Taking Love to New Heights in Langkawi

Saturday, November 11, 2017

In awe of nature.
(Top: Poplook, Backpack: Gaston Luga - 25% off everything from 11 - 12 November 2017!)

I have always sought and created adventure in my life. Maybe it was all those Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl books I read as a little girl that made me like the feeling of wonder and a sense of triumph after overcoming a challenge (don't all adventures somehow include a challenge of some sort?). As an adult, I can see the wisdom in a child's love for play and adventure - they keep things in perspective. When I face something difficult I tell myself it's part of an adventure; meaning the tough part will be over eventually and at the end I will learn from the experience and victoriously rise above 💪😄 That's exactly how I coped during difficult days when I was on my Hajj pilgrimage. By the way, I promise a post about my recent Hajj trip is coming up!

I don't know if I've portrayed it enough on my blog but Malaysia is a tropical paradise and there are plenty of places and opportunities for adventure here. Langkawi has been one of my favourite holiday destinations in the last few years and to my surprise I haven't blogged about Langkawi at all. However, a very recent and memorable trip has changed that. 

Let's say it involves flying and I have photos and a video to prove it!

Trust the Timing of Your Life: A Journey Through New Zealand

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Timing is everything. Anyone who tells you otherwise has not met a person who spoke to their heart or come across a book or film that touched the depths of their soul. A little dramatic, I know, but it's the truth. A person who doesn't see grace in the timing of pivotal moments in their life has probably never realised their prayers have been answered in the most subtle and serendipitous of ways. Life is far from a bed of roses and someone somewhere will always act selfishly and unjustly, but should that be the only focus in our lives? We have to see things as they are, not worse than they are. Why not consider the good that might come from an unpleasant or unfair situation and do something constructive about it?

As I prepare to leave for the Hajj pilgrimage tomorrow I feel somewhat nostalgic and compelled to dedicate a post to Aotearoa. It is said people who are preparing for Hajj are also preparing for death. While the literal meaning of death is a possibility when we go for Hajj due to the sheer number of pilgrims, I think it is also symbolic of the death of the ego and the old self. When one performs the Hajj the hope is that they will go through a spiritual rebirth. A few months ago I wasn't sure if I'd be performing Hajj anytime soon but I trust the timing of my life. Nothing is a coincidence.

If I were to write my absolute final post, I want it to be about New Zealand for it has taught me much about God, life and humanity. It is/was a place of spiritual rebirth for me. I'd like to honour the beautiful Māori culture by sharing whakataukī (Māori proverbs) as captions for photos taken from a recent trip there.

Here's your occasional reminder from me: the world is a beautiful place.

Faith Friday: Divine Love or Self-Love?

Friday, May 12, 2017

"When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness." - Thich Nhat Hanh

What if I told you the only thing standing between you and happiness is self-love? "What about love and money?" you ask. Well... yes, they do help us create a fulfilling life but the key to having them is self-love.

What is self-love? 

The term 'self-love' initially made me uncomfortable but perhaps that was a sign that I didn't understand what it means to love myself. I associated self-love with selfishness, conceit, arrogance and complacency, things I strive to avoid and eliminate from my state of being. I used to think self-love was antithetical to Islam and the act of seeking divine love because it's a faith that is characterised by modesty, self-denial and humility, but I realised God said, "But those who committed misdeeds and then repented after them and believed - indeed your Lord, thereafter, is Forgiving and Merciful.... My Mercy encompasses all things" (Surah al-A'raf 153, 156). If God is Merciful towards us, we should be merciful towards ourselves too. We can still be kind to ourselves while being faithful, modest and humble. It's time to understand the differences between humility and self-deprecation and compassion and complacency. It's time we embrace and understand our humanness.

Today, I define self-love as self-compassion - the art of being kind to one self. It's simple but revolutionary because it involves a paradigm shift. 

Being kind to yourself is more than about being nice to yourself. Kindness entails honesty, authenticity, forgiveness, sincerity, gentleness and having good intentions. When someone is compassionate,  thoughtful, wants the best for us, sees the good and value in us and withholds judgment, they're being kind. What if we treated ourselves this way?

