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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 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 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.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 1: I Forgive

God willing, I will be turning 30 next month, in 30 days to be precise! I am blessed to be happy and extremely excited about this turning point in my life. I know that most women (and men) don’t share my sentiments and actually hit a low point right before the turn of a decade, whether it be turning 30, 40, 50 or more. I do understand and respect where they are coming from, but I am thankful that I feel differently about the matter.

I believe that I inherited this trait from my beloved mother, who inherited it from her own mother! She is 56 and for as long as I have known her she has been excited about every single birthday. The turn of a decade is especially exciting for her, she has always felt that the best is yet to come and has always looked up to those older than her because she believes that they are wiser, have more to share, are wonderful teachers, have grace, are at peace with who they are and have, generally, got things figured out. It doesn’t cease to amaze me every time I meet someone in their 50s or 60s and she tries to act like she’s a 20-year-old! Yes, I know a few ladies who behave that way, some of which know exactly what they are doing and the rest are just in denial. Recently, a lady in her 60s was amazed that I have a will prepared in case my creator decides to claim my soul (I’ve had it since I was 18 and keep changing it whenever the need arises). Her comment wasn’t just about me being young, but about how she is still young too and has her whole life ahead of her; she actually said “We’re still young, that’s too soon, our lives are ahead of us”, hence revealing that in her mind we are equals when it comes to where we are with regards to our age! She called me pessimistic for always thinking about death and what will happen to my husband, children and loved ones if I died right now. I am all for optimism and looking forward to a bright future but I also think it’s important that one is grounded, knows where s/he really stands and realizes the fact that none of us knows when we will leave this world. People who do not age gracefully make fools of themselves on many levels, and why would I want to be a fool?

I have been blessed with so many role models of women in my life that make me look forward to getting older. There are a plethora of ladies in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s that I can only aspire to become like one day. Starting with my own mother, Tante Gehan, Tante Nazira, my aunt Soheir, my aunt Hekmat, mama Beesa, my beloved deceased grandmother Dorreya,  mama Samiha and mama Deema (in order of age but I won’t reveal how old each is/was out of respect for their privacy). All of them kind, caring, warm, wise, strong women who did their best to raise their children properly. Not only that, they were, essentially, the glue that holds their families and friends together, they sacrificed for others yet found the balance in their lives that allowed them not to lose themselves in the process, they were career-women and housewives, they have only grown better and kinder through the years and I have not personally seen them speak evil of anyone … finally, they aged gracefully. They also made a huge difference in my life, one way or another, and for that I would like to thank them immensely.

So, yes, I plan to age gracefully 🙂 But part of the aging process is becoming more mature with every passing day. One should learn something new about themselves whenever possible and do some “tweaking” from time to time. These thoughts have led me to reflect upon the past three decades of my life and evaluate them under the microscope. As I leave my twenties behind, there are a few messages I’d like to send across, a few things I need to make peace with and a few lessons I’d like to share. I hope you, my readers, will embark with me upon this journey for the coming 30 days and will aid me to reach my goal. I hope to inspire you along the way, so please do keep an open mind.

On day 1, 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

What I ask of you, my readers, are three things. First, please share my statement with everyone you know, maybe it’ll reach someone I am no longer in contact with but would like them to know that they are forgiven and/or I’d like them to forgive me and/or it’ll inspire others to forgive and ask for forgiveness as well. Second, if our paths have ever crossed, please forgive me for anything intentional or unintentional I may have done to you and even if you don’t think I did anything to you, forgive me just in case 🙂 Third, please try to find it in your hearts to forgive others who have wronged you. I know it is really hard sometimes and the deeper the wound the harder it will be but trust me, if you knew some of the things I am forgiving you will feel like anything is forgivable, and anything really is. So do it for yourselves, even if you believe that the other person doesn’t deserve it, you will be the one to find peace and will feel like a huge load has been lifted off of your shoulders, you will be the one that will rise above all worldly matters seeking the reward in the hereafter, you will be the one sleeping with a smile on your face and light in your heart every single night. Every person who wronged you knows what they did, even if you don’t, and on some level or another they feel guilty, even if they don’t show you. Let that be your consolation and let it help you deal with the scars left behind.

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

I am asking you all to forgive, not forget. Forgetting is completely up to you, I am someone who generally remembers details for years and years but others are capable of forgetting things 5 mins later (lucky you :)). I can iterate conversations I’ve had with my brother when I was 7 and he was 4! So, it’s just not in my nature to forget and I also think it’s important to remember some things so that they serve as a lesson that I can learn from every time I recall. Don’t confuse that with holding a grudge though! If you hold a grudge then you have not forgiven, if you remember then you have learned.

P.S. I came across this article, related to forgiveness in Islam, last night and very much enjoyed reading it.

Welcome To My Blog

I want to welcome all my readers to my blog. It’s a place to vent, have fun, be serious and explore life and all its joys and sorrows together.  I hope you enjoy reading my entries and am looking forward to all your comments and feedback. Happy reading 🙂

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