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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)

30 Days Till 30 … Day 28: If You Are In Your Twenties …

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.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 27: What Should Growing Up Really Mean?

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.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 26: Islam

One of the first things Prophet Muhammad said to the Companions was:

“Spread peace, feed the hungry, keep strong the family tie, pray when other people are sleeping, and you will enter Paradise safely” (Al-Tirmidhi). This has been interpreted to be a general exhortation, not just to Muslims.*

Prophet Muhammad had a Jewish neighbor who detested him and so used to throw his garbage at the doorstep of the Prophet’s home. The Prophet would then pick it up silently and throw it in the disposal area along with his personal trash. One morning the Prophet didn’t see any garbage at his doorstep but didn’t think much of it. The next morning he noticed the same thing. This went on for week, an entire week had passed without any garbage being thrown at the Prophet’s doorstep. So Prophet Muhammad got concerned and went to his neighbor to pay him a visit and check on him. As it turns out, the neighbor was sick and confined to bed. Our Prophet then started taking care of and checking on his neighbor until he fully recovered. The Jew, not long afterwards, embraced Islam because of our beloved Prophet’s high morals.

It is narrated by Abu Shurayh (R.A.) that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said; “Whoever believes in Allah and the final day (Day of Judgment) it is essential that he does not harm his neighbors and whoever believes in Allah and the final Day it is essential for him to entertain his guest with kindness and generosity and whoever believes in Allah and the Final Day it is essential that he speak what is good or otherwise remain silent.” **

In the Quran (Surat El-Nissa 4:36) it says: “Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet) and what your right hands possess: For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious.” **

There is a hadith (saying) of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, which goes as follows.
“Do you know what the rights of neighbors are?” asked the noble Prophet. And he went on to give a list:
• Help him if he asks for your help
• Give him relief if he seeks your relief
• Lend him if he needs a loan
• Show him concern if he is distressed
• Nurse him when he is ill
• Attend his funeral when he dies
• Congratulate him if he meets any good
• Sympathize with him if any calamity befalls him
• Do not block his air by raising your building high without his permission
• Harass him not
• Give him a share when you buy fruits, and if you do not give him, bring what you buy quietly and let not your children take them out to excite the jealousy of his children.”**

Given that I am a proud Muslim, I could not have possibly concluded my “30 Days Till 30” posts without talking about my beautiful religion! I am aware that some will disagree with this post and it may spark a series of hateful, negative comments but to tell you the truth, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, my religion is way more important to me than anything else to be left out of this series. I am also aware that the majority of people reading this are open-minded enough to at least listen and be respectful in their comments, if any, especially if they have been coming back to my blog for a while now and have got to know me and my thoughts a little.

It is no secret that Islam is being equated to terrorism these days. Between the behavior of Islamist extremists (notice that I chose to use Islamist rather than Muslim) and the ever-so-eager, and may I add highly selective, media I understand why that may be the case. However, I do hold all those who believe so accountable for their unreasonable view! It is every individual’s responsibility to educate themselves on issues that matter. If you have educated yourself, really educated yourself, through diverse, credible sources and that remains to be your view then I respect it and respect you for taking it up on yourself to do your own research. However, if no such research was done then allow me to point this out to you; if we all listen to some of the most influential forces around us, such as the media and politicians, we’d believe much more than Islam being a terrorist religion! We’d believe that all Hispanics are drug dealers, all African-Americans are thugs and murderers, all Asians are rice pickers who can’t speak “proper” English, all Eastern Europeans are drunkards, all English are stuck-up, all Australians are descendants of criminals, all Canadians are cowards, all Mormons are cult-like, all Christians are judgmental and all Jews are cheap!

I, for one, do not believe any of the above. And why so? Because I was raised not to judge, not to repeat what I hear without verifying, not to hurt other people’s feelings, not to assume, to research, to ask, to look for the good in others and to be fair. In other words, I was raised on Islam!

