2016 in review!

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Things are moving way too fast. Too fast to allow your brain and especially your heart to fathom them. To internalize them as you usually do.

Relationships fade and sprout in oblivion. Some presumed eternally-kept bonds slowly disappeared before your mental sight, but you feel like just with any law of nature, they just do with time. There’s nothing that you can do to salvage them. You have no time to neither reflect nor pause for sigh.

Crisis are piled up and lumped together with no sense of order in an internal invisible bubble that is carefully stored deep deep inside your heart so that you may find some “convenient” time to sort them out. But you know deep down that there is no greater fallacy than this. You underestimate the nature of bubbles. Bubbles pop when they become too big. Perhaps, the piling has to be done in small little bubbles. Hmm.

Everyday, just as you put on a physical mask with layers of primer, foundation and powder, you also put on an internal mask; a mask of confidence, elegance and firmness.  You’re supposed to walk, look, sit a certain way. A showcase of emotional bulletproofness is necessary for you to be taken seriously. Your emotion is your weakness and weaknesses should never be on display. Thus, in tense times, you find yourself tucked behind closed doors, sobbing silently, wailing with a muffled voice so as not to be heard and quickly touch up your tears-soaked face with tissues once you tell yourself that you’re done being weak.

Distractions. Those are the tools that you have improvised so systematically in your system once things do not go according to your plan or people are not living up to your expectations. You do away with distracting yourself. You put on your running shoes, plug in your headphones and off you go running. Running away from your problems and other complications in life. You grab a car key and turn on the music and drive yourself away from people that break your heart.  You get on an LRT and watch the sceneries outside the window or observe diverse commuters’ characters on board. You watch life unfolding to distract from sorting out your own messy troubled life.

Things are much better done alone you thought. You’ve grown weary of waiting for people to either share the same passion as you do or even find time to answer your messages.  Hence, you’d rather tread those paths alone nursing your heart along the way.

Things are running fast. They’re practically sprinting. Work, relationships, friendships are bundled together. You’re living a modern 21st century life you thought. But just with any bundling of things, a bundled life is guaranteed to be a messy life.

What do you actually seek in life?

You wanted to rise. To rise from the ashes of your more-bitter than sweet past. You wanted to break free from the fortress of rigidity that you have meticulously built to suit your past circumstances. You are working yourself to frequent gastric attacks and sleepless nights to extract all the juice of potentials that bubbled and fermented in yourself. You wanted to convince yourself that YES you can do it all!

But, perhaps it’s all an illusion. What you’re going after, what you put on display. They’re all simply tainted in layers and layers of subtle hypocrisy. Hypocrisies that shove themselves on your mental and moral consciousness, every time you look at yourself in the mirror, but those that you choose to ignore and walk away  from out of the need to sprint fast to achieve your goals, however ambiguous they’re becoming every day.

Can we possibly change without entirely losing our sense of ourselves in the past?

The world has a convenient way of telling us that you’re supposed to act and be in a certain way once you’re moving up and down life’s numerous and complicated phases.  But, in truth, the perceived weaknesses are weaknesses ONLY in their eyes. Your natural tenderness, sense of compassion and an abundant love for others should never be compromised. Because losing those means that you’re losing a real sense of being a human. In the world of rigidity where are you are treated like a productive subject (read: a machine) to satisfy the economy’s needs for efficiency and productivity, it’s rare to find people that would be bold enough to wear their hearts on their sleeves. To love others unconditionally. To cross the sea of fires for others. To serve others and not your own whims and desires. Embrace your inner loving self and sure, do put on a mask but be sure that you’re comfortable when you have to take it off too!

2016, you have been one colorful, wonderful, flavorful, emotional-filled year!

May 2017 be a year that allows all of us to grow into more tolerant, loving, dynamic human beings and servants of the Most-High. May we never lose track of why we are here and where we are going. May we fill it with an abundance of good deeds for whatever life that we have left on this earth. May it be a year that is filled with constant prosperity not just in the form of materials but most importantly happiness and inner serenity.

 

 

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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….

 

What is the remedy to Unprofessionalism?

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What is the remedy to unprofessionalism? *sigh*

Yes I am annoying when it comes to working. People who have worked with me in a team would testify to how much of a backpain I was in the course of working with me. This and that question. This and that suggestion. That’s why I usually would prefer to work alone.

Professionalism is key. Period. When there’s a meeting, you attend a meeting. Give you 100% in working. Plan your schedule. Essentially planning helps you to prioritize. You have a million things to do and only 24 hours in a day. Plan your working hours and your chillaxing hours. Communication is key in working with others. Communication breakdown can cause not only work stagnation but also demotivation among your team members.

