Rays of Splendour


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Summer of procrastination (on thesis)

At the time of blogging this, I’m finally officially having a summer break. Yessah!

I was tempted to spend the summer exploring more of the provinces of Korea. I figured a month would be more than enough to slowly travel and experience the different provinces. However, I had errands and matters to attend to back home and hence off to Singapore I went!

So I’ve been back in Singapore for about 2 weeks now. It has been a busy two weeks spent settling things, trying to catch up with people here and also, just to rest.

In between, I caught a flu bug that has been making its rounds among the people here and I’ve been trying to drive away the runny nose, scratchy throat and dry cough since last week. I’m heaps better at the time of writing this but yeah, my lungs still feel irritated at times. The air in this western part of Singapore I’m staying at is really polluted that it has triggered my asthma thus prompting me to use the inhaler EVERY SINGLE DAY since I got back. I probably need to get myself some new supply of the inhalers soon cos the current ones are almost empty.

Health-issues aside, I’ve been telling myself every single day to get my ass working on the thesis. Honestly every time I open my laptop, I have all intentions to start on my research or email some people who would be helpful in allowing me to get access to some data. But the reality does not pan out that way for every time I’m on my laptop, I will find a million and one other things to occupy myself with which has no relation to my thesis such as the following:

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j88hbs

Instead of working on the thesis, I’m spending time googling for memes related to it and laughing my heads off at some of the funny captions. Some of these memes are so funny I.just.can’t!

#queenofprocrastination

I hope that the next time I blog, I’d have some updates about the progress I’ve made on my thesis. Amin.


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Summer thus far

Compared to last week, the past few days have seen more activity in my life ever since summer semester started. I started the week making a resolve to fill my time with more activities because I really cannot stand having a lack of things to do.

So I’ve taken a long walk from my department to the Central Library to return some books I borrowed. In the process, I took a new path I’ve never taken before. The path cuts through a bit of the mountains and a small part of the forested area but masyaAllah once I was out of that area, I found myself at a very beautiful part of campus I’ve never been before. All these while, I’ve avoided that path because it seems deserted and honestly, I do not know where it would lead me. However I was with a friend at that time and she was pretty keen to accompany me for that walk even though she herself hasn’t gone through the route. Reminders for me:

  • Never be afraid to venture down a different path cos you never know what gems it could lead you too
  • Having someone with you when doing something new gives you strength to pursue it so I should be the same to others if they’re in the same situation

I’ve also attempted to settle a few administrative issues related to the upcoming Fall semester. In addition, the course listings for the new semester are already up! I pray that I’m able to get the last few courses I needed to clear (and also complete researching and writing my thesis!) so that I can graduate by the end of the Fall semester insyaAllah.

Besides school, I’ve also tried to get away from campus for a few hours. I did nothing fancy like travelling but yeah, it was something much needed to rejuvenate myself from constantly being part of school. Staying on campus definitely has its perks but the fact that you’re constantly in a school environment 24/7 can feel taxing so yes, I felt that I needed to get away for a few hours.

I went off to Itaewon on one of the days to treat myself to a Korean lunch! That’s the first Korean meal I had in months (the irony since I’m living in Korea!. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t that great which was a surprise to me cos I’ve always liked the food at this shop those few times I went there to get my Korean fix.

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On another day, I scooted off to Coex with no intention other than to just window shop and check out the much-raved about library.

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Pretty cool design. It’s an open concept library so don’t expect to keep silent at that place. It’s noisy – you can hear the background music coming from the mall speakers, shoppers talking and many more. In a nutshell, it isn’t your typical library!

Although I had no intentions to shop, I ended up getting myself a set of swimming wear. I do not swim and neither do I know how to swim but after this spur of the moment buy, I actually now feel like signing myself up for swimming classes when I’m back in Singapore!

That aside, it only just hit me that Korea is a great place for Muslimahs to purchase a nice set of pretty swimming costume. The shops stock numerous long pants and long-sleeved swim wear in various designs. The Koreans are very wary of exposing their skin to the sun whenever they’re engaged in water activities during summer (very popular during the warm season!) and hence the demand and readily-available stock of such swim attire in the shops.

Lastly, although it’s summer, it’s also the monsoon season in Korea. It’s been raining more days than it is sunny. However when it’s sunny, it’s trulyyy warm.

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My first experience of a rainy, monsoonal East Asian summer. Something old since I’ve experienced monsoon seasons back home too but there also seems to be something different about the monsoon season here.


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Halfway through with summer school

Done with 2 weeks of the summer semester alhamdulillah! 2 more weeks to go before the semester ends!

This is the first time ever that I’ve taken an inter-semester session. I’ve never taken any back in my undergrad days and neither have I taken it during the previous few semesters of post-grad school.

