Friday, April 27, 2012

The Morning Walk


After a long gap, today I finally mustered up the motivation to go outside after Fajr prayers, and do my morning walk. A brisk morning walk.

Irony of the "brisk" walk?

The amazing smell of freshly made parathas from the neighboring house. :D

Sigh. It's been a long while (I think around two years!) since I had one of those.

My wishlist for "Things-to-ask-for-myself-in-Jannah" is growing longer.

Anyway, the walk was also very interesting because of the kittens we have in the backyard. Aww, adorable Masha Allah. They were capering about, jumping on each other, staring in awe at my giant shoes, and generally having the time of their lives. What carefree lives!!

The walk taught me quite a few things:

1. There is always a fresh morning after a dark night.
2. Today is what's important for us. Yesterday can't be changed. Tomorrow can be planned to be better, but today is what we have. Right now.
3. The air after Fajr is the most refreshing air to be breathed in throughout the day. Yes, even in a polluted city like ours.
4. One should NOT sleep at 3.08 am, and then expect to be up and about after Fajr.
5. Remembering Allah (SWT) through zikr and tasbeeh (SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Allah hu Akbar) - when recited along with the chirping of the birds, brings such serenity in the heart, that huge troubles and trepidations can seem paltry. Really really paltry.

Verily, in the Remembrance of Allah, do hearts find rest. Surah Ra'ad, Ayah 28.

So long folks!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Heavy clouds - heavy heart...

It's the perfect perfect weather. There is a uniform cloud cover, and beneath the clouds, there are more black ones. A pretty cool breeze is blowing. Amazing. Awesome. Alhamdulillah. 

And I'm sitting here, with a heavy heart, bashing my head against Python.

No, not a snake. A programming language.

Can life get any better than this? *heaves a lonely sigh*

Anyway. As the time of Departure_from_country looms closer, the astonishing amount of official stuff needed to be done is overwhelming. Medical forms, visa applications, more form filling than you ever imagined, and then watching everybody's face falling when you mention a word of Departure.

We pray for loads of stuff. But the irony is that if that stuff involves departure from your abode, then it's the hardest to accept and to get used to.

Something worthwhile in this totally random post:

"Allah will never humiliate the one who takes his Lord as a Friend & a Protector." ♥
~Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyyah (rahimahuAllah)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Homemade pizza: The taste of bitter disappointment


The title really sets the mood doesn't it. *quite morose*.

Today was the kind of day a researcher faces, when s/he works exceptionally hard for a number of months, only to discover that whatever the theory being worked upon was, is totally bogus. So all those months of hard work amounts to...

Anyway. So a friend's mom (let's call her Aunty S) was coming over today for something. I had decided to make homemade pizza for the very first time. Aunty S called up in the morning, and said that she has to go to head office today from work, so she won't be able to stay. Disappointed that she wouldn't actually be able to taste the (tasty, oh my modest assumptions) chicken fajita pizza - but I was still okay and had planned pack it up and give it for my friend and her adorable son.

Alright. So I had taken out the recipe for chicken fajita pizza from here, and had planned to get ingredients at around 10am. Thank the Lord I checked whether we have all-purpose flour (maida) or not. The pack which I thought was maida in the house, was actually (blush) besan.

Anyway, I went on a hurried shopping trip. Aunty S had said that she will be here by 3 to 3.15pm. I had to cook (for lunch) too, today and this was kaafi hurriedly done between 10.15 am to

Now, I'll write in terms of timelines. That way, it's more torturous to read! I want to remember this day forever. [So that if I am ever disappointed about something in the future, all I have to do, is read this blog post and remember that there was a day when I was equally {if not more} disappointed].

11 am: Got ingredients from shops.
12:10 pm: Made dough, added yeast and other stuff. Cling-wrapped it. Left it.
12.15 pm: Marinated the boneless chicken in spices.
12.30 pm: Went with Mom to get some stuff.
1.10 pm: Returned. Saw dough. It had swollen to twice its size! (still awed by that sight). Okay I was making pizza for the first time and had used yeast for the first time too! *defensively*
1.30: Finished reshaping dough, cling-wrapped it again and put it away again for half an hour.
1.45: Finished boiling tomatoes (for the sauce). Added them to cold water so peels came off. Transferred them to frying pan with spices to make sauce.
1.50: Got marinated chicken out, stir fried it with spices. Till done.  Had to be cooled.
2.00 pm: Sauce done. Had to be cooled.
2.10 pm: Both cooled. Took out dough, spread it in the pan. Added cheese and sauce, chicken pieces, and more cheese, and bell peppers on top.
2.20 pm: Popped it in the oven. It had to be baked for 25 minutes.

Perfect :).

Oh yeah?

