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Posts tagged ‘Venting’

30 Days Till 30 … Day 29: Farewell My Twenties…

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!

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 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!

.

* 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 18: My Favorite Books Of All Time

I had mentioned in previous posts that I have always been an avid reader. To this day, the best gift that anyone could get me is a good book. I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon, or ever, for that matter!

The reason why I love books so much isn’t just my thirst for knowledge. Books are the easiest and simplest way to travel the world, meet new people, make new friends, go into outer space and even know what other creatures’ lives are like. You can live, for a few days or weeks, in Utopia, meet fictional beings and explore a world that can never come to exist. Books bring magic to life. They transform your reality into something more colorful and exciting. They let you into other people’s minds without having ever met them. Books make you part of the process of creating the world that is described in them, it’s part the author and part your perception of what the author wrote. You add the “familiarity” factor to whatever you read!

To me, books take me away to a world where I want to exist, a world of my choosing. Usually one where virtue is always rewarded, bad people are punished and love always wins in the end. I am a hopeless romantic, you see. The type of woman who would do, literally, anything for the man she loves and once I fall in love, there is no going back, no forgetting, no “unfeeling”. But sometimes I choose books that speak of struggles, agony and pain. I do not do so to taunt myself, I do so because it’s important to find balance, to realize that nothing is all-good or all-bad. It’s important to learn about the struggles of others since it helps you appreciate what you have. It’s important to learn about hardships that others were able to overcome in order to help you find the strength to overcome your own. Books really do broaden your horizons, on many levels. They can teach you everything, literally, but life does a pretty good job as well albeit over longer time.

As a child, my favorite author was Roald Dahl. He was a brilliant English writer, born in Wales on September 13th, 1916 to Norwegian parents. He was a poet, short story writer, novelist, screenwriter and fighter jet pilot. He wrote for both, children and adults, but his children’s books are the ones he is most renowned for. Needless to say, he was and remains to be a best-selling author. According to Wikipedia, he has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. His short stories are known for their unexpected endings, and his children’s books for their unsentimental, often very dark humor.

I was fortunate enough to read all of his children’s books, except for one, in a span of 3 years starting when I was 10. Until this day, I do not remember any of the other books that I read as I child, simply because they never measured up! The only book that I did not read was “Going Solo”, I’m hoping to get around to reading it someday. I did not know that he wrote anything for adults except fairly recently, I’d like to explore his writings for our age group as well.

My top 3 favorites as a child were, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “James and the Giant Peach” and “The BFG”. Reading “ESIO TROT” was very interesting as well. For a couple of years, “James and the Giant Peach” had me captivated, but as the years went by, I have to declare that my absolute favorite became “The BFG”. Although the story is quite scary to begin with, it soon transforms into a warm, sweet one. I do think though that children too young probably shouldn’t read it, just to be able to sleep at night 😀

His books managed to always transport me into a completely different world. I’d be sitting in the same room as my family, reading happily (they were considerate enough to never disturb me when I read) and all of a sudden they’d all disappear, I’d be smelling different scents, hearing different sounds and feeling like I was in this alternative dimension! Any book that has that sort of effect on you is bound to be a great one. Having the Big Friendly Giant on the cover (minus his ears) remind me of my grandfather, God rest his soul, didn’t hurt either when it came to my attachment to the book.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Courtesy: Wikipedia

By my early teenage years, I had outgrown children’s books (I still have them on a book shelf in my room at my parents’ house back home though and read them when I go home on vacation). I started reading novels rather than short stories and loved reading whole series of books. I was very much into mysteries and mythology. In fact, mythology is one of the areas of most interest to me until this day.

Although not as large a book as most of the others I have read, my favorite book as a teenager was, and remains to be, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. Louisa was a feminist writer born on November 29th, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She was raised by her transcendentalist parents in New England where she grew up with many highly intellectual beings such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Wikipedia states that she began to write at a very young age, mainly to help support her family when they had fallen financially. “Little Women” was published in 1868 and is the most well-known book she ever wrote. It was the first of a 3-book series but that fact is not well known. It was loosely based on her life with her family in Concord, Massachusetts. She died on March 6th, 1888 in Boston, Massachusetts as a single woman.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Although not a happy, cheerful book in general, “Little Women” manages to awaken your emotions. The book is a whirlwind of emotion ranging from joy, love and hope to sadness, sorrow and heartache! If the reader is a young woman, she is bound to see herself in one (or more) of the characters. Louisa had very cleverly succeeded in putting together a family consisting of all women that ever came to exist. That fact creates a sense of familiarity and understanding between the readers and the book.