There is a HUGE difference between Muslims and Islamists. Muslims are everyday people like myself, who have embraced the beautiful, peaceful religion of Islam and who are trying to live their lives just like everybody else around them. Islamists, on the other hand, are not what the dictionary would tell you … supporters and advocators of Islamic fundamentalism … but rather those whose Islam is just a word describing the name of a religion they belong to on paper, not a way of life or a light in their hearts! If they really did support Islamic fundamentalism, they’d be the kindest, most understanding, most supportive, non-judgmental, peace-loving beings to walk this Earth. All radicals and extremists are Islamists, not Muslims. And I, as a Muslim, condemn each and every act of cowardice, hatred, assassination and terrorism they commit! Not just that, even any radical thought or idea is one I and my religion condemn!

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Religion is very easy, and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” Bukhari:V1N38 ##

Every era has its terrorists and Islamists happen to be those of the one we live now. Think back centuries and decades ago. Were Christians not considered the terrorists of their time during the Crusades which took course over an entire century? Were Communists not considered the terrorists of their time during Marx, Lenin and Stalin’s rules? Were Nazis (and thus Germans) not considered the terrorists of their time during Hitler’s rule? Were Japanese Pan-Asians not considered the terrorists of their time pre-World War II? How about the African Americans who were the terrorists of the past few decades? How about Christians who kill others? How about Jews who kill others? It’s all relative, relative to when and where you live!

The act of an individual, a group, or a whole bunch of individuals or groups doesn’t make me generalize about others belonging to that same group. Every race, religion, ethnicity, nationality and color has criminal individuals. That’s a fact. Whatever those people commit is on their shoulders, not on those of all who belong to that identifying group. If we all generalized then we would all hate each other! Christians and Jews kill Muslims. Americans and Europeans kill Muslims. Even Muslims kill Muslims. And I can guarantee you that if I do the research I’ll find at least one person from every other religion and country in this world has killed a Muslim someday. So I, as a devoted Muslim, would have an obligation in that case to hate and prosecute every single person I meet, including Muslims like myself, because they are surely responsible for some heinous crime or another against a brother or sister of mine! And the opposite is true as well. Does that sound reasonable? I don’t think so.

The bottom line is, there are good people and there are bad people and both can belong to any faith, nationality or other identifier! I believe good people outweigh bad ones. I believe that a person’s actions speak louder than anything else. I believe that who you are as an individual does not reflect on all those who carry the same identifier as you do, even if you are good. I believe that we are capable of living in peace, it’s really not that hard, but we don’t want to.

“Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein, and whoever recommends and helps an evil cause shares in its burdens” Qur’an:4:85 ##

Concerning Islam, there are Muslim dictators just like there are dictators of other religions. There are Muslim terrorists just like there are terrorists of other religions. There are Muslim bigots just like there are bigots of other religions. There are Muslim radicals just like there are radicals of other religions. There are Muslim abusers just like there are abusers of other religions. It’s true, I am not saying they don’t exist, what I am saying is that not all of us are that way. Real Muslims do not condone violence, Islam does not condone violence. I repeat, real Muslims do not condone violence and Islam does not condone violence!

A friend of a friend, Amy Khan of Derby, Kansas, posted the following on her Facebook page two days ago with regards to the Boston perpetrators and it speaks my mind and heart exactly;

“I want to make something VERY CLEAR to everyone on my friend’s list whether I’ve met you in real life or not. I am a practicing Muslim. I have raised my children to be practicing Muslims. We are just as horrified as you are about what has happened and is currently in Boston. What these people have done is not representative of our religious beliefs and is NOT condoned in our religion. MANY Muslim organizations are speaking out against what has happened. Just because you don’t see it on the media does not mean that area Muslims or Islamic Associations are not speaking against it. Anyone that wishes to read those statements of commendation should feel free to ask me but I am not going to post every one I find on my wall because I do not feel responsible for the actions of these individuals nor do I feel I should because they have NOTHING to do with me, my family, or our beliefs. I will not apologize for them but I do want you to know that I do not agree with them and I want to see them prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I love each and every one of you and hope you feel the same about me.”

“God does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who have neither fought against your faith nor driven you out of your homes. In fact God loves the equitable.” Qur’an:60:8 ##

Every word is true. The media is quick to show how horrible all Muslims are but fails to be as diligent when it comes to our condemnation of such behavior or how involved we are in our communities or how much we help all those around us! It’s not just the media, so many other agencies out there do us injustice deliberately. How many times have you heard or read about the number of soldiers or Israelis who were killed in some Middle Eastern country or another? Many times. OK, and how many times have you heard or read about the number of Muslims who were killed in those very same countries or incidents even?

