The Broken Bolivar

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By: Farhah Aziz

Turn on your TV channels today or browse through your daily newspaper articles, stories about Venezuela’s crippling economy is omnipresent. There is no war or intense political conflict in Venezuela. Well, then why do we see miles-long queue of people purchasing basic goods or why thousands of Venezuelans are taking the risk of crossing the borders to seek a better life in neighboring Colombia or even the Portuguese-speaking Brazil? WHY IS THERE AN ECONOMIC COLLAPSE IN VENEZUELA?

Just a few years ago, Venezuela was cited to be one of the economic miracles of the Andean region. It essentially has the largest oil reserves in the world, even bigger than the one in Saudi Arabia. It was doing rather ok politically with the late socialist revolutionary strongman Hugo Chavez’s intense grip on power keeping everyone happy with stable and often soaring petrol price which helped lift many Venezuelans out of poverty.  Life was generally good. Even during the 2008 economic crisis plaguing the West, Venezuela was untouched.

Death by oil and other thing

Then, 2012 arrived and Venezuela just did not see it coming. The commodity market especially that of oil had to experience a rude awakening. The oil price dropped phenomenally by half from $100 barrel to a mere $50 a barrel. For an economy that was relying enormously (almost 96%) on petrol money and foreign debt to finance its colossal public spending, that was a huge blow financially to the state’s coffers. Plus, the passing of Chavez as well as the corruption legacies that he left behind for his protégé, Nicholas Maduro to inherit also did not help with the economic health of the South American country.

Apart from that, Chavez’s contempt towards capitalism which was manifested in his nationalization policy of almost 1200 private companies has left some of the financially-sound industries such as that of the profitable cane sugar to go bust. The once-richest country in South America also experienced a major trust deficit among investors and global lending institutions for its infamous reckless public spending, making it a high-risk debtor and cutting its access to international capitals.

With all of these miseries, one would ask how worse can it get? Well, a whole lot worse!

Hyperinflationary Tale of Woes

So, one would assume that Venezuela would have learnt

the lesson the hard way by taking the necessary measures of imposing austerity in the form of cutting the public spending, led by example perhaps first and foremost by the presidential palace. But, no!

Famous for its historical fiscal mismanagement, the government of Maduro had taken the path every legit economist and financial analyst had warned of coming close to especially if your financial track record has been patchy in the past.  It decided to print more Bolivars in order to pay off its mountains of debt and to boost domestic consumption.  Thus, the price levels skyrocketed and the same tale of hyperinflation ensued.

One would not expect Venezuela under Maduro out of all countries to be consistently transparent in publicly releasing its inflation rate. According to the IMF, the inflation level is expected to rise to 1,642 per cent this year while others predicted a spike of up to 2,200 per cent this year. Yes, that’s 4 digits in an inflation percentage.

To add insult to injury, Venezuela topped the misery index of 2013, a metric that summed up a country’s inflation and unemployment rate.

The Consequences

Just with any fiscal mismanagement at the hands of the government, the real payers of those bad policies are again the ordinary Venezuelans just wanting to survive another day. If just a few years ago, an ordinary middle-class Venezuelan family have the common financial concerns on how to pay off car or house loans, now they have to think of a way of how to get first in line to grab the highly-priced basic commodities such as sugar and rice rationed by the government and protected by armed guards.

Venezuela is a classic example of a nation that suffers no war or any real political instability but can simply shift from boom to bust because the government simply has too much say when it actually has very little relevant expertise. The story of Venezuela also demonstrates the volatility of the fiat monetary system that is not backed with any real store of value, thus rendering it worthless papers once, the public’s confidence has wavered. And boy how easily those Bolivars wavered eh?

