Just another interesting life …

Peace be upon you!

With the holy month of Ramadan fast approaching, I thought what better way to come back to my happy place, my blog, than to write the special post I share annually around the same time? Sadly, I wasn’t able to do so last year, and the fact that I couldn’t, took its toll on me for quite a while back then. The previous year, my post was about forgiveness. It is the most highly viewed and shared post on my blog thus far! It came from the bottom of my heart and helped me realize how important forgiveness is in our lives! Whether it be forgiving ourselves, those who wronged us in the past, those who wrong us now, those who will wrong us in the future or those who, indirectly, led others to wrong us. I also reflected on the fact that we all must seek forgiveness ourselves, whether from those we wronged or from God, the Almighty! There is no greater peace of mind than laying your head on your pillow at night knowing that you did your best to make amends with others and that you don’t carry as much as a grain of salt of bitterness towards anyone! It’s something I remind myself of every day and strive to attain even on the toughest of days. May God grant us all peace of mind, pureness of heart and the capacity to forgive others so that He may forgive us when we most need it! Ameen.

This year I would like to reflect on Prophet Muhammad’s authentic hadith:

Anas (RA) relates that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم (peace be upon him) said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

By no means am I a scholar, and so I am not referring to the above mentioned hadith from a scholarly perspective. But rather, how someone like me, a regular person who continues to strive to better herself and attain further knowledge of her own religion, can benefit from it!

This hadith is so concise yet exceptionally profound! It is not saying that a person is deemed a non-believer for failing to hold in his heart the aforementioned love for others. It rather states that their belief is somewhat deficient. It guides us as to how people are supposed to relate to each other in this life. It also negates ugly emotions such as envy, wishing ill upon others and hatred while establishing the vision of a society based on mutual love, care and respect! It incorporates so many deep meanings in one sentence! Sobhan Allah (Glory be to God).

Over the past few years, as well as this year in particular, I have come to notice that many people do not take this precious advice to heart! Although growing up I would hear my parents’ generation speaking about how different people are “now”, how inconsiderate those around us have become, how the ties that used to bind people back in the day no longer do so, I don’t think I have truly witnessed all that in essence till fairly recently! See, back then they’d be referring to someone who didn’t call for a few days after knowing that someone is ill. Or someone who, although they knew that X’s children had finals, they still so inconsiderately chose to host a dinner party the preceding weekend. Or someone who couldn’t even bother to fake a smile at Y’s wedding just because they had wished that their own daughter got married first! Not to minimize how detrimental such actions can be on a relationship, particularly one of kinship, but all those ghastly things fade in comparison to what I have witnessed in, say, the past decade!

It’s almost like people have seeds of bitterness, envy and hatred slowly but surely growing in their hearts with each passing generation! The saddest part? The recipients of all this negativity are more often than not really good people, arguably the best amongst the bunch, often times! We’re talking people wishing that someone would fall ill with a more severe illness than theirs just because they couldn’t bother to call and check on them. Someone feeling so bitter about someone’s promotion or raise that they’d try to sabotage their image at work to make themselves feel and look better amongst their peers. Someone knowing that they can help a friend in need of assistance by making a simple phone call or helping them research a solution to their problem but cannot find it in their hearts to do so. Someone being able to lend a shoulder to someone in turmoil but feeling like they are not obliged to do so, therefore why go “the extra mile”? Someone breaking marriages and friendships just to prove a point, which may or may not be substantial. Someone being outright mean to a child just because they are jealous of their parent. It has become ridiculous! I witness such actions first hand at least several times a week (sometimes several times a day) and it breaks my heart for our ummah! Why? Why put yourself and others through so much? For what? So what if someone has a higher salary than you? I’m sure they deserve it! So what if X is more healthy than you? Maybe you’re happier! So what if Y’s child got married before yours? Maybe your child’s marriage will be a better one! So what if Z shines at work? Let that motivate you to work harder! You see, we do not have to bring each other down, wish ill upon each other nor ruin each other to attain what we want in this life. If anything, the only thing we should be trying to strive for and accumulate in this life is good deeds! That’s it. None of us are taking anything else with us to our grave! Focus on the ultimate goal, raise your children to be pious and humble, make a difference in this life by helping others and your message will be complete. It’s really as simple as that!

So, what are some things we can do to remind ourselves to act in accordance with our Prophet’s cherished words? Well, first and foremost, we need to void our hearts of any ill feelings towards others. This may prove to be challenging at times, but even if you feel like the person you are baring ill feelings towards doesn’t deserve it, think about yourself! Would you rather follow God’s and the Prophet’s teachings or hold on to a grudge or envy that could poison your life from the inside out? It’s OK to be upset about something or from someone, but we all need to figure out a way to deal with and disperse those feelings and channel them in a positive manner. One thing that I discovered, perhaps a year or two ago, works beautifully for me is that when I am feeling upset or angry and I decide to fast, I usually feel remarkably calmer and better afterwards! No matter how enraged, hurt or betrayed I feel waking up, all those feelings melt away from my heart as well as my mind as the day passes by. It’s like a full-body cleanse, sobhan Allah (Glory be to God)!

Another important point is that in loving for our brother what we love for ourselves, the one thing that should be at the very top of our priority list is to wish for everyone to be guided to the righteous path! It’s a simple yet fundamental thought. You see, we all have the same ultimate goal, yet we often lose sight of that in the middle of all what life puts us through on a daily basis! Making du’a (supplication) for others is an action that would take no more than a few seconds of your time, yet can completely change both your life and theirs! How so?

The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم  (peace be upon him) said, “The supplication of a Muslim for his brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says: `Ameen! May it be for you, too’.” [Sahîh Muslim].

