Sunday, October 26, 2008


A new promising and needed project has finally seen the light. Adage Ltd. is a not-for-profit translation and education company devoted to the production of the first online database of hadīth (the sayings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad) in different languages, starting with a complete English translation.

Such a project is highly important nowadays, when truth is distorted, and lies are taking the lead, where Islam is constantly being attacked and prejudiced. The core aim of this project is to clear the misunderstandings about Islam, and to spread the fruits of Islamic knowledge to the world. While it can prove highly effective for scholars and Muslims, it can also be very useful to anyone seeking to know more about Islam from an authentic source. Nobody can better represent what Islam is really about more than the Prophet of Islam himself. This is a must-see website that is extending a hand with peace and a real desire for more understanding and tolerance. Please see for yourself:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On nature and things!

When you watch a movie for the first time, you are naturally consumed in the story. But this one touched me like no other. The meanings in it were thought provoking and as I watched it for the second time a year later, I was wrapped in those inspiring thoughts rather than what was taking place. Cast Away is the well known movie of a sole survivor from a plane crash who ended up on a distant island and had to endure the elements and simply stay alive. To us, the privileged ones who live in cities, with on-call electricity, running water and endless high-tech gismos, that would be hell on earth. I remember that when my sister once went to a safari in Africa and told me about the living conditions she would go through there, I told her right then and there that that would be my worst nightmare. Or is it? Well, this is not what this summer taught me. But I will come to that later.

Back to the movie cause it was a wake-up call for all the things that we take for granted. You need only to watch how long it took and agonizing it was to light a single fire, to realize what that means to a man in that situation. You are actually taken aback by his roaring and wild dancing around the bonfire he kept hailing! It is like he was stripped bare from all the layers that living in a society puts on us and became free and simply human. It is that spark of humanity that made him long for companionship to the point that he took a volleyball, that landed among the boxes with him, as a friend and named it “Wilson” after drawing its features with his own blood. He would talk to that ball rain or shine and have it go through it all with him. He even mourned when he lost it in his attempt to escape the island and sobbing aloud and ended up letting go of the paddles since losing “Wilson” could to many of us mean losing it all! Yes, it is those “Wilsons” in our lives, or our loved ones if you wish, that help us identify who we are and with whom happiness and sharing gain a new meaning every time. Yet, it is a Higher Sublime Mercy that picks us up when we fall and lends us a hand to stand on our feet again just like our hero was saved right after losing Wilson!

Having him rescued could have been a good end to that story. But, no. It is the sharp contrast that shocks you between what used to be his ordinary life in the city and that on the island. The man now in a cold dark blue navy shirt and a dull brown jacket, surrounded by grey walls, not talking much and walking slowly trying to take in that new ambience, was the very same man alive and vibrant on that island. Barely covered in rags, with tanned limbs and sun-damaged face, with long messy hair and beard, hunting with accuracy and eating raw fish! Now in the city, no one even noticed the lighter that would create the fire he almost died for. Loads of food lay there on the table in front of him. A fuzz of noise and people surrounded him. A soft cozy bed was waiting for him that he neglected and slept on the floor instead. How many blessings do we bask in day in and out and never even pay attention to!

I am amazed how this summer has changed me. When I watched that movie the first time, I did with agony for the hero’s ordeal. It is remarkable how I now consider the time on that island as the real pleasure. Imagine sleeping with stars as your company and the ocean humming its soothing lullaby. Imagine the endless turquoise water, the luscious trees and the cuddling sand. Nature was created to amply provide for and take care of us. It is not to be feared at all if you take the time to listen to it and get rid of the limiting mind frames of the city’s abundant restrictions. I left work and worries behind in my trip to the mountains this summer. I blocked out annoying inside and outside voices and surrendered to that new world. I closed my eyes and breathed in the cool fresh mountain air. Every whiff early in the morning filled me with joy and pure pleasure. I basked my bare face in the warm sun and got my arms out of the car’s window welcoming that beauty. The wind that sneaked into my long sleeves thrilled me. I let my imagination loose contemplating the shapes on the tops of the rocky mountains and the faces my mind’s eye saw there were watching me go by and kept smiling back at me. And on and on came the images. The violent rush of water in the falls. The soft mist that stood there right above it. The canyon walls that could never be solid enough to stop each drop of water from carving its own story as it went down the falls. The wild animals that crossed the streets in a mellow manner and ate wild berries paying no attention to the human beings standing in awe and taking pictures of their magnificence. The placid lake embraced by a guarding mountain in the background and adored by its surroundings. The cold water in the stream that called me to step on its rocks and hail the splashes that came my way. I collected little colorful rocks in all shapes just like little kids do. I sat on the shore of the lakes enveloped in the tranquility and in harmony with my atmosphere that I wanted nothing else but to remain there for the rest of my life. It was my very first time to actually welcome the outdoors and discover that side in me; the free spirit and spontaneous demeanor.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Behind every face!

