Was just browsing through randomly on Facebook, and I came across the profile picture of a friend that made my insides swell up with joy. She was one of those girls that carried an ethereal sort of presence. With a light in her face and a hop in her step, the kind of person whom you instantly decide to like, just because. And frankly I really didn’t know her all that well. We had only met on a trip I had taken to Australia a few years back and through a chance encounter we happened to be crashing over at the same friend’s place. That was it really, nothing more.

Why did it make me so happy to see her picture?

She had started wearing the hijab, where previously she was not :)

I went on to go through her more recent albums and Alhamdulillah she looked as radiant as ever, fully covered and still so pretty. Except, it was more than just pretty pretty. That’s the thing about people who choose to wear the hijab on their own (as opposed to it being something you sort of simply grow into from being a hijabi since as long as you could remember, growing up or from school)…

I swear, they have a glow.

It’s so nice. I mean, for us hijabi whenever this happens there’s such a rush. I could compare it to watching a new Muslim reciting the syahadah for the first time. It’s a beautiful transformation, and even though it’s nothing that directly concerns us, having a non-hijabi sister decide to cover her aurat is always wonderful sight that evokes a feeling of kinship like no other.

Off the top of my head some of the most beautiful people I know IRL or online who are stunning, in just the way they carry themselves at the same time observing their attire, such that an onlooker (well, myself) finds it breathtaking to just stare sometimes at them/their pictures and wonder in awe at His wonderful creations:

  • Lubna (poised, elegant, always),
  • Far (even though I’ve only ever met her once),
  • Amil (and her sister Amal),
  • Stylecovered’s Hana (who posted that feature on us celebrating Eid in Moscow once),
  • Kak Alan (Alina Hasni),
  • professionalwidow (Zuzu),
  • and Those Exotic Looking Hijabis on the 2nd(?) Floor who Always Smile and Give Salam Whenever I Bump into Them in the Hostel (I wish I knew their names).
  • There’s more, these are just the ones I can think of right now.
  • And Ezie, alhamdulilllah :) :) :)

Personally I have yet to entirely succeed in properly dressing to accomodate the requirements of a Muslimah, at least not to the best of my knowledge. And of course I enjoy experimenting like any other girl (LB.nu is fun). But I do hope to have managed in fulfilling the basics ie., a scarf that is lowered to  cover the chest, clothes that are loose or fit modestly with long enough sleeves, and nothing that will stir too much unnecessary attention (Read: low down on yr fashun, by Afi here).

When something like this happens though, it makes me reexamine myself and question: There are all these people out there, making changes, improving themselves, taking a leap of Faith, making commitments, for Allah. What am I doing for Him?

Thank you Allah for Your ingenius ways of gracing us with these little blessings that inspire.

And I do have plenty of friends who are still “waiting for the right time”, or haven’t found a “calling” to wear the hijab even up until now. But it’s okay because after all guidance is Allah’s alone to give. Even I am slowly and steadily trying to correct myself here, finding my ground.

So take a moment to simply mull over it. If we can pray and hope the best for each other, isn’t that already one of the most beautiful things about Islam anyone could ask for?

Ameen, InsyaAllah.


Seriously?

27Apr10

The following is a commentary from Tunku Halim on the 21yr old that died trying to evade a JAKIM raid, taken from here.

Do you sleep easy? Some do. Many don’t.

Imagine being woken by a commotion, heavy footsteps and loud knocks on your door.

You scurry out of bed, heart pounding, your girlfriend opens the door and there stand the stocky grim men, their official IDs pinned to their shirts. Peeping through the bedroom door, you panic. You know you’re guilty, you must not get caught. You slip outside the window to hide, perhaps to make your way along the ledge to the stairwell and flee from there.

But you slip … and fall to your death.

You are only twenty-one, in love and a student in a nearby college.

I read about the incident in The Star.

I wonder if those religious officials have any remorse for the young man’s death?

Was raiding the young couple’s apartment at 1.40am such a good idea?

Can this “community-minded” person who gave the religious authorities the tip off live with him or herself?

Should we continue to allow such raids at the dead of night?

Malaysia, a country that intends to become a developed country in 2020, should find other means of enforcing its Islamic laws of proximity or khalwat.

Counselling couples in the brightness of day rather than scaring them half to death (in this case, literally, to death itself) in the dead of night is a better, less confrontational, less scary way. Isn’t education a more effective route?