So, that person that gives you a hard time at work? Make du’a for them rather than thinking of ways to get back at them. That person who didn’t help you when they were the only ones you thought could? Make du’a for them and sit back and watch how God will extend you the best of helping hands! That person who forgets everything you’ve done for them when no one else did? Make du’a for them and watch as God plants seeds of love for you in huge masses of people’s hearts! And if you can’t bring yourself to do any of that? Say no more than “hasby Allah wa ne’ma al wakeel” (Allah is Sufficient for Me, and He is the Best Trustee) … that’s it! By saying that, you declare that you are leaving the matter in God’s hands and are entrusting Him to solve it with his infinite wisdom. Is there anything better than that? Don’t bring yourself down to the level of making du’a against someone, targeting their children, health, wealth, relationship with his/her spouse, etc. It’s not worth it! Wallahi, it’s not worth it!

What else can you do to put the first hadith in practice? How about treating others the way you wish to be treated? Does that show love for them? I’m pretty sure that no one wants others to treat them badly, so, yes!

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever wishes to be kept away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise should have death overtake him while he believes in Allah and the Last Day and should treat people the way he wants them to treat him.” [Sahîh Muslim]

You see, Islam is a just and peaceful religion. You want justice for yourself? Grant it to others first. You want forgiveness? Forgive before you seek it for yourself. You want good health? Do not wish illness upon anyone. You want authentic friends? Be authentic and sincere towards them first. Give before you take. Sow before you reap. You cannot have the fruits of a tree before first planting it, can you? Well, the same goes for everything in this life. If we all follow the precious teaching of our phenomenal Prophet, wallahi there will be no ummah out there better than ours! Sobhan Allah (Glory be to Allah).

One important point, is the fact that sometimes we put our brothers and sisters last preceded by so many things that shouldn’t really take precedence. Part of our duty towards God, our beloved Prophet and our ummah at large is to ALWAYS help a brother or sister in need, always. If you run a business and you are placed in a position of having to choose between doing the right thing for an employee of yours while incurring miniscule loss or making a “business decision” and lose a good employee’s faith in your establishment, go for the first choice. If you have the chance to either help out a neighbor and perhaps have to cancel a trip that you planned for quite some time or go on the trip but leave your neighbor in distress with no one to help them, go for the first choice. If you have to make a choice between siding with a colleague who is only asking for their rights or siding with your boss who is being unreasonable, go for the first choice. If you have the choice between turning your cheek to someone who wronged you or retaliating, go for the first choice. And always remember, whatever you do, you are doing for Allah. And whatever you do, you’re doing according to who you really are on the inside and not what the person in front of you actually deserves. And whatever you do, you do out of love … love for God, love for goodness, love for the ummah, love for yourself and love for our lovely religion!

white-flower

My final thought involves seeing one’s faults and imperfections and focusing on them rather than those of others! More often than not I wonder whether people are truly oblivious to their faults or are they faking that? If you do not extend a helping hand to someone, why be mesmerized when others behave the same way towards you? You comment about other people backbiting you yet you spy on others or cheat them. You love to criticize how X raises her children while your own children have clearly not been raised well. You love to put others down yet wonder why others may want to call you out on such behavior. Your friends love you and always want to help you but you only befriend them when you need something, otherwise they are useless to you. You criticize someone else’s hijab (veil) while you wear yours well but lie all the time. You criticize how someone doesn’t pray sunnah while you pray, fast and memorize the Qur’an yet you are full of bitterness towards those around you and you constantly hurt them. You are in a position of responsibility yet don’t do the right thing because it’s often the harder choice, however, when you have an issue you want others to immediately come to your aide! It’s truly baffling! Al hamdulillah, I am blessed to know my flaws well and am thankful that Allah gives me the chance day after day to work on them. I am humbled by the experience gained from the never-ending journey of self-improvement.

May Allah aide and guide us all. May He expel all envy, bitterness and hatred from our hearts and replace them with love, compassion, positivity and humility. May He help us see our own faults before we see those of others and give us the courage, means and opportunity to work on them so that we may attain the ultimate goal, in sha’ Allah (God willing). May He help us help others always, even when we’re at our lowest point. And may our ummah wake up and go back to basics of religion before sweating the small stuff.

To everyone out there who did not wish me or my loved ones what they wish for themselves over the years, I forgive you! To everyone who did not come through for me or my loved ones, particularly this year, I forgive you! To everyone who could’ve made the right decision but chose the wrong one because it was easier, I forgive you! To everyone who could’ve made a true difference but chose not to, I forgive you! To everyone who envied, backbit, carried bitterness in their hearts or hurt me or my loved ones, I forgive you! I forgive you for my own sake more than anything. Those who acknowledged their mistakes, whether or not they made up for them, I forgive and respect you. Most importantly of all, I am making du’a for each and every one of you, myself included. May Allah help us to uphold and truly live by His teachings as well as those of Prophet Muhammad. May He guide us all to the straight path and ease our journey to the hereafter. May He surround us with brothers and sisters who help us to become the best version possible of ourselves and take our hands and guide us to Jannah (paradise). May He help us learn from our negative experiences in life, including the ones we put ourselves in, and enjoy the positive ones. May He help us remain silent when others wrong us, not out of weakness or fear, but out of respect for oneself and in following the true teachings of our religion. May Allah always be there for us and may we be deserving of His protection and love. Ameen.

Ramadan mubarak, may Allah accept all our fasts, prayers, recitations and good deeds, ameen 🙂

Peace be upon you, my faithful followers!

It’s been almost 2 years since my last post, I cannot believe it! I really can’t. So much has happened during that time, including some major changes in my life. We’ll get to that later on down the road, in sha’ Allah (God willing), but all is good, al hamdulillah (thank God).