Our lack of compassion for ourselves and for others is the reason why the words uttered by Prophet Yunus remain a powerful supplication today: "There is no deity but You. Glory be to You! Verily, I have been among the wrongdoers/oppressors" (Surah Anbiya, 87). We don't have to choose between divine love and self-love because they are interdependent and interconnected. We oppress ourselves and others when we lack self-love. Why are we unkind to ourselves when everything God decrees or allows is out of His Wisdom and Mercy? Even when He allows us to go through hardships He is like a teacher who is giving us the lessons we need to succeed in life or a doctor who prescribes unpleasant tasting medicine for us to consume until we are better. The unpleasantness is only temporary. Who knows what great blessing you will receive in the future because of what you patiently endure today or because of what you've learned from your trials and hardships?

Is Sexual Harassment Real?: Victim vs. Victim Mentality

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Have you ever felt disempowered or discriminated because of your gender (think 'gender pay gap') or the intersectionality of your gender, sexuality, race and faith? Do you know what it feels like to have people dismiss your concerns and be told that looking attractive is the reason people of the opposite gender sexually harass or assault you?

Welcome to the world of women and women of colour. Don't get me wrong - I love being a woman and embracing my strengths as a woman but I won't pretend it's easy even though I know some of us make it look effortless. The art of being a woman in the 21st century consists of an overwhelming amount of pressure to have it all while facing the challenges of living in a world where masculinity and whiteness are set as the standard. It took me years to understand that sexual harassment or assault is not about desirability but power, control and a sense of self-entitlement. Yes, sexual harassment is real and no, wearing the hijab doesn't prevent it. It's the gender dynamics in our societies and cultures that makes the mistreatment of women pervasive or not.

Faith Friday: Silence: A Response to Today's Chaos and Disillusionment

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Everyone needs to find a spiritual practice that nourishes our inner garden. Silence is one of the best tools we have." 

In a world where social media are traps and echo chambers, hyper-partisan opinions dominate media discourse and lies are referred to as 'alternative facts' to serve state propaganda I have come to value silence.

The challenge today is to not become cynical and to preserve our humanness. To find our voice and not become drowned by other voices as we 'make space for the other'. To be empowered and to empower each other. To listen actively and compassionately instead of doing it to compete or debate. To read between the lines and see the how brokenness is at the core of many hurt and angry individuals. To bring light where there is darkness and that always begins with taking care of our inner light first.

"All too often people impose their own experience and beliefs on acquaintances and events, making hurtful, inaccurate and dismissive snap judgements, not only about individuals but about whole cultures." — Karen Armstrong on why we should 'make space for the other', Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

There isn't only one way to be strong but it's important to avoid despair, disillusionment and participating in harmful discourse by separating yourself from the chaos when you need to. Do we live in a depressing world or is the news simply depressing? One of the reasons I'm passionate about media and communications is because I see the power of media in our lives. They can inform us, emotionally move us, persuade us to desire goods and lifestyles and also distract us from reality/truth.

How I Learned to Love Again: The Forty Rules of Love

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My friend Chloe lent me a wonderful book called The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi written by Elif Shafak. Jalaludin Rumi has increasingly become one of my go-to sources of inspiration over the last few years and this has been particularly uplifting because I have struggled with some Muslims who can be harsh and sanctimonious. Additionally, as a Muslim woman I'm often exposed to personal attacks about my faith by people who don't understand it or even know who I am. It is a challenge to balance or to have harmony in my desire to have compassion for myself and for those who are ignorant, misinformed or sometimes downright judgemental. This book has helped me to revive my love for life, my faith and myself and I am here to share how it helped me to love again. Once you have tasted the sweetness of this love it is easier for kindness and compassion for oneself and others to ensue.

In The Forty Rules of Love, we are introduced to two narratives that have been juxtaposed to concurrently unfold into one enlightening and thought-provoking book in which forty inspiring rules of love are embedded for the reader to look forward to with the turn of every page. One story is about Ella, a Martha Stewart-like middle-aged Jewish woman who finds herself in a lifeless and loveless marriage and yearned to find her identity again in 2008 through a newly acquired job as a book script editor.

The more substantial story within the book is one about the life of Mawlana Jalaludin Rumi, a prominent 13th Century Islamic jurist and theologian who resided in Konya, Anatolia which is now known as Turkey and how he met his companion and soulmate, Shams Tabrizi, a travelling dervish, poet and philosopher from Tabriz in modern-day Iran. The Forty Rules of Love also uncovers how Ella comes across a man who caught her interest and made her wonder if he was her soulmate or not. Despite being two different stories set centuries apart they intertwine beautifully to show us that opposites have a way of revealing things that we may not have been able to see when they stand on their own.