Allow me to tell you a few facts about Islam, and please feel free to ask me any questions you have regarding any of them or anything else. I will do my best to answer you and provide sources alongside my response as well:

  • The word “Islam” in Arabic means submission (to God) and it’s derived from the word “Salam” which means peace!
  • You are not a true Muslim unless you believe in Jesus and his original message, Moses and his original message and all preceding prophets and messengers.
  • God is merciful; it is stated in the Quran that mercy is 100 parts, one of which is distributed here on Earth and the other 99 parts are in God’s hands to bestow upon us in the hereafter.
  • In Islam, it is clearly stated that we are not to judge others and if someone wrongs us we should think of 73 excuses for them to behave the way they did.
  • In the Quran; it is clearly stated that we, humans, were created as tribes and nations and that we are instructed to live together in peace and learn and benefit from each other.
  • Yes, women in Islam are to wear the Hijab once they hit puberty. It is meant to promote modesty and protect women from being perceived as sexual objects of interest. Hijab is not oppressive, it is extremely liberating. By wearing Hijab a woman has full-power over her body and her sexuality. It is she who decides who to show her body to and who doesn’t deserve such an honor. The Virgin Mary is depicted veiled in all her pictures. Nuns cover their hair. Christianity states that a woman should cover her hair or shave bald. Hijab is not the only veil out there.
  • No, we do not wear the Hijab at home with our husbands! We wear what most women wear outside their homes.
  • No, not every Muslim man is, or wants to be, married to four women. The whole point why Islam allows polygamy is that widows, older women, younger women and any woman who seeks a partner or protection can find such a partner rather than be left to fend for herself. It’s not a must, it’s a can-do to ease the suffering of others.
  • Yes, we use birth control too, the same kinds as everyone else!
  • No, Women in Islam are not oppressed or abused. Even during the time of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) women were warriors, entrepreneurs (his own first wife was his employer), nurses, writers and much more.
  • No, we don’t believe that all Christians, Jews or whoever are going to Hell! In fact, the Quran teaches us that such knowledge belongs to God and only God and so whoever utters such words has done himself a grave disservice.

    A funeral procession once passed in front of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and he stood up out of respect. When he was told the person in the coffin was Jewish and not Muslim, he said: “Was it not a living (soul)?” Bukhari:V2N399##

    Quran 5:69 says (Arberry): “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, who so believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.”

    In other words, the Quran promises Christians and Jews along with Muslims that if they have faith and works, they need have no fear in the afterlife. It is not saying that non-Muslims go to hell– quite the opposite.

    When speaking of the 7th-century situation in the Muslim city-state of Medina, which was at war with pagan Mecca, the Quran notes that the polytheists and Arabian Jewish tribes were opposed to Islam, but then goes on to say:

    Quran 5:82. ” . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.”

    So the Quran not only does not urge Muslims to commit violence against Christians, it calls them “nearest in love” to the Muslims! The reason given is their piety, their ability to produce holy persons dedicated to God, and their lack of overweening pride.***

  • Even at times of war, Muslims weren’t allowed to wreak havoc as they wish! There were certain rules and guidelines to be followed.

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once saw the corpse of a woman who had been killed in a military action, and he disapproved of it and forbade the killing of women and children.Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad and his successor as head of the Muslim community, advised one of his military commanders: “Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place.” Al-Muwatta:V21N9-10 ##

  • Islam is a merciful religion, even the smallest acts of kindness are encouraged.

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “(God) will (question a person) on the Day of Resurrection (saying)): ‘O son of Adam, I was sick but you did not visit Me.’ The person will say: ‘O my Lord, how could I visit Thee when Thou art the Lord of the worlds?’ Thereupon (God) will say: ‘Didn’t you know that a servant of Mine was sick but you did not visit him, and were you not aware that if you had visited him, you would have found Me by him?’(God will then say) ‘O son of Adam, I asked you for food but you did not feed Me.’ The person will say: ‘My Lord, how could I feed Thee when Thou art the Lord of the worlds?’ (God) will say: ‘Didn’t you know that a servant of Mine asked you for food but you did not feed him, and were you not aware that if you had fed him you would have found him by My side?’ Muslim:1172##

  • True Jihad has nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with what extremists are doing these days! Speaking up against injustice and something called Jihad Al Nafs (i.e. jihad against oneself), where you continuously try to battle the bad inside you and have the good overcome it, are what Islamic Jihad are about.