First and foremost, I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude to all those who continued to follow my blog and share my posts. Back in June 2013, I had a little over 6,000 hits and now I was overly delighted to see that I have over 13,000 hits! My last post dating back to Ramadan of 2013 is the most often visited and shared, yielding 35 views and hour for the past few weeks, ma sha’ Allah! That really warms my heart solely because it’s precisely what I asked of you in that very post, to share it and help me spread its message across the world. Please continue to do so and may all those who do be rewarded immensely for their deed and intentions.

I would also like to ask everyone to forgive me for not posting any new entries the past couple of years. Time flew by and it took way longer than expected for me to find the time my blog and followers so rightfully and respectfully deserve! I never allow myself to be sloppy when it comes to anything I do, and that wasn’t about to change. So, please forgive me and, in sha’ Allah (God willing), I will do my best to continue to contribute to the blog as best as I can.

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Finally, I’d like to wish everyone a Ramadan Mubarak! In less than a week, we’ll be fasting and enjoying the tremendous blessings Allah bestows upon us during the fabulous month of Ramadan. May Allah accept all our fasts, good deeds and intentions and forgive us for our transgressions. Ameen!

Ramadan Karim :)

In sha’ Allah (God willing) there are 12 days left to the Holy Month of Ramadan. It is the month of the Islamic calendar when the Holy Quran was revealed to our prophet Muhammad (peace and mercy be upon him) through angel Gabriel (peace be upon him) over 1400 years ago. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset in an effort to abstain from worldly and material matters and focus on our spiritual growth and well-being. It’s the month of mercy, where we are asked to be even more charitable, generous, kind, loving and spread joy than on other days. It’s the month of less is more when it comes to worldly things and more is better when it comes to spiritual things! To me, it’s the most beautiful, festive, peaceful month of the entire year! If you, my dear followers, are interested in learning about this beautiful month, please check out this amazing resource. Later this week I will be posting pictures of our decorations and post more about how we celebrate the holy month in our family.

Ramadan Karim (Happy Ramadan) :)

Ramadan Karim (Happy Ramadan) 🙂

Today’s post is really an email message that I sent out last week to all my Muslim friends and acquaintances. I am accustomed to sending out season’s greetings every year and I usually keep the email nice and short. This year, however, I decided to send out a word of advice and a plea, hoping that everyone I sent the email out to will be on board and both, them and I, can benefit from the outcome. I got such wonderful feedback, al hamdulillah (Thank God), and so I decided to share it with you since it carries a message that ALL religions agree upon!

Al Salam Aleikom Everyone,

Our little family wishes you all a blessed and prosperous Ramadan, in sha’ Allah 🙂

May the holy month of the revelation of the Quran usher upon you and your loved ones peace, happiness and prosperity. May you be granted peace of heart and mind, forgiveness and guidance.

This year, please allow me to emphasize two points. The first concerns preparing for Ramadan and the second is more of a personal appeal …

Preparing for the Holy Month of Ramadan is not about getting your 30-day meal plan together, looking up “new” recipes nor stockpiling the ingredients you’ll most likely need! It’s not about counting how many hours remain till iftar (breaking our fast) nor thinking about what you will be having for dessert that night. Preparing for the Holy Month of Ramadan is more of a spiritual preparation. You need to have the right mindset, have your heart in the right place and your priorities straight before the Holy Month arrives. It’s about making sure you pray on time, spend time with your kids no matter how drained you feel, read as much Quran as you can and spend your time wisely. It’s about lending those less fortunate than you a helping hand, making du’a (prayers) for those who are having hardships and forgiving those you never thought you will be able to forgive. It’s about spreading joy, being kind and becoming generous. It’s about you and Allah (God), your connection, your relationship and your exchange of dua’ for peace, forgiveness and mercy. It’s about being the best Muslim you can be, even if it’s for a single month! If you are able to achieve all that, you will come out of Ramadan feeling like a completely new person and will be able to carry whatever you started on for the rest of the year and every year until it’s your time to leave. Let us all try to make this Ramadan different, don’t let it slip away like those before it. Set goals and stick to them, no matter how small 🙂

The personal appeal I’d like to make, and in which I hope you will participate, is to make one of your goals for this Ramadan to forgive all those who ever did you wrong! I know it may be a random thing to ask of you but I truly believe it is one of the BEST things I have ever done for myself in all my years in this life. I used to take that step on an individual basis but last April I made a pact with myself to forgive every single soul that has ever hurt or wronged me, regardless who the person is or why they did what they did … regardless even whether they deserve my forgiveness or not (I believe everyone deserves our forgiveness, it’s our ego that prevents us from forgiving others at times). On the day I made that decision I published this post on my blog, I sincerely hope you will find time to read it. This excerpt, in particular, is one I would like to share with you:

“I have decided to start with something that will bring me more peace than I probably ever had. It’s also one of the most beautiful lessons that my wonderful religion, Islam, teaches us but is shared by all religions as well. Forgive whenever you get the chance so that Allah (God) forgives you too. Over the past few months, I’ve received several correspondences from people who have wronged me gravely in the past. I am highly intrigued by the timing, since not all those people know each other, but I believe that it’s the timing chosen by God and I am grateful for it. Some wronged me through actions, some through backbiting and others through rumors. I, generally, forgave most of those people long ago, primarily to find peace within myself and be able to move on. Today, in appreciation for them having the courage and humility to reach out to me, admit their shortcomings, accept full responsibility for them and ask for my forgiveness, I would like to renew my forgiveness and assure everyone, whether they apologized or not, whether they are still in my life or not, whether I know of their wrongdoings or not, that I fully and wholeheartedly forgive them! I published the following statement on my Facebook page last night and I mean every single word, God is my witness:

I bear witness that I, wholeheartedly, forgive every single person who has ever wronged me whether knowingly or unknowingly! I forgive every backbite, every lie, every rumor, every heartache, every imposition and every other wrongful emotion, thought or action against me. Those sorts of actions served as lessons more than anything, teaching me about myself as well as others. So, thank you to all who wronged me, you helped me become a better person and helped me appreciate the good people I have in my life … a special thank you goes to those who had it in them to apologize for their shortcomings. I hope everyone I’ve ever come across can find it in their hearts to forgive me for anything intentional or unintentional I may have committed against them as well. May Allah forgive all of our transgressions. — Hebatallah Azmy

I also asked all my friends to forward/share my message so that it may reach as many people as possible. As a result, it reached people I had fallen out of touch with and now, I forgive them and they forgive me as well! Today, I ask you to do the same thing please. Forward/share this message, even if it’s to people I do not know, and then know you forgive them, have them forgive you … and, if by any chance, they do happen to know me then the same applies to me.

“Just as it is important to believe in the mercy and forgiveness of Allah, it is also necessary to base human relations on forgiveness. We cannot expect Allah’s forgiveness unless we also forgive those who do wrong to us. Forgiving each other, even forgiving one’s enemies is one of the most important Islamic teaching. In the Qur’an Allah has described the Believers as “those who avoid major sins and acts of indecencies and when they are angry they forgive.” (al-Shura 42:37) Later in the same Surah Allah says, “The reward of the evil is the evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon Allah.” (al-Shura 42:40) In another place the Qur’an says, “If you punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith you were afflicted. But if you endure patiently, indeed it is better for the patient. Endure you patiently. Your patience is not except through the help of Allah (al-Nahl 16:126-127)

In one Hadith the Prophet -peace be upon him- said that Allah has commanded him about nine things. One of them he mentioned was “that I forgive those who do wrong to me.”” (source: http://islamawareness.net/Salvation/forgiveness.html)

Finally, I encourage each and every one of you to read this short but beautiful, beautiful article … it is truly life-changing!

I’d also like to remind everyone not to hurt others on purpose. Be it with a phrase, look or even a thought. You do not know what the other person is going through in the their life, no matter how close you are to them, you do not know as much as you think you do! It’s really simple, if you break a vase and then manage to glue the pieces back together as best as you could, the vase will still never really be the same … it’ll be different to the sight and touch and may possibly never be usable as a vase again because it’ll be too fragile. You do not want to be the cause of the equivalent of those cracks to another human being … so please, be kind to one another, give each other the benefit of the doubt, don’t jump to conclusions based on hearsay and don’t let your prejudices and ego cloud your judgment. If you have negative feelings towards someone, simply walk away … do it gently and kindly but do not do something you will regret in this life and even more in the next one. It really isn’t worth it.

May Allah forgive us all and turn our saye2at (bad deeds) into 7asanat (good deeds). May Allah fill our hearts and minds with nothing but love for Him, his prophet and all others. May we fall under Allah’s mercy and grace rather than his anger and reprimand. May we be granted clear vision and  help guide each other to the right path 🙂

Ameen (Amen)

Courtesy: Google Images!

Courtesy: Google Images!

Dear Thirties,

I am too excited to write anything remotely coherent!

All I can say is please be sweet, kind and gentle. Please be filled with happy moments and endless smiles. Please add to my happy memories and help me age just enough to let go of painful ones. Please let me see more of those I love and let them know how much I love and appreciate them. Please be kind to my friends and loved ones, we all need your support. Please help me be a better person with every passing day. Please be kind to my family and I and help me be the best wife and mother to my husband and children. Please be exciting and fun. Please bring us happiness, health, success and peace of mind more than anything.

Dear thirties … please be everything I had hoped you would be and much more.

Optimistically Yours,

Heba

Alas, the moment is near. In a little over 24 hours my twenties will be over, forever! It’s an event I face with mixed emotions. I am overly excited and overwhelmed at the same time. Excited to start a new, more mature and, potentially, more exhilarating phase of my life. Overwhelmed with the feeling that I am turning the page on my twenties, which have been much more eventful than I had ever imagined them to be. It feels like leaving behind a very close friend or companion, knowing for a fact that you will never, ever see them again! I am not sad, heartbroken or depressed like I’ve heard occurs with many at this point. If anything, I am humbled, thankful and grateful … on many levels.

My twenties were rough and tough but were also gentle and kind. They were eventful yet quiet. They were heartbreaking yet heartwarming. They were full of tears and smiles. They included the lowest points of my life so far and the greatest. During my twenties I lost some of the people closest to my heart to illness, death and life yet I also met some of the people who will forever remain in my heart no matter what. I have lost some people who I thought were friends yet I made the best real, lifelong friends. The tides of my twenties were high and rough when they came down crashing upon me, yet when they settled, the waters were calm and glistened beautifully in the sunlight!

I come out of this decade stronger, disciplined, well-taught, independent, confident, intellectual, knowledgeable, firm, responsible, mature, willing, optimistic, with a clearer vision of who I am and what I want and, most importantly to me, with my feet planted firm on the ground and my head held up high! During numerous points I thought my twenties were going to break me. I even had points where I had not even the slightest hope of seeing my thirties! However, God chose to keep and protect me. He chose to give me a second, third and fourth chance at life. Time and time again He would come to my aid, lift me up and give me a reason to start over.