A touching video sent to me by a sweet, sweet soul.

Oh how we never see beyond our own concerns and what a blessing it would be to unravel the stories behind every face. Oh how lonely and confined we are in our own worlds and how warm human gestures relieve so many pains. It is simply what being human is all about.

Watch it and let the tears flow.

Monday, May 26, 2008


It is a weird feeling, of no feeling basically. I do not need, miss or love any more. I simply prefer to be on my own, confined to what I know sometimes and trying to get by without upsetting anyone as much as I can. It could be because I know how much pain the three feelings above put you through that I decided to throw the baby with the bath water. It could also be that the concept of "feeling" is much rediculed in a world of moving on, practicality and priorities, that I have discarded the whole concept. I don't know. The problem is that I am and have always been a bundle of feelings and this no man's land that I am in is leaving me lost. It feels like something is missing from the picture. The days are going by, goals are reached, almost, and feelings are pushed aside. It is like I am waiting for a friendly face to rekindle the human being in me. Was walking by in my new neighbourhood the other day and greeted back the nice couple that came my way and left me thinking. How would it be like if I have friends again, like a company maybe that I can sit with and maybe laugh again? Am I able to give again; or for that matter take? Is being numb a mere state to cope with what I could not cope with otherwise, or is it a new reality?

Days will tell.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Stories

Raining cats and dogs outside, a true sign of spring here, and the clouds are thick and heavy. But, do I care? Nope! I somehow enjoy the day light that tells me that the sun is still there somewhere waiting to shine with its pristine smile again. But rain or shine, I have had some time for myself today at last after grueling weeks of packing and unpacking that preceded and followed moving to a new place. Moving is indeed a tricky business. Take aside the gnawing state of instability, the complete mess and the immense physical effort needed, that left me feeling cheated when I was not fit at all for the that marathon, it is the sorting that drains you most. That was the third time for me to pack and move in the six years I have spent in Canada. But the first two times followed a ten-month stay only. This time, on the other hand, it followed 4 years! It is overwhelming to dig up stuff you put away to read later that end up untouched for years, the pile of small broken appliances that you wished to fix one day, the clothes and toys that the kids have outgrown, and the list goes on. But it is the memories that come along with everything that do stop you every now and then to think and remember. It is like John Grisham puts it, “Everything I touched brought by a story with it.” I went through my papers to decide what to shred and what to keep and a warm whiff of reminiscence took me back to friends I have not seen in a long while and ones that I may never see again. Sweet words of endearment that left me pondering on the whereabouts of those people and whether they have changed. Beautiful cards that kept me grateful to those who simply thought of me. Old pictures of myself that display an array of expressions reflecting how the character evolved as responsibilities changed and perspectives progressed. Art crafts the kids made that I saved and used to keep on the fridge for them to see how I appreciated them. Old memoirs with goals I am yet to attain and potentials I have finally met. Worn-out books that accompanied me through long nights of studying and frustrations. Bitter-sweet memories and many many stories.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Like Mommy...

Dear Mom,

Mom, you're as sweet as sugar. You smell like spring flowers.

You look so beautiful. I love when you touch me with your gentle touch.

You stand up for me when I need you and I'll always need you.

Your daughter

My daughter's own sweet sweet words in a cute letter that came in a neat bag with a mother's day present she made with her own hands . A kind pat on the shoulder on a day I found no reason to get up from bed for. Just when I thought that no one is there, just when I thought that no one cares, just when I saw myself as I always do, I found that someone that close can still call me sweet, gentle or beautiful. And the beauty of her word! Ahh, a writer in the making.

Under My Skin

I need someone to explain to me why this song just won't be shaken off my head. Heard it by chance in a commercial and because I have known it all along it has been buzzing in my head for days now! This is a pure case of admiration of the mere song, mind you, the lyrics, the performance, the soft jazz, yet there is no one that I relate this song to. Yeah, that weakness I have is endless when it comes to the blues and soft jazz I know. You just cannot help closing your eyes and delving deep in that world of beauty once that lady starts. It's under my skin I guess.

