Rays of Splendour

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The darker it is, the brighter they shine

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars”

I saw a notebook today with the aforementioned quote printed on its cover.

That reminded me of how pleasantly surprised I was a few days ago to see my room illuminated with stars as soon as I switched off the lights. Prior to that, I was feeling apprehensive at the thought of switching off the lights. I have never been a fan of darkness. It took me a long while (in fact, since evening started) before I managed to psyche myself up to switch off the lights.

When I eventually did it, it was to test waters. I had every intention to flip the switch back to ‘on’ within two seconds. But oh my, the pleasant surprise that greeted me as soon as I summoned the courage to switch off the lights.

There’s truth is that saying isn’t it? That is, only in the darkness can one see the stars.

This parallels life. Sometimes, we may feel like we’re in the throes of darkness but if we were to find the courage to look up to witness the beauty beyond the black canvas… Then that’s when you will notice the brightest stars shining in all its luminous glory. But most times we fail to see the beauty within the darkness.

So what’s the point of this entry? Nothing much other than to pen down that thought which crossed my mind earlier today as well as to blog an entry on the 1st of March, just for the record.

Yes, it’s March. One of my favourite months of the year not only because it’s my birthday month but also because this is the time when spring makes its first ascend in many parts of the world; a time when I feel that one gets to capture nature at one of its most resplendent moments.

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Of sincere giving and goodness

I love train and bus rides for the opportunities to either catch up on sleep, read, or simply let the mind wander to wherever it wants to. Sometimes, these wanderings lead me to reflect on things while sometimes, I would simply ponder upon matters that need my attention and how best to respond to them. When I say “matters”, I am not just referring to serious things like how to allocate my budget but also, things like what to eat as soon as the ride ends!

Today as I rode the train from Boon Lay to Paya Lebar, I chose to let the mind wander and the following poem seems to resonate with where my thoughts led to:

“Even after all this time the Sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me”. Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.
Hafiz Shirazi

At its core, this poem reflects the unlimited generosity and mercy of Allah swt. However at a personal level, I find his poem also speaks of my belief when it comes to love and relationships which ultimately influences the way I relate to the people around me. Beyond that and of utmost importance, I’m more attracted to the idea of selflessness and to give without expecting anything in return that the poem propagates.

To give of your generosity, your kindness, your possessions, your love, your empathy, your time. Basically, to give of yourself simply because you sincerely believe that the gift is much needed by the other and through that, something beautiful is created in the process.

One of the things that went through my mind which reminded me of this poem was in the way my parents interacted and encouraged me in the past few days. Sometimes I ask myself whether I can ever reciprocate all that they have done for me.

Lastly, I do also wonder whether I will ever be able to find it in me to give a part of myself so sincerely and create goodness as well as beauty for the receiver through that?

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Beauty of small moments

Short entry but something for the record, nonetheless.

These past five days spent mostly by myself, especially during those solo walks I took down the streets of Seoul, left me with ample room for thought.

Those thoughts led me to one of the biggest takeaways I had from this trip, and it is best summarized in the following:

Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments.
Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things.
The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.

Source: http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/12/11/30-things-to-stop-doing-to-yourself/

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Absence and appreciation

This week saw me flying to Seoul for two purposes:

  1. To settle accommodation matters
  2. To test grounds in living alone

I managed to settle the accommodation matters pretty fast which was suprising. I had planned to wrap things up by Saturday but alhamdulillah, I was able to do it sooner than that.

However the second purpose remains ongoing until I am back home in Singapore. These past three days have left me much room for thought and to a certain extent, it gave me some affirmations.

One of those things I realized which I haven’t outgrown even till now is how much I dislike coming back to an empty home. That silence that greets me back after I have said my “Assalamulaikum” or “Assalamualaina” is still something that I have never accustomed myself to. For as long as I can remember, I have always came home to someone. When I was a child right up to my teens, that someone was my grandmother. I guess that could be one of the reasons why it is so difficult for me to get used to coming back to an empty home.

Next I realized that besides work, my family and the time I spend on the prayer mat and the Quran occupies a large proportion of how I spend my time. During this trip, I had none of the three with me. Work is obviously out of the picture and that is fine. The important things are that my family isn’t here and for these few days, I’m unable to pray nor read the Quran. Admittedly, I felt quite lost. It’s like those aspects that I live for during this short time I have in this world are missing.

Sometimes, it takes being apart from something or someone to make you realize how important that aspect is in your life, or just how deeply you love it. It’s like through its absence, Allah is making us appreciate every single blessings that He has given us. And through that, you draw yourself even closer to Him and ask Him to preserve the relationship and blessings He has given you in this world till Jannah.