The most beautiful outcome of this decade is my beautiful children, without the slightest doubt. I love them more than anything in this world and would do anything to see them happy and well. I intend to spend the rest of my life living up to their expectations of me, being there for them, supporting them and being the stepping stone they need towards leading their own lives. I intend to do everything I can to give them everything my parents gave me and much more. I intend to do my best to see them better than I ever even aspired to be! My children are my life from day one and nothing on this Earth can change that.

I am thankful for every illness I had, every mishap that occurred, every bad relationship I had, every friend that betrayed me, every person that stood in my way, every obstacle I faced and every person who tried to bring me down, for all those circumstances made me stronger and taught me lessons I could have never learned otherwise in life. I am thankful for every healthy day, every right decision I made, every successful relationship I had, every friend that stood by my side, every person who helped me advance in life one way or another, every obstacle I overcame and every person who has ever encouraged me, for all those circumstances made me realize how blessed and loved I truly am.

To every person who has had a major impact on my life, thank you for being part of it. To all my school colleagues, friends and teachers. To all my university colleagues, friends and professors. To all my professional colleagues, friends and managers. To all my entrepreneurial clients, collaborators and supporters. To all the doctors and nurses who have helped me in the past and continue to do so today. To all my friends, family and neighbors. And of course, to all my blog followers who return day after day to encourage me. I love you all and thank you for being such wonderful individuals. I am humbled by the experience of meeting you and learning so much from each and every one of you.

I do not want to start naming names because the list will soon grow so huge and I am bound to forget mentioning someone and that’s the last thing I want to do. But to all my sisters out there, the women who support me every day and show me their love every way they can. To the women who have always held me up high and never once lost faith in me. To the women who love me from the bottom of their hearts just as much I love them. To the women who sacrifice every single day for the sake of their families and loved ones. You, ladies, are my rock! Without you, I would not be the woman I am today. No one has had as great an impact on my personal growth as you wonderful women. I am sure you know who you are and I pray to God, every single day, that He protects and keeps you and your families and loved ones. I pray that God grants you all your wishes and deepest desires, that He helps you out of your calamities and that He rewards you greatly for instilling happiness in my heart as well as those of others I am sure. You are all fabulous and I know that you will all receive your hearts’ desire, whether in this life or the next, because you deserve it.

I am grateful that coincidence has led my parents here on birthday and they will be celebrating this important milestone with me. I could not have asked for better parents. They have always been there for us, supported us and held our hands until my brother and I crossed to safety. My dad is the hardest working man I know and may possibly ever know! He has done everything he can to give us the life he never had. My mother has the tenderest heart and has always been my best friend and adviser and I hers. She sacrificed so much, much more than I could ever iterate, for our happiness as a family. She is truly a remarkable woman and my only regret is that I am thousands of miles away from her and cannot give back a tiny portion of what she has given us all her life. I wish my brother were here. I wish my deceased loved ones were here. I wish my lovely friends were here. But all those people are in my heart and I know that they will make my day special no matter where they are. I love them all with all my heart and I wish the living happiness, peace of mind, lots of love, success and everything else their hearts desire. I wish the dead peace, forgiveness and that their graves are pieces of heaven that they are enjoying right now.

Like I said, I wish if some people who are no longer present in my life were here to wish me happiness on the days to come. But it is God’s wisdom that he has either taken them out of my life or out of life as we know it altogether. To my maternal grandparents, I love you and I miss you every day. My children will grow to know how much you meant to me, to us all. I hope you are resting in peace. To my paternal grandparents, I miss you although I have never met grandpa and hope that you are resting in peace. To uncle Hamdy and my dear cousin Karim, your deaths cut me deep and I miss your humor, kindness and sweetness. My children would have loved to meet you. I hope you are resting in peace. To oncle Mohamed, I only saw you a few times but you mean so much to my husband and thus to me, you are missed. To each and every person who has ever meant something to me one day, I wish you all the happiness and success in this world and the next.

Finally, I’d like to thank my husband for stealing me away for the better half of my twenties. Our family is a beautiful one, one that is unique and cannot be replaced nor replicated. Thank you for working so hard to provide for us. Thank you for being someone our children can look up to. And thank you for always trying your best.

My dear twenties, you have been such a loyal companion and we have been through so much together … I shall never forget you! I now leave you behind but the memories we have, the lessons learned, the experiences we had shall live on forever. With time, I promise to hold on to your highlights and let go of anything else. I could not have asked for a better companion the past decade and can only wish that my thirties will learn something from you. You will be missed but remembered fondly. I pass you on to someone else, knowing in my heart and mind that you will help them the way you did me. Thank you for taking me in years ago as a fragile, shy little girl and now letting me out a much, much better version of myself … a strong, confident woman. I love you and always will, my loyalest of friends 🙂

Bring it on thirties … I am armed and ready 😀

Courtesy: Google Images!

Courtesy: Google Images!

In 72 hours, I will finally be 30 years old. As I leave my twenties behind, I am excited to begin a new phase of my life. However, I take it upon myself to always let others learn from my own experience in life, no matter how small it is. Everything that happens in one’s life happens for a reason and I don’t believe that the reason is always private, on the contrary, I believe that most of the time whatever happens is meant to help you help someone else as well! So, if you are in your twenties, here is what I would have to say to you:

  • Don’t be afraid to live life! All too often we are worried about what others would think, what others would do, what others would say … don’t! Live your life to the fullest and don’t be scared to try new things. You don’t want to just exist, you want to live and there is no better age to do so. I wish I wasn’t so shy for the most part of my twenties, but I intend to fully rectify that in my 30s, it’s never too late 😉

  • Better late than never but never late is better! Always be punctual. Always be there for others when they need you not when it best suits you. Always apologize when you are supposed to. Always be supportive when your shoulder is needed. Always be at the front lines, no matter where you are going or what you are doing, get there on time and be there till the end.
  • Be kind. Always, always be kind. Even if the person on the receiving end doesn’t deserve it in your opinion, be kind.
  • Forgive. I am one who is unable to forget, I find it important to learn from all the experiences where I was hurt or wronged, but I do forgive even if I find it close to impossible. The trick is to do it for yourself, not for the person in question. One day, you will need God to forgive you for all your sins so it is a good idea to pay it forward and forgive others first.