Friday, April 4, 2008

My Lesson

I really need to talk about this so come on here my bloggy blog. You may be mute and sometimes dumb, but you sure do listen.

Well, yesterday was my presentation. The course was Training and Development and the main objective is to train us to design training courses, plan for them and deliver them. Regardless of the mid-term exam, the final exam, the training proposal and lesson plan as assignments, yesterday’s presentation was the actual implementation of everything we learned and the culmination of the skills we acquired.

Throughout the course, I had a weird problem. I used to sit in the front row in that class and, unconsciously I guess, simply watch at the instructor. I had a real problem getting what she said and this was truly mind-boggling to me. It was simple plain and clear English and I had no problem at all getting it when I read the book alone; all the learning theories and the on-the-job and off-the-job training techniques, etc. But when the instructor was there, I would simply go blank and it took me more than three months to understand. The instructor was a most adorable human being that you would be lucky if you ever come across one day. She was warm, approachable, understanding, sweet and very smart. Her pure love of her job and how she believed in it made me relate to her right away having my own previous teaching experience and believing that I was made for it. She also had a highly regarded experience and used to amuse as well as teach us through a myriad of stories and situations that prepared us for what we are to face in the real life and away from the book’s ideal and unrealistic propositions. She was very much creative and resourceful and would use the kind of examples and practice exercises that always found their way to our memory and remained there. I don’t think I really need to go through the book at all to remember how to be a good trainer one day. And that was it! During class time, I was simply distracted from what she was saying by actually watching every movement she made and how she delivered the lessons. She was the true example to follow. And she would see right through you right away and know what kind of person you are. She had that kind of heart! Answering every question, greeting each one of us as we entered the class, respecting the human beings we are and never abusing her authority, and facing every problem or class disruption with a smile first. I will never forget how her evening classes coincided with hockey games and how one of us was a complete fan that he kept following the score on his laptop. When she asked him what it was that made him that busy he simply said the truth. “Well, alrighty then,” she said, “keep us updating us on the score. I too am a hockey fan.” She knows that we paid money for that course, that we are giving it our time which of course takes away from other work-life responsibilities, she knows that we are totally responsible for our results, she knows how fare she is when she marks our work, and she simply believed in us. And hey, that student is actually one of the top 10%! Yes, she was that broad-minded and professional.

Throughout the course, she would encourage me and tell me how much she believed in me. And yesterday after I delivered my lesson she said, “You really did well. I forgot at times that I should be evaluating you and was completely absorbed in your lesson” I smiled and thanked her like I always did. But she repeated, “Rasha, you are not listening to me. You are not hearing it yet. This is not me trying to make you feel good; you really did a great job!”

Which brings us to my presentation!

Well, I kept shaking my head both sides in disbelief all the time last night every time I remember a mistake I made or adding something that I should have. I prepared so very well for it for more than a month and loved the material and the idea. I did a good job preparing everything and having a final look on my way there I was actually very confident and was very looking forward to it. But my “issues” surfaced right at the wrong time. I was aware when I was talking to a friend sitting next to me that I was pretending to be tense. I had a stellar power point, a big beautiful lantern that I knew where exactly to put and a beautiful incense cone to light up and fill the class with the aroma and charm of the Middle East; the topic of my presentation. I also had unique souvenirs from that area of the world that I meant to give to everyone to have them always remember that class. I had the picture slides, the Youtube clip, the videorecording on intercultural communication styles, and the information I collected from at least four books. But I guess I chose to be tense instead of being confident and thanks to the other management and behaviour classes I studies, I now know why I behaved like that. It is simple! If I am tense and worried then that would be a good justification if I make any mistakes. And the stupid English teacher in me would stumble or stutter every time I made a grammatical mistake or try to over-correct it.

I waited for my turn to deliver my lesson. When I entered the class, the last one if I may add, I found that the tables were rearranged. There were two tables at the front and on them was, what seemed to be, all possible kinds of liquor bottles (filled with water), different shapes of cups, a mixer, ice, pop and juice cans to add to the liquor and all other stuff. The training was by three of my colleagues and the theme was how to make the signature drinks of a bar they pretended to run and manage. Since I do not drink and have never been to a bar, the whole thing was completely new to me and when I was asked to practice and mix a drink, I passed that to the people sitting next to me saying that I might not be the best person to do that!