So I never knew just how much motivation it would take for me to psych myself to get to classes even. Seriously, I’ve been late  for practically EVERY lesson these two weeks and it’s only because I took such a long time to convince myself to get out of the house and go to class. I’ve been approaching the TA during breaks to inform him that I’m there and to mark my attendance that I think he’s probably super annoyed at me by now.

Anyway, all I want to do for now is just take a break after the 4 grueling months of spring semester. I get exhausted simply running through my mind the schedule, deadlines and number of meetings with professors to acquire their signatures to settle various administrative issues during the spring semester. When it finally ended with the submission of my last assignment, all I wanted to do was take a break.

So these past 2 weeks of school had naturally been one whereby my mind seems to be out of place. On the one hand, I’m physically there in class and alhamdulillah, 90% mentally there too as I listened to the lectures and tried to absorb the knowledge disseminated. However at the same time, I feel another part of myself just itching to be elsewhere but in class and doing the assignments.

So the rest of the time, my mind and body have been thinking and desiring so much to go on holiday. I do not know where for now but yes, I just want to goooooo somewhere and explore new things.

I feel pretty much stifled and unmotivated after being so dormant like this. In fact, I’m so stifled and unmotivated that I actually do not have much appetite even. Nothing seems to whet my appetite so I’ve been eating things like bread with butter or simply noodles with veggies for my meals.

I look forward to going back to Singapore for a proper break but ironically, I also know that I’ll probably be bored and be even MORE unmotivated because I’ll be spending my days largely alone as my family and friends would probably be busy working.

I sound so cranky right now and all because I’m just emotionally and mentally exhausted.

I need a break, badly.


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End of spring semester

*dusts blog*

It’s been almost a solid 4 months since I last blogged. The last time I did this was at the start of my spring semester. Alhamdulillah, the spring semester is over as of last week and results are out.

I feel considerably more relaxed right now as opposed to the last few months. These few months, ‘deadlines’ were constantly at the back of my mind. Somehow after I’ve cleared one deadline, there was always some other deadline I’m worried about.

If I could summarize the spring semester in one phrase, it’d be “Finding direction“. I was constantly in search of a direction on what to research and write about the whole of the semester! I guess my mind wasn’t in the mood to blog in between constantly researching, brainstorming and then going back to the drawing board if I found the angle I want to research on to be inappropriate.

Currently, I’ve signed up and am doing a summer semester. It’s my first inter-semester session as I’ve always gone back to Singapore during the summer or winter break.

The campus seems quieter than usual. Less people, less noise. Even the whole vicinity of my apartment seems a whole lot more muted. So this is how inter-semester sessions are like.

The most important month of Ramadan has also come and passed. Alhamdulillah, I managed to experience 3 weeks of Ramadan in Seoul.

I’d thought that I’d be in Seoul the whole of Ramadan and also Eid. However with His generosity, I was given an opportunity to fly back home to experience the last week of Ramadan and the first two days of Eid. I am so, so, so grateful to Allah for allowing this to happen. The time with my family and friends whom I love so much was short but alhamdulillah, I feel full inside.

Nothing beats being around the people you love. As I reflect upon Allah’s blessings, I’m made to realize yet again how the people He has placed around us represents one of our biggest rezki in life.

Sometimes in praying and asking God to open and grant us rezki, we tend to define that word in terms of the financial aspects. However in doing so, we forget that Allah’s notion of rezki can be limitless. It’s not just an increase in your bank account as most people – myself included – tend to construe rezki to be. It comes in various forms and the people which He has surrounded yourself with who fills your heart which such contentment are one of them. Through them too, Allah grants you other forms of rezki.

Amazing isn’t it?

To my family and friends whom I love so much, I look forward to days when I will be able to be your side again. And I pray so much that Allah grants me the opportunity to do so, amin.


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Two days till Seoul

Midnight just rolled around as I’m blogging this. It’s officially Thursday.

That means I only have two more nights (including tonight) where my family is physically so close before I turn in for the night. Three more mornings where I will wake up to a house filled with people I love very deeply.

I’m excited for all the things I am going to be learning in school but at the same time, my heart breaks at the thought of being so far from my family and loved ones. An emptiness echoes back whenever I tried to visualise myself shuffling around in the apartment, turning in and then waking up with the acknowledgement that my family is so far away. 

I’m going to end this very short entry (very unlike my usual entries!) with this emoticon that describes how I’m feeling at the awareness that I’ll be headed to the airport on Friday night to board the flight to Seoul: 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭

Can I like call the airline company and request to change the flight departure dates so that I can spend even more time with the family? 

Afterall, classes only begin officially on 9 March. I can skip the first week which is the add/drop courses week. Can, can, can????


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Finally here

First entry written in Seoul and I foresee that there will be many more to come.

