time seem angels in these dark times.

There is always hope, but we are not letting it through. We are not letting our hearts be soft-er. We forget to let the ihsaan shine through. Wake up ummah, please do..!

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.”
(Ale ‘Imran: 103)

A sight for sore eyes

For quite some now, I’ve been staring at the heaps of rubbish lying along sidewalks and wondering what we can do about it; discarding some ideas while thinking on others. Recently though, I have been drawing a blank more often than not. We were driving back from our grandparents’ place on ‘Eid a few days back when I thought out loud on the said issue, and my dad had an interesting story to share.

Dad: You know how we prayed in that big ground today right? Well, the Imam sahab was telling us that people use the south side as a dumping ground. As the ‘Eid congregation was to be held there, they had started their preparation a week or so ago. Now, they cleaned it from top to bottom, and made a general announcement informing people how the prayers shall be held there.

Us: Cool!

Dad: Next day, the neighbourhood dumped their waste there as usual.

Us: Wha-? How c-?

Dad: The masjid people weren’t to be deterred of course, and it was the best venue too. They cleaned again and made sure this time everyone was notified. But people did it again, saying they did not know where else to dump, poor souls. Imam sahib was telling us how they were cleaning until last night.

Bottom-line, we shall not look for solutions, we shall not think and nor shall we care. We shall continue to migrate to the West and once there, we shall gush how the streets are squeaky clean and the law upheld just so.

Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (Ar Ra’ad: Verse 11)

The Waning Dusk- Chapter One

Work on the understanding while we still have time..!

Carpe Noctem

Myth: Reading the translation is enough

Amr bin Al-Aas (ra), before he became a Muslim, rode out to meet Musaylimah the Liar who was proclaiming Prophethood. Upon his arrival, Musaylimah said to Amr, “What has been revealed to your friend (Muhammad) during his time?

Amr replied, “A short and concise surah.” And then he recited surah Al-Asr.

So Musaylimah thought for a while. Then he said, “Indeed something similar has also been revealed to me.” Amr asked him, “What is it?”

He replied, “O Wabr (a small, furry mammal; hyrax), O Wabr! You are only two ears and a chest, and the rest of you is digging and burrowing.”

Then he said, “What do you think, O Amr?”

So Amr said to him, “By Allah! Verily, you know that I know you are lying.”

Allah (swt) has said in the Quran,

“And if ye are in doubt concerning that which…

View original post 549 more words

Of Weddings And People…

(This post was originally published here.)

“There are two types of gatherings: one that is surrounded by angels and one that is not.”

– From Half:Past:Midnight- What I’ve learnt so far, Saadia Humayun

And that about sums it up when we come to weddings as we know them. Ladies – near or far, close to you or not so much, related or a mere friend – all clamour to get you to shed that off, or put this on. Then there are those poor, innocent, lost gents that keep sauntering between the tables, stopping here and there to chat with folks, making up for lost conversations, and instructing the waiter— wait, didn’t you say this was going to be a not-mixed wedding?

“Always the same,” said Mr. Weasley, smiling. “We can’t resist showing off when we get together…”

– From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K.Rowling

Showing off. The phrase doesn’t see as much use today as when we were kids, but it hasn’t been more in evidence than today. People always remark how it is no use for you to be donning jewellery or taking pains with a certain dress if, well, ‘it is not seen and appreciated’. In fact, one person even forced their parents that there be no purdah or partition so to speak, at their wedding. Who shall we dress up for then mom!

blebellforestbelgium

And really, why the need for tonnes of make-up? So far, experience dictates that even if you go to the best of salons, you still end up just fiercely hoping it turns out well, and that little children don’t scurry for cover upon sight. But then, who possesses the strong faculties to endure all taunts thrown their way by eminent guests?

وَالَّذِيْنَ اِذَآ اَنْفَقُوْا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوْا وَلَمْ يَـقْتُرُوْا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذٰلِكَ قَوَامًا

And [they are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, [justly] moderate. (Al Furqan: 67)

It all comes down to persons then, doesn’t it? To us all. Eating in moderation and strictly keeping oneself from waste, be it food or money, and then saying only the good stuff, are all that lack from our ceremonies today.

يٰبَنِيْٓ اٰدَمَ خُذُوْا زِيْنَتَكُمْ عِنْدَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَّكُلُوْا وَاشْرَبُوْا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوْا  ۚ اِنَّهٗ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِيْنَ

O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess. (Al A’raaf: 31)

Of opportunities and messy situations –

Opportunities are such rude beings, they don’t ever inform you of their arrival. No knocking on the door, no prior phone call, nothing. Striding up to your threshold, they just barge right in. Should you ever be ready to receive them, well and good, otherwise they just march right out too (again, without notice!).

It is for but for a momentary period in the middle of a situation that you suddenly realise the delicate balance of things and how the outcome henceforth depends upon the road YOU take. And how heavy the responsibility.

It is a supreme battle of the conscience on one hand and the procrastinating, lazy, good-for-nothing self on the other. The nagging of the former continues until you give in and suffer the worldly consequences, or if you don’t, then the guilt will continue to weigh you down and you still suffer the consequences.