7 Ways to Survive 2017

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Year affirmation by Hana @frizzkidart

Happy New Year! Congratulations on making it to 2017. The past twelve months have not been easy - I feel you. But hey, we made it this far for a reason and I know we'll go even further if we invest our energy towards love, positivity and productivity. Forget about surviving 2017, let's thrive in 2017. I have a few ideas on how we can do this.

1. Bloom where you are planted and stop believing you're not powerful enough.
One of my favourite quotes by Steve Jobs is this one: "The people who crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." When I look at the lives and personalities of successful individuals such as Jobs they all seem to have one thing in common: they are or were 'ordinary' people with extraordinary belief(s), drive and intentions.

Your mind is not only your greatest ally or enemy but it is also a 'training ground'. You must train it to be resilient by nourishing it with thoughts that foster confidence and a sense of purpose (e.g. "I am a unique gift to this world and I delight in sharing this gift."). Everyone has strengths to harness and weaknesses to work on. You have to believe that growth and learning is possible and part of life. We all have something beneficial to contribute in any situation or organisation.

Your unique gift, talents or skills + the power of the ripple effect = proof one person can make a difference

Pro-tip: Reading positive affirmations everyday is a great way to train your mind to be, well, more positive (sorry to be Captain Obvious here). I like these affirmations by Sarah Petruno but you can always personalise them to suit your needs. Gold Womyn makes really pretty ones too.

A Little Slice of Paradise in Krabi, Thailand

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On my 29th birthday this year, I was more than ready to not only celebrate but to restore balance in my life and create peace of mind after completing my Master's thesis. One of the insights I had gained during the stressful period of my postgraduate studies is to never neglect yourself and important relationships because you're busy, which is what I had done. Even when I had the time to relax or connect with others I wasn't able to be fully present in my mind because I was constantly worrying about work. Thankfully, as Maya Angelou once said, "When you know better you do better."

It took me a good four months to feel a sense a normalcy and lightness in my being once again. Personally, it was a persistent act of turning towards God whenever I felt I couldn't handle the weight of the world. Recovery, especially one involving the mind,  is not a passive process but one that requires conscious living, being kind to oneself, accepting change and being okay with non-linear progress.

In order to treat myself to a much-needed holiday, I hopped on a plane with my loved ones on 8th of September 2016. We chose Krabi, Thailand as our destination as we had not been there before and we had an incredible couple of days. I'd like to say the food was the best part of the trip because Thai cuisine is one of the best in the world in my opinion, but the scenic adventure and activities were the things that made our trip memorable. My happy place is a beautiful beach or island so being in Krabi and going island hopping there felt like I had tasted a little slice of Paradise. And one thing I really admired about Thailand is the refinement of its culture, which was reflected in our interactions with the locals who treated us with so much respect.

The proof is in the pudding, people! So here are some photos from the trip.

A Sky Full of Stars: Chris Martin & Sufism

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Turn your magic on,
Umi she'd say
Everything you want's a dream away
Under this pressure under this weight
We are diamonds taking shape. — 'Adventure of a Lifetime', Coldplay

I like intense and philosophical conversations, which is why I find myself drawn to two types of people: those who have the ability to move me with their intelligence, sincerity and honesty (to complement my intensity) and those with a wonderful sense of humour (to relieve me from my intensity). I am fortunate enough to say my friends consist of people with such traits. Anisah is one of them. I don't remember what we were talking about specifically but at one point she turned to me as she was driving and said, "You should listen to Chris Martin's interviews. Did you know he reads Rumi and fasts once a week?". (In Islam, it's a sunnah or Prophetic tradition to fast every Monday. By the way, noticed that he referenced Mos Def's song 'Umi Says'/'Mother Says' in 'Adventure of a Lifetime'?)

I don't think we should celebrate a non-Muslim's, white person's or Westerner's appreciation of Islam any more than we should of anyone else's but out of curiosity I watched a few interviews featuring Chris Martin and read a number of recent articles about him to find out what his deal was. I realised not only is he very creative but he is spiritual too. It's evident how Islamic or Sufi elements have influenced his song writing for Coldplay's latest albums, 'A Head Full of Dreams' and 'Ghost Stories'. In an LA Times  article, he admits to seeking 'teachers', including a Sufi teacher, to help him deal with his troubles and says 'he found solace in Rumi's words about accepting everything as a blessing'. He claims Rumi's poem, 'The Guest House', completely changed his life. In another interview he references 'The Conference of the Birds', a 12th century Persian and Sufi poem written by Fariuddin Attar.

