Selected from a Divine Palette

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You just like me, looked at yourself in the mirror today. Just like mine, maybe, that’s your daily routine first thing in the morning. “Hmm, I look a little tan today, tanner than usual. (read: that’s apparently not ok in our twisted, brainwashed minds) Urghh, really?! Spots? I thought I have washed my face like a million times in a day. Arghh! My waist? Did I gain a few more pounds? It must have been that burger last night at 12!” *sigh and more sigh*

The sad truth is that’s not only time that we sigh in a day thinking and ruminating about our looks. We sigh silently and enviously when we meet our friends, when we meet the friends of our friends. When we watch TV, when we see billboards and when we scroll down our Instagram feeds that is annoyingly filled with selfies of girls with flawless fair (read: white) skin, strange contouring technique (to actually achieve natural looks *smh*) posing with full pretension as if “Hey, I didn’t know I’m gonna look this good, I was just giving my normal poker face -.-)

We have become obsessed with looks. Someone’s worth before your eyes are instantaneously judged and filtered by what they offer to you visually. Our first reaction to meeting someone, “OmG, she’s so pretty! MashaAllah, she’s really beautiful.” And you haven’t even talked to them and seen their personalities. Look, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong in appreciating God’s gifts to someone by praising them, but I feel that our “natural” reaction to beauty is not that natural after all. It’s been influenced by our surrounding and environment which dictates what is the accepted standard of beauty. And that standard of judgement, hate to break it to you, is not very accommodating  and inclusive of every type apparently, my friends!

Well, first of all, let’s take this whole weird where-does-it-come-from obsession with white and fair skin, in Asia and Africa, places where pigmentation is a product of evolution inherited from our ancestors in order for us to survive. This phenomenon baffles me that I had even written an assignment on it. Why do we yearn for fair and white skin when the majority of the population are naturally tan or dark in complexion? Why are Bollywood celebrities busy at work promoting, the latest whitening products, even for guys? Why are all, yes all, Korean make up stores sell BB creams and products that help you to achieve a lighter and a whiter skin tone? Why is skin bleaching products, one of the number one bestselling cosmetic products in Africa? Why does Malaysian TV is annoyingly filled with skin whitening ads mocking darker complexion and patting yourself at the back if you are pale as ghosts? Why? Have you ever asked why? I’ve been asking why since I was a little girl. Then, I learned that it’s a product of colonisation, coupled with the mentality that white is right, white is pure, white is heavenly, white is good behaviour, white is high status and wealth and white is the ultimate rare form of beauty told by our ancestors and advanced by the modern means of advertisement.

As little girls, we were admonished for playing under the sun. Because, hey you don’t wanna get darker, do you? Our natural ancestral remedies are full of beauty secrets for a healthy, white and fair skin. From turmeric, lemon juice to apple cider vinegar. And who’s never heard of Fair & Lovely. A product with many of its clones today that tells you that being fair will land you your dream job and your dream man. And as older girls, you would face the offence of not possessing the right complexion when shopping for foundations or compact powder. Nothing comes close to your skin complexion. Sometimes the punishing complexion palette does make you feel as if you belong in the wrong continent. You see, how they play with our minds and hearts?

Look. Just because I’m preaching to you all this does not mean that I’m immune from feeling bad about my looks either. I, too, most of the times are sucked into this tight bubble of what is beautiful created by the society when I gaze at myself in the mirror. And it does not matter whether you live in the West or the East, no one is forgiving about the way you look, the way God has intended to create you.

And for whenever I am down just overthinking about my look, this verse from the Holy Quran, empowers me:

“We have certainly created man in the best of stature;” (95:4)

God tells us that we are beautiful the way we are because He created us. And nothing is wrong with God’s creations. Any flaws or blemishes are deemed as such because of our blindness to see beyond the apparent.

