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I Know What You Did Last Year…

last-year

 

Published On Productive Muslim
On December 25th, 2016

 

Now I must admit I can’t help but wonder what was the first thing that came to your mind when you read this title. Maybe you heard the notoriously shocking ‘Dan Dan Daaaaaaa’ sound in you head and freaked out a little bit coz the title reminded you of that popular series of horror movies. Or maybe it triggered you to frantically search the secret box inside your brain. Because let’s say I actually did know about something you did that I wasn’t supposed to know about, it will probably give you one of these three feelings:

  • Disappointment: You did something really good and gave up your bragging rights for the sake of Allah, and you’re worried anyone finding out about it might take away from your extra credit for secret good deeds (If that’s the case, touché, you’re one of the very special few! And we all hate you!)
  • Fear: You did something really bad. Like really bad! Your heart is beating fast; you’d rather be transformed into a toilet brush than face the humiliation of people discovering it.
  • Confusion: There were hardly any special or tormenting events; it was basically a numbingly mundane year. Nothing good, nothing bad. And now you’re just staring at me blankly trying to remember: “What did I do?”

 

 

We might block them out, but we all have all kinds of secrets, some of them so deep and dark we bury them in the woods of our minds like murderers burying their victims’ corpses. Then we wait and hope no one ever finds out about them. And the more respected, ‘looked-up-to’ and well mannered we are, the better we get at covering our crimes. Like this woman who doesn’t miss a single prayer, you’ll never guess she’s rude and yells at her senile mom when no one is around. And this man who quotes ‘hadiths’ every chance he gets, well, he chats inappropriately with loose women online. This straight A’s teenager waits till his parents go to sleep and spends hours watching porn! Because as it turns out, inside every person you know, there’s a person you don’t know, capable of doing the unspeakable! You’d think that’s way creepier than any horror movie, but it’s not. There’s more..

 

I recently underwent major eye surgery (which involves a donated eyeball but I’ll be kind and spare you the gory details). Anyways, I was literally blind for a while. Making myself a cup of coffee felt like a bigger achievement than winning the longest marathon.

At the Olympics.

Four years in a row.

With one leg.

Attached to a life support machine.

And carrying two kids on my back. (Okay I’m kidding LOL).

 

So yeah, since you need your eyesight to perform about 90% of your daily activities, I literally felt useless for a long time. I now have a newfound respect for the blind who are still joyful and productive mashAllah. That’s when I realized there’s something even worse than bad habits and dark secrets. There’s one thing that tears us apart more than disappointment, guilt, self-loathing and fear put together. And that’s the numbness of doing nothing at all.

 

What you do when you think no one is looking essentially defines who you are, and basically maps out your entire future. Some people choose to do anonymous acts of kindness and pile up on the good deeds, while others do horrible things and hope they’ll get away with it. In both scenarios the operative word is ‘do’. Then there’s a third group of people who don’t do nothing, they just eat popcorn and watch. They watch other people, watch TV and YouTube, or just watch their lives pass them by. They feel no fear, joy or pain. Achievements don’t motivate them and mistakes don’t teach them. They’re not one of those cultivating success ‘Muflehoon’, or those seeking redemption through repentance “Tawaboon’. They’re blind even though their eyesight is intact and can make themselves a cup of coffee no problem! They’re the ‘Ghafeloon’, they’re oblivious to their good and bad deeds. Like zombies, they feel nothing at all.

 

At least there’s a chance to learn from mistakes and fix them eventually. The power of guilt and stress can push you to take the driving wheel and exit the wrong highway. But spending day after day in your comfort zone, going through the same motions, having the same small talk with your co-workers, the same arguments with your spouse or parents, watching movie after movie till your eyes fall out, spending hours on Facebook and Snap Chat, and counting how many followers you have on Instagram and Twitter. Granted there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s nothing right either. The mere concept of being busy ‘killing’ time is in itself a huge crime! (Cheesy metaphor I know but I couldn’t help it LOL)

 

Being a ‘watcher’ does not change the fact there’s a surveillance camera documenting your every move. You yourself are being watched all the time. Even your most, well kept secrets are known to Allah. So look closely at your life and tell me, what do you see? The great scholar Ibn ‘Ata Allah said, “If you want to know your standing with Him, look at the state He has put you in now”. There’s an inescapable paradigm shift in those words. They make you pause and reassess the bigger picture! Some people live to make a difference and some people are indifferent to their own lives they just squander it away. Some people keep their eyes on the goal and others are blinded by distractions. So be honest with yourself and find out exactly where He put you. Are you satisfied with who you are? Do you only have horrible secrets with Allah, and that’s why you’re too ashamed you end up running away from Him to a lifeless life? Do you let yourself feel the power of secret good deeds and use it in times of need? Because that’s what it all boils down to; snapping out of zombie mode and ‘feeling your feelings’ will magically make the right path appear right before you. And you’ll see that many times, one small thing done solely for the sake of Allah can cancel out all the nothingness that fills your life.