Personally, I identified with Jo and Meg, although they are on opposite ends of the spectrums of personality, character and ambition. I was more like Meg until less than a decade ago but I’m definitely becoming closer to being like Jo now. Meg’s demeanor greatly matches my personal life and Jo’s my professional life and my attitude towards my passions and interests. And, of course, there’s sweet Beth who breaks our heart and makes our tears roll down our cheeks. Her charitable, loving, warm, sweet character is one that we all aspire to have  something in common with, anything, no matter how small for she is the light that shines through the family and lights everyone’s way, including that of strangers.

Unfortunately, I was not fascinated by any books in my adult years, other than “Pride & Prejudice” of course. I am still in search of that one book that I may call a favorite. It’s been 18 years since I read “Little Women” for the first time and nothing has had the same effect on me. I still like to read novels that took place in the 1800s and 1900s but I do not read them exclusively. I love to read about Greek mythology, I find it to be a fascinating subject. And when the mood strikes, philosophy and psychology are other favorites of mine. Sometimes I just want some light reading after a long hectic day and I find it very hard to find any book that doesn’t need me to be fully immersed in its world.

I am fortunate enough to live one block away from my town’s library. Of course, I am abusing that privilege. Between checking out books, DVDs, photocopying and printing there I believe that I must be one of their most loyal visitors. It never occurred to me to ask the staff to suggest reads for me, the idea just hit me as I was writing now! Now I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow 😉 I also attend almost all the book sales they hold and always pick up 4-5 books (OK, they could be 8-10 at times) that look promising. It takes me some time to go through them though, with my family obligations and work and all, which isn’t something I am necessarily happy about. I will not give up my search though, and will keep you, my readers, informed of my latest updates on that front.

I’d love it if there are any avid readers out there who would be willing to share their favorites or suggest titles of books that they found to be interesting. Feel free to email me if you do not wish to leave a comment.

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.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 5: Parenthood

If you know me well then you know that I always wanted a big family. My friends actually named my children for me when I was a university student (thank you for the creative names Amira M. ;)) because they knew that me being a mother someday was more important to me than anything else in the world.

Both, my husband and I wanted to have 3 or 4 children. However, after delivering my lovely first child at age 25, I suffered a near-fatal Pulmonary Embolism. I was advised against having more children for at least two years, if at all. God chose to gift us with our wonderful son one year and two months later. All the doctors following my case, except for one, wanted me to abort the pregnancy in order to save my own life. Everyone was thinking about me and how they could lose me forever within a few months. I love them all with all my heart and feel so humbled by their warm affections but, after discussing it with my husband, I decided that I will continue with the pregnancy. There was no way I could kill my child, even if he was just a few millimeters of existence. I started taking daily blood thinning shots in my tummy to try to prevent another blood clot from forming. My husband spent tons of money on follow ups with my cardiologist and OB/GYN to make sure everything was fine. Whenever I felt out of sorts he would rush me to the doctor as fast as he could. We did everything we could have possibly done to try and save the two of us.

I am on a restricted diet for the rest of my life. I had to give birth both times without any drugs because having a spinal or a c-section wasn’t an option with the blood thinners, and the gas did nothing for me. I have to get up and move every 2 hours, even if I’m in the middle of a drive. We chose not to have any more children since our beautiful little ones need both of us in their lives. We spent most of our income on doctors during those 3 years of our lives. Each and every bit of it made us parents to our amazing children today and we don’t regret any of it, not even one tiny bit! I’d sacrifice 10 times more just to wake up to my children’s faces every day 🙂

But parenthood isn’t just about having children. It’s the biggest responsibility you’ll ever have, especially as a mother. You are solely and completely responsible for the well-being of this tiny, defenseless creature who trusts you blindly and depends on you exclusively! You are their hero, their mentor and, for quite some time, their idol. You make them or break them, depending on how you raise them. You could be the reason they make it in this world and in the hereafter or you could be the reason why they are, essentially,  “screwed up”!