The next lesson was about how to decorate cupcakes. A sweet colleague of us with an apron on pretended that we are all bakers, distributed the cupcakes and the icing cans we are to squeeze to decorate the cupcakes with and had us try out different styles with different colors; and then eat them. But I could not eat mine cause I was next.

I stood there, trying to figure out how to run all the machines around me, the VCR for the video recording and the laptop for my power point and the Youtube clip, with two different remote controls in my hands! I had to decide whether to display the lantern and the light up the cones but due to lack of time and confusion I opted not to. I was running out of time and I had to start and to minimize my confusion I asked everyone to come forward, since they were scattered in the class, and they did.

And on started my lesson.

Come to think of it now, I guess it was ok. The beginning was too serious though than how I imagined it would be. I remember that I stood there wondering after the cupcake decoration and liquor mixing, why does my life have to be that complicated! “Business Etiquette in the Middle East”! The theme was orienting the senior sales directors of a software company to the do’s and don’ts when in a meeting with their future Middle East clients. And I was the “Business Etiquette and Communication Advisor”; yeah right! But the couple of jokes, or rather real life situations that I brought up eventually were completely unexpected by my audience and helped set up the mood. When I asked for a volunteer to help me explain the difference of personal space between people in the Middle East and in North America, and how greeting, hugging and cheek-kissing as well can accompany a handshake among members of the same sex, my colleague put out her hand to shake mine and the difference of how I did it and how she did was very clear. And when I asked her before lightly hugging and kissing her, “Are you ready?”, the poor thing was almost mortified! And we all laughed. I guess it was OK now as I look back and smile.

I ran for flavored coffee in the break cause I was dying for any sugar and was still shaking when the lesson following mine started. Two of my colleagues were store managers, I think, and they were training us how to help a customer choose the right bra fit! Yep! Do you now know how complicated my life is?? Well, they had the mannequin there, the measuring tape, the different forms of shapes of stuff for the mannequin to try on, and all the works! Trying to create a rapport, the trainers asked us for our experience and the fact that there were about 3 or four young men there made it hilarious especially when one was relating the mistakes he made when choosing the right fit! In my astonishment and disbelief, I said to myself that this is life and as real as can be. And the confidence with which the lesson was delivered was something to reflect on.

And it was over. I didn’t mind much how everyone kept telling me how informative my lesson was; they are all nice people really. But I was glad that it was over for the good and the bad of it. I went back home with the lantern still in its bag, the cone unlighted, the souvenirs that I totally forgot about still in their bag as well, and with the memories, unforgettable memories.

I just wanted to get it out my blog and tell you about it. For some reason, I felt that I need to save this in spite of the fact that I really should be studying for the rest of my final and real exams. Not all courses are as nice and not all my instructors are like that. One of them is a walking-talking lifeless zombie and another made me so angry last week that I got red in the face and left the class instead of standing there and tell him what he should really know or in an ideal world give him one heck of a punch on the face!

Better get going.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The way I walk!

Someone commented on the way I walked today. "You look 'pooped'", she said! Yeah, I guess so. It has been too much my dear happy-going young lady . Shoulders drooping I guess. Carrying too much I guess. Tired and that close from giving up my dear. Talking to a mute stupid blog here. A mute stupid blog in a world of silence and reluctance. Talking to my stupid mute blog!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

You Gotta Be

Hitting a low point one more time, crushed by what I cannot conquer or overcome, hoping against hope it just goes away and I make it through the day, I stumbled upon this song by Des'Ree. I like the lyrics so much and here they are; though I changed a couple of words to have it more meaningful to me.

Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
People, they may cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears
Stand up and be counted
Don't be ashamed to cry

You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold
You gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
You gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, faith will save the day

Herald what your mother said
Read the books your father read
Try to solve the puzzles in your own sweet time
Some may have more cash than you
Others take a different view

You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold
You gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
You gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, faith will save the day

Don't ask no questions, it goes on without you
Leaving you behind if you can't stand the pace
The world keeps on spinning
You can't stop it, if you try to
This time it's danger staring you in the face


Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
People, they may cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears

You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold
You gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
You gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, faith will save the day

