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….

 

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To A Very Special Man

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Here is to a man that I run immediately to every time I get a problem. This is a man that I call immediately after receiving any good news. This is a man that can spend hours patiently listening to the talkative me blabbing about things that don’t even actually excite him. This is a man that taught me how to ride a bicycle and also taught me how to drive a car. This is a man that saw me in my struggling phase during my teenage years. This is a man who dealt patiently with the tantrums of my hormone-filled teenage self. This is a man who spent sleepless nights pushing me hard so that I can pass my A-Level Additional Maths. This is a man that console me every time he sees tears coming out of my eyes. This is a man that I run to for Fiqh questions growing up. This is a man that taught me Quran and in turn makes me fall in love with anything related to it, especially the recitation of it. This is a man that would fetch me and drive me anywhere for anything.

Ayah,
You revolutionised the definition of manhood. You don’t shy from cooking, doing the dishes, laundry and the many other so-called “feminine” chores. You even know how to sew for goodness’ sake that you even offered me if I wanna learn from you. (Sewing is like engineering to me 😐) You taught me that this world is limitless and constantly motivates me to pursue my passion and give my best in it. You taught me and the rest to have a compassion for other living beings by taking in a couple of stray kittens in the past. You and mak taught me and the rest the value of money by your awesome spending and saving fashion. (Well, they were both Accounting graduates you see 😏)

Ayah,
Thank you for all of your sacrifices, working so tirelessly in order to give us a better life than what you used to have.
Thank you for your over-protectiveness that I usually fail to appreciate its benefits.
Thank you for being an advisor to me on money, religion, health, relationships and LOVE.
Thank you for your awesome genes that I inherited from you such as your adventurous nature when it comes to foods (we both eat everything and are not scared to try anything 😎), your fondness for other cultures and languages, your love for cats, passion for Quranic recitations and our strange nerd habit of watching documentaries among many others😂

People that have known you would often be charmed by your gentleness and soft-spoken way of talking. You are also ever so helpful of anyone for anything reminding us that it will inshaAllah get paid by Allah. If Mak taught us the values of perseverance and patience, you taught us how to be gentle and compassionate.

Again, thank you ayah for teaching me that tiaras don’t make you a princess. Its your values and principles that do.

‪#‎EverydayIsAFathersDay‬

This post is taken from a previous Facebook post dated June 20th, 2016.

We have a lot on our plate! #InternationalWomenDay

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So its ‪#‎InternationalWomenDay‬ huh?

Lately a thought has been lingering in my head; women these days have so many things to juggle simultaneously…..

I mean, not only are we expected to be on top of the class now that we have a right to education compared to our predecessors and our unfortunate fellow sisters in different parts of the world, once we graduate, we also have to think about getting a job, a good job also, taking into consideration the tough economic condition facing the world these days. Based on a discussion that I had in my class today, apparently only 40% of Malaysia’s workforce are women, in comparison to more and more women getting a university degree these days. In other words, we sisters, ought to weigh our muscles too in helping grow the economy. Wow. *sigh*

Alongside a job, those who take up education loans will have to think of ways to repay the loans. We gotta learn about and also pay the insurance, countless number of bills; electricity, water, phone, etc. And of course, you would also be expected to get a house and a car (convenience they’d say) and the list goes on and on. *more sighing* This is all on top of how obscenely erroneous reality has been portrayed by the media (dramas which shows you’ll land a CEO position of your papa’s corporation the moment you graduate. Seriously?! Malay drama man!)

And then surely as expected of your society, you will get married. And nope if you think responsibilities are about to lighten up once you said “I do”, you’re sorely mistaken. Its true. You will have a company, a team partner that by the will of God who would be sharing the duty of marriage alongside you, but there’s certainly more on the plate. You will get pregnant. Your body will change. For 9 months, your womb will become a protective home to another life.And once the moment arrives, let’s admit it, our bodies tear apart in ways we thought are physically unimaginable in order to let another soul to live. Think about that.

I’m not even going to dwell on the enormous pressure that unfortunately plagues our fellow women when it comes to conforming to society’s flawed, unattainable standard of beauty. That’s a topic for another day inshaAllah. But you get the jist right? We have A LOT on our plate.

Look. This might sound like a complain. But, I’m merely stating the reality that women, at least in the context of Malaysia and certainly other parts of the world are facing. So, first let’s drop this whole idea that women are weak because tell me if you can handle, ok maybe not labor pain, hmm maybe our monthly period pain and its complementary emotional instability phase?

What I’m saying is that it sounds nice that just with any other special date of the year, you now have a special date on the calendar just to honor women. But, the truth is, everyday is indeed a women’s day. Everyday is a day in which you honor the presence of your mother, sisters, wives and daughters. Appreciate the different kind of struggles that they go through. Love them and tell them that you love them. Though you might say over the time, you cannot live WITH us, we know deep down, you cannot really live WITHOUT us! *wink wink*

p/s: This post is of course a shout out to my mak, who without her sacrifices, struggles, perseverance, and iron-strong attitude, I would not be the person that I am today and she would not be where she is today. Thank you for everything and I love you mak! Siti Alawiah Siraj

“I’m A Mess”

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The hardest of battles is when it is fought behind closed doors out of people’s sight. When tears are shed in the presence of no one. When the tongue is hardened and you consequently failed to verbalize the heart. It’s like there is lost signals. I wish I can paint what’s inside my heart. But, I’m afraid it will be just like a huge blob of messiness. Just like what I am right now. A mess. Too tired and weakened to force myself to get up and fight the world. Too tired to fight and face the stormy world. Too tired to utter a coherent explanation. I don’t know where it begins or where it ends. So, you just end up storming the world with your tongue tied in a knot carrying the heavy baggage of emotions that you have been stockpiling, waiting for the perfect time to explode.