Something like this happens and the question of remorse for the young man’s death by the religious officials becomes one’s first thing that comes to mind?

It’s unfortunate how events took a turn for the worse but let’s look at the situation here.

You know you’re guilty and on the verge of getting caught. And you run away from the responsibility of owning up to your actions by going so far an extent as to risk your life, just to escape the consequences. Then you actually die while doing so. If the whole thing weren’t so tragic it would be laughable.

You are only twenty-one, in love and a student in a nearby college.

I don’t get the sentiment that is trying to be expressed in this sentence. How does this make what the young man did any less acceptable? Is it meant to imply that at such an age a person is entitled to indulge in any wordly sin under the pretense of gaining ‘experience’? That love is noble enough a cause to defy religion for? That as a student one has the right to make mistakes without being reprimanded as severely as any other person?

Those religious officials could definitely have devised a better way to approach them, and yes daytime counselling would obviously be an excellent alternative but I doubt their ‘confrontational’ method was a conscious attempt at ‘scaring’ them, rather, merely to possibly halt a bad deed in progress.

And that “community-minded” person who gave the religious authorities the tip off? I’m sure he/she felt bad for what happened, but I also believe that nobody expected that young man to do something so reckless just to avoid persecution, which was his own fault entirely.

Any Muslim person (heck, even non-Muslim) would be familiar with the very basic principle of Amar maaruf nahi munkar which means is enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.

If I were doing something wrong and if any  Muslim friend  found it necessary to point this out with the intention of exercising his duty to remind a fellow Muslim of their apparent transgressions, is it their fault if I decided to go jump off a building (and don’t think I’ve never actually considered it during those teen-angst ridden years not so long ago even), because God knows I’m fully aware of how lacking I am in the practising of my Faith but I just can’t find a less-idiotic way to handle the realization? I think not.

Btw, those strikethroughs are there because I re-read the whole part over and concluded that this analogy applies to any wrong thing I do, be it against in the religious sense, or just wrong, period. I have plenty of non-Muslim friends whose morals/ethics are even more impressive than my own, whom might find it in their place to provide advice or stop me from going through with the stupid things I sometimes do, in whatever way they see fit. And yes, I would appreciate any form of intervention offered. Maybe not at the exact moment it was given, maybe not enough to stop me from doing it anyway, but if anyone cared enough to be so concerned about me then hey, thanks. I’m not gonna blame you for it.

So I’m sorry if this rant-derived entry seems unabashedly vocal or out of line coming from a girl who’s still trying in all her best to correct her own understanding of religion. But reading the above post (comment(s) included), it was quite clear how snide and righteously society viewed such heavy matters as the proper implementation of religion. Albeit in a country that primarily consists of people who claim to belong to such a beautiful Faith shared by so many and over centuries in glorious success, there will always be those who are quick to judge simply without basis.

Sure I am not knowledgable enough to quote off the Qur’an off the bat, or to say I’m any better than anyone else concerning the matter. But I thought that in Islam we are all part of a bigger whole? All brothers and sisters, and isn’t looking out for each other based on the teachings of Quran and hadith the least we can do for each other? Flawed and imperfect as we are, humble servants and mortals no less, how is it that we still impose ourselves and our way of thinking to be superior than anyone else’s?

Isn’t the best guideline already there, in the words of the Quran (in which one has to open their hearts to comprehend, or not how different is it from just any other compilation of text?) and the Rasulullah’s actions as an example? And I use the term guideline very loosely because I know how the whole concept can be misinterpreted, but yes, it’s all really in there. If a Muslim doesn’t believe in this most crucial foundation of their belief than something is clearly out of whack.

Why does it seem that we’re trying to find fault with an effort that is in the best of intentions, even among ourselves?


On Death

30Mar10

A shot of Park Kultury, the day after.

Park Kultury metro station, the day after.

Today a friend asked me:

“Maddie, do you have any plans on what to do? I mean, if anyone attacked you, how would you react?”

I found this question extremely off point. Really. Was I supposed to describe a thought-out scenario that detailed some step by step method of saving myself? Everyone started pitching helpful suggestions, there was a mention of carrying along mace, and that I should travel in a group as an extra precaution. I do agree that these are all pretty useful ways to increase my safety but in actuality, who can really be prepared for any misfortune that comes their way?

Fight back and run for my life. That shall be what I would do, and I might die trying of course (L told me to stop with the death related puns. Okay okay, last one!)… But what kind of an answer was my friend looking for anyway?