Seek & You Shall Find: How I Found My Element & My Tribe

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Connecting with people who share the same passions affirms that you're not alone; that there are others like you and that, while many might not understand your passion, some do... Finding your tribe brings the luxury of talking shop, bouncing ideas around, of sharing and comparing techniques, and indulging your enthusiasms and hostilities for the same things." - Ken Robinson

Ever since I was young I was a little different from my classmates and those my age, in general. Being the youngest in my family and having siblings who are more than ten years older than me might have something to do with it. On the outside I dressed and talked like my peers and we even shared the same interests but my values were slightly different. While girls my age were into designer bags and clothes I was more interested in the creativity that went into making them. I was curious about why certain types of beauty were featured in fashion and lifestyle magazines and others weren't. When I was 15-years-old I wrote a long email to Eh! magazine and asked them why they only featured women with straight hair as the ideal representation of Malaysian beauty. I didn't know anyone else in my social circle who would do such a thing that's why I was so happy to see these girls on television a few months ago. I hope other young girls will look at them and know it's okay to be smart, inquisitive and different.

Varsity life was a lot more exciting for me because my friends were more diverse in terms of age, religion, background and ethnicity. Today, the university environment is probably still one of the few places I feel I can be myself but have my intellectual abilities challenged at the same time. Perhaps that's why I felt a strong urge to return to school and pursue my Master's degree. But another reason was because I was in search of my 'tribe'.

Why You Should Drop Everything, Move to a Different City and Start a New Life

Thursday, July 28, 2016

 "Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile… initially scared me to death." - Betty Bender

If you were intrigued by the title of this post it's because it appealed to a desire within you to change or get away from a particular situation in your life, be it a job or career path, the place you live, a relationship or lack thereof. Like you, I wanted change and I had always intended to pursue my Master's degree. Hence, off I went to Wellington, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with two large suitcases, to live by myself for the first time. This post isn't really about why I think you should quit your job or leave your partner and pack your bags to start a new life. It's about why facing your fears, going into the unknown and taking risks isn't only necessary but also inevitable if you want  a meaningful and fulfilling life. It's not that you shouldn't be grateful for what you already have. In fact, having more is rarely the solution. What I'm saying is, I understand the desire to do and be better.

Fearless. Confident. High-spirited. These words are often associated with extroverts like me. There's truth in it but we also have moments of self-doubt and we face a set of challenges unbeknownst to people around us. In the midst of writing my thesis I often thought to myself, "What did I get myself into? Can I really do this? I've invested so much time and money. Maybe I should have just stayed in KL." But being a big believer in not waiting for things to happen to me and trying my best to embrace challenges instead of running away from them is why I can say I have few regrets in life, if any at all (not because I don't make mistakes but I don't like to dwell on them).

My willingness to take risks is why I can reflect on the last 20 months of my life in Wellington and my postgraduate journey and take heed from the important lessons I've learned about myself and others. It's also the reason I can say I've discussed the Israeli government's rhetoric with prominent Palestinian activist Ali AbuNimah, rubbed shoulders with Oddisee (literally) and had Sonny Bill Williams take a selfie with my phone ;) In all seriousness, without risks, challenges and mistakes we might not get hurt, have regrets or endure hardships but we would also never grow as individuals as we would be missing out on life-changing and rewarding experiences and relationships. Maybe instead of thinking of what you want to do as something that is risky, why not perceive it as an opportunity of a lifetime?

Not convinced? Totally understandable! This is why I've compiled a list of things I hope you'll consider before making a bold decision.

Faith Friday: The Grateful Slave

Friday, June 17, 2016

When I moved to Wellington in late 2014, one of the first places my friends Chloe and Ali took me to was a second-hand bookstore called 'Pegasus' on Cuba Street. Time has passed and now, Chloe and Ali are in Jordan where they are both studying Arabic and Chloe is running her Etsy store selling Islamic art-inspired digital art prints, colouring pages, and craft projects.

The cutest couple I know, Ali and Chloe (تبارک اللہ)

Anyway, when I was with them at the bookstore I purchased a book called 'The Conference of the Birds' by Farid ud-Din Attar (translated by C.S. Nott) which was neatly tucked away in the Sufi section. The book contains many gems of wisdom that I refer to from time to time when I'm not caught up with my research. As we are in the middle of the blessed month of Ramadan and today is Friday, a most noble day, I'd like to share one of the stories within the book that taught me a lesson about gratitude.