In my humble opinion, not everyone is suited for parenthood! A parent has to be selfless, mature, aware, able to prioritize, able to sacrifice, compassionate, patient, motivated, grounded and so much more. I respect couples who are true to themselves and decide that they don’t want children because parenthood just isn’t for them. I also respect couples who sacrifice tremendously in order to become parents. Children are not possessions that you just must have. They are not a fashion statement that you’re making. They are real live human beings who need your unconditional love and undivided attention, not that of strangers that you throw them to as soon as you give birth or even leave on their own to face life. Don’t get me wrong, childcare is one thing and child-rearing is another. I put my children in part-time childcare as soon as they turned two because I felt it important for their social, emotional and cognitive development. But no one else is raising our children for us, and anyone who has tried to impose their opinions in our house was clearly told that advice was welcome but that’s the extent of what we’ll be accepting from anyone outside the four of us. We extend the same courtesy to those we care about. We speak up when we feel the need to but only do it once and we don’t impose anything on anyone.

So, what valuable lessons did parenthood teach us? Please allow me to share our mere 5-year-old experience:

1- Overwhelmingly strong unconditional love exists. You experience it from the moment you hear the sweet words, “Congratulations, you are pregnant” and you never cease to feel it.

2- Your children idolize you. They literally live to please you! So be someone worth looking up to and always show them how much you love and believe in them.

3- Encouragement is key when raising a child. Yes, of course you’ll need to discipline your child almost every single day (on some days it will be several times a day too) but if you want them to master a skill or try something new, encouragement is the way to go.

4- Patience, patience, patience. This is the one skill that you will have to learn even if you never were patient before. From their loud voices to their scattered toys. From their endless “why”s to their “I don’t want to do that”. From their picky eating to their potty training. From their public tantrums to their food that’s scattered all over the floor. Patience is essential when dealing with a child. They don’t mean to annoy you, they are probably just frustrated because they are tired, hungry, bored, in pain or can’t communicate their needs! You’re the adult, work together to figure it out but be patient in the process of doing so.

5- Don’t be afraid to discipline. Whatever style of parenting you choose is completely up to you. My only advice would be, don’t do anything that you wouldn’t have liked been done to you. In our house, we don’t spank, hit, pinch or call names. Not even for “fun”. We do time outs, we yell if we have to (not that we like it, at all) and we take away privileges. On the flip side, we reward, purchase that not so needed toy once in a while (but they do have to earn it with good behavior) and encourage in every way we can. In an ideal world, I’d ask everyone to positive parent rather than discipline … but we don’t live in an ideal world.

6- Don’t let your children depend on you for everything. Have them throw out their own diapers, make their beds, put away their plates after the eat, put on their own clothes and try to button that coat. You don’t have to give them “chores” per se nor have them do the heavy lifting (sorry daddy, you still have to take out the trash and maw the lawn) but you will be doing them a huge disservice if you don’t teach them to be independent and work hard. I see men and women in their thirties and forties who cannot function without their parents and spend every waking moment seeking their approval! To me, that’s abnormal and unhealthy. We all love our parents and we all want them to be proud of us but we should be able to make it in this world on our own.

7- Let them breathe! Don’t be on their case all the time. Loosen the reigns as much as you can but always keep a protective eye on them.

8- Don’t be afraid to let them make mistakes. As long as it’s nothing dangerous or life-threatening then let them have that heartbreak, let them fall into that tiny hole they dug in the sand, let them touch that dirty looking tree, let them make one mistake after the other. That is the only way they will learn to pick themselves up and stand high and tall. Protecting your children from every negative experience they face will deprive them of some of the most essential life lessons they need to learn. You are not helping them by doing so, you are hurting their future selves.

9- Do not, under any circumstance, compare your child to another (even a sibling). And I don’t just mean in their presence, more so in their absence. Your child is unique. Your child is awesome. Deep down inside you know that and you know that s/he has all the potential in the world. Don’t break them by comparing them to others. Don’t make them feel bitter towards a sibling or friend because they feel like they don’t measure up. Don’t make turning him or her into a copy of someone else into your obsession. Life is not a competition with others, it’s competition with ourselves. Teach your child to excel, to grow, to learn and to move forward. Compare your child to themselves, whenever they achieve something praise them and encourage them to take things further. The only person you should every compete with is yourself!