So as I’m sitting here in my room, I’m thinking about two things:

  1. I actually went through with the crazy idea to study in Seoul and,
  2. Am I really going to continue my studies?

I received a letter from the school back in 2014 stating that my application was successful. I was pretty thrilled to know that I was offered a place to study here and looked forward so much to being able to study when the time comes. However March 2015 rolled along and I was not able to go. That led to a painful few weeks of requesting the university to grant me a leave of absence for a year and emails back and forth to my reporting officer, the HR manager, the admin officer at the university and lastly, the professor.

Hence when the 2015 working year drew to a close, I dare not hope that the idea of finally going ahead with my studies would materialize. In fact, right up to the week that I was supposed to leave for Seoul, I still did not believe it will become a reality and hence why I was the least excited person as compared to those around me.

Once bitten, twice shy. And yes, I’m one of those people who finds it hard – though truly, I try my best to – to be opened to second chances once the first one has gone awry.

Even now as I’m blogging about this, with the prospect of the new Spring semester starting in two days’ time looming ahead, I’m still wondering whether I’m truly starting school after all.

I’m also wondering whether I will ever be able to successfully graduate at the end of two years. What if I flunk? What if midway through it, I have a change of heart?

I guess I need to stop with all these questioning and remind myself yet again that it’s the process that matters.

Regardless of the end result of this two year stint in Seoul, I pray that Allah allows me to come out of this experience a stronger, wiser and better person than before and with an increased intimacy with Him. Amin.


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D-13

I woke up this morning to the thought that today will be the second last Friday before I leave. That means it’s another thirteen days to departure.

Amazing how fast time flies. I can still vividly recall asking myself repeatedly back in November how I would spend the two months of 2016 if I no longer have work in my schedule. I worried that I might end up spending days at home doing nothing worthwhile, entertain unhealthy thoughts and then eventually be depressed. I mean, hasn’t there been numerous studies out there that reported that a lot of people face depression because they have too much time on their hands and then entertain negative thoughts and suggestions? So the over-dramatic side of me had imagined ugly scenarios of myself walking around with huge eyebags, unruly hair, sad face, not bathing for days, and then my family coming home to a crying person.

Alhamdulillah, those remained part of my imagination (and I pray that Allah protects all of us from that, amin) for as I looked back to the past 1.5 months, I realized that by His grace, I was able to occupy my time usefully.

Definitely, there were many days where I spent engaging in these activities in solitude. Having meals by myself, going to places by myself and finally, returning to an empty home. However, I may be in solitude but that does not mean I felt alone.

Alhamdulillah, there was never a time when I felt lonely. Through it all, I always got the feeling that I was given those few hours to myself and once the time is up, Allah will fill up the rest of the time with my family’s and friends’ presence. Then sometimes and for wisdom only He knows, Allah brings people into my life and I get to interact more than I do on other days.

Regardless, these past few weeks have unfolded according to His plans. By His will, every moment that occurs sees the right thing and people coming together to occur at the right place and time.

So, last thirteen days here in Singapore before I come back again a few months from now if I have the rezeki, insyaAllah. Till then, I look forward to spending this time within the confines of the familiar.


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Visa application woes: Applying for the D-2 Korean Visa

I’ve finally summoned up the mental readiness to go through the whole process of applying for a D-2 student visa.  The mental readiness is needed only because 1) Administrative processes can be painful and 2) I’ll be passport-less for a while.

As of yesterday, I’ve made a total of two trips to the South Korean embassy in Newton. Both times, I have been unsuccessful in submitting an application for a student visa.

The first time my attempt for a visa application got rejected was entirely due to my negligence. I had failed to note that the embassy conducts visa application requests only from 9.00 – 11.30 a.m. I came at 2 p.m and was obviously turned away. The second time I was turned away was due to insufficient documentation. Apparently, one needs all these document for a D-2 student visa application:

  1. Original passport
  2. A copy of a passport-sized photograph
  3. Acceptance letter/Offer letter/Certificate of admission from the educational institution in Korea
  4. A copy of a bank statement indicating one’s account balance for the past three months
  5. In the event that you have a sponsor for (4), then you would need to produce your sponsor’s bank statement
  6. A copy of the educational transcripts or certificates at your last educational institution
  7. For the employed: A letter from your employer indicating that you are under their employment

During the second visit there, I had failed to produce number 7. Never did I anticipate that I had to produce that when applying for a student visa!

The copy of my sponsor’s bank statement was also rejected as her name was not clearly printed on her bank statement.

So I’m telling myself that the third time I make my way to the embassy, I truly need my visa application to be accepted. The need for the visa aside, I actually find it pretty restrictive that the passport is going to be withheld for a period of time which means that I won’t be able to journey out of Singapore on a whim. That is such a tragic thought!