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The best (Jihad) is (to speak) word of justice to an oppressive ruler.” Sunan of Abu-Dawood:2040##

  • Charity is emphasized in Islam, again and again! In the Quran alone it was mentioned 150 times in total. Even a smile is considered a form of charity.

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” Narrated ‘Aisha [prophet Mohammed’s wife] -may Allah be pleased with her- : “I never saw the Prophet laughing to an extent that one could see his palate, but he always used to smile”.#

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “(Each one) of you should save himself from the fire by giving even half of a date (in charity). And if you do not find a half date, then (you can do it through saying) a pleasant word (to your brethren).” Bukhari:V2N394##

  • Prophet Moses is the prophet whose name was mentioned most in the Quran. Not Prophet Muhammad!.

I could go on and on citing examples from Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and doings and from the Quran to prove my point but I believe that I was able to convey it in the most concise and direct way I could. To sum up, Islam and true Muslims do not condone violence and terrorism in any way, shape or form. Islam and true Muslims have nothing against anyone embracing any other faith, especially Christians and Jews. Islam and true Muslims believe that we are in no position to prosecute others on this Earth, our judgment – all of us, Muslims included – is in God’s hands in the hereafter. Me, as Heba, if I love you then I love you as an individual for your actions and feelings towards me, nothing else. And if I dislike you then I dislike you as an individual for your actions and feelings towards me, nothing else. Some of my closest and most loyal friends are Christians. Some are Arabs like myself and others are Europeans. I am Muslim and Islam is the religion of peace!

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* Source: http://www.islamicity.com/articles/Articles.asp?ref=RA1001-4060

** Source: http://www.turntoislam.com/threads/social-impact-of-islam-on-neighborhoods.74550

*** Source: http://www.juancole.com/2006/03/bigotry-toward-muslims-and-anti-arab.html

# Source: http://islamgreatreligion.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/even-a-smile-is-charity-prophet-muhammad-pbuh/

## Source: http://islamgreatreligion.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/quotes-and-wise-sayings-from-quran-islam-a-message-of-peace/

30 Days Till 30 … Day 16: Instilling Self-confidence & Independence in Children

After publishing my post on parenthood on March 31st, 2013, I received a request from one of my friends to dedicate a post to how we, as mothers and/or parents in general, can help build and instill self-confidence and independence in our children. I cannot claim to be a professional in this regard but I am a mother with 5 years of experience and so I can speak based on that.

Needless to say, every child is different. Children have different personalities, characters, temperaments, preferences and interests, amongst other things, even if they are identical twins. Consequently, what works on one child may not work on another. However, there are certain guidelines that apply, in principal, to all children. It is up to you, the parent, to tweak and mold them to make them fit your own child. Ample consideration dedicated to the planning of the application of these guidelines will save you a great deal of time, effort and possible frustration when it’s time to actually do so. Personally, dealing with my children is like dealing with children from two completely different galaxies!

Let’s jump right to it, here are the top 20 doable and practical ways you, as a parent, can help instill self-confidence and independence in your children:

1- Listen to your child. Let them know that they are important and what they have to say is interesting to you, even if it’s something “silly” that you are hearing for the umpteenth time! Realizing their own self-worth helps build their self-confidence.

2- Talk to them as if they were adults. Don’t dumb down your speech. In our house, we never ask our children if they want to go “wee wee”, for example, we ask them if they need to use the bathroom. Children can see how you talk to each other as adults and can recognize you changing tones with them. Don’t do it, they’ll appreciate it and will want to behave like adults too.

3- Give them small, age-appropriate chores around the house. If you want them to be independent then you have to trust them to do certain things on their own. Our 4 year-old makes her own bed and helps clear the table. Our 2 year-old is in charge of cleaning up his toys and putting them back in the right place after he’s done. Don’t set them up for failure though by giving them daunting tasks.

4- Don’t let them quit. When they attempt to do something and fail, encourage them to try and try again until they get it right. Don’t jump in immediately and rescue them. If you see their repeated failed attempts heading towards anger and frustration then offer a hint or a helping hand but don’t finish the task yourself.