Sources:

Venezuela releases new banknotes in cash crisis.

http://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/world-economy/venezuela-releases-new-banknotes-in-cash-crisis/news-story/29a3a193148226ad841621a0a9549a7c

Hunger and panic.

https://news.vice.com/story/venezuelas-continuing-currency-crisis-pushes-country-to-brink-of-collapse

Entering a ‘world of economic chaos,’ Venezuela struggles with hyperinflation.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/venezuela/article120451593.html

 

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The Chaos of Zimbabwean Currency Regime

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By: Farhah Aziz

January 20th, 2017

Zimbabwe; a landlocked country known for Victoria Falls, Robert Mugabe and indeed the hyperinflation crisis. Who hasn’t heard of the infamous phase of hyperinflation crisis plaguing the country in the late ‘90s stretching into early 2000s? The annual inflation rate was indeed extremely staggering with a record high, 500 billion per cent as of 2009, ranked the highest in the world.

So, what has caused this economic chaos to happen in the first place and where is this southern African economy heading to in the future?

“Indigenization” Policy of Mugabe

Zimbabwe is a relatively young nation, earning its independence from Great Britain in 1980. Formerly known as Rhodesia, the southern African nation bordering South Africa and Botswana is rich in mineral resources such as gold, copper and iron. At the time of independence, the country experienced rapid and healthy economic growth with 1 ZWD (Zimbabwean Dollar) being equal to 1 USD by emphasizing on export of its highly-prized natural commodities; particularly its thriving tobacco industry.

However, 1980 also saw the ascent of the then 56 year old, Robert Mugabe into power which has continuously ruled the country ever since. Mugabe was among many other negative adjectives associated to him, nonetheless a visionary man. He envisioned an independent Zimbabwe that possess an economy that is inclusive of all, most especially the majority Black population which was historically heavily marginalized economically under the British colonial policy which strongly favored the white population. The white population was granted farmlands and equipped with technical skills to run the Zimbabwean economy. Hence, Mugabe embarked on a wealth-distribution policy, by indigenizing the economy, something similar to the affirmative action policy of Malaysia, though very much a symbolic feature of Mugabe’s style.

The redistribution which took place in 2000 was marred by heavy violence, with forceful farmlands grabs and eviction policy imposed upon the white population by the authorities. Farmlands were then redistributed to the black population which was ill-equipped with technical skills necessary to maintain the productivity of the farms. As a result, the tobacco industry dwindled and the economy consequently stagnated, verging on the point of collapse.

Printing Money in Paying-off Debt

To remedy this, Robert Mugabe demanded the conventional financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund, therefore signing up to the subsequent Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), having to exercise fiscal prudence by cutting public spending and increasing tax rate. However, Mugabe’s government which was heavily riddled with corruption scandals coupled with the costly business venture in the neighboring DR Congo as well as the reluctance to adhere to ESAP has only dramatically reduced Zimbabwe’s capacity to pay off its debt that is only accumulating by the day. As of 2016, Zimbabwe owes the IMF, World Bank and Africa Development Bank a total of 9 billion USD.  This has resulted in an economic collapse in the form of chronic unemployment – 80% of its adult population is unemployed, a shrinking manufacturing sector and almost half of its population in dire need of food aid to survive.

Its non-compliance with the ESAP, delayed resettlement of its debt as well as the alleged corruptions scandal and violation of human rights, through the excess use of violence on peaceful protests were deemed sufficient for the imposition of economic sanctions by Western nations and financial institutions upon the nation.

To counter the economic impacts the sanctions had, Mugabe took a step that every decent economist warns of coming close to: printing more money. Lacking basic economic knowledge of such a step and perhaps fueled by his own ego, the increased amount of money in circulation meant that prices of goods and commodities dramatically spiked, causing hyperinflation. Take this, at one point; a single egg may cost you more than 1 billion ZWD.

Multi-currency Regime

Zimbabwe’s long-standing ruling party, the Zanu-PF, realized the magnitude of insane hyperinflation suffered by Zimbabwe and decided in 2009 that it’s time to call ZWD a day, although not definitely. A multicurrency system reigned with 9 currencies in circulation, the most popular being American dollar, South African Rand, the Euro as well as Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen and Indian Rupee slowly gaining ground.

The multicurrency regime did not start in 2009. In fact, it has been used simultaneously with ZWD, predominantly in the black market even before the abandonment of ZWD due to their stabilities that tremendously help with import activities. However, there is a limited supply of them and before they knew it, they were running out of them.

