Purification of The Heart blog post

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClick here for my SeekersGuidance blog post on the Purification of The Heart lecture by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.

The venue was quite full by the time the Shaykh arrived after being stuck in traffic. From speaking to the locals here, I get the impression that the traffic jams in KL are almost a force of nature!

Shaykh Yahya requested that we start off the night with Qasidahs – Qad Kafani and Ya Allimal Sirri Minna. There was an English Qasidah too, led by Shaykh Yahya, but I don’t remember the title. Qasidahs are jam-packed with deep, spiritual meanings and there’s something soothing and healing in them, even if you’re not entirely sure of the meaning. Click here for one of my favourite recitations of Qad Kafani, by Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad.

Listening to Shaykh Yahya’s talk really reminded me about how important it is for me to make this a conscious, daily effort to purify my heart. It’s so easy to get caught up in the lull and rush of daily life. I especially appreciated his five practical tips because it’s one thing to be inspired in a talk, but it’s another matter to put what I learned into practice, for the rest of my life.

These practical tips are relevant to Muslims across all walks of life. You could be a doctor in Africa, a writer in America, or a politician in Turkey – your heart will benefit from nourishment and polishing. SubhanAllah. No matter where you are in your life and whatever state you find yourself in, there is always goodness in turning your heart to Allah.

Does anyone have their notes from Imam Afroz Ali’s talk on Friday? I’d appreciate it if you can drop me a line on my blog. Thanks in advance!

In other news, I’ve come across some fantastic notes by Sister Shagufta Pasta about the “Exploring the Qur’an with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus” series. Jazakillah khayr Sis Shagufta, for the reminders.

From Madinah To Malaysia – my SeekersGuidance blog post

imagesCheck out my first SeekersGuidance blog post: From Madinah To Malaysia: Reflections by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil.

It’s been such a blessing to be present in Kuala Lumpur during the Haul (ceremony of remembrance) of Imam Al-Haddad. Being here at this time has been very serendipitous – when my husband and I booked our tickets to Malaysia, we had no idea so many events would be held! Alhamdulilah for Divine Providence. It’s been so inspiring to be in the presence of scholars, and a beautiful reminder of what really matters in life. Meeting the different sisters from the KL gatherings has been lovely too.

We had a brief reunion with Imam Afroz Ali today after his talk at UTM Masjid. We got to meet Professor Dr. Muhammad Zainy Uthman too! I’ve been watching his videos on Professor Al-Attas, and it was so cool to meet him in person. And then we got slightly lost on the way to another meeting lol. Thunderstorms here are intense, and traffic jams take on a whole new meaning when there’s almost zero visibility.

In other news, we attended the Questions For The Tall White Man event last night and it was so, so awesome to talk about the hard stuff with Shaykh Yahya. He really did keep it real. The night ended with beautiful Qasidah recitations, with the foot-tapping beat of Malay drums (kompang). FUN! More about this later, inshaAllah.

Random note: There is so much amazing food here! And so affordable. Talk about needing to restrain the nafs lol.

 

 

 

 

Review of JAAN Arts Week

1095078_10151807695326352_1187936795_nOne word – awesome.

Although I attended only two of the JAAN Revival Of The Islamic Arts events, I came away energised, inspired, and motivated to continue on my own journey as a writer, poet, and artist. The international guest speaker, Mustafa Davis, gave a great photography workshop last Wednesday and it was good to see the man behind the photographs.

One thing I’ll take away from the workshop is something one of his mentors told him:

If you wanna shoot more interesting photos, be a more interesting person.

Sounds ridiculously obvious, right? But it’s very sage advice. Photography, like all other art forms, is an expression of the artist. Good art comes from a place of honesty and vulnerability. Creating more authentic art is directly linked with our own authenticity as human beings. His honesty about having a difficult childhood really resonated with me, and so did his description of photography being the only way he knew how to express himself emotionally. Writing has always been my outlet.

Random note: He must have used the phrase ‘pretentious photographers’ at least a dozen times during the workshop! I appreciated his attitude that if we put our minds to it and practice, we can all take fantastic photographs. Great photography isn’t just for the…pretentious photographers lol. He made it very clear that it took him a long time to reach the level he’s at now, so that’s encouraging for any of us who are just starting out on an artistic endeavour. Keep at it, and the fruits will come.

Mustafa Davis will be coming back to Sydney in December, so if you’re in any way interested in photography, I can assure you that you’ll enjoy his workshop. I was lucky enough to chat to him after the workshop and I’ll be mulling over what he said to me as I develop my writing, poetry and photography. More on that later.