2.25 pm: Cell phone rang. I picked up. It was Aunty S. At the door!
2.30 pm: Aunty S hurriedly did the work. And went away.

2.35 pm: All my dreams were crushed.

Okay, I should stop being melodramatic. But really, if you were cooking something for the first time, knowing perfectly well you're not supposed to eat that, and making it for somebody else with uncanny motivation, wouldn't you feel crushed that the person never got to taste it?

So there I was. With my beautiful pizza. Still baking in the oven. Not ready yet. And i didn't even want to take it out anymore. I was too busy trying to find corners in the house that weren't occupied.

Bad move. But Alhamdulillah, I got it out just in time. The 25 minutes, turned to 35 minutes in fact. Sigh. So it was a little crunchy from the bottom. But other than that, sigh. It was yummilicious.

My Dad was so sweet about it Masha Allah :). He was like, "Koi bat nahi, hum kha laitay hain."

I was like.. 

Everybody tried to be as disappointed as I am. Lol. But nobody can (realistically) be disappointed about a scrumptious pizza that's sitting right there, staring at them in the face and whispering, "Eat me. Eat me. I'm chewy and cheesy."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We're selected!


The following lecture is one of the most powerful khutbahs I have ever heard. It explains a few verses from Surah Hajj, and how Allah SWT has chosen us to be Muslims (no, being born in a Muslim family is not the real reason why we're Muslims :)). It's an incredible investment of 34 minutes, 23 seconds of your time.

Do invest it. Highly highly recommended.

Why am I scared?


Today is the thesis defense of my really really good friend G. PhD thesis defense! *actually scared and nervous*.

Rational self : Why are you scared?
Me: Errr. As if I know.
Rational self: Get a grip and pray for her.
Me: Did so, and will do IA.

I just hope it passes soon!! It's been drawing out long enough now! And that she sails through it with flying colors! I hate time differences :(.

Rational self: *slyly* : There's another reason why you're scared?
Me: No, just nervous and hopeful that the test goes well.
Rational self: It's a midterm.
Me: Yeah whatever. I pray it goes well. I really hate time differences :(

Two friends. One defense, and one midterm. Both really important.

Please say "ameen" to these two things. Jazakallah (in advance) :)

1. Let G's thesis defense go smoothly, let not her eyes water, and let her shoes be okay. Let her examiner not be evil, and let her get the doctorate!! Ameeeen!
2. Let M's midterm go smoothly, and let it result in a huge score Ameen!

So long folks.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lessons from Ustadh Noman Ali Khan - LiveDeen Event - Part II

Assalamualaikum again!

The next part of the lecture was focused on the collective substance in society and how do we contribute towards it. Our individual goal is to get into Jannah! Our collective goal is to be a witness against humanity on the Day of Judgement. We have to testify that we indeed were carriers of the Quran and message of the Last Messenger, Muhammad Sallallahu alaihi wasallam.

So how do we make the society better?

The biggest problem we face on a collective level is that a vast majority of people don't see Islam as the solution to our problems. People, instead, see Islam as the problem! They view Islam as the main problem of Pakistan and of the Muslim world. Why?

The sad fact is: We have given them reason to think this way! We are so involved in petty debates to the extent of cursing others to hell etc, that we have turned people completely off deen. This is a huge problem. Plus, Islam cannot be represented via speeches anymore in Pakistan. In every nook and corner, a speech is going on. So first things first, stop getting involved in pointless debates.

1. It is not the main issue whether we should pray 8 rak'ah taraweeh, or 20 rak'ah.
2. It is not the main issue whether we should say Rabbana Wa laka al Hamd out loud or not.
3. You get the picture.

So get out of debates, and get into learning Islam properly. The purpose of learning Islam is to provide solutions in your own life and in the society. The purpose is not LEARNING alone. It's not like you take one class, then you take another, and you keep on getting knowledge. What good does that serve to others? So you have to connect Islam with the society. We have to put our emotions aside and create an intellectual Islamic society: One that people look up to, and not view as something 'weird', or 'extremist' or 'self-destructive'.

How to do that? Some concrete suggestions are: (esp for younger population).

1. Take the fundamental education of Islam seriously.
--- Get education in the entire Quran with a teacher, with understanding.
--- Read the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) deeply and reflect on it. Read it again and again. A suggestion is to read one book of Seerah per year.
--- Take Arabic language seriously.

2. At least get a college education. One important (in fact, very important) fact is that we keep on getting degrees in Sciences (medicine, engineering, computers), we need to focus on Humanities.
--- Do a minor/Get the main degree in Sociology, Political Science, Psychology, Social Psychology, Philosophy (many of the Muslim scientists in the golden era were philosophers), etc. Don't undermine these subjects.
--- Study Education.
--- You'll find out that you can better understand and reflect on the Quran, if you're well-versed in Humanities subjects.