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How we grow

It is peculiar how we grow. Enduring pain and sipping sweet pleasure along the way, we do learn. Nothing stays the same; be that pain or pleasure and since change is the only constant rule and life waits for no one as it goes on, then a static state is not allowed in our manual. It is true that when we decide to go on we have no clue how that road will be like without all that used to nourish us and keep us safe and sane. As we step in new terrain we are unable to see where that road would take us but since there is no way to go back then on it is. Knowledge is what we earn if we are wise enough to see through experiences we go through. Regrets? Yeah, we may have some, but if we don’t make mistakes, how else will we learn about life’s secret ways of helping us mature and mellow? And if we stand still to saturate in the pain without trying to discern through the darkness then when will we ever grow? Turning heart-wrenching suffering into stepping stones as we move on in spite of it all builds our stamina and fosters our development. As for happiness, well life is not supposed to be happy. Happiness itself would be shallow and tasteless if not mixed with pain. True pleasure is in constant attempts to rise up again and bouncing back after each time we stumble and fall.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Simple Things

When the world is burning with fire, when we are tested everyday as humans and as individuals, I find it soothing to pause for a second, and feel grateful for all the things we take for granted, the absence of which would break us apart, if only we know it.

For having good health and sound bodies, for the ability to see and walk, think and express ourselves.
For the sense of safeness, for the roof above our heads, for the blanket that keeps us warm, for the comfortable bed.
For being able to eat when hungry without worrying about the next meal.
For being able to live in a safe place, not worrying about our lives or the lives of our dear ones.
For being able to walk without fear, for being respected as women/men and humans.
For the quiet neighbourhood, the cosy home, the good job.
For being able to love, and appreciate the beauty of the world.
For the family and the friends.
For the knowledge and the education.
For the morals, beliefs, and principles, for the ability to sleep with a clear conscience.
for the gift of life, for the religion and the path.
For all the others things that are less obvious yet as precious.

We should be grateful.

Think a little, of any of these simple blessings. Think what would it mean to lose just one of them; losing one's home or eyesight or sense of direction, etc., how horrible that would be. Even if you do not have all these things, the fact that you are able to read this means that you are blessed with the majority of them. If one thing or the other is missing from you life, and its absence is having an effect on you, if you feel unsatisfied with your place in life, or would have wanted to live in a bigger house or have more money or whatever, let us be humbled, even every once in a while, by remembering that there are people who cannot close a door and sleep safely, and others who live under siege knowing that they could lose their lives any moment. If your children are giving you a hard time, see how others are not able to have kids of their own, and others who have lost their children while they are still alive. If you see injustice in your life, thank you Lord for not being the one who will have to live with the guilt. If your job is not satisfying all your aspirations, remember those who are begging to live. If your meal today is not the best, there are people who do die out of hunger. There are many faces for pain in the world, yet so many faces for blessings. We are surrounded by God's abundant forms of kindness, let us remember and cherish the simple things in life.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

An egg shell or an iron shield?

Part i

How we mistakenly think we are strong while a simple illness can keep us in bed for days or an unexpected tragic event can break our backs. When our lives are at their prime, we believe that nothing can beat us. We forget about our frail bodies and fragile hearts when our blessings; either good health, young age, stable life, faithful company, etc., go uninterrupted for a continuous period of time. We get fooled by the aura that shines from within, get used to its warmth and grow accustomed to its light. We take the beautiful sides of our lives for granted. We race to beat time, our hearts seem to be able to encompass the world. There is no limit to what we think we can reach. Nothing can stop this overflowing wild river of strength.. We are then, unbeatable. How foolishly wrong we are!

And then, all of a sudden, when least expected, a test comes knocking. A blessing is taken away, or a calamity befalls to interrupt the smooth false stability. We drift to the other side of the river. We fall for the idea of being weak by seeing that we cannot take it any longer. The aura fades away, and we are left in a dark cold bleakness when nothing is attainable. The easiest of things are now very hard, everything seems to hurt, all things take too much time and effort. All the stories of glory, all the vivid dreams, all the races, are forgotten, with painful traces of how beautiful things used to be. All the strength that we thought was inherent in us fails us completely, and we think that life has decided to give us a frowning face for good. This pain cannot go, this wound will never heal, this test is too much for me to handle, it is over for me... But we are wrong again.