10- Be their guide and mentor but let them be yours too. We all learn from each other, we all need each other. Don’t think that because you are the adult then that tiny 3-year-old has nothing to possibly teach you. Listen, be attentive, care and you will be surprised at what you will learn from your children.

11- Treat them like adults. We don’t use “silly” or “funny” words to name things around the house. When we want to know if our child needs to go potty we ask her, “do you need the bathroom?”, we don’t say “does my little cupcake need to go wee wee?!”. It’s fine if others choose to treat their children that way, whatever works for one family and one child doesn’t necessarily work for another and we understand that. But we found that the more you treat them like adults, including the respect associated with that status, the more responsive they are and the more they listen. You still have to draw a line where they know that, yes you are treating them as adults but you are still the authoritative figures in the house though … don’t be a doormat because they will take the opportunity to walk all over you 🙂

12- Let them fight their own battles. Teach them the basics, give them the foundation and the self-confidence to do so, but don’t fight their battles for them. The most important thing to teach them with regards to that aspect in this day and age is to stand up to bullies and speak up to you and/or other adults about it. We’re working on that with our children and, let me tell you, it’s no easy task!

13- Nurture their kind side. Have them help others whenever possible. Make sure they are kind to those they deal with. Have them practice charity from day one by willingly giving away a toy or putting aside some of their allowance for a cause. Teach them to be God’s hands of good in this world. They will reap the results in this world and the next, God willing.

14- Have them proud to be themselves. Whatever their background, race, color, religion or origin is they have to be connected to it. Don’t let them become mainstream. They are unique and so they should hold on to that beautiful quality. If anyone doesn’t approve of them then it’s that person’s choice and they should not, under any circumstance, change themselves to suit anyone. Teach them about their heritage and surround them with their original culture and traditions. Celebrate who they are, every single day.

15- Let them know you are always there for them, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if my babies are 6, 26 or 66 … I am their mother and I am there for them no matter what. Give them that security and watch them thrive.

16- You and your partner should set an example to your children. Little girls will grow up and marry men who are just like their daddies; do you really want your daughter to grow up and marry a bully? Or a drunk? Or a man who cannot talk to his wife without swearing at her and the kids? Little boys marry women who are just like their mommies; do you really want your son to grow up and marry a woman who talks about him sarcastically behind his back? Or who shops her way out of every marital problem she has with her partner? Or who keeps comparing him to others? Be respectful, loving and kind towards one another. Always work as a team, and try to include your children whenever possible. If you have issues, discuss them slowly and rationally. Never ever speak ill of your partner or their families in front of your children. You may not think that they are listening, you may not think that they understand, you may not think they’ll be affected … but they are, to their very core.

17- Nurture their spiritual side early on. Children absorb so much when they are young so take full advantage of that.

18- Have fun. Try to do something fun every day, no matter how small. Children are innocent little creations that need excitement and laughter in their lives. No matter how tired you are, make sure to end the day with smiles with your kids.

19- Don’t dump your issues and problems on them. It’s not OK to come home from a stressful day at work and just start yelling at your kids or shun them when they run to you and hug you because they miss you like crazy. It’s not OK to start dumping your problems on them when you feel overwhelmed or upset, find someone else to vent with, you are scaring your children and making them carry a load that they still cannot bare. It’s not OK to show them how ugly the world is in your eyes, their outlook on life is completely different than yours and you are stripping them of any hope they have for the future. It’s not OK to discuss the problems of your physical relationship in front of your children, or with your children, for that matter!

20- Praying for your children is the best thing you can do for them as a parent! Many think that it’s passive, there are better things I can do for my children, but I say don’t underestimate the power of prayer. God hears you and your prayers do go through, so make sure to make use of God’s mercy and protection for the benefit of your little ones, no matter how old they are.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 4: Life Lessons

Every day we live, we learn. Maybe we don’t realize it, maybe it doesn’t really register in our minds that we did, but we do. It may be something trivial that we shrug off within minutes and it may well be a life lesson that will stay with us forever! No matter what it is, it’s something new and it’s something that did register .. in other words, it matters!