You are beautiful because you were designed by the Divine. Every single one of you; dark, tan, fair and many other in-betweens are masterpieces of the Divine. Your complexion is unique and ultimately beautiful because they were selected from a Divine palette. What’s a MAC’s foundation palette compared to His palette?

The truth is, we are all seeking some form of validation. Some of us seek validation in our works, some of us in our relationships and some of us in our looks. Seeking the validation and approval of others chain and enslave us. As we draw closer to almost 6 decades of independence, let us start with unchaining ourselves from our enslavement to the conception of beauty.

And God knows best….

 

It Will Come At The Right Time

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When you’re single, you dream of being married. And once you’re married, you reminisce the freedom of being a singleton. *sigh*

Focus. Focus on what you have at any given time. And be grateful for whatever status you have at any given time. If you’re single, that’s not the end of the world. Don’t get all depressed viewing wedding photos of your friends or their honeymoon snaps. God is giving you a golden opportunity now to maximise your potential on your own. To seek yourself. To contribute and spend time with your near and dear. And it has been proven times and times again that just when you’re not thinking about it, it will come. The moment and the right person will come because 50,000 years before the creation of the heavens and seas, all those have been divinely decided. And don’t get angry when your aunties and your mom’s friends teasingly queried, “When are you getting married?” Because to be honest, that’s just by default what they like to ask everyone 😛 Once you’re married, they’ll ask, “when are you getting a baby?” I mean that’s just an auntie-ly thing to ask 😉

Now, stop over thinking and get on the road of progress. And please for the love of God, I hate to break it to you, ‪#‎relationshipgoals‬ are superficial! And things seen on Instagram are what not what they seem in real life. Instead, make dua. Make dua for a pious partner.

And, Allah knows best

This post is taken from a previous Facebook post dated July 25th, 2016.

Experiences are a Two-edged Sword

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Why do I say this? That’s because experiences certainly usher change(s) in you. You’ll feel it. Gradually rather than immediately.

Look, a change is good. Its always good to go through changes. Changes mean that you’re alive, and not stagnant. And in order to move forward, one has to go through changes.

But, what I realized is that, some experiences work in 2 different ways. Not only that now, you’re positively changed, with a healthy mindset, perhaps, becoming more realistic than ever due to the experiences, thinking about the future, rather than the past, smiling and laughing more than crying, BUT, it has also robbed you of some of your endearing qualities. In other words, some important qualities of yourself were also lost along the changes. There’s no more of those enduring optimism. Idealism is snatched from your imagination. You’ve becoming numb to certain emotions and feelings. A lot of things now sound rather like clichés and rhetorics rather than possible realities. You have, dare I say, become less than a human that you used to be.

Your near and dear commented positively on your new self. And that’s because they’re not you. They don’t see that mountain of dilemma that you’re sitting on. But that mountain of dilemma is real.

You realized that you have changed. Actually, earlier than other people did. But, in having a new self, you’re also deeply missing your old self that has been snatched unconsciously from you. And perhaps, that’s just how it’s meant to be: “You get some and you lose some”.

‪#‎TheStruggleIsReal‬ ‪#‎ExperienceIsTheBestSchool‬

Building Strength through Difficulties

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Earlier in the day today, I was greeted with a frustrating news. All of my planning and efforts yielded only in disappointment, or so I thought. And for those of you who know me well, I am big on planning and scheduling my time where I don’t do well when things do not run according to my earlier made plans, something that I believe I inherited from my mother. (perfectionist mother-daughter duo :P) I have always held and would still continuously hold that, that’s just basic organizational skill that everyone is supposed to have.

So, this morning something that I’ve been planning for like months and dreamt of ages ago did not happen. And there I was crushed. And while I was pondering (read: crying. Yes, I’m that vulnerable), something was knocking hard on my senses, trying to wake me up. I realized that growing up, I was not spoilt with material luxuries or any of that sort, but I was well protected by my protective parents. I saw the difficulties that my parents had growing up, but I was never had to face the same difficulties that they had to go through. Yes, I have worked, but it was never to support my family. It was simply for my own experience and for my own pocket money.Then, I remembered how others who are in my age, perhaps not in a very lucky situation would have reacted to the disappointing news that I received if they were in my shoes this morning? Would they have time to over think about it and cry? Absolutely not.