These were some of the concrete practical suggestions offered in order to make ourselves and the society as 'people of substance'.

Overall, the talk was really very good. I was a little disappointed in the Q/A session. It was supposed to last an hour, and people had submitted tons and tons of questions. So obviously, everybody's questions couldn't get answered (okay, I'm still bitterly disappointed my question was not answered :D), but the fact is that some moderation should have been done to filter the repetitive questions.

I found some questions to be a little offensive to the speaker. I admire the fact though, that he answered in a tolerant manner, and didn't lose his temper. It just gives us an insight into the brain of ordinary Pakistani men (the weird questions came from the men :p). I do believe that a little moderation would go a long way in improving the Q/A session, not offend the speaker, and maximally answer a lot of questions, if the repetitive ones are omitted.

Other than that, the entire session was very enlightening, eye-opening and aimed to awaken the educated, Islam-aware youth of the country. More conferences like these, and our country's mindset can easily change for the better, Insha Allah.

Jazakallah for reading this far :). So long!

PS: To all Humsafar/other drama fans: Some great lines from the talk was: Stop watching dramas. Those are psychologically disturbed people. They will make you psychos as well :D.

Lessons from Ustadh Noman Ali Khan - LiveDeen Event - Part I

Assalamualaikum :))

The LiveDeen's event was held today at the Marriott Hotel, Karachi. We had set out early, and at least three people whom I knew wanted tickets (and there were none, so they were basically looking for extras). I was up since Fajr, and we had to leave by 8.30 am. A lot of time was spent in a flurry of phone calls and messages and I tried my best to reach out to people who were the organizers of this event to arrange for extra tickets. It was exhilarating to be talking about 'extra tickets' in an event like this Alhamdulillah :)).

So we reached there by 9 am and two of those three people were given tickets. The third person (a friend of mine from Quran class) was not able to get any. She was pretty disappointed when I told her I'm sorry, I couldn't get one for you even now. A while later, her elated beyond elated message came, "I got the ticket!" Alhamdulillah! Allah SWT Makes ways we can't even fathom! A teacher of hers had an extra ticket, and had the thought to ask her whether she wanted one. She said yes immediately, and was there at Marriott in 15 minutes Masha Allah :). Lesson number 1: If you're really really sincere about something pleasing to Allah SWT, and even if there is apparently no way that thing can happen, Allah CAN make it happen (IA).

Then, the setting up of the video conferencing software (I believe it was the one which is used by HEC when they deliver lectures through the network of universities connected to their systems) took place for a long while. I could see a sea of people all around me, all expectant, all excited. A really amazing environment, Alhamdulillah.

The talk began exactly according to the schedule: 9.45 am. Brother Nouman Ali Khan was speaking from his own institute: Bayyinah Institute (located in Texas if I'm not wrong), from an empty classroom. It was around 12.45 (after midnight!) his time. It was incredible that he had agreed to a speaking engagement at that particular time, because that is the time when one usually wants to... crash :). The talk was focused on 'how to make our individual selves substantial'. Main lessons from that were:

1. Make your primary duties to Allah SWT strong : prayers, charity, Hajj, etc.

2. Accept that there are problems within yourselves, and within the community (Muslim community where you're living in).

3. Accept the criticism you receive. Even if it is 99% wrong, be grateful for the 1% that has been brought into your notice. Admitting the problem is really essential, and that was the main difference between Adam (as) and Iblees.

4.  Now that you have accepted the problems, turn back to Allah SWT. And this turning back does not include only primary duties (salah, charity etc), it includes the following as well:
    - Sincere dua'a to improve yourself.
    - Start making yourself better. Start with your relationships.
    - Improve relationship - first and foremost - with yourself! Basic character changes are essential. Be ethical, just, honest in your dealings, pure in your language, watch what you do when you are alone, take a good look at yourself when 'nobody is watching you', etc etc.
    - Improve relationship with your family. Start with your spouse, move on to children and in parallel, your parents of course. Don't let one's rights disturb the others' rights. For e.g, if you're caught between your wife and your parents, look at whose rights are being neglected at that point, and fulfill those.

4. One of the biggest ways in which you can improve yourself and your society (especially Pakistani society) is entrepreneurship. If honest business practices are established here, Pakistan can become a hub for attracting business, investment, and ultimately affect all the other sectors of society. Honest, ethical practices are required, and then you can get rid of the 'corrupt system in which we live, ripe with fraud, lying, cheating and bribery'.

5. Don't lose hope! The very fact that so many people turned up on a Sunday morning to hear an Islamic lecture, says something about this society :).

I'll do the next part of the lecture in another post Insha Allah. We then got a break for tea.