  • Be charitable. Yes, you are young and you have your life ahead of you. But only God knows how long that life will be! Make a difference in someone’s life, alleviate someone’s pain, help educate or feed someone. You will not only feel great, but your act of kindness may change someone’s life completely.
  • Spend time with your family, not just your friends. Our parents do so much for us, throughout their lives. Spending time with them when they know you have other alternatives close to your heart will make a world of a difference to them. Be kind to them, respect them and don’t make fun of them. No matter how hard they are to deal with, no matter how “uncool” you feel they are, you wouldn’t be here if it were not for them and, most likely, the life you have and the friends you have and the income you have wouldn’t have been the same if it weren’t for them … whether directly or indirectly.
  • Be frugal. Don’t be cheap, but plan your spending. Even if you have a wonderful job that pays you well. Markets fall and rise, jobs are lost every day, a medical emergency can happen any time … there are a multitude of reasons to encourage you to be smart with regards to your spending. The smarter you are with your money when you are younger, the more likely you’ll live comfortably and have money to spare when you get older.
  • Have fun whenever you can! It doesn’t have to be by going on a cruise (although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that if you can afford it) but make sure you have fun every chance you get. It can be by watching a fun movie, spending time with new and exciting people, visiting exotic lands or just doodling something. I don’t care what it is, try to make fun an integral part of your life, not only is it uplifting, it’s also necessary for surviving the ups and downs of this life.
  • Fall in love. Like head over heals, crazy, blind love! I truly believe that it is better to have loved and lost than not have loved at all. Sure, in that case it will hurt like hell, every single time you think about it … but if you have never loved, truly, deeply, madly loved then you have not lived. Life is completely different when you are in love and we all deserve to feel that way once in a lifetime. If you end up with the love of your life, hold on dearly to them and never ever let them go, that kind of love only happens once in a lifetime so don’t blow it.
  • Graduate from university or college. If you can help it, DO NOT, under any circumstance, drop out of school. Even if you are not big on studying, think about the future rewards of taking such a step. A good education is your weapon in this life! If you want to become a better person, have a great career, have prospects in life, have doors open for you, have the confidence to walk through life, have the strength not to let life break you, have the power to hold your head up high … it’s all attainable through education. If you have to drop out of school for any reason, read, read, read.
  • Read! Reading broadens your horizons, increases your knowledge, strengthens your language, enriches your imagination, fortifies your self-development and changes your world. Reading is the one and only activity I would encourage you to make happen even if you are the laziest person to walk this Earth.
  • Take care of your health. No, I don’t mean go on a fad diet once you gain two pounds, I mean be healthy in general. Eat healthy, breathe healthy, sleep healthy, think healthy and talk healthy! Your figure isn’t all that matters about you, your overall health is mega important and it influences your emotional and psychological well-being so be as healthy as you can. And remember, being too thin is just as bad as being obese.
  • Love yourself. Forget about what society tells you you should look, behave, smell and dress like. You are bigger than that and you aren’t a copy of every other boy or girl walking on the street. You are a unique being and you should love yourself as such. Do not let society and the media make you a copy when you were born an original.
  • Work on your self-confidence. The teens and twenties are a ship wreck when it comes to self-esteem and self-confidence. However, if you do your best to accept yourself the way you are and stop trying to change everything about you to please others or conform to society, you will be the happiest person in the world. Not only will you be content, you will learn to love yourself and that will project on everything you do and say. Thus, drawing back positive energy and leading others to see you as the awesome being  you really are.
  • Do not regret your mistakes! I know this is a tough one but it’s one of the greatest services you can do for yourself. As badly as many mistakes hurt and as deep and painful as some scars they leave behind are, you wouldn’t be the wonderful person you are if it weren’t for your mistakes. You may have fallen in love with that heartless person but you came out of the relationship stronger and more alive because you have awoken those beautiful, beautiful feelings in the process. You may have turned down that fantastic job but you gained your self-respect in the process. Your friends may have turned their backs on you but you now know who your true friends are. No matter what the mistake was, no matter how serious, no matter how big, no matter how deep the cut is, you learned something, something that you could not have learned as clearly or directly from another experience. So never regret your mistakes, learn from them and be thankful you made them.
  • Don’t trust to easily. Your trust is a gift that needs to be earned, no one is entitled to it! Whether it’s a family member, a friend or a loved one. Just because you feel a certain way about someone doesn’t mean they automatically deserve your trust. In fact, the more important someone is to you, the harder they should work to earn your trust because the more likely it is that if they betray your trust you will be deeply cut.
  • Quality not quantity. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have, it’s how supportive and true the ones you do have are. It doesn’t matter how much you make at that job, it’s how much self-development and use it is to others that matters. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your pocket, it’s how you use it to make yourself and those less fortunate happy. It doesn’t matter what gadgets you have, it’s how you use them to be able to spend more quality time with the people you love that matters.
  • Use the right criteria to select a partner for life. His good looks and muscles don’t make him a great husband nor exceptional father. Hell, they aren’t even there to stay!