When we fall prey to these two forms of illusionary strength/weakness, our falls are usually very steep. In the recovering process, when still fragile, we start advancing in caution. The hole we were imprisoned in is not too far behind, and the scars of our wounds are still visible. Sometimes then, we can see for a while who we really are; a blend of weakness and strength. We come to realise that we cannot beat the world, yet we cannot allow it to defeat us and bring us to our knees. We are not of supernatural powers, nor feeble helpless creatures. We are God's marvellous creation; the mysterious secret of the universe lies in this miraculous being that is called humans. We live to brag with our strength, but when life breaks us we are humbled with the knowledge of who we really are deep inside.

Yet, though this is very hard; easier said than done: we should try hard not allow fake strength to blind us, or fake weakness to break us. When strong, let us remember our weaknesses and our falls; our reality, and when broken let the traces of the glory that used to be and the beauty that surely lies ahead break through and set us free. No one can protect you when your strength fails you, and no one can preserve it for you forever. No one can lift you up when you are broken, except your own hands. God is here, hope is here, and we are still here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Glow

It is a cold grey day… walking alone in unfamiliar streets, looking around into the eyes of strangers to find no glow. I am tired, I feel so cold. The colourless sky matches my gloominess and emptiness of heart. I still have an hour to spend on my own before I go to another sad endeavor that will lead me nowhere brighter. Oh how heavy it is to wait for something you know it will hurt. Seeking refuge in this café might help a little; I went directly to the desolate corner that suits my solitude.

It is warm inside, compared to the cold loneliness outside. The guitar playing knew exactly what to say; heartrending tones moaning gently and in dignity. I felt safer inside, away from the crowd of unappreciative strangers passing by swiftly.

I sat in front of the corner window. It was a table for four, I placed my things on one chair, left one unnoticed and faced the last empty chair where someone should have occupied. I ordered my favorite hot drink and asked for a magazine to hide in. Somehow my cup came alone, without the magazine, forcing me to hide elsewhere.

In the nearest table occupied, sat a beautiful couple. I was able to see the face of the girl, while her man gave me his back. She was a gentle soul, her face showed how delicate she is, while her eyes spoke to him in tender passion. She had beautiful small hands playing with the curls of her neck scarf. Their generous glow reached out to me, lending me some of the warmth of their company.

My eyes strayed outside the window. The hostile truth started to surround me; I am alone here. I am sad, cold, and ill. My heart is heavy with anticipation. I can no longer see anyone sitting in the empty chair in front of me. Holding my cup with both hands, hiding most of my face behind it, I looked away. I looked into the faces of every single person passing by, imaging what they say and where they are going, seeing only one episode of long stories that started long ago and which I won't be able to continue. I wanted to connect with them, dissolve in them, to be felt and noticed. I do not want to be alone, I am so fragile, my lonely heart is about to break.

I kept on looking… a lady came and parked her car in a nasty way in front of my window, she left the car in a hurry and held her daughter's hand and disappeared after a few steps. Cars kept on turning around the corner with different faces. No one noticed I was looking at them. A taxi came along, with one passenger on board. A young man was sitting beside the driver, he was like me looking away. He looked at the café, his eyes first fell on the joyous couple in the distant table, and kept on moving towards me. I thought at first that no one can see through the glass from outside, and that I cannot be seen. But he looked directly into my eyes, and smiled. I looked around to see who he is smiling at, but to my surprise, it was me. I felt like I've seen a friend. His gentle smile could easily see through my lonely heart. I could not believe he could really see me and feel my sorrow. He raised his hand and waved goodbye as the taxi went away. I put down my cup and smiled at my friend who was leaving.

I stayed a while longer in the café, with a persistent smile on my face, full of warmth and glow. I stopped seeing the empty chair in front of me. I went out confidently, capable of facing the coldness outside. I looked around at the lonely people passing by, seeing how cold they are. I wished that my inner glow could reach out to them, to lend them some of the warmth of my company.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The character shield

Five questions…she started writing on the board:

What’s your goal in life?
What do you do when you are not working?
I am the kind of person that….?
In 5 years from now I would like to have….?
The two things that I would take with me on a deserted island are?

This was our instructor’s idea of having us introduce ourselves to her and to each other. We knew each other already for this was our second semester together and that was our third class in a row in which we say the same old, same old about who we were and our background. The catch this time though, was to answer those questions by drawing a picture! Then we were to stand in front of the class and explain those drawings! I was mortified, "What?"

1- I do not have an answer for all that in the first place!
2- Even if I do, each is a deep concept that no drawing can symbolize.
3- My drawing is nowhere near beautiful!
4- And to stand in front of the class and talk? Who, me? The one who alienated herself because of the difference in age, background and everything really and who comes from a completely different world?