Sometimes, we whine and cry over things that we do not receive that we forget to be grateful for things that we did receive. Sometimes, this world deceives us by making us see those who get everything as a standard and not those who make do with little things.
Sometimes, we forget that getting out of comfort zones is not detrimental to us but fundamental in making us stronger.
And sometimes, you might think, why am I ranting over this thing when it’s a given but sometimes, experiences are the most powerful teachers.
And sometimes, the best reply that one needs to give to oneself in facing any difficulty, small or big is, “Khair, inshaAllah”.

‪#‎RamadanReflection‬

p/s: Kudos to Michelle Obama because honestly I got all inspired through her commencement speech on the same topic the other day.

This post was taken from a Facebook post dated June 9th 2016.

Lamentation of a Wounded Servant

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My soul is battered. My soul is bruised. From all the Divine surgeries that make up life. And every time I can feel it weaved. Though it does take a long time. But I know that my wound is tenderly nursed by my loving Master.

I stared hard at the prayer mat after my salah. “What did I recite just now? What did I feel in every utterance of Your name?” I could feel my heart murmuring no reply. I felt empty. And the emptiness is swiftly filled with the rush of guilt. I have betrayed my own heart. I have cheated my own soul. My mind wandered far in my meetings with You. I tried hard to focus on You. But it did not remain as long as I thought it would be. I guess I have lost the battle with the damned.

I no longer feel that rush. That intoxication of the heart, filled with ecstasy of spirituality. My soul now feels stationary and solitary. Perhaps this is the low that people often talk of faith.

I look right and left after my congregational prayer. On my right, tears flowing down the sister’s cheeks. I want that. On my left, a sister is severely quiet and focused in her supplication, her eyelids shut. I want that too. That composed devotion is graceful and beautiful. Intimacy with You is what I yearn.

Nowadays , I try to spend a little longer in my last sujood. Just trying to gather the perfect words of supplication. But that supplication now feels more and more like a repetition. I no longer shed tears out of desperation. I now shed tears out of frustration. Frustration of lifeless spiritual routine.

I heard the chimes of the trees. I heard the whispers of the wind. I looked up the sky and saw a glimpse of heaven. They are all holding the secrets of my soul. Secrets that are safe with You.

Life is an uphill struggle and the journey is long. I used to think of everything as the destination and thus I chased and chased until I was battered and wounded. But, the truth is the Destination is only one, and others simply are the means, much like the signboards to get there. And in order to get there you will rise and stumble. This is perhaps my period of stumbling. I crawled and crawled to His door of mercy. And before I could knock it, my soul collapsed. Collapsed of the heavy burden of my sins.

I admit, I frequently succumb to the burgeoning desires and the ever-lingering whisper of demons. The demons outside and within me. At times, my soul ravages at what the movies and drama illustrates to me. The delusion of paradise on earth, of life free of trials and tribulations. The picture-perfect family, the happily-ever after relationships, the flashy cars and dream houses. But, when I finally woke up from the sleepwalking, I was panicked. Panicked at the incoming vehicles, rampaging to tell me to stop being dead, and wake up to the often-grim reality of life.

And I amassed the little energy that I have left, and I rose. I force myself to strut my heavy, lazy feet with tremendous difficulty because Your promise rings in my head:

“When My servant draws close to me by the span of a palm, I draw close to him by the space of a cubit, and when he draws close to Me by the space of a cubit, I draw close to him by the space (covered) by two hands, and when he draws close to Me by the space (covered by) two hands, I go in hurry towards him.”

