Rays of Splendour


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Right where you’re meant to be

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Al-Imran, 3:191

I’d like to begin this last published entry for 2015 with a verse that I deemed to be my verse of the year. Sometimes there is that one surah that demands and commands all my attention. It’s all my heart beats for and something I can relate to on both the spiritual and non-spiritual levels. Sometimes it is that one verse that keeps tugging at my heart.Β  This year for some unknown reason, Surah Furqan (The Criterion) as well as the last ten verses of Surah Al-Imran seem to reach out to me more than normal and they’re the ones I keep reading and going back to over and over again.

In the latter, the above verse is one of the last 10 verses of this surah that stands out for me due to the great reminder it offers me.

See, along the course of this one year, I had asked God so many why-s. Why did He make me go through this? Why did he make me experience that? Why, why why?

Don’t get me wrong. The reason for asking so many “why-s” isn’t because I was angry at God or unable to accept His decree. Rather, it is because I firmly believe that everything that happens has a purpose and my endless “why-s” are simply a way in which I essentially wonder the purpose behind something that had occured.

In verse 191, He mentions that “Men who celebrate the praises of Allah standing sitting and lying down on their sides and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth (with the thought): “Our Lord! Not for naught have You created (all) this! Glory to You! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire“.

“Not for naught have You created this”. That is a powerful reminder for me that He has created everything with a purpose. Every event and experience that we encounter has a purpose. Our failures, any denials, any rewards, from the big to the small things, anyone that you lost, anyone that came into your life, the sadness, the happiness, anything.Β  There is purpose in everything.

As I am blogging this I’m thinking to myself that regardless of the purpose, I hope I always remember that I’m right where I needed to be and it is exactly as He planned it to be.

And sometimes, that’s all that matters – to accept that we’re right where we’re meant to be.


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In the hands, not the heart

As I set about letting go of something I love and have spent the last five years of my life on, my thoughts started to linger to how sometimes life really throws some unexpected curve balls – some good, some bad – at you.

In this instance, alhamdulillah, it is a good curve ball. However I can frankly say that I have never planned to spend a while at this place. Neither was it in any part of my agenda to end up liking it so much.

Truly, we can plan however God is ultimately the best of planners and the Master of all plans. For along the way, this place and its people had somehow endeared itself to me enough to convince my heart that it’s the right place to be at that time and to stay on for a while more.

As I marveled upon this, I realized that a lot of the life changing experiences – usually involving people and situations – which I see as His gifts were never part of my plans. They just happened, by the will of Allah.

But as life unfolds and as I’m presented with more of the world that tempts my heart, this is a reminder for myself foremost that Allah has also stated repeatedly in the Quran that these gifts of the dunya are merely allurements of this world, and that they are temporary. And that as much as I can, to hold these worldly gifts in my hand and not inside my heart, as well as to not love the gift more than the Giver.

It is so timely that as I reflected upon this that the following poem came along to underscore this point: to keep these gifts within the palm of my hands and to give them their due rightsΒ  – be it respect, care, love and commitment – and not into the heart as that is the one place reserved only for its Creator.

And if ever these gifts are ever taken away by Him, then it pains only the hand and hopefully not the heart.

Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a
Stranger
Only to someone
Who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife
Then weave them into a blanket
To protect you.

There are different wells within us.
Some fill with each good rain,
Others are far, far to deep
For that.

Hafiz, The Divan


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Autumn and summer in three weeks (Part 1)

Here’s something for the record: November 2015 is the first time ever in my life that I got to experience two different seasons within a span of a few days apart.

Allah swt has made the world to be so beautiful and intricate. Every time I thought I had seen the most beautiful thing there is to see on Earth, there will always be yet another scene that by His grace, He allows me to experience.

And so, my November started off with Him allowing me to experience autumn. This is the second time ever that I get to experience autumn and masyaAllah, the scenes are as beautiful as ever. Autumn puts a new spin to the idea that there is beauty in death. Afterall, the reason why the trees are having red or yellow leaves is an indication of the leaves dying.

Hill slopes at Gwanak.Hill slopes of Gwanak in fall colours

With the paths at Gwanak being filled with pretty leaves like these, I couldn't stop looking down as I walked. The paths of Gwanak were littered with these small reddish maple leaves.
I couldn’t stop looking down at the ground as I walked.

Leaves that had fallen and covered many paths in Seoul after a downpour.The scene after a downpour along the streets outside Seoul Station.