  • Don’t have children if you are not ready. Most people love children and it is one of their dreams to have their own. But unless you yourself are mature and responsible enough and willing to start sacrificing a lot for your child’s sake, don’t have children just yet. Children aren’t a doll that you’ll just throw in a nanny’s or daycare’s arms once you are bored with them … they are real, live human beings who love and need you more than anything else in the world. If you are going to let them down, don’t have them just yet.
  • Be alone! Another weird one, but if you are like myself then you need emotion to live. Such a character can lead to you being involved with someone for the sake of love, you want to love and be loved and simply and truly cannot live without such passion. You need to learn to be happy as an individual before you commit to a relationship! That’s the only way your relationship will work and will help you both grow as a couple and as individuals, otherwise, your partner will override you and that’s surely not what you want to end up happening.
  • If you can, travel. It doesn’t have to be on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be planned. It doesn’t have to have a purpose. Just travel, have fun, experience new things and live! Traveling is fabulous, it’s an experience like no other especially if you plan it your own way.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. It doesn’t matter how young you are, as long as you have something useful to say, say it. A 20-year-old can be more mature, experienced or even knowledgeable than a 50-year-old! You have the right, just like everyone else around you, to speak your mind.
  • Take risks. Whether it be by bungee-jumping or taking that semester abroad. When you take risks, the most beautiful things happen. You also break through your fears, which is something I highly encourage.
  • Start up your own little project or business. I don’t care whether it’s a lemonade stand or a full-blown consulting company. Try being your own boss, doing something you love and putting your dreams into action. I ran my own business for four years and they were very exciting, instructive and highly self-developmental. Planting your feet in the ground and standing firm even when others try to take you down yields a fantastic feeling of inner-strength. Helping others and making a difference in their lives yields a terrific feeling of contentment.
  • Don’t be prejudiced. You don’t know much about the world, really. And if you are prejudiced against others I guarantee you that others will be prejudiced against you as well even if you never know it. We are all so different yet so similar at the same time. Treat others the way you would like to be treated and you will see the same happen to you.
  • Be silly! Don’t be too shy to be silly sometimes. Be sure you are being silly rather than stupid though! Being stupid is something that should never, ever happen. But being silly and care-free is sometimes what one needs to feel free and alive.
  • Try and try again. You are at the age where anything is possible. You can achieve anything you want … just be diligent and don’t give up just yet.
  • Work hard, really hard. The harder you work when you are young, the faster you will learn and grow. That will help your future old self more than you can ever imagine.
  • Know what you want in life. Don’t let others tell you what you should want, have your own dreams and goals and make them happen.
  • Don’t let others bring you down. Whether it’s that fake friend, that bitter woman whose husband you once rejected, that poisonous partner or that hateful relative … don’t let anyone have so much control over you and your feelings as to dictate your well-being and self-worth.
  • Don’t relinquish control of your life. No matter who it is you are in love with, how important that person is, how strong the tie between you is … your life is yours and yours alone and you are in full control when it comes to it. Never, ever give anyone the keys to your well-being.
  • Make yourself happy. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a relationship or not, you are your number one supporter. Even if you have the most wonderful partner in the world, it’s unhealthy to have your happiness depend on him/her. People who let that happen almost always end up with a broken heart and/or a broken spirit.
  • Fight your own battles, don’t ever let anyone else do so for you.
  • Always have hope, the best is yet to come.
  • If it happened, it happened for a reason. Whether or not you know the wisdom behind it, have faith in God and know that it was best for you to happen.

  • Stand strong and keep your head held up high. You matter, you are doing your best and you will prevail.
  • Care about the things and people that matter … the rest is just trash that should not have any impact on you.
  • What people do and say reflects upon their own character, it says nothing about you.
  • If someone insults you on purpose, it’s either because they are jealous, haven’t been raised well or have failed to be like you.
  • Don’t badmouth anyone, no matter what they did to you. Sometimes people grow apart for one reason or another but it doesn’t give us license to forget what we once had.
  • Do things that matter. Don’t spend your twenties having fun and playing. Do things that count and matter from time to time, you’ll thank  yourself later.
  • Play sports … or just move!
  • The TV, video games and other gadgets are only your friends if you use them right. Otherwise, they are bad as weed, crack and cocaine!
  • Pleasing everyone is impossible, so stop trying!
  • Showing others the exit door to your life is OK, in fact, it’s encouraged. Don’t be obsessed about keeping relationships and don’t feel guilty for changing the dynamics of a once strong relationship. Sometimes, people are meant to be a lesson that you move on from … it’s OK.

  • If you have a significant other and/or children, treat them right. You never know if you will wake up tomorrow or not to show them how much you love and appreciate them.
  • Be spiritual. It’s not uncool, it’s not silly, it’s anything but! Having a connection with God will always help you in more ways than one. If you do not connect with the higher being that is God, you will always feel lost.

All too often, the two are used interchangeably while there is a huge difference between growing up and maturing! Growing up, simply put, means aging. The process of growing in age from day to day, month to month or year to year. Growing up, in itself, does not necessarily mean than an individual has added to their knowledge, aspirations, goals, perceptions, character, personality or anything else! Maturing, on the other hand, signifies personal growth and development in body and mind.

Courtesy: Quotes For You

Courtesy: Quotes For You

Yes, growing up should, in theory, imply maturity as well but I have found the case to be different on numerous occasions. And they weren’t just random occasions here and there, there’s a substantial number out there, which is actually very sad to see. I have seen 20-year-olds who are more mature than 50-year-olds. I have seen uneducated people who are more mature than highly-educated ones. I have seen single people who never traveled more mature than mothers who have traveled and live abroad. I have even seen the same individual become less mature with time! If you think about it, it’s really fascinating that such a phenomenon exists, defying all logic.

So, what should growing up really mean? Well, it should be synonymous with maturing. But what does being mature entail? In my opinion, it’s the little things that show how mature you are. Like how you deal with certain situations, how you perceive certain things, how you interpret certain events in life, etc. Here are a few points that I use to ascertain maturity, whether in myself or others. It is by no means comprehensive, and I do tweak it when applying it to one individual versus another but, as a framework, it works beautifully every time!