5- Praise them when they do well. Most of the time we only pay attention to what our children do wrong and we reprimand them. It’s part of raising our children, correct, but often times we tend to take whatever good they do for granted! That’s one of the worst mistakes a parent can make. Let them know that they did well, praise them and show them how much you appreciate their efforts. If anything, make a bigger deal of their successes than their mistakes.

6- Don’t talk about them with anyone in a way that would hurt their feelings, even your partner. Do you think a laugh is worth breaking your child’s spirit? Be respectful of them and think about what your child will feel and think if (or when) they hear you. If there is something that you just must reiterate, then do so when you are confident that your child will not hear you and make sure the person on the receiving end knows that you telling them is the end of the story, no fun should be made about it ever again. Again, it’s preferable that you just keep your child’s mishaps to yourself.

7- Have realistic expectations. A child is just that, a child! Don’t expect them to be perfect or understand right from wrong the way you do. Having realistic expectations will prevent you from scrutinizing every little move your children make and will give them some room for freedom.

8- Give them choices whenever you can. Freedom of choice helps develop self-worth, self-confidence, character and independence in children. The choices you give them should be controlled though. Instead of just asking them what they want to wear, pick two outfits that you approve of and ask them which one they’d like to wear. That way, you know that whatever choice they make won’t end up hurting them one way or another.

9- When it comes to little things, have them make the decision. If they’re painting a picture don’t insist that the tree’s leaves have to be green and the bark brown. If they want a tree with purple leaves and blue bark let them go ahead and paint it that way. It’s just a picture, not the end of the world. Besides, you never know, maybe you’ll discover new things about your child when you see what choices they make when given the opportunity.

10 – Whenever you can, play with your child. When you play with them you are letting them know that they are important and they are worth your time. You already keep telling them that you are “busy”, so they know that you prioritize and do the important things first. When you tell them it’s time for you to play with them, they’ll realize that they are at the top of your priority list. That will give them a strong boost and will make them happier than anything else in the world.

11- Set your child up for success. Other than teaching your child the skills they need to succeed in life, which should be one of your primary goals when raising your child anyway, make sure that they realize their own strengths as well. You can do so, very simply, by putting their accomplishments up for display! Since our children our very young, we put up their art work and any distinguished notes from their teachers up on a designated wall. Hopefully, when they grow up a bit we can kick things up a notch. Think along the lines of “The Wall of Gaylord” in “Meet the Fockers”, seriously 😀

12- Be their safety net. Let them know that you trust them enough to venture out in the world but that home and your embrace, are always going to be the safe haven that they can always come back to. Knowing that they have that will make them feel secure enough to try new things and not worry about possibly failing.

13- Help them find their identity. Your child will be in search for his/her autonomous identity from day one of their existence. Help them find it and make it a good one! Their “identity” usually ends up being a label they carry and truly believe in, make sure it’s something like “smart”, “kind” or “talented” rather than “prejudiced”, “loud” or “bully”.

14- Try to sit down with your child and discuss their feelings. Bottling up feelings isn’t healthy, not even for adults, so encouraging them to talk about them and validating those feelings can make them feel more secure and self-confident. Not to mention you having the opportunity to spot potential problems and issues that can be dealt with early on.

15- Hold them accountable! This isn’t an obvious one, but the only way your child will be able to take responsibility for the good things they do and any other successes they have is by being able to take responsibility for their mistakes and failures! If they keep blaming other factors or people for their mishaps, they will never gain the self-confidence necessary to stand on their feet and try again after failing.

16- Get involved and screen your child’s friends! No, I’m not asking you to be a control freak, just make sure that their friends are not destructive, bring them down or bully them.

17- Encourage your child to explore and try new things. Make sure they are safe of course, but let them off the leash. This will encourage independence and once they discover something “new”, that will boost their self-confidence.

18- Be a role model. Practice self-confidence and independence yourself. Children learn by watching more than anything else. They’ll repeat what they see rather than what they are told. So use that to help them, let them see you be the kind of person you want them to grow up to be.

19- Work hard and let your child see that. Hard work pays off and you can demonstrate that early on. Enforcing work-ethic is very important for the development of your child’s future self.