The Thursday night JAAN Q&A was another great experience. It was  refreshing to hear the thoughts of all the panelists. Whether or not they identify overtly with being a Muslim artist, each has a unique story to tell, and their story is inevitably influenced by the lens of Islam. Being a student of knowledge myself, it was inspiring to learn that Mustafa Davis studied Islam at the hands of scholars for ten years. So in addition to producing films and shooting photographs, he also teaches fiqh on the weekend! Plus, he’s also married and has four children. All in all, I’m glad I’ve finally found an artistic role model and mentor.

Thank you to the panelists, JAAN and IMA crew! Here’s to more events, and to more forward-thinking discussions about art within the Muslim community, and beyond.

Memorable quotes from the night:

Confines can make you a better artist, versus a free-for-all…look at it [boundaries of Islam] as a benefit, and your art will flourish. Mustafa Davis

You get abuse when you challenge people’s worldviews. If you’re comfortable in your beliefs, you won’t care. – Amal Awad

Is writing about sin encouraging sin? Clarify your intentions for every piece. – Zeynab Gamieldien

It’s not revival we’re really looking at….can’t keep looking back. We need a new conversation. – Nazeen Reehman

Singing is da’wah. – Hameed Attai

Ramadan Mubarak/Selamat Berpuasa!

Today marks Day 1 of t1099108_ramadan_3he blessed month of Ramadan 2013/1434 AH (after Hijrah). Welcome, O Month of Mercy! May we live to see many, many more.

Here’s a beautiful reminder of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) sermon during Ramadan.

Looking back on my globe-trotting life, I’ve fasted in a range of different countries: Singapore, Jordan and Australia. From the northern hemisphere, to the equator, and then the southern hemisphere lol. Fasting in the heat of the Arabian summer sure wasn’t a breeze, but something about Ramadan and its winds of mercy made things a lot easier. There’s also something to be said about the body acclimatizing to wherever we happen to be. Ramadan Mubarak to my friends in Jordan! May we be reunited soon 🙂

Coming back to the present, it’s yet another cold winter day in Sydney, which make it a lot easier to abstain from food and water. Back in the 90s, when I was in highschool, we broke our fasts around 8 pm. That was hard, especially compared to the 5:30 pm iftar of the winter months.

Here’s a list of some of my Ramadan goals:

1) Read Qur’an daily, and aim to complete it.

2) Have iftar with my family and in-laws twice a week.

3) Be nice to people.

4) Go to Auburn mosque for tarawih.

Aside from seeing my family and Irfan’s family at iftars, we’re pretty solitary during Ramadan. I think it’s because time is short – by the time Irfan gets home from work to break fast with me, we pray maghrib, eat some more, then get ready to leave for isha and tarawih prayers in Auburn. I apologise in advance to those gracious enough to extend iftar invitations to us!

On another note, I LOVE AUBURN MOSQUE. Let me just add that in caps. I feel like I’m in Turkey, for a start, and hearing the salutations upon the Prophet (peace be upon him) as we rest in between tarawih sets is so, so beautiful. For those who wish to pray there, isha prayer starts at 7 pm. Have a blessed month!

 

“Why Can’t We Get Married?” SeekersConversation, June 1st 2013 – my thoughts

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There you have it, ladies and gentlemen – our exciting first Sydney SeekersConversation for this year! I’ll be facilitating the event, and I’m really looking forward to talking to the panelists as well as opening up the floor for the audience. Most people have a LOT to say about marriage, so this will be interesting.  Come down and join us!

On that note, here’s a run-down of the types of people I’ve come across when it comes to marriage:

1) The Eager Puppies

They’re generally younger and filled with lovely romantic ideals about marriage and its total and utter wonderfulness. The walks along the beach, the hot chocolates by the fireplace, and – of course – the epic foot rubs. Their youth is directly correlated with the distinct lack of BAD SCARRING PAINFUL experiences when it comes to marriage.I’ll get to that category later. Some do get married. And it works out! This is cool. But unfathomable to me.

2) The Jaded

Now we’re getting to the slightly older category who are getting somewhat tired of the unsuitable suggestions from well-meaning friends (read: would THEY even consider marrying the person they’re suggesting?? Um, no!). They’re starting to get a tad weary of the whole thing, and when they are broached about a more suitable potential, hackles are initially raised, and then slowly lowered. When the right guy/girl does come along, all defenses come melting down like ice cream on a hot day. Awww.

