7 Days to 28: Roots

Every time I look at this picture of my parents my heart expands because this was the beginning of their journey as a married couple. Being a third-culture kid I have questioned my sense of identity many times but when I think of my parents I realise what truly matters at the end of the day are the virtues and values they have passed down to my siblings and I.

Culture can be a beautiful thing but it's always evolving and moving in current with societal trends. That's why we need to be vigilant by adopting the good and leaving the bad aspects of culture. When I was in Malaysia I found it very hard to understand the behaviour of some Malaysians and Malays. I struggled a lot with people of bad adab (etiquette) and poor akhlaq (character) in Malaysia. So much so, almost in desperation I asked a religious scholar, "I really want to learn [how to have] good akhlaq because I don't think I will learn it here and I don't want to become like the people here. Should I go to Tarim?". I suggested Tarim because that's where my paternal ancestors are from. I was taken aback by his response: "There are good and bad people everywhere. Go to Tarim for ziyarah (a visit out of veneration) and to give sadaqah (charity) because the people there are very poor. But to learn good akhlaq, stay at home. Learn from home."

By that, he meant that he felt living with my family would suffice in terms of teaching me how to have good character. Coming from a man of his stature, I was really surprised but I also felt embarrassed because this also means that every time I don't behave with decorum I would be giving others a bad impression of my family. 

My father wasn't a perfect man and my mother isn't a perfect woman but I couldn't have asked for better parents. Not once did they teach my siblings and I to be selfish people. If my parents ever saw anyone who needed help - any kind of help - they were ever willing to reach out a helping hand or lend a listening ear.  My parents also never taught us to worship nor chase after status and money and  I believe because of that Allah always blessed us with enough (ما شاء الله). Sometimes too much, never too little but always enough. They've lived their life in a such a way that I've been surrounded by the richest and the poorest enough to know that being rich or poor doesn't automatically make you a good or bad person or a happy or unhappy person. Regardless of your background, it's how much you work on your character that determines the sort of person you become. It's important to take time to get to know people instead of assuming you know who they are based on your presumptions.

My parents emphasised on knowledge and travel, not to feed the ego, but to feed the soul. And they always reminded me to pray even though I wasn't a devoted Muslim as a teenager up until my early twenties. Today, my Mum continues to remind me to read the Qur'an often and to be charitable. Honestly, what can be better than a parent who is concerned for my well-being in this life and the hereafter? Nothing can replace a father and a mother's love.

If I ever need a reminder that God loves me I only have to think of my late father and my mother because I couldn't have been blessed with better parents who have taught me to value hard work, kindness, integrity, knowledge and sincerity above all else (الحَمْد لله).

On the topic of parents sharing their wisdom with their kids, I'd like to end with a few ayahs from my favourite surah. May Allah make us the coolness of our parents' eyes and grant our parents the highest level of Paradise. Ameen.

Surah Luqman (31: 1 - 34) by Fuad Koichi Honda
"[And Luqman said], "O my son, indeed if wrong should be the weight of a mustard seed and should be within a rock or [anywhere] in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Indeed, Allah is Subtle and Acquainted. 
O my son, establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and be patient over what befalls you; these are things to aspire to.
And do not turn your cheek [in contempt] toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.
And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys." (Surah Luqman, 31: 16-19)

This blog post series was inspired by Mark Gonzales (@ideasbygonzales) of wagebeauty.com who started his 40th birthday countdown by sharing a photo blog of reflections on his Instagram account last week. I view Gonzales as a kindred spirit and my brother in faith whose work not only compels me to be myself but to be the best version of myself.


Party of 5 said…
You're a great daughter and I think your parents taught you the most valuable of lessons.

Wan Melissa said…
What a beautiful article Shahirah! It brought tears to my eyes. We are so blessed to have been brought up by our parents.
Unknown said…
I can feel the pain when you met bad behaviour from Malaysians. I faced with the same thing when I first relocated here. I always asked whey they do that, why they are so bad.. Later, I realised that I had put expectation too high on them. I don't hate them any more, I just feel pity for them. Their minds are so closed, their eyes are so narrow. And it's true, human are full of sins. Ourself are not perfect too. We just need to look at things with kindness.
I hope that the goodness in them would perceive someday.