When that happens you change, you evolve. Sure, some transformations are more substantial than others, but even small changes are significant when it comes to one’s growth. In my personal experience, the more “out there” the situation is, the more you learn. The harsher and more painful the situation is, the more you learn. The simpler and less complex the person is, the more you learn. The more unexpected and sudden the experience is, the more you learn.

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

In fact, it isn’t really about the quantity but more about the quality of what you learn. Personally, whenever I learn new things about myself I feel like this new-found knowledge is more valuable than anything else. That mainly stems from the fact that up until my early twenties I don’t think that I knew much about myself at all! Sure, I know the basics about my personality and my character and such, but how much did I know about who I really am? Not much, if at all! I learned about my true passions, strengths, weaknesses, limits, dreams and goals during the better part of my twenties. Yet I do not regret waiting that long to learn. I believe that the timing was perfect. Had all this knowledge been bestowed upon me earlier in my life, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. I probably wouldn’t have even been able to comprehend most of it to begin with! The teens are such overwhelming years, so much goes on in your life and it all hits you at once. Is it really the right time for self-discovery? I don’t think so. In order to evolve you need to be stable first. You cannot build a house without foundation so how can you expect to use the building blocks of your very self on quicksand?

I am thankful that I figured “me” out! I am now able to handle a lot of things that I know I couldn’t have possibly been able to deal with 10 years ago. I am now more in control of my life and who I let in and who I show the way out to. I am now able to stand up for myself and my beliefs and not care what anyone thinks because I know that my opinion is the one that counts and that, as long as I am not doing anything to upset God from me, that’s the only thing that should matter. I am now more confident with regards to raising my children and teaching them what I think they will need in life and what they’ll need to lead them to God’s blessings after what I hope will be a long, happy, healthy, successful and prosperous life. I am now a woman, not a little girl, who is invincible!

So, in light of what I have learned so far (and I have still got a long, long way to go … if God gives me the time), please allow me to share with you the top 30 life lessons that I have benefited from most:

1- You matter! And if anyone in your life does not comprehend that then you need to re-evaluate their presence in your life.

2- Be authentic, no one can do a better job at being you than yourself. Being a copy of someone else or changing for someone else is the biggest disservice you could do to yourself and to the world, which will miss out on your awesomeness!

3- Hear everything that is said to you and that is being said around you but only listen to what your heart and mind tell you to listen to. Hearing is a passive activity, so take what you hear and filter it and only listen to the stuff that matters. Consider the rest to be white noise and discard it.

4- Don’t be afraid to speak up. Even if you are the shyest person to ever exist (my friends used to call me “Tamatmaya”, which means “Tomato” in Arabic, because I blush ALL the time … it happens less now but still happens way too often), have faith in yourself and speak up whenever you need to. You’ve got it in you. You have the courage, you just don’t know it yet.

5- Give second chances, and third, and fourth! But only to the deserving. To the people you truly care about, to those you believe deep down inside are good enough, to those who hit rock bottom and need it, to those who need someone to believe in them. Don’t make a fool of yourself in the process though, and don’t allow anyone to hurt you. Know when to step back, evaluate the situation and, possibly, walk away.

6- Don’t be afraid to walk away. The first step will be the hardest, but a few years into your journey you will look back and thank your courageous self for taking that step.

7- Be kind and give, always. Did your friend talk about you behind your back? Did the love of your life let you down? Did your superior throw your efforts to the wind? Did the cab driver drive right past you? Did that kid make fun of you when you were 7? It doesn’t matter, simply because it says more about them than it does about you! So, be kind, don’t let their harshness change you … be kind. Give whenever you can. Call it charity, call it giving, call it gifting … just give. The act of giving is rewarding on so many levels. The act of giving is an act of kindness!

8- Forgive and let go whenever you can so that God would forgive you in the hereafter. Do it for you, not for the person you are forgiving. Don’t you deserve the peace of mind? Of course you do! Don’t forget though, remember the lesson you learned, never forget that.

9- It’s OK to show people the way out of your life, or even let them find it on their own. Poisonous, hateful, arrogant, egotistical, closed-minded, cold, unsympathetic, back-biting, lying, conniving and ill-wishing people have no place in my life anymore and shouldn’t have a place in yours. It took me 28 years to convince myself that it’s OK to let certain people go, and boy does it feel great! If they take away from you, if they don’t appreciate your presence in their life, if they try to break you then why have them in your life? Leave them on good terms though, or at least try, that way there will be no bitterness associated with the relationship that was.

