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

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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

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.

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.

A Letter To My Baby Girl

Disclaimer : This post is not to be taken as a depiction of reality. Nope, I’m not married yet as this post is published.It is simply an intimate, personal dream letter that I wish to share with all of you. Jazakum Allah khair.

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Dear my baby girl,

I can’t wait for that day to come when I can feel you forming within my stomach. I can’t wait for that day when I can see my stomach protruding and feel you kicking and moving around. Though I know I will most likely be experiencing morning sicknesses, but the very thought of you will numb it out. I can’t wait for that day where I will be complaining to your baba how fat I’ve gotten and how I happen to just eat anything, more than I usually would. How your grandma would be lecturing me on how careless I’ve been since you’ve been in my tummy and how I should be taking in Javanese herbs to help me with my pregnancy. I long for the moment to come when knowing that there’s a soul within me, I shall be extra panicky and my OCD level will just increase, making things a bit hard for your baba, probably. May Allah make it easy. The thought of what you shall become will constantly occupy your mama’s mind and this will drive her crazy to ensure that all the primary steps are taken earlier. I dream that one day, the words of your Lord will roll out of your tongue easily, thus I will be constantly having His words on my tongue first. Because I know that you will be listening closely in there too.

My baby girl,

I can’t wait for the moment to come when you’ll be arriving into this world crying and the people around you would be smiling, the sun shining, the birds singing and your baba most likely sobbing. That beautiful and emotionally charged moment when I see your baba would do the adhan close to you ears in which I will end up drenched in my own tears. You’ll be kept warm, snuggled cozily in your mama’s arms. Then, those moments shall pass and you’ll grow a little bit bigger. I’ll be in my maternity leave and every single moment shall not pass without your mama documenting you and your actions in photos or videos just as she has dreamed to do so ages ago. Facebook, Intagram, Twitter, Snapchat, your mama and baba will use to tell the world.

Then there will be those beautiful moments where I will cusp your tiny face in my giant palms, still visualizing what will you become. Staring at your closed lids while you’re snoozing. Caressing your rosy cheeks. Kissing you all the time for no other reason than only to sniff that fresh powdery smell lingering all over you. Watching your mini fingers rolled into a ball and frequently place them into mine. I shall devour every second of the moments that will be spent with you. Your smiles, your giggles, your first word and your first step your mama promise she will record. Nothing will go amiss. InshaAllah.

Then, my baby girl you’ll grow a little bit more old. This is when I can see your true personality flourishes either like mine or like that of your baba. I’m guessing, it’ll be like mine. You’ll come home sometimes tired or excited. You’ll ask to join many activities. Swimming, ice skating, running, fairy-dressing, your mama would be there for you. When you fall, I’ll pick you up. When you cry, I’ll wipe your tears and comfort your heart. When you’re happy, I’ll be your listening buddy. When you’re sick, I’ll be making you soup and sleep with you. I promise to always be there for you. Growing up, your mama will make sure that you will not be fazed by the fairy tales or Disney princesses as your role models. But they will be the Sahaba and the Muslim heroes and heroines that your mama will tell you for your bedtime stories. Growing up, you will realize as others might have Justin Bieber or other celebrities as their first crush, your mama and baba will make sure that you will fall in love with your prophet SAW first. You will realize that mama and baba will work hard to implement 3 golden parenting rules in our household : 1)Love for the prophet SAW 2)Love for family and friends 3)Love for the Quran. Mama and baba promise that you’ll grow up in a household full of love, mercy and compassion for that defines our religion.

To be continued……