(Sahih Muslim, Book 48, Hadith 3)

That vow fills my heart up with life. The empty vessel of my heart is filled again with a river of joy.  Though I know that my soul is drenched in sins, I know that by forcing my body to withstand 2 raka’at of nawafil prayers, done solely for the sake of gaining proximity with You, Your delight and pleasure in drawing close to me is ALL that my small, humble self will ever seek.

And there was a time when I thought I was losing fragments of my old self. And how much I feared for that. But, then, as Your light penetrates my little, bruised soul, I feel home again. I feel that I have arrived at a familiar territory all over again. A firmer, Handhold I could feel within my grasp now.

I am forging that bond again. I am making amends again. I am down at my knees, my forehead kissing the earth, whispering my vows to You again. And every time I am struck with any calamity or adversity, I am reminded of Your beloved ‘s grievance and lamentation onto You alone:

“O Allah! Unto You do I complain of my weakness, of my helplessness and of my lowliness before men.  O most Merciful of the merciful. O Lord of the weak and my Lord too. Into whose hands have you entrusted me?  Unto some far off stranger who receives me with hostility? Or unto a foe whom you have empowered against me? I care not, so long as You are not angry with me.  But Your favouring help, that were for me the broader way and the wider scope.  I take refuge in the light of Your countenance whereby all darknesses are illuminated and all things of this world and the next are rightly ordered, lest You make descend Your anger upon me or lest Your wrath beset me. Yet it is Yours to reproach until You are well pleased. There is no power and no might except through Thee.”

Prophet Muhammad’s dua at Taif
(peace and blessings be upon him)

And to You all my reliance belongs…..

#soulspeaks #RelyOnAllah

A Reflection on My Missing Kitten

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As of my writing, my kitten, Creamo has been missing for around 32 hours. And I have managed to finally stop myself from continuously being bed-bound, made myself look a bit decent and finally shoved something down my throat so that I don’t end up fainting in unexpected places. The screen of my TV is blasting commentaries on the recent Jakarta bomb blast, but, my face is reaction-less. It is the same stony, cold face ever since my Creamo went missing. Minus the crying of course and thank God, my eyes are less swollen and less zombie-like than they were just a couple of hours ago. Everything around me, from the noises of the cars outside, the mumbling conversations happening outside the door of my room, people coming into my room to check up on me (I guess), are just external noises, according to my deluded senses. Being bed-bound just a couple of hours ago allowed my head to wander to different places. It was treading paths of somewhere beautiful and somewhere scary simultaneously. The plain, ivory ceiling has allowed me to reflect on life so much more than perhaps devouring the beauty of nature of a lifetime can perhaps offer me.

My phone was my closest companion in bed. Somehow, constantly checking up on what’s going on through all forms of social media seemed to be the most important thing for me in the world. I did not like or favorite anything, nor did I update or tweeted anything about my current state. It was just for the sake of checking up on what’s happening everywhere else beyond the confines of my room, beyond the confines of my emotions, which at times suffocated me immensely. But I guess, Whatsapp was the worst. I just could not for the life of me at that time, garner the remnants of my social skills to respond with any sort of mildly-consoling responses or emotionally-relevant emojis to let people know that I’m fine, I’m doing okay. Even when I managed to finally collect the courage to be earnest about my current state, for some reason, the consoling, advice-like responses that I received from my friends sounded simply like pure noise to me. I just could not take them in. It all sounded too ‘rational’ for me at the time. Some even told me off for being excessively emotional and made me feel that if I can’t even handle this “small” of a matter, how could I possibly handle other big tribulations coming ahead of me. And I remember the exact feeling that I had then, I needed someone so bad. Just someone to hold on to, someone to tell me that everything is going to be ok. And nobody was around, unfortunately….