Yesterday, the morning of the bomb blasts. I woke up as usual, brushed my teeth and got dressed like always. Walked to the metro station as if it were any other day, completely unaware of the events that were about to unfold. Even being on the train itself as it came to a slow halt inside the tunnels (something that hardly ever occurs, never for that long, anyway), everyone was more worried about geting to their destinations on time than anything else.

Somehow even with limited reception underground I remember texting Amahl about being trapped on the unmoving train. He joked how the driver was probably taking a pee. At that time I still had no idea.

When we got to Park Kultury it was pandemonium. A sea of confused people everywhere, scrambling for the exits and escalators, spilling onto the platforms and trying to get onto outgoing trains, climbing over railings. They evacuated all of us eventually, and I know I was lucky. Just a little bit earlier, I would’ve gone straight ahead and switched trains at Lubyanka like I should have. Just a little be later and I would not have gotten past Park Kultury, possibly get hit by the second explosion. Thought-pondering stuff right there.

I still had to use the metro on the way back yesterday though, even after finding out what happened. In fact, for this entire week I’ll just have to. Police are suddenly everywhere, camera crews and photographers interspersed with the crowd, recording footage of the aftermath. They had memorials set up at Park Kultury with flowers for the dead. And although I don’t exactly have much love for the Russians, it was still a gut-wrenching sight to witness.

The tragedy that befell them was a tragedy to us all.

It was a feeling like being misplaced, watching as people laid flowers for the dead and yet going about as usual, taking the train like I do every day. Park Kultury will never be the same again.

It was a feeling like being misplaced, watching as people laid flowers for the dead and yet going about as usual, taking the train like I do every day.

As to my friend’s question, what I would do?

I know the reason she asked was out of concern for my safety. In our group there are only two of us who wear headscarves. As it happens I don’t tolerate dilly-dallying on foot in the least. Walking alone is how I save time but nobody else can ever really keep up so it’s become a habit for me to travel by myself. Some of us have resorted taking paid cabs to get to class instead of the metro, but I’m not willing to fork out so much money especially since the cab drivers have hiked up their fare following the event.

In comparison, during the New York terrorists attack taxi drivers drive free of charge. On March 29, Moscow – taxis turn up their prices 10 fold (from Aini Hanan‘s twitter feed, this made me so SO angry). How anyone could take advantage of other people’s misery totally escapes me.

It’s not that I’m that much of a cheapskate that I’m willing to risk my life just to save money. Nor am I so careless to flagrantly walk around in public without the knowledge that I am an obvious target for retaliation. And I’m absolutely clear on the fact that every other Moscow citizen seeing me in my scarf would inevitably feel a tinge of suspicion and anxiety about being in the same vicinity as a girl wearing a scarf. I would understand their anxiety, considering how very recently the horror  was, how everything is burnt fresh in their memories. Their apprehension towards us hijabi’s, practically palpable.

I am scared. Trust me, I really am.

But I’m also aware that this is what fear does. It makes people mistrust each other and everyone always want someone to blame for the things that have happened. As long as I am capable of taking care of myself I shall, but I will not let that fear, mine or anyone else’s get the best of me.

No, I am not prepared to die either. God knows I’m so far from ready. I am however prepared to accept the possibility of dying at any given moment. Death is closer to us than we could ever hope to realize. Always. However well equipped we might believe we are to face it.

Say: “Death, from which you are fleeing, will certainly catch up with you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible, and He will inform you about what you did.” (Surah al-Jumu‘a, Verse 8)

The whole incident has been an incredibly significant reminder for me. A chance to reflect on my 23 years of life so far, what I’ve accomplished not merely as an individual but most importantly as Allah’s servant. The relationship I have with people and with God. And how I still need very much work on all of these things.

To everyone that called/texted/messaged to check on me, thank you immensely for your prayers (especially L, your voice was a comfort and the depth of your concern, I am beyond grateful for. You are a friend that makes living such a precious thing indeed).

Three months to go before home, insyaAllah.


He Who Knows

20Nov09

76. But when He did bestow of His bounty, they became covetous, and turned back (from their covenant), averse (from its fulfilment).

77. So He hath put as a consequence hypocrisy into their hearts, (to last) till the Day, whereon they shall meet Him: because they broke their covenant with Allah, and because they lied (again and again).