Today, however, in a bid to ease the economic pressure and to boost exports, the Mugabe government has introduced another currency; the bond notes with an official exchange rate of 1:1 to the 1 USD.  The reaction of the population is somehow rather mixed with some of them applauding the government’s move to increase liquidity in the currency market while some are a bit more doubtful of the longevity of the currency and feared of the same hyperinflation chaos ravaging the country just a couple of years ago.

The Future of Zimbabwean Economy

Monetarists asserted that the worth of a currency relies primarily in the value and the faith that the people put in them. It is a bit like a belief system. Constructed out of thin air and not pegged to any mineral commodities as previously done with gold and silver, the value of money can fluctuate and can occur wildly so too, as demonstrated by the hyperinflation crisis of Zimbabwe.

The hyperinflation crisis suffered by the country shall serve to us a lesson that no, printing more money cannot solve your problem. In fact, it might only exacerbate it, again as exemplified by the economic collapse of Zimbabwean economy.

The real cost however is not paid by elitists such as Mugabe and his business mogul friends, but, by average hardworking citizen of Zimbabwe who might have to go by a day not eating, simply because they cannot afford the rise in price every 5 hours. This chaotic state of economy which stems from economic mismanagement and lack of fiscal discipline only creates more social and political instability in the form of street protests, anarchy and to some extent, may breed conflicts and wars.

The future of Zimbabwean economy essentially lies in its leaders taking more responsibilities in sorting out the mess that they’re in, rather than introducing a new currency or printing more money. And perhaps, it is about time that we see someone else holding the presidential post and unless real democracy is installed into the long-suffering country, the future of this country shall remain bleak and unpredictable.

Sources

ZIMBABWE’S NEW ‘CURRENCY’: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT BOND NOTES. http://europe.newsweek.com/what-you-should-know-about-bond-notes-zimbabwes-new-currency-526003?rm=eu

How Bad Is Inflation in Zimbabwe? http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/02/world/africa/02zimbabwe.html

Zimbabwe swaps hyperinflation for deflation with the use of US Dollar. https://www.ft.com/content/9eb1c2d8-c341-11e5-b3b1-7b2481276e45

New Zimbabwe Notes Stir Memory of 500,000,000,000% Inflation. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-21/new-zimbabwe-currency-stirs-memory-of-500-000-000-000-inflation

Mugabe launches new currency in ‘last gamble’ for Zimbabwe https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/28/mugabe-launches-new-currency-in-last-gamble-for-zimbabwe

A worthless currency. http://www.economist.com/node/11751346?story_id=E1_TTSVTPQG

Bitterness and unease in bankrupt Zimbabwe. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/8551616.stm

Mugabe’s costly Congo venture. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/611898.stm

Zimbabwe inflation hits new high. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7660569.stm

Zimbabwe’s multi-currency confusion. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26034078

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

“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)

Everyday Warriors

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I stared at their faces. For quite too long too. Wrinkles decorating their saggy and sun-beaten skin. At one moment, I thought as if I could see stories drawn on those faces, screaming to be expressed and to be told to me. Trickles of sweat were constantly swept out due to the bothering heat and the absence of a ventilation system within the cafe did not help either. Those faces I kept on staring. I thought to myself. These faces somehow looked strangely familiar but unique in their own ways at the same time. The stories that they are telling must be different but similar in the exhaustion that they manifested. I could hear something. I could hear their silent sighing. I was curious. And there I was making up assumptions in my head and drawing out conclusions of the possibilities of me getting their stories right based on my limited knowledge of history, politics and sociology meshed together.

But in truth, I did not need to do that. I did not need to know their stories to feel something for them. For I saw my mother and father in them. I saw the looks of a warrior in every single one of them. The struggling life is a battlefield for them. They physically and mentally toiled daily to achieve a modest victory of feeding their kids at the end of the day and getting them properly educated so that they will not have to fight the same battle in the future.