10- Make “me” time. Having me time is important for your overall well-being. You need to slow down, forget about your responsibilities and worries and focus on recharging yourself. You need to nurture yourself and reward it from time to time. I always put others and their needs first but I, only recently, came to understand that if I don’t take care of myself properly there is no way I’ll be able to take care of those who need me and love me (thank you Charlotte W., Dina S. and Yasmina H. for that lesson). Having even a few minutes to yourself every day is essential and you’ll feel and see the results reflected immediately on yourself and those around you.

11- It’s OK to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you failed. It doesn’t mean you are weak either. It means you are human! Asking for help is normal, what’s abnormal is doing everything on your own. You’ll be surprised to see how much those around you actually want to help you, only you weren’t letting them! Delegating will alleviate some stress off of you, which will in turn allow you to do more. It will also make others feel useful and needed, and who doesn’t want to feel that way?

12- When it comes to your faith and your principles, don’t compromise. Being sworn at, having made fun of, being stared at, having a can of soda thrown at and being treated with disrespect and outright aggression didn’t make me reconsider my faith or my choice of Hijab … not even for a split second! If anything, it made me proud of who I am and of being a Muslim because it showed me how beautiful my religion is. We are instructed by God and our prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) not to hurt others, speak good or remain silent, help others, never judge, live peacefully amongst others and practice tolerance. I am better than those who choose to treat me the way they do, so why back down? And when it comes to my principles, they are the foundation of my personality, character and manners … if I compromise them I, essentially, cease to exist!

13- Work hard, really hard, even if no one is watching. In my religion, work is worship. Do you want to worship God half-heartedly? Of course not. Do you want to take the money you are paid knowing that you earned every penny or do you just want fast cash? Do you want the money you earn to be blessed or do you want to spend it on something like illness or other bad circumstances? Do you want to be proud of yourself and your achievements or do you not care?

14- Don’t do or say anything in secret that you would not do or say in public. That includes not talking about anyone in a way that you wouldn’t right to their face. Don’t be a fraud, even if no one else knows it, you will!

15- Practice empathy and compassion, every single day. We all have our struggles, we are all fighting our own battles. No one in this world is passing through life as if it were a breeze, so keep that in mind when someone wrongs you or lets you down … you never know what’s going on in their lives.

16- Don’t envy anyone and don’t be jealous. Jealousy is like a flesh eating bacteria! It will literally poison you, body and mind. Those you envy may very well be envying you back for something that is completely skipping your mind. No one has it all, if someone has something be 100% sure that there is something else that they are lacking. As Islam says, we all have 100% because God is fair but how those 100% are distributed in our lives are not exactly the same for each and every one of us. Your neighbor has that humungous bank account? You’ve got the laughter of your children filling your house and they don’t! Your sister has a ton of friends? You’ve got a few but they are loyal to you. Your colleague got promoted? You have better health than he does. Rest assured that somewhere out there someone else is thinking that you have it all too, so don’t envy anyone.

17- Choose your battles wisely and fight them till the end. If it’s something substantial, something that needs a stand then go for it. If it’s something that can be resolved otherwise or even completely let go of, don’t bother. Never let anyone else fight your battles for you, they won’t be able to do the job like you would.

18- Don’t be in someone’s life if they don’t have a place for you. How many people are or were in relationships where they had to, literally, fight for their spot? I’m not talking about romantic relationships only, no, friendships, kinship, partnerships, whatever sort of “-ship”. If someone doesn’t have a place for you in their life then they don’t deserve you. It doesn’t matter if they are the air you breathe, you deserve better.

19- Don’t kill children’s innocence. Way too often do I see parents screwing up their own children thinking that they are helping them be cool or classy! Remember that children were born innocent for a reason, sooner or later they will grow up and be as wise (or even wiser) than you. Don’t rush children into an early adulthood, that’s not what’s supposed to happen. Cherish their innocent moments, get down on your hands and knees and be silly with them. Hear their problems and take them seriously but never burden them with yours. Let them choose their outfits but be their protector and make sure they are age-appropriate. Have faith in them and teach them to be independent but keep your protective eye on them.