Because the thoughts in my head were haunting me. I was frightened to even visit my phone gallery which makes it prone for me to bump into videos and pictures of my baby Creamo. I could not. Because funnily enough, I did not need to steal a look at the pictures or view the videos. My thoughts are full of his images. How his gaze fixed at me just the night before he went missing. How I was up until 6 am in the morning accompanying him who could not shut his eyes too due to him constantly throwing up. Out of pure fear, I would, times and times again, force-fed him with zamzam water while murmuring adhkaar (this spiritual remedy worked with his mother last time), getting him hydrated, so that he did not collapse. But every time I gave him water, he would puke and became weakened. He did not like the force-feeding I gathered from his reaction of running away from me every time the routine kicked in. But then, I would approach him gently again and gave him a petting around his necks and chin so that he felt consoled and became less afraid of me. So that, he understood that I didn’t really mean to hurt him. That night he couldn’t cuddle and share the warmth of my body on my bed like he usually does. He just wanted to be on the cold floor. And then I realized why. Because he was constantly salivating that night, he did not want to end up puking on my bed, he decided to be on the cold floor. I accompanied him on the floor too. Sometimes, stealing a few momentary naps when I saw him shutting his eyes. And when his eyes were opened, his gaze would be warmly fixed on me. You know how kittens have those big, round, black eyes to die for, he was giving me the same look throughout the night whenever our gazes fixed on each other’s. Just that it was differently more warm, kind of indicating to me something. Something that my heart could not possibly fathom emotionally comes the next day.

Throughout his rather short stay in my house (well, he’s a kitten right?), everybody knew how overly attached I have become to Creamo. I felt that since he is a kitten, he has to be given sufficient and at times, extra attention too. And by virtue of it being a kitten, I have always felt that he is more vulnerable and thus that gives me the license to treat him like a real baby. I could not see him sitting still somewhere. There’s always that instinct within me that would scream for me to go and pick him up, carry him like a baby and cuddle with him underneath a cozy blanket. Or when he’s hungry, I would rush to the kitchen and make sure the freshly-boiled chicken is not too hot for him to chew and swallow.

So, my room is eerily haunting for me right now as I would easily reminisce my moments with him. The same thing goes to the sliding door where I would expect him to safely return. You might wonder why I am all melodramatic? Well, that’s because if you happened to be an owner of cats, you would have noticed that they usually would die very far away from you, out of the thought that it would haunt you for them to pass before your very eyes. And for that very fearful thought, my knees failed me every time I wished to go beyond the compound of my house to seek him. Even when my dad told me that he could not find him anywhere around the neighbourhood, the images of him dead by some drains in some faraway neighbourhood overwhelmed and traumatized me.

But, remember how I said previously that my head wandered to somewhere both beautiful and frightening simultaneously? The beautiful was me implanting within my paranoia, the power and might of God. That my du’a can be so powerful, it is heard up in the heavens. The, maybe he was just out to seek his much-needed natural remedy and that one fine day, he would be coming through the sliding door again. That beautiful feeling where he would meow at me faintly again. The beautiful feeling where I would finally say, “Oh my Creamo baby, where have you been?” and I would see his beautiful black eyes again. And until that day comes, I would be patiently and strongly waiting for him…..

I fully understand how my story above illustrates nothing but perhaps at best, triviality to most readers. You might question, there are millions of human lives that are lost out there, blown to pieces, starving to death, but why did I not go all melodramatic for them? But the reason why I have decided to even write such a ‘trivial’ story about my own personal vulnerability is to perhaps shed some light upon the notion of attachment. I have been baffled of my own actions in treating him like another human being, while in fact he was not. I did treat him as if was a baby of my own. Perhaps, there is a gap in my own life, a void that was screaming to be filled, and I filled it with this attachment instead.

The truth is your attachment, my attachment, it can all be different in nature and triviality. It might be plain simple or it might be purely complex. But, the journey of overcoming that attachment is rather universal. The pangs of pain and loss might be something that we all can sit down and discuss about. And the decision to be strong or paralyzed about it is also at our disposals. Its either you want it or you don’t.