78. Know they not that Allah doth know their secret (thoughts) and their secret counsels, and that Allah knoweth well all things unseen?

79. Those who slander such of the believers as give themselves freely to (deeds of) charity, as well as such as can find nothing to give except the fruits of their labour,- and throw ridicule on them,- Allah will throw back their ridicule on them: and they shall have a grievous penalty.

80. Whether thou ask for their forgiveness, or not, (their sin is unforgivable): if thou ask seventy times for their forgiveness, Allah will not forgive them: because they have rejected Allah and His Messenger. and Allah guideth not those who are perversely rebellious.

– At-Tawba (9 : 76-80)

On more than one occasion when circumstances have bought me to desperation I find the most reassuring of support in the verses of the Quran.

I don’t know about anyone else but sometimes of all the pages that you could have opened, of all the Surah’s  you could have chanced upon arriving to,  His words that you need to hear seem fitting with whichever conundrum you’re faced with at that moment.

And if ever there was a time when your faith felt shaken, you read these and it is restored.  Even stronger because of it.


Spellbound

04Nov09

There is nothing quite like the intoxicating smell of books, be it glossy untouched covers with clean virgin angles or musty old ones, dusty and dog-eared. When you open that first page and get hit by the rush of words. They capture you. They fly off the lines. The punctuation build structures around you, kingdoms and empires kidnap you unsuspectingly into their worlds. Your eyes glide along the sentences.

There is something that awakens inside you.

So. About this new bookstore that just opened at the end of the street… I only just discovered the place by chance considering it’s on the other end, which I don’t usually walk past. But yesterday I found myself at the crossroad, walking back from the Dean’s office on an unexpected errand. To the right was our hostel, the direction which I was headed. It was only 4.30 but dusk was approaching fast since it’s November. To my left, the new building adjacent to the park stood new and glitzy. Half the lot was housed by a posh overpriced gym and the other half had never been occupied as far as I had noticed. Until then.

I could say that I was compelled to enter there because of the warm inviting lights that spilled from the glass paneled windows, like soft golden honey on that cold chilly evening.  Or maybe just maybe it could have been some strange unexplainable pull, I can’t say for sure. But in there I was, practically getting jizzed in my pants from sheer excitement.

The interior was achingly beautiful. About a quarter of the shelves were still empty, waiting to be filled by books still in boxes that were laying around half open. Two floors worth of reading material. Oh the joy! Granted, probably about only 1% of these were in English, but when you’re staying in a place where the language issue is a barrier and finding a selection of delicious reads you could actually understand is a challenge and a rarity, this is more than enough. You will never be able to comprehend how ecstatic I was to discover the little corner of the store where they kept the books. You know, of the non-Cyrillic variety yayyy.

I haven’t gotten to the best part…

Inside, on one of the walls, was a bookcase. Not just any kind of bookcase though, it was the kind that stood tall from floor-to-ceiling. The kind that takes up such an incredible height that you need a ladder to reach the uppermost shelves. Yep, there was a sliding ladder folks. As L quaintly put it, à la Belle’s library from Beauty & the Beast. If it sounds as if I’m romanticizing this whole deal well I suppose I rather am. You can see I’m quite the happy camper yes indeed. Even though selection-wise this bookstore has hardly what the ones back home have to offer, for the time being it’s my little piece of heaven on earth while I’m still here in Moscow.

p/s: The girl who works there is SO adorable. She looks like Dakota Fanning with the wide innocent eyes  exactly, but exuded a vibe  several shades cooler (does this even make any sense ha). There was  some sort of ethnic tattoo on the nape of her neck and was dressed like a lookbook model although  in a completely non-pretentious way what with her I’m-here-to-help-but-you’re-free-to-browse-for-as-long-as-you’d-like-and-I-won’t-hover smile (don’t you just hate sales-people who hover?). And and aaand the bestest part was she gave me a discount on the paperback I bought because it had a slight dent on the front and she couldn’t find me a nicer copy. Hee.


On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray:) “Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which You did lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Protector; Help us against those who stand against Faith. (Al-Baqarah, verse 286)

I cannot help more than through my prayers. Remember, you are not alone in the challenges you face. Because we have Him, and there is no greater assistance than His.

You have prepared your armor. You are doing what must be done. You will get through this victorious, I shall pray for the best.

For us both, Amin.


This is my name, written in the Thaana script of Dhivehi language.

Today was the first day of snow.