20- Friends come and go, except for the real ones. I have friends who I haven’t seen in 15 years. We actually fell out of touch when we turned 14 and each of us left to a different country and got reunited when we turned 29 (thank you Facebook)! We love each other so much to the extent that we feel like those 15 years were 15 hours, absolutely nothing changed with regards to our friendship and feelings towards one another. I also have friends who I met 4 years ago and love them just as much and trust them just as much! It has nothing to do with the number of friends or how long you’ve known them … it has everything to do with their quality. I’d rather have a single friend who I share mutual honesty, trust, love, care and kindness with than a hundred that I don’t!

21- Family is everything. Even if your family members don’t feel the same way sometimes, deep down inside they know it too. Yes, your friends are important and so are your career, money, leisurely activities and another thousand things. But who will be there for you during hard times? Who will be there for you no matter what? Who will be there for you when you are 70, with a bad back and no teeth? Family, especially your immediate family, is everything so make them a priority in your life.

22- Respect, respect, respect. ALWAYS treat people with respect. Don’t love her anymore? Tell her. Don’t like his outfit? Tell him. You talked about them behind their backs? Apologize. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, treat others with respect and they’ll appreciate it, eventually 😉 I’d rather hear truth that hurts than be lied to. I’d rather lose someone I love then have them in my life but feel nothing. I’d rather someone not agree with me and respect me than agree with me and laugh about me behind my back. It’s simple, respecting others means you respect yourself.

23- Take the high road. Never stoop down to the level of others if their level is beneath you, you are better than that!

24- Take charge of your life. Never ever let anyone tell you what to do or how to live your life. Take advice, yes, absolutely … be manipulated, no, never. If anyone starts bossing you around or harassing you into doing, saying or changing anything that you do not agree with, turn around and walk away. Don’t lose yourself and your identity in order to please anyone, no one is worth it and those who are would never allow themselves to do that to you.

25- Treat your elders the way they deserve to be treated. Your forgetful mother isn’t dumb. Your technologically-challenged father isn’t ignorant. That lady at the nursing home who keeps reiterating the same stories over and over isn’t boring. That old man who keeps asking you for the same thing over and over again isn’t annoying. They are old, they’ve aged but they are the same people that raised you, the same people who tried to create a better world for our generation, the same people who if you listen to attentively could help you become a better person. They are living their last days, and maybe so are you, so cut them some slack … you never know when you’ll need people to cut you some slack.

26- Smile, laugh, have fun and fall in love. But not at anyone else’s expense. Smiling alleviates physical and emotional pain and is plain beautiful! Laugh because you can and because you have so many blessings that, if you really sit down and count, will make you realize how lucky you are. Have fun because taking life way too seriously benefited no one. And fall in love because it is the most serene and rewarding feeling you will ever have. It would be perfect if the other person loves you back, loves you as much, but life isn’t perfect. Loving someone in itself brings on immense pleasure and will overcome you with warmth. The saying, “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is absolutely true.

27- Follow your passions. Not many of us are lucky enough to discover where their true passions lie. If you are one of the lucky few, nourish them, let them grow and in turn they will nourish you back. My passions are writing, sketching, spending time in and admiring nature and spending time with my lovely children … not once have I done any of those things and not felt fantastic afterwards.

28- Travel, if you can. Even if it’s to the next town. You will learn so much from others and you will see how alike we all really are. You will learn so much about yourself and the world as well.

29- Take risks. Well, not the life-threatening kind but rather, the hit-or-miss kind. Some of the best moments of my life resulted from taking risks and taking that leap of faith.

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

30- Be thankful, always. Every minute of every day. Whether it be to God or others. And the more you express your gratitude the better, not just for the recipient but yourself as well. Me thanking others for their kindness towards me, no matter how small their act was, feels so rewarding because I know that I am making them feel appreciated and loved.

There are tons of other life lessons that I learned, but they can all be summed up under those 30 points, one way or another. What are the life lessons you learned so far? Which ones are you hoping to expand on? Are there any that you pass on to your loved ones? Think about it, contemplate your life so far, and I guarantee you that you will realize that you have grown so much within a short period of time.

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