20- Your children believe everything you say, especially during the early years of their lives. The way you see them will eventually become the way they see themselves! If you tell your child he’s naughty, he will project that kind of behavior. If you tell your child she’s smart, she will project that kind of behavior. Be careful what you say to your children and be careful what you call them!

30 Days Till 30 … Day 10: Great Expectations

As much as I love the fabulous book, “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, the great expectations I refer to today are quite unrelated. Today’s post was sparked by a conversation I had yesterday with an old friend, so I have her to thank for that.

We all have expectations in life. Whether they are great or small, outspoken or in the back of our minds, concerning ourselves or others. But what purpose do those expectations serve? And what effect do they have on us and our quality of life? Those are questions that we seldom think about. In my opinion, expectations can make or break you! When you expect something of yourself, it can give you the push you need to strive and achieve that goal. It can be a tangible goal or a goal that has to do with your emotional well-being or personal development perhaps. Your expectations, in this case, become synonymous with believing in yourself. However, if your expectations going into marriage, for example, are not realistic they could end up jeopardizing your relationship or even ending it!

So what’s the rule when it comes to setting your expectations? And is it possible at all that you make sure that you are almost never let down? The answer was handed to me years ago, in 2005 to be specific, on a silver platter! One of the wisest and sincerest friends I have ever had, Mina M., responded to my question about how can one not feel let down when someone they truly care about and trust doesn’t live up to their expectations with the words, “Well, what I have got myself accustomed to is not to have any expectations whatsoever when it comes to others. That way, they can never let me down! Anything they do, no matter how small, will be significant and will, essentially, be better than what I expected! Thus, having the effect of surprising me pleasantly and I will appreciate them for it.” I don’t know if I was able to justly convey the depth of his words but hearing them was an epiphany to me! And the way he said it, as if it were common sense and everyone should come to that realization on their own, made me feel like it was such a simple answer that I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t smart enough to reach it on my own. But, upon further reflection I realized it was not simple at all. In fact, it was one of the most complex concepts I have ever encountered. To achieve such a goal, one needs to have tremendous self-control and self-discipline. You, essentially, need to know how to manipulate your self into believing what you want it to believe. You need to train yourself to do the exact opposite of something you have been doing daily for the past two or three decades! Not simple, not simple at all.

Yet, if you are able to achieve such a goal, you will reap the vast reward on a daily basis. Seldom will you be disappointed by others. All the whys hows and how could theys will disappear when someone does something that you would have otherwise considered a betrayal, let down or hurt! You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you are the only person that you expect anything from and anything that anyone else does is either insignificant or exceeds your expectations. You would, literally, expect no less from anyone since you already expect, well, nothing!

Courtesy: Quotez.co

Courtesy: Quotez.co

If you cannot display such self-discipline, then at least try to have realistic expectations. I, for one, have gotten a lot better with regards to what I expect of others but I cannot look you in the eye and truthfully say that I expect nothing from everyone. It’s a work in progress and I am glad that my expectations are now limited to those I love and trust and know for a fact they feel the same way about me as well. I am no longer surprised when that “friend” only talks to me when she needs a favor or that colleague invites me to lunch when she’s working on something that I have more knowledge of or when that relative only emails me around summer time when she wants to know if I’ll be going back home for a visit. I have more realistic expectations, and the only way I was able to achieve that was by taking my feelings towards that person out of the equation. My perception of the individual plus my feelings towards them were always involved in the shaping of my expectations. Now, I consciously do not allow that to happen! My expectations are set based on my past experience with that individual and on the capabilities I know that s/he has. Needless to say, I have been disappointed far less ever since I started to do so. And when I am disappointed, I don’t let it get to me or break my spirit.

I have grown stronger and more mature. I now know what life is really like and what it can throw your way. I learned that even when people disappoint you, sometimes it’s neither your fault nor theirs. I learned that those who care about you would never intentionally hurt you but if they do so, unintentionally, they will try to rectify the situation or at least give you an explanation and it is your role to forgive them. I learned that you should not allow anything or anyone to break your spirit, you hold the keys to your life and well-being, don’t hand them over to anyone else no matter who they are. I have learned to listen to and contemplate any advice I get and try to build on it if it is relevant to me and discard it completely if not. I also learned that it’s better to live up to your own expectations rather than wait for others to do so, but that those expectations should be realistic and fair. And no matter what you do, know that other people’s expectations of you are not an obligation, they are what they are … just their expectations.