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What makes you, You?

I’ve always believed that our jobs shouldn’t define us. That is, if someone were to ask me to introduce myself, then the following sentence “I’m an educator” shouldn’t form the first and main part of my introduction. While our jobs take up a huge part of our daily existence and we sometimes spend more time with our colleagues and jobs than the people who truly matter, I still firmly believe that it should not entirely define us. Our jobs are what we are at that point in time but take away that role from ourselves, then these questions remain: Who are you? What makes you, You?

Those were the questions that I found myself grappling with during these first three of January. Frankly, I didn’t expect this aspect to feature itself in this transitional phase I’m experiencing. However as I stripped away the labels of an educator and a working professional – identities that had assumed a huge part of myself during the past few years – I found other parts of myself making itself more prominent than ever.

If I’m not defined by my job, then what are the aspects that makes me, Me, no matter what stage in life I am in? Some of the things I’ve ascertained so far:

My role as a Muslim, a daughter and a sister forms 100% of my identity. These identities and its accompanying responsibilities occupy all of my daily existence. This a huge reminder for me regarding the priorities in life and which aspects to never compromise no matter how preoccupied I can get with work, school or other matters.

The Quran is a book I need to connect with everyday. With God’s grace, I was re-introduced to this Book back in my teens, fell in love with it and since then, it has been a book I read on a daily basis. During those days when I’m unable to read or touch it, I feel as though something isn’t right and that a huge part of me is missing. The Quran forms a huge part of who I am and I pray that He continues blessing me with a love and opportunities to connect with it always.

Striving to achieve a better version of myself forms a huge part of my life purpose. The motivation to continuously seek to be a better version of myself stems from the belief that as a Muslim, one should seek to be progressive and to excel in whatever we do. Those are the traits that this faith inculcates through its teachings and core tenets. At the end of the day, this aspect of myself plays a huge influence on the choices I make in life as well as how I interact with the people around me.

Three things for now but that took me three weeks to truly uncover. Nevertheless, it’s been a pretty exciting three weeks of getting to know myself better and it seems like the next two years are set to raise the bar even higher.

So, what else makes me, Me?

And, what makes you, You?

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Different stages in life

“Wherever you are, be all there.”
Jim Elliot

It was Wednesday morning, 8.20a.m. The morning radio was playing in the background, filling the eating outlet with strains of uplifting music. My breakfast was on the table in front of me. I spent the time looking at the people around me as I consumed my breakfast. Most of them were having their breakfast alone too. I spotted two groups of people – a mother and her daughter, and a couple – seated on my left and right respectively but they were the only people who came for breakfast with someone.

Questions flashed through my mind as I took in my surroundings. Are these people, like me, not working as well? Why are they having their breakfast alone too? What are their plans for the rest of the day?

That last question made me see, not for the first time in the past few days, that I’m currently on a different path in life as compared to people I’m close to. Everyone I know is working – my parents, my brothers, my best friends – or at least involved in pursuits that make them useful to God and society.

And if the flow of conversations between us in the past few days are anything to go by, I feel pretty small to be sharing with them the simple things I spend my days on as compared to them. My activities are just so irrelevant and unimportant that these days, I find myself taking a step back and instead of sharing things about myself, I’ll just listen to them share their days, and partake in their highs and lows. Frankly, listening to them is much more interesting than sharing with them what I do, feel, and think about these days.

While I recognize that not everyone will be on the same stage or path in life as me, that still didn’t keep off the loneliness I am feeling as I stood on this particular path.

Looking at it positively, I’ve come to the following conclusions after much thought:

  • Allah swt has entrusted me with all these time for a reason(s) which I’m beginning to slowly see as the days unfold. In the past few days, I saw that one of these reasons would be to provide some support for my family as they go about their daily responsibilities. Alhamdulillah, that has brought me much joy and something I look forward to daily.
  • By keeping me alone (yes, I literally have no one with me from morning when the family leaves for work until they are back from it at night) most hours of the day, Allah swt is giving me opportunities to draw myself closer to Him. Alhamdulillah!
  • Time is so fluid for now that I have absolute freedom as to how I choose to spend it which is something I can never do once I’m tied down to work, studies or any other responsibilities that life offers.

Sounds pretty exciting once I write all that out.

So wherever I am in life that He has led and is leading me to, I pray that I’m present in the moment, fully embrace it and that it is one that is pleasing to Him.

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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.  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.  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.