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Of intentions

“Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended. Whoever migrates with an intention for Allah and His messenger, the migration will be for the sake of Allah and His Messenger. And whoever migrates for worldly gains or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for.”

Hadith 1, Related by Bukhari and Muslim

Intentions.

They’re like the seed to any action.

They’re also the driving force which motivates one to pursue an act or decision in life.

In Islam, intention is an important aspect of our faith. Every single thing we do should be guided by an intention.

Intention itself can be classified as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and in between, it has different degrees of purity. The best and purest of intentions is one done for the sake of Allah swt. By doing so, one is implicitly  acknowledging his/her status of slavehood before Allah swt and how we are merely a conduit through which His greatness as well as countless mercy and blessings towards mankind are brought forth. Essentially all this goes back to a simple but core concept of existence: that everything in this world happens due to Him and goes back to Him.

As the start of my postgrad studies (insyaAllah) draws nearer, I find myself dwelling on the intention for doing this.

Frankly speaking if someone were to ask me say, three to four years ago why I would like to pursue postgrad studies, I would be able to provide an affirmative answer. It was this answer itself which prompted my first foray into postgrad studies back in 2011. This answer – which also clearly communicates my intention loud and clear – would be because I strongly believe that God has created a world replete with knowledge and I would like to commit a part of my life towards acquiring just a bit of that under a formal school setting and hopefully in the process, to be awed by the Creator of this knowledge.

However I find that my perspective of the world shifts with each addition in year to my age.

While I am still floored by the abundant knowledge God has blessed the world with and would like to glean some of that, I am also aware that I can achieve those from an informal school setting.

Then, there are also times in which I will wonder why I am choosing to spend two years doing this instead of pursuing other things which have been on my mind. Why choose to spend all the time, effort and money doing this instead of opting for other paths which would require lesser resources to make the journey work and bring even better benefit to perhaps, professional or personal development, in the long run? Afterall, I do know for sure that I’m not studying again because I want to earn a qualification that will open doors to more career options. Strangely enough, this hasn’t been a matter of consideration for me this time. So again, why this path?

Importantly, how would choosing this path instead of others improve my Islam and my relationship with Him?

At the end of the day, all this boils down to the question of intention. Somehow at this point, that intention is still pretty fuzzy and I’m unable to make out the signpost. I do firmly believe that the impetus to do this was sparked by Him. However it seemed like at this point in time, I am still unable to recognize that bigger purpose – preferably one that is beyond myself – for doing this.


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His grand design

Recently, I read through some of the entries I had posted in this blog. One of the entries I made in March 2013 caused me to pause and reflect a bit.

In that entry, I had blogged about how I suddenly had the intention to perform the umrah. I hadn’t known it back then but more than a year later in December 2014, Allah swt had arranged for me to spend a small portion of my life towards performing the umrah.

As I recalled the events leading up to the umrah, the pilgrimage itself and its end (alhamdulillah), I find myself being floored by the precision in which He enabled all these. His arrangement had encapsulated many aspects – ensuring the provision to pay for the umrah, granting the good health, knowledge as well as time to complete the journey, assigning the parents who are the best companions I could have for the small pilgrimage, and according me with experienced people to guide me on my first umrah at every step of the way. These are just some examples that went into His grand design of things but truly if I were to enumerate it all, I’ll be unable to do so.

The thing is that, I didn’t realize the precision behind His planning till only recently. Though I often tout that Allah swt is the best of planners, it only occurred to me in recent times that I had never stopped to properly analyse and be awed by His artful manoeuvrings in Life.

But masyaAllah, once you start analysing that one significant event that occurred in your life, you will realize the mind-blowing complexities and detail that underlie His grand design. Importantly, I realize that Allah swt does not set your life in motion without first bestowing you with the necessary provisions to get through it.

However as the participant in His plans, most times we tend to overlook the instruments that He has equipped us with. In some cases we do not just overlook but in fact, fail to recognise their existence and end up fumbling through the journey quite unsure how to proceed or worse, the destination we’re headed.

As I’m writing this, I hope that it serves as a reminder to myself that as a participant in His design, I might not be able to see the macro picture. I acknowledge that there are countless instances in which I even failed to recognise the tools He has provided me. However if I were to exercise patience as Life unfolds and let myself be guided by the course that He has set out for me, then perhaps I’ll be more cognizant of things and hopefully once a particular scheme is completed will I then get to see a better picture as opposed to the constant “why-s” and “how-s” that dogged the journey as it unravels.

And currently as questions of “How do I support myself for two years if I’m not working” and “Where do I get the money if I don’t work for two years” increasingly becomes a loud chatter and as doubt starts to creep into my mind regarding the rationality of my decision every time I think about starting school yet again, I think it is high time I give myself these two reminders as well:

  1. He does not create without first giving His creations all the provisions they need in order to survive
  2. He is the best of planners