3) The REALLY Jaded and Bitter

These are the souls who’ve had many relationship breakdowns, are getting past their supposed marital shelf-life (this varies, but 30 is apparently time to hit the panic button), or who generally have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to marriage. Said chip is about the size of a boulder. Most of them have been unfairly treated at some point in their life, but as with all things, it takes two to tango, and holding on to negativity makes it a lot harder to embrace everything else life has to offer.

Deep down, they’d like to get married too. But you didn’t hear me say that.

4) The Quietly Content

These are a really rare breed, and spotting them is equivalent to finding a kookaburra in the Sahara Desert. This is a category that transcends age, background, blood type, or even gender. Sure, they’d like to get married someday, but they’re happy where they are. Some have had failed relationships before, but they’ve gotten over that REALLY Jaded and Bitter stage, or bypassed it completely. In this Zen-like state, they actually do manage to snag a spouse. Amazing.

5) The Hopefuls

I’d like to think that most people fall in this category. The Hopefuls are our lovably flawed guys and girls who are balancing everything and worry that they’ll fall apart. Falling apart actually does happen on a regular basis, but they pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and send a silent prayer for a loving spouse who’ll complete them and all that jazz. Because they’re so darned nice, they actually stand a better chance of meeting The One. And around the time when they realise they’re already complete, Mr or Mrs Right comes sailing through the door.

6) The I’m Too Tired To Think About It

This is the category specifically for single parents, usually single mums, who are exhausted from raising kids with little or no support. Of course, child-support from ex-partner is usually non-existent. These are the people who are arguably most in need of a loving spouse, but it takes a big heart to take on a new spouse who has his/her own children. Hats off to all men and women who are brave enough to step up and marry single parents. You are heroes!

Create What You Love – Huffington Post opinion piece

1350860_hand-in-handI really liked this article on Huffington Post – Create What You Love: 4 Steps To Improve Your Life.

The four principles Susanna Bair wrote about are:

Use love to build a beautiful and healthy body.

Use love to create the work you enjoy.

Use love to develop the relationship you want.

Use love to build a better world.

I know that starting off my day with my morning prayer (fajr) helps to remind me of what matters in life. All five daily prayers help to ground me. The key is to take my time, and not rush through them. I can measure how centered I feel in my life depending on how present I am with Allah in my prayer.

Going for a walk or doing my yoga stretches helps me feel a limber and relaxed. I do a lot of sitting down when I study or write, and that puts a lot of stress on my lower back. Moving around helps to clear my head and release any built-up tension in my back or shoulders. It’s amazing what a short 15-20 minute walk/yoga session can do.

It’s a blessing to be able to study and work with what I love (counselling and writing, respectively). I’m looking forward to completing my Diploma of Counselling over the next few months, and joining the workforce once I get enough volunteer experience. As for my writing…stay tuned for my next article 🙂

Spending quality time with friends and family is a constant source of joy, validation and support for me. I don’t have any pets, but I have three plants: Lily, Violet, and Lucky Bamboo. I water them regularly, and talk to them on occasion. I’ve heard that talking to plants actually helps them grow! I suspect it’s working lol.

 

 

 

How do you find a partner if 99% of the population are a no-go? – Mamamia opinion piece

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Hop on over to this brilliant read: How do you find a partner if 99% of the population are a no-go by Zeynab Gamieldien. Zeynab is a fantastic writer and her blog, Love Haqtually, is a great place to read all about the quirks of the Australian Muslim community, especially on the topic of luuuurve. Man, there’s so much stigma when it comes to love and Muslims, yet we’re the ones with the exponential birth rates *facepalm*

Kudos to you, Zeynab, and to all Muslim women out there who are brave enough to tell their story. It’s refreshing to see Muslim women demonstrating agency by speaking out about their own experiences. It’s not cool to see people talking ABOUT Muslim women (“Free her from her oppressors!” etc), and it’s often the woefully ignorant who are the most opinionated. And who get the most air-time. It’s wonderful to see that Zeynab has added her unique voice to the tapestry of Muslim voices in the media, and I pray that many Muslim women will do the same. The world needs more compassion, understanding, and acceptance, and the best way to humanise the other is to give it a face, and a voice. Muslim women, for better or worse, are constantly in the limelight, and I hope that with the passage of time, more of us will be proud of the faith which us brings life, and tell our story – with a smile 🙂