One of the fall foliage that lined the streets of Myeong Dong, with the litted Namsan Tower in the distance.Fall foliage along the streets of Myeong Dong with the Namsan Tower in the distance

Since the parents came along for this trip, ensuring access to halal food was pretty important. Alhamdulillah, access to halal food in Seoul in 2015 is much better than when I first went there in 2009. In 2009, the choice of halal food was limited only to Indian or Turkish food. However I guess with more Muslims travelling to Korea as well the increasing numbers of Korean Muslim converts, there are now shops that sell halal Korean food. Hence the few days we were there, we managed to eat at some of these food outlets located in Itaewon where resources for the Muslim community are centralized.

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The streets of Seoul also had much to offer in terms of food though we had to be a bit more discerning when it comes to buying from these stalls. One of the things that we enjoyed eating while we’re there were roasted chestnuts! Pomegranate juice comes in a close second but we were too engrossed in drinking it that we didn’t take any photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA roasted chestnut push cart stall in Myeong Dong.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chestnuts were being roasted in small wired-baskets like the above.
This caught our attention for a while as in Singapore, chestnuts are roasted in huge woks.

I had plans to take the family to visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Nam San Tower as well as perhaps a day trip outside Seoul. However as this was a short trip with the main agenda being to introduce the parents to Seoul, we did not manage to cover much. Besides the Namdaemun Market which got my mom pretty excited due to the gazillion pretty brooches and dried anchovies, the other highlight of the trip was when we stumbled upon the Line Friends Store in Itaewon.

The youngest brother is into cutesy stuff and Line has managed to market itself in a way that appeals to those, like him, who are into this concept. We spent almost an hour just going around the store and taking photos. I’m glad we managed to stumble upon this place as prior to this he was feeling down however, this place managed to cheer him up tremendously!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t believe my brother owns three of this bunny thingy in different sizes!

Like any other cities in the world, Seoul presents itself in a different way to different people. While we enjoyed our time together as a family going around Seoul, I also know that the family did not take an immediate liking to the city like they did for Tokyo. Tokyo (and Japan in general) still ranks as one of the top places in the world that we love.

Regardless, I believe that He is placing me here for a reason whose wisdom I’ve yet to grasp for now but insyaAllah, it will be for the best for all of us.


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Destabilized

For a few weeks now, I feel like I’m not entirely present in life.

I will be physically present and performing all the motions like working, communicating with my friends and family, in class, cleaning the house, cooking, travelling, praying or reading the Quran but somehow, I always get the feeling like I’m not 100% there.

I’ve been trying to rationalize why this is so. There must be some reason for this and I realized that I’m feeling very, very, very destabilized inside.

For the past five years since I started working at the current workplace, life has been pretty much predictable. It is so predictable that anyone can guess how my daily routine will be like and where they would most likely expect to find me.

But as of last month when it finally felt real that I will be on no pay leave from January onwards, I felt like the stable ground which I’d been standing on had given way.

That shelter of predictability which I had grown accustomed to over the last five years has now been shaken. It makes me feel very unsettled inside as I wonder what 2016 will bring.

It is a bit strange for me to discover how 5 years of predictability can change myself. Back in 2010 when I left my first job with no plans for the future, it had felt so liberating. The freedom and sense of contentment from having all those time to myself is a memory I still cherish to this day.

However at 31 years of age, I think that somewhere and something inside me has changed. The prospect of having all the time to myself is not making me as excited as it had back then.

Has time and age tamed me so much?

I never expected that there will be a time when I see this version of myself who finds comfort in stability. In fact judging by how I tend to think and consider more serious aspects of life these days like death, sickness, time, life decisions and others, it surprises me that there will be a time where I will actually be like this.

The irony of it all is that I didn’t even realize I’ve changed until I spoke to L. She was berating me on a decision I recently made and somewhere in the conversation, she spat out the following question in exasperation:

“Since when have you become like this?”

I guess, since predictability somehow entered my life? Since work happened? Since time passes? Since life happened?

Regardless, her question did nothing to ease the feeling of being unsettled inside.

So with that said, what do I do to settle this heart of mine that feels like it’s resting on unstable ground?

Perhaps at the end of the day, it could simply be a matter of finding again all those parts of myself which I had somehow lost over time. I certainly miss that part of myself that is willing to take a chance at life and being opened to where it leads me.

To have the courage to take that leap of faith.

Yep, that’s it.

Leap of faith.

Just…. Jump. Let go, and let God.