Courtesy: Quoteswave.com

Courtesy: Quoteswave.com

30 Days Till 30 … Day 7: The Aspirations List

We all have a bucket list … well, sort of at least … but it’s a list of things that we hope to do or achieve throughout our entire lives. Did you ever think of creating a bucket list for each phase of your life? Yeah, neither did I, but some people apparently do!

Mine isn’t really a bucket list, it’s more like an aspirations list! What I aspire to be, what I aspire to do and what I aspire to leave behind when it’s time to move on from this world. What’s the difference you say? A bucket list is mainly about the things you don’t want to miss out on in life, and it pretty much revolves around yourself. An aspirations list revolves around you as well as others and is about much more than learning a new language, traveling to that enchanting island or meeting “the one”.

When I suffered a near-fatal Pulmonary Embolism back in 2008 it got me thinking about all the things I hadn’t done in life. When I regained some of my strength (and breathing), I found myself lying alone in the I.C.U for countless hours a day waking up to pain and falling asleep in pain! Not the kind of experience you imagine at age 25, having given birth to your first child only a week earlier! However, it gave me time to think about life and about those around me (especially when a number of people behaved surprisingly, whether positively or negatively) and assess what really matters. You’d think I was thinking about all the things I haven’t done yet; the unexplored lands, the unspoken words, the uncreated memories but, surprisingly, that was not the case. All I could think about was who will raise my child and how and did I make a difference in the world? If it’s my time to go, is there any legacy I left behind for the world and my loved ones to benefit from and remember me by? Is there something solid that someone can point out to my child and tell her that this happened because your mother was a big part of it? When I stand before God, will I be proud of how I represented my religion on this earth or will I be ashamed of myself? 5 years later, many of those questions remain unanswered. In fact, a number of those questions will remain unanswered till I meet my creator!

So, what does my aspirations list comprise of? I cannot share the entire thing, it’s humungous since it’s been 30 years in the making and quite a portion of it is private (I haven’t shared that part with a living soul and don’t intend to). However, I can share the following few items (in random order) and only hope that this post will inspire you to sit down and think about your own aspirations list, or bucket list:

1- My children have to sleep every night feeling safe and loved.

2- Become the best version of my possible self.

3- Continue to sing when I become an adult, perhaps professionally. (Nuh-uh, it was fun being the prima donna at school but I’ve outgrown that now :))

4- My family and I become part of a global effort to help Egypt get back on its feet again.

5- Help my greater community become self-sufficient.

6- Make a difference when it comes to the environment and protecting the planet.

7- Start up and run my own business. (Done once and I’d love to do it again, entrepreneurship is fun)

8- Help conserve nature and wildlife.

9- Be a wonderful example of a Muslim woman so that people can take one look at me and know that their misconceptions are wrong.

10- Teach my children what really matters so that whenever my creator claims my soul I know that they will be OK.

11- Start my own charitable organization (a lifelong dream that I’ll pursue till my very last breath).

12- Have a job I love and help my husband and children achieve the same.

13- Enjoy life while preparing properly for the afterlife all at the same time.

14- Help thousands of other people and make a real difference in their lives.

15- Take part, as a family, in bringing on world peace! (Don’t ask me how, I have no clue whatsoever :D)

16- Reconnect with and find all the wonderful friends I fell out of touch with throughout the years.

17- Leave this world after forgiving everyone for everything and getting the same from their end.

18- Fall in love, completely and madly, even if I lose that person later for whatever reason. (Done. The reason why I didn’t care about whether or not to stay with that person once I find him is that I was looking for the emotion itself and how it completely transforms your life rather than focus on the relationship. If you’re lucky enough to find a wonderful spouse like mine in the process, consider it a bonus ;))

19- Plant a beautiful garden.

20- Make everyone I meet smile! It doesn’t matter if we know each other either.

It’s worth noting that the items on my aspirations list keep evolving. Every day that I grow as a human being bring on something new or take away from what I originally had hoped for. That’s a good thing, evolution is always good especially when it has to do with your personal growth. Don’t be afraid to grow just because that will change everything, be brave and adapt.

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