I’m a mess. And it’s dragging me down deeper and deeper into an ocean of despair. I’m not even fighting the drowning by sticking my hands out to be saved. I’m just letting myself sink deeper and deeper into the darkness of the sea. And I intend to stay there for quite a while.

You look around you and you see the sun shining, the smiles and laughters of people everywhere blanketing your vision. Only yesterday, you were doing the exact same thing. Only yesterday, you were considered one of them, normal, emotionally-stable humans. Your broad honest smiles and your joyous talkative spirit now all look quite foreign and distant. You discovered that apparently your emotions do not intend to stay in a plateau for quite sometimes. They rebel and run amok within you. And you are only too emotionally, psychologically, physically fatigued to care. And another question adds to an already full plate of issues and problems: “Why Am I like This? and Why Am I Not like them? What is wrong with me?”

People flock to you for advices and emotional assistance. But nothing beats yourself harder inside when you begin to sincerely ask, how can you help them when you cannot even help yourself? Your lofty walk of strength indicating the victorious survival of your experiences are mere façades. The truth is, you need those words of advices more than anybody else. People think that the brokenness, the indentations created out of your ordeals and experiences have stopped somewhere in the past. But little did they know, the ordeals keep on coming and more indentations are being made, abusing your tiny, little, fragile heart.

Perhaps we like to put people especially ourselves high on the pedestal of angelicness, bound for perfection and flawlessness. And when you discovered that you’re just a weak human and when its ugliness is glaring itself onto your face, you just failed to fathom. Thus, the fall. That invisible fall that no one can see. The fall that takes place from a lofty tower of expectations will not end up looking so good. Your morale, your self-esteem are squashed. And since it is an invisible fall and given the generous façade of smiles that you have allowed to veil your true face , they will inevitably get trampled and trampled and no apology is offered. But you know that the battle does not subside. Tomorrow, when the sun peeks herself onto your face, you have no choice but to rise up and storm the world. AGAIN.

The battle will not cease until you begin to understand yourself more than other people can. And until then, garner your provision and brace yourself for the continuous battles ahead.

“And every night she would change herself, stay up late and grow deeper in love. She wanted to love it all. Everything and everyone, and how ironic was it, she wanted to save the world, the same world who couldn’t even remember her name.” (r.m. drake)

Are You an Empowered Woman?

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Let’s talk about empowerment. Empowerment. It is such a big word isn’t it? Where do we even begin? Well, according to the Oxford Dictionary empowerment denotes “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. And now let’s move on to the topic of women empowerment. What on earth does an empowered woman even mean?

I’m not dissing the same narrative that is perpetually thrown every year but perhaps there is a missing perspective in defining an ’empowered’ woman. Does empowered mean that you’re holding a high position in a corporation and having an independent income within your shared households and having the capacity to spend the money according to your unwarranted will based on the latest trends? Yes, of course. Does it mean that you’re now able to do all of the conventionally male dominated occupations? Sure. Why not? Does it mean that you can now perpetuate yourself to be ‘stronger’ and ‘masculine’ in your characteristics and personalities so that you will not be deemed weak and shy? Perhaps.

But here I would like to argue that what is the point of being empowered externally when we are chained and shackled internally? Ask ourselves an honest question. What do we enslave ourselves to? We might hold an important position, owning a big car and a luxurious home, but inside we are EMPTY. Thus, we fill our souls with materials. Things that we think ought to make us happy. We might be empowered materially but we are void spiritually. This dunya shackles our very core. And we’re deceived that we’re empowered. We feel that we’re now empowered, having an independent income, nobody dares to question our decision. But we succumb to however strange society decides what ‘beautiful’ is supposed to look like. You’re not beautiful enough if you don’t have that particular skin complexion, that ideal body shape or that specific hijab style. Nothing will ever be enough. You hate looking at yourselves in the mirror. You wish you look a little bit like that person that everybody calls sweet and beautiful. How can we still dare to call ourselves confident? We think that by flaunting our endless selfie shots on Instagram, we are being confident and thus will be accepted within the community. But, we are deceived. The truth is you don’t need to do any of that to be accepted or to be confident with yourselves. Self-confidence is not about what you display on the outside, but it is the beauty that emanates from within, giving you the unprecedented and everlasting radiance. Just stop pretending. Make people fall in love with the humanness of your beauty, not the plastic image of beauty that media perpetually perpetuates. And remember when He azza w jal said: “We have certainly created men in the best of stature.” (al-Tiin:4) He is reminding us that it does not matter if you are imperfect in the eyes of the creations but you certainly are PERFECT in the eyes of the Creator.

Besides that, does an empowered woman denotes a woman that is able to hold back her tears and be rational all the time? So a woman that is naturally tearful and soft-spoken and well, cries and talk all the time, possessing all the conventional feminine characteristics is deemed weak? I would argue that the ability to be yourself and adhere to your natural feminine traits bestowed within you from God is the epitome of empowerment in and of itself. Who can argue that a woman who decides to be a full-time mother has a lesser function within a society and a less complicated job than those who clock in 8 to 5 daily? The confidence to be proud that you are a woman who is definitely different than the other kind, men, is a true definition of empowerment that we need to seek and imbibe within ourselves.

Seek the source of power in He, the Most Powerful Himself, then that is when you will be truly empowered.

And Allah knows best.

I was looking for You

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Allahu Akbar! I relish at my newfound fascination of the sky. Wallahi, its a thing of divine beauty. How can this not remind you of something higher?

I often wonder why do I always look up to the sky? I realized that I was looking for something. Then, I realized that I was looking for You.

This was taken from a previous Facebook post dated November 19th 2014.