1- Know where you stand in life. Have defined dreams and goals that you can work towards attaining.

2- Know your worth and know that it is not defined by what others think.

3- How do you treat those who have done something unforgivable? An immature person will tell them off. A mature person will show them the exit door from his life.

4- How do you react to unpleasant situations? An immature person will either lash out or whine. A mature person will either let it pass or respond accordingly without blowing things out of proportion or overreacting.

5- How do you treat those who wronged you? An immature person will either throw false blame or lash out. A mature person will be patient and try to understand why what happened did happen and either explain things to make them clear or let the whole thing go.

6- Know yourself. What you want or don’t want. What you care about or don’t care about. What is important to you and what isn’t.

7- Know when to let go. Whether it’s of the past, a current situation or relationship, an unattainable dream or a friend. Knowing when to let go is a sign that you are mature, know what you want and are in control of your life. Knowing who to keep in your life and who not to keep is a sign that you are aware of your surroundings and have enough self-confidence to not fear loss.

8- Do you make up your mind on issues that matter or do you let the media and other outlets make up your mind for you? Do you hate a certain group because you believe they are terrorists although you have never done any research on the subject? Do you believe that all women of a certain race are gold diggers although you  have never met one yourself? Do you believe that all members of a political party are idiots although you’ve never had a political discussion with one of them?

9- Know the worth of others in your life. Are your friends important enough to keep or can you lose them over disagreements such as those concerning politics or religious issues? Is your partner important enough to you or can you lose him/her over a dumb argument? If others have chosen to have you in their lives and you don’t appreciate that then it tells a great deal about you.

10- How do you spend your money? Do you save a certain sum? Do you blow it all off on stuff you want rather than need? Do you pay off debt first and then indulge or does it not matter? Dealing wisely with finances is one of the strongest signs of maturity.

11- How do you spend your free time? Do you read books or play video games? Do you go running or do drugs? Do you travel or do you lay on a couch and watch mindless TV? Not everything you do with your free time has to be intellectual. But it should be useful and add to your personal growth one way or another, no matter how small.

12- How much control do you relinquish to others? An immature person is easily swayed by what others tell them or even impost on them. A mature person knows that they are in control of their own lives and only those important to them have an advisory role in their lives, no less and no more. They are in full control and never relinquish any of it to another soul.

13- Do you express your feelings or do you bottle them in out of embarrassment. It’s some people’s nature to bottle in feelings, and that is fine, but if you do so out of embarrassment then it’s a sign of incomplete maturity. You should be secure enough to know that you are entitled to your feelings and that there is nothing wrong with expressing them openly.

14- How do you treat the weak and less fortunate? Do you lend a helping hand or make fun of them? Do you understand that their struggle is much more profound than yours or do you ridicule what they have to face on a daily basis in life? Do you understand how substantial your kindness towards them is, if even by smiling at them, or do you treat them as if they were invisible?

15- How do you use your knowledge? Do you try to pass it on to someone else if you could or do you just keep it for yourself? Do you use it for good or evil? Do you help others using your knowledge or not use it at all?

16- How do you treat those who you will not benefit from financially, socially or professionally? The bus driver, janitor, cab driver, waitress, doorman, nurse, etc. If you treat them the way you wish to be treated then you are mature. If you treat them as if they would not make a difference in this world if they just happened to disappear than you are immature and, sorry to add, a selfish child who needs a lesson in respect!

17- How do you treat your parents? I don’t care if you are 17 or 67, your parents are your parents. They sacrificed a lot, dedicated their lives to raising you, tried to give you what they never were able to have. They deserve your respect, gratitude and support.

18- Are you charitable or not? It doesn’t have to be through giving money. In Islam, even a smile is charity. You can help others by being there for them, listening to them, lending a helping hand, removing harm from the road, counseling, advising, giving food, giving shelter, helping someone find a job, etc. There are a multitude of ways to give back. Only a mature person realizes the importance of such an act and knows that we are not on this Earth forever so doing good is a must.

19- How do you deal with loss? Whether it be someone who died, someone who shut you out or someone that you let go of. The way you deal with loss could be through regret, guilt or anger if you are immature. If you are mature it could be with patience, understanding and forgiveness.

20- How do you perceive calamities? Are they another way the world is against you or are they a wake up call? Are they one more unlucky event in your highly unlucky life or are they an opportunity to repent or get closer to God? Are they something bad that always happens to you in particular of all people or are they a way for you to become a better person?

21- Be able to make yourself happy! Don’t always depend on others regarding your happiness. I know it’s easier said than done but I used to depend on the people I love for happiness, throughout the years I have trained myself to have my happiness depend on me rather than others. Of course, I am not 100% in control yet, and may never be, but at least no one has the whole set of keys to my heart’s happiness anymore.

Courtesy: FacebookQuotes4U.com

Courtesy: FacebookQuotes4U.com

22- Do you give credit where credit is due no matter how you feel about the individual in question? Giving credit to or showing gratitude for someone that you actually dislike or even detest takes a lot of courage, strength and maturity.

Finally, I’d like to add that if you believe that you are immature, don’t pretend to be otherwise because others will very easily see through you. It’s better to admit it to yourself and work on it. And if you happen to be married or are in a relationship where having children is a possibility, please do not bring children into this world until you yourself have grown up and matured! That’s not for your sake or that of society even, it’s for that child’s sake. The more mature you are, the more you will be able to guide your child and be there for them and protect them. So please, put that in mind before  you do the closest person to your heart the gravest injustice.

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