Professionalism has to be cultivated from an early age. We have to create a culture of professionalism in all of our workplaces be it paid or voluntary in nature. The failure to do this often leads to us witnessing those at the top positions often times do not have the level of professionalism expected of them. How can you expect an institution and ultimately a nation to move forward when this culture is absent?

Development and progress are not only measured by the awesomeness of the end result but ultimately in the smoothness of the journey that they take.

‪#‎EndOfRant‬ ‪#‎ToThoseOfYouWhoWork‬

This is taken from a previous Facebook post dated August 17th, 2016.

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.

Resilience

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Of late, I could see an extraordinary level of resilience in my mother. Not that it was not apparent in her before but perhaps recent events just opened my eyes and accentuated that beautiful maternal resilience inherent and abundant in herself.

I could see resilience in her holding back her tears in talking about her children. I could read fortitide and out-of-this-world composure in her fighting for justice for her children. I could sense pride in her introducing her children of all ages to her colleagues. I could see perseverance in her spending hours breaking her back to provide for her family and to give back to society. I could read rigour and yet concern in her discussing over the ills of society with me intellectually. I could sense a deep sense of gratitude in her sacrificing her limited amount of time for the sake of her parents and family. I could see hope and ultimate reliance that she has in her long sujood and tearful supplication upon the Almighty praying for the best for her family. This is a woman that is nothing less than extraordinary.

All of those descriptions couldn’t possibly do justice to who she is to me. But, just wanted to give a glimpse of the love and sacrifices that are dispensed generously daily by my mommy.

Thank you Mak and may Allah reward you with the only true reward awaiting you, The Garden of Perpetuity

Unity in Diversity

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It is often a rarity that I come out of a lecture bombarded with so much awe and hope.

Living in a world with so much intolerance for other people simply for their views has bothered me continuously all this time. Islamic history is replete with examples of tolerance, mercy and love for each other despite the differences in religions, sects or madhahib. Yet, today we are quick to label one another as that or this and argue over the most trivial and technical of things, i,e: the right way to put your hand in prayers. It is ultimately the khuluq (characters) of the poeple in the past that were able to attract large masses of people to Islam, stretching from the Balkans to the Indian sub-continent and to China. It is the respect, love and humility that we had for one another despite our diversities that bound all of us together, not our harshness or rigidity.

 

We need to get past the labels today and come together in the spirit of reviving the solidarity of brotherhood of the past despite the differences. We have to be able to nurture humility in respecting differences of opinions. And yes the opinions are diverse and that has always been the strength of this religion and it should be cherished and preserved.

 

And please for the love of God, go and seek knowledge wherever and from whomever you can. Be careful in attaching judgements towards someone based on what you hear or see from them before even affording them the rights to tell you what they have to say. I personally don’t care whether you’re Salafi or a Sufi. I have praises and criticims for both. I care for no labels. All that I’m interested and thirsty of is in what you have to say. This religion is too vast that it can include everybody. Sectarian minds dont take us anywhere. We have greater challenges that we have to face today instead of arguing among ourselves.

 

This is taken from a Facebook post dated May 7th 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

Captivating Beauty ﷺ

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These days looking up the sky night time, I would catch the radiant glimpse of a full moon. And inevitably my mind would be swiftly reminded of the beloved prophet ﷺ and how the companions, radiya Allahu anhum have described him, ﷺ using the full moon as the metaphor.

Ka‘b (ra) said, “When he was pleased, his face would shine so bright that you would believe it was a piece of the moon.”

His grandson Hasan (ra) would comment on his, ﷺ beauty by saying, “his blessed face shone like the full-moon.”

His best friend Abu Bakr (ra), mesmerized by his captivating beauty also composed a few lines of poetry about him ﷺ : “He is faithful, chosen (by Allah), and calls to forgiveness. He shines like a full-moon when it is far from dark (clouds).”

A famous Arab poet, Zuhair on the prophet ﷺ : “Were you other than a human being, you would be the brightness on the night of a full-moon.”

There is indeed something about the moon and its beauty that is quite inexplicable. Gazing at the moon, you are captivated by the serene and calm quality of its beauty, even if you turned around, you would want to catch its glimpse again and again. Indeed, the brightness of a full moon is the height of beauty and to know that our beloved master, ﷺ was described as such makes the heart forever yearn to one day catch the radiant glimpse of the blessed face of the best of mankind, Muhammad ﷺ.

May Allah make us among those….

This is taken from a previous Facebook post dated February 23rd 2016.