Well, I guess by now you got the picture. And until the very last moment I almost didn’t know what to do.

But then, that instructor started by herself, answering those questions one by one. “The Character Shield” she called her paper with the drawings.

Then to make it even harder, she asked us to come address the class without giving us any specific order to follow. Whoever had the guts to start did, followed by the less so. They are all more than a decade younger than me and they live in a culture quite different than where I came from so it was normal to have them state in simple and really sweet terms sometimes how their goal is to be happy, to have a home and lots of cash in five years, to take “satellite phones” with them in the island and knives and guns to secure food and protect themselves. They went on to describe what kind of persons they are; mainly happy sociable ones who like to party, drink, laugh at silly jokes and just be around people merrily.

I was almost surprised that I was the last one to get up and talk. One more please to come before me? “Help people?” I prayed secretly. But of course every one by then had already talked with the rest of the class laughing with him or her and clapping out of courtesy for encouragement.

So what did I have on my paper?

Well, a sun was my answer to the first question. “It is not that I like the sun per se,” I started, “cause I had a lot of that in Egypt where I come from. But to me the sun symbolizes light, guidance, warmth and help and this is what I would like to be giving to my dear ones. I volunteer and try to make a difference and this to me is more gratifying than money.”

“The computer here,” I went on, “is basically what I do in my life when I am not with a book reading or listening to either to study or for pleasure. This is where I do my volunteer job that I have committed my life to. This also is where I have the pleasure of talking to my close friends in a couple of both remote and close areas of the world. This is where I share my life and thoughts, since I don’t have friends here in Canada.”

“That person with question marks here is me. I am a person who thinks and questions life around her. I see ideas and images in everything around me and enjoy turning stones for hidden treasures.”

“What I would like to have in five years? Well, I think I have everything I need and cannot ask for more. But what I would really like to have in five years is my first book. This is a dream I have always had and you never know; it might come true one day.”

The last question was the easiest to answer really. “I would certainly take with me to that deserted island an endless supply of lotion. Facing the elements is not such a good idea, and I’m sorry people, I can’t live without my lotion! But what would really help me there is to have a copy of Qur’an with me. I am a spiritual kind of person and I know that having our (Muslim’s) holy book will make me feel God’s company all the time and I would then never be alone.”

And they clapped, with gusto I guess, as if I gave a speech or something. And as I sat back next to a classmate of mine he said, “Hey! That was really good. I feel like I know you well.” “Hello! Of course you do, we worked together on a group project, remember!”

Today was a different story though. Something must have happened in class that left me feeling down that when it was over I went out walking in an opposite direction from that of the rest. I simply wanted to be alone wishing their voices would disappear so that a loner like me is left in peace.

As I was walking, a polite classmate of mine came after me saying, “Hey stranger!” I said, “Hey there, see you Saturday?” “Yeah,” he said, “but remember what you said yesterday when you were talking about yourself and addressing the class?” “Oh that? I seem to have said a lot of stuff yesterday!” He said, “But you said that you didn’t have any friends here in Canada, remember?” “Yeah,” I said. “Well, you do. You certainly do!”

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Forgiveness; the Price of Life

O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? Great is hatred in the sight of God that you say what you do not do. (61 [As-Saff ]:2-3)

I wrote before about
'Embracing Change', and I preached a lot and thought that I am wise and strong enough to give advice to others. I know now that it is utter arrogance and ignorance. I thought that when change comes knocking next time that I would be ready and prepared to implement all the things I have been saying, which though seemingly right and beautiful, are definitely very hard to actually do. Very soon afterwards, I was sent a test by God, which I’ve totally failed! It was like, here you go, you talk so well, prove it! And I could not prove it, I admit. I was humbled by knowing how easy it is to talk while you are not in the midst of the struggle. So, this time, I will not be as foolish as before, and I will descend the podium. I will not say what I cannot do.

Allow me this time to talk about the concept of forgiveness, without preaching.