I did not know who they are. I did not know their names or where they came from. Some of them I imagined must have hailed from a place far from here. I tried to imagine the journey that they had taken and the views that they have captured with their minds on a voyage here to seek a better life. Probably their hearts are broken, unmendable having to part from their loved ones in those faraway lands. But I felt close to them. I felt the warmth within their souls. I saw the exhaustion that they were trying to camouflage with their warm smiles. The smiles that came from a belief having to be digged from deep within. A belief that through His azza wa jal’s will, their kids will not go hungry that day. That one day they don’t have to live hand-to-mouth anymore. In their tired smiles also, I see not only hope, but gratitude. The kind of gratitude that makes them wealthy and rich inside. These warriors are beautiful. No, they don’t have the obsessed, desired flawless skin or curves like those on TV or magazines, but something about looking at them gives you immense tranquility. Perhaps, its their strong connection with Allah that gives them that radiant, impeccable beauty, rare of this world. Sometimes, in looking at them and their unabated perseverance, I grew in conviction that paradise will be filled by them.

These people are everywhere around us. We might usually ignore them or assume that they’re simply part of the facilities that assist and help make our life a tiny bit easier. Sometimes, we might also think of them as nothing but a nuisance. But, these people are human beings with a soul. They have dreams, hope, ambitions just like we, the privileged, do. Appreciate their contributions in your life and give them the best of gifts, a sincere du’a.

Sometimes, a real beauty has to be seen closely in order for it to be appreciated wholeheartedly.

 

Beautiful Sinners

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We are all sinners. There are times when we stumble and fall. We cry and fall into despair. But know that His door of mercy is always open. Return to the Most Merciful for He is ALWAYS waiting for your return. It is never too late to return to Him. Run, walk or crawl if you want. But just dont be afraid of turning back to Him. Return to Him sincerely with a heart willing to be purified. The heart will struggle. But the heart will come out stronger and more sound inshaAllah.

And for that we shall be sinners but we shall be BEAUTIFUL sinners.

This was taken from a previous Facebook post dated November 1st 2014.

His love

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We often feel unloved or unappreciated. Don’t we? But, that’s because we place our expectations of love and mercy at the hands of people. At the hands of creations. But what about His love? Maybe our eyes but most importantly our hearts are blind towards His Almighty love. Remember those people who smiled at us and being kind to us randomly? What about our parents unconditional love and care towards us? Do we realize that all of them are actually manifestations of His unconditional love towards us? He sends down and showers His love thru every breath that we take but we are blind thus our mouths complain. How ungrateful are human beings.

He loves you. And His love is all that you need..

This was taken from a previous Facebook post dated October 22nd 2014

True Home Of Our Souls

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Feel that tranquility and happiness within your heart? See the beauty of the sun as it rises in the morning? Smell those sweet fragrant scents? See those smiles and happiness all around you? These are all glimpses of JANNAH in this dunya. JANNAH. A place of eternal and everlasting beauty and perfection. The true home of our souls. It is from His mercy that He is letting us to have a taste of them here so we may strive hard for a place where no sadness or anxiety may prevail in the life to come. May we all be gathered in the paradise where our souls truly belong.

Ameen.

This was taken from a previous Facebook post dated October 12th 2014

Path To God

 

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The path to God is not easy. Sometimes, you have to be brought down to your lowest in order for you to crawl back out to Him. Sometimes you have to be tested with heartbreaks and losses of people and things that you loved the most so that you may realign your target of attachment. Maybe you were too obsessed and too attached to the creations that you forgot the Creator. Maybe you utter easily with your tongue that you believe in Him, but it takes tests and trials to see whether the same is true within your heart. Maybe the trials and tribulations that you faced is just Allah’s signal that He is missing you and wants you to come back and ask help from Him. He just wants you to draw close to Him again. Therefore, in times of great trials, 2 important ingredients are needed to succeed; patience and taqwa. Patience takes courage. This will inshaAllah slowly lead to you gaining taqwa (God-consciousness) by asking and never stop asking ONLY from Him azza w jal. The intensity of the tests will inshaAllah fade away and serenity will reside within your heart. May Allah ease all of our affairs

صبر جميل والله المستعان….

This was taken from a previous Facebook post dated October 12th 2014