How can such decisions ever be easy? What if we wanted to correct some blatant wrong but neither did we have the power, nor hikmah (wisdom)? In that case, we would simply be ruining the scenario further, won’t we?

I think that’s part of life. Dilemmas will come and go, each one unique from the rest. Sometimes, merely telling yourself to halt in your tracks, and be reminded of-

For each [religious following] is a direction toward which it faces. So race to [all that is] good. Wherever you may be, Allah will bring you forth [for judgement] all together. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent. (Al Baqarah: Verse 148)

-does the trick for me. Intention alright? Going to correct a wrong that you have knowledge of? Absence of arrogance and self-righteousness? Willingness to learn? If it is checks all around, then deciding to plough on ahead, leaving the rest upon Allah should work. If not, then rethinking is in order.

At other times, nothing seems to make sense. Relieving the burden with du’a and a trusting friend help hugely. From then on however, it is you with the reins. What’s important though, is to remember always that the world does NOT end with a slip, or a wrong decision. Allah is always there, His mercy limitless. Mistakes can make you, if only you let it to.

Once the error is made, and the lesson learnt, then there is a fervent wish – that of taking the right step if only the same opportunity presented itself once again. But that is not the only way to redeem oneself, is it? It was but a test and it taught you well. Another will come and you shall be better prepared.

Sometimes there is not even one right and wrong. There may be several right ones. Some more right than the rest; and taking the lesser one has its own benefits in the long run, and if you learnt well, the next time shall be one sweet experience. And oh the delicious taste of victory once you’ve done it right (after you were wrong earlier), has no parallel. Alhamdulillah, thumm Alhamdulillah.

Happy, fulfilling battles, everyone!

Out and about

We should get out more often. Visit green, grassy fields or a similar park and run uninhibited. Sprint like there’s no tomorrow and keep at it, heaving and panting if it comes down to that, until you flop on the greens, completely out of air. Then lie on your back if you can manage (since vast greens are usually public property), and stare at the skies. Count them wisps of clouds, try to find the ends. Gaze at treetops, marvel at their tall, upright length, stare the birdies down.

Peachfaced_Lovebird_in_grass

Sit up, tear a single green blade. Smooth it between your fingers, caressing the laminated texture, tickle your cheek with it, and roll it against your skin. Fold the blade and make a crease, smell the earthy-leafy smell. Now open your fingers, palm out, and spread them upon the grass. Move them to and fro in a childlike frenzy of excitement, like you would upon clean, soft beddings. Breathe. Take in a deep lungful, and exhale slowly. Take that drink of water, sit some more.

Did you bring that book with you, the one you were hoping to read? Did you bring your friend, your mom, your dad, a sibling? No matter, this works whether single or accompanied. Get up now, you’re ready to take on life. Smile huge, your muscles are straining with the effort not to. Alhamdulillahi Rabbil ‘Alameen (All praise belongs to Him, Lord of the worlds.).

“Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinns and men) deny?”

– Quran, Surah Ar Rahman

Judgemental much?

Chomp, chomp, chomp… Clink, clink…

“Get her a spoon. Poor girl, she’s eating without.”

“Nah, that’s okay, she eats like that.”

“Nonsense. I’m done already, I’ll get her one.”

“But-”

“Ohh…she’s eating the sunnah style I think, aren’t you?” (This directed to the poor victim.)

“Um-”

“I doubt the Prophet (s) would have eaten rice with fingers really.”

1. How would you know? Did you go back in time, warp it somehow and ask him (s)? How can you even fathom judging otherwise?

2. Leave the poor person alone, will you? They didn’t ask you to watch them while they ate, neither did they make you eat without that metal-aid-with-the-convex-bulge. Most importantly, I’m sure they wanted to chow down in peace.

Dearth of knowledge and its appreciation, and extremes of it without that significant appreciation, are both unfruitful. Oh and, no knowledge is no good either (in case you were wondering). The middle way is the surest always.

If we believe in Quran being the truest, then we must also accept that reality with our whole being. Allah’s Word tells us numerous times to follow the Prophet Muhammad (s), to take his example as the only one, to leave what he left and to take what he did. If after all that, we interpret something differently than a layman, then to them their action, and to us ours. More so because our Book clearly tells us to follow the Prophet (s), and to love him more than everybody else besides Allah.

Are you telling me you can shave your head a certain way because you like that pop idol, but if I eat my Rasul’s (s) way, I am an ignorant extremist? You can roll your r’s because a particular accent has caught your fancy and that is not stupid, but learning to speak Arabic is-? No translation can do justice to Shakespeare hence we must teach our students the perfect English and force Shakespeare’s plays down their throats as if their life depended on it, but when it comes to the Quran, translation will do just fine? Better than fine rather, ‘cause we are content to listen to everybody’s version of Allah’s message, than reading it for ourselves. If that doesn’t smell worse than an outhouse, I am afraid for your sanity. And mine.

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Disclaimer: This post does not aim to condemn any eating style, nor does it specifically favour any; the purpose of this post is to highlight our judgemental attitudes when it comes to following the Prophet (s), be it in manner, speech or style.