Forgiveness; such an easy word to say, it passes on the heart with a soothing effect that is so pleasant. It is very tempting to advise others to forgive and forget; don't we all want God to forgive our sins? Then this is a very good reason to start forgiving others ourselves. Yes, true, I agree. I kept on reading about forgiveness in the Qur'ān, and although I was very convinced, yet I still could not bring my heart to do it. A particular verse, in An-Nūr chapter (the light), moved me deeply:
"...and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that God should forgive you? And God is Forgiving and Merciful." (24 [An-Nūr]:22)
However, when you have been deeply hurt, you will not find this in any way possible to do, even if you desperately seek God's forgiveness. Sometimes anger stiffens the heart and gives you an illusionary feeling of strength that allows more fire to burn inside and bitterness to fester and totally take over your thinking. With more anger, disappointment, and lack of relief, we harbour more darkness and negativity. Sometimes we choose not to forget, to keep the pain alive. We choose not to forgive, as a silent way of avenging for our wounds.

It is so sad to watch how we sometimes make the wrong choices, carrying such heavy hearts loaded with bitterness and an inability to forgive. Despite being ordinary people who are inherently good, we allow dispute to break us apart and ruin even the good memories that used to be. We start to feel paralyzed, unable to make things better, because of the great pain, wronging, and abuse we've been exposed to. Sometimes, we might wish things were not as bad as they were, yet remain crippled with our wounds. I have seen when death approaches, how every angry memory just fades away. How foolish it is when life is that short to give up on people and surrender. But when you can do nothing, when words lose their meanings and promises lose their glow, when you are the one who has been wronged, what shall you do? You will have to go on and work on your heart. If you are a strong person, you will not surrender to the destructive thought of revenge. Yet, you stand in a fork, with two paths ahead. In both roads life will go on, as it always does. So, you can either walk on thorns that you keep watering, or save yourself.

For a while, I have chosen the first thorny path. I became so different from the one I used to be, like a butterfly that cannot fly anymore after her wings had been touched. I could no longer have the ability to embrace life with open arms or be the joyous person I used to be, I felt so incomplete. Even after getting over the sense of loss, something inside seemed to have been broken. It is no more the wronging that keeps nagging; it is this precious lost part of me that hurts the most. It is when I lost trust, when beauty became colourless, because I am no longer… myself. With a New Year unfolding, I wished I could start with a clear heart that has no memory. Yes life goes on, in whatever shape or form, but even when it does go on, we continue to keep our wounds bleeding by stepping barefooted on the poisoned wreckage of our own hearts.

Then I discovered that for me to lead a normal life, I have to get rid of the bitterness that is darkening my heart. It keeps growing pushing away all the light in its way, making everything looking bleak and colourless. I realized that for me to go on, I have to forgive first. I have to shatter the bitterness that is ruining me. Such darkness is smothering me, and I cannot carry it anymore. I choose to save myself. I do not want my heart to dry out. I do not want to end up with a heart of stone. I do not want Satan to win over me in this battle. I do not want any more loss.

"Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of God" (57 [Al-Hadīd]:16)

"Then why, when Our punishment came to them, did they not humble themselves? But their hearts became hardened, and Satan made attractive to them that which they were doing." (6 [Al-An'ām] :43)

Forgiveness is very hard to reach. It takes more strength than love does. It is easy to be angry; fire can eat up a whole forest in seconds, but it takes so long to put it out, and takes much longer to grow the forest back. We should learn how to reconcile with ourselves. If others do not appreciate you, learn to appreciate yourself first. If they have wronged you, do not wrong yourself by allowing bitterness to ruin your heart. Forgive others, for your own sake; for the light to befriend your heart again, for warmth to replace coldness, for beauty to overcome ugliness. God is Merciful, yet He is Just. Nothing goes down the drain, when things are left totally for Him to judge. I have learnt that anger is not strength. What takes more courage is to conquer your fear and beat your anger; to truly believe in God's comforting light, and that He will guide us throughout the journey.

"And be patient, [O Muammad], for the decision of your Lord, for indeed, you are in Our eyes. And exalt [God] with praise of your Lord when you arise." (52 [At-Tūr]:48)

"If you pardon and overlook and forgive - then indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful."(64 [At-Taghabun]:14)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Words of wisdom

Using up the present moment to be consumed with something that will happen in the future over which you have no control.

Using up the present moment to be consumed with something that already happened over which you no longer have control. People who are consumed with guilt chose that over taking action or learning from it. The guilty person cannot learn from mistakes. Learning from mistakes is not to be immobilized, depressed, or in despair over what happened. To get over a more grandeur and spiritual view of it you realize everything you did or everything that happened, happened for a reason; that there are no accidents, that all of those things that you did at a particular time had a lesson in them. So, look for the lesson.

There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.

Dr. Wayne Dyer
The Universe within You