 

Listen to this amazing story:

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Three men, amongst those who came before you, set out until night came and they reached a cave, so they entered it. A rock fell down from the mountain and blocked the entrance of the cave. They said: ‘Nothing will save you from this unless you supplicate to Allah by virtue of a righteous deed you have done.’ Thereupon, one of them said: ‘O Allah! I had parents who were old, and I used to offer them milk before any of my children or slaves. One day, I went far away in search of grazing and could not come back until they had slept. When I milked as usual and brought the drink I found them both asleep. I hated to disturb them and also disliked to give milk to my children before them. My children were crying out of hunger at my feet but I awaited with the bowl in my hand for them to wake up. When they awoke at dawn, they drank milk. O Allah! If I did so to seek Your Pleasure, then deliver us from the distress caused by the rock’. The rock moved slightly but they were unable to escape.

 

The next said: ‘O Allah! I had a cousin whom I loved more than any one else I wanted to have sexual intercourse with her but she refused. Hard pressed in a year of famine, she approached me. I gave her one hundred and twenty dinars on condition that she would yield herself to me. She agreed and when we got together she said: Fear Allah and do not break the seal unlawfully. I moved away from her in spite of the fact that I loved her most passionately; and I let her keep the money I had given her. O Allah! If I did that to seek Your Pleasure, then, remove the distress in which we are.’ The rock moved aside a bit further but they were still unable to get out.

 

The third one said: ‘O Allah! I hired some laborers and paid them their wages except one of them departed without taking his due. I invested his money in business and the business prospered greatly. After a long time, he came to me and said: O slave of Allah! Pay me my dues. I said: All that you see is yours – camels, cattle, goats and slaves. He said: O slave of Allah! Do not mock at me. I assured him that I was not joking. So he took all the things and went away. He spared nothing. O Allah! If I did so seeking Your Pleasure, then relieve us of our distress.’ The rock slipped aside and they got out walking freely”.

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

 

I’m sure this wasn’t a bedtime story. Our beloved Prophet was trying to teach us a timeless lesson through this Hadith. For in times of desperation, you’ll want to use every tool in the box. When you’re broken, weak and utterly desperate, trust me, you’ll want to use your secret righteous deeds to plead and beg Allah for help. And it will work, just like it did for these three men. But now, do we really have secrets with Allah good enough to get us through the bad times? Which one would you have related had you been in that cave? I’ve been asking myself this very question for God knows how long now and I’m still absolutely clueless! But that’s okay coz as long as we are breathing, there’s still time. There’s time to figure it out, to do more, and be more! And while I honestly have no idea what you did last year, I think I know what you will do from now on, and it involves greatness.

This is not the end; it’s the beginning of a new year crowned with amazing possibilities.

May it be filled with beautiful secrets….

 

Lilly S. Mohsen.

 

 

 

 

 

Are You The One?

Throwback Hajj 2015
Published on On Islam

door kabah.jpg

Hajj Diary: Day Five

Turns out they weren’t kidding when they said we wouldn’t have time to breathe. After eight long hours in the bus, we finally arrived in Mecca in a state of Ihram. We chanted “Labayk Allahuma Labayk” the whole way! And it was SO nice!

We also stopped at a very primitive, hygiene-deficient, dungeon of a rest house to pray and use the bathrooms! But can we please not talk about this part? Call me spoiled but I think I’m scarred for life!

I’ll save you the gory details. Just know you guys are lucky to be heart-Hajjis when it comes to this part of the journey!

No I mean it, we are not gonna talk about it! End of story. (Hey! You! No debating in Hajj!)

Anyways, once we arrived at the hotel, someone pushed the fast-forward button on our journey, and the new catch phrase became: “Come on let’s go let’s go LET’S GO!”

We headed off to the haram to start the rites of Hajj and to be perfectly honest, walking into the Holy place and seeing the cranes, construction workers and annoying partitions, I suddenly felt a bit disappointed. I kept my head down as my brother miraculously infiltrated us through the huge crowd, and then when we finally reached the tawaf area, I felt like a soft invisible hand slowly lift my chin up… And my eyes were glued open…

I saw it…

The Ka’bah…

And the glorious magnificent sight of it pierced right through my heart with a million rays of shimmering light…

No matter how many times you’ve visited Mecca. Seeing the Ka’bah each time is exactly like seeing it the first time!

How can I explain this?

If Madina is peace and serenity, Mecca is…

Intense… Powerful… Awe-inspiring! Especially in these blessed days….

Even the imam welled up during Isha prayer and choked on his tears while reciting Quran out loud from the intensity of the soul-captivating energies emitting from the beautiful House of God…

(Wait, I’m not sure if that was a secret. But we all heard him, so that’s not gossiping right?)

A little bit later, amidst the heat waves of summer nights in Mecca, it started to rain…

I think even the sky is overwhelmed by the yearning hearts coming from all around the world to please Allah… The Most Merciful…

Sometimes I wonder if non-Muslims watch the rituals of Hajj on TV and think we are a bunch of cucko-heads dressed in white towels and doing ring-a-roses around a black box!

Let them think what they want…

Because what we feel now is worth a lifetime of bliss. What we see and do and say is done with love beyond measures…

What we believe in is what keeps us grounded, hopeful and at peace…

At this exact moment… Some people are off partying wildly somewhere. They’re living it up and chasing meaningless, temporary pleasure. But the minute they’re alone with their hearts, they cry out screams of despair. They feel empty inside… Running after a mirage with no goal or end in mind.

But here…

Once you’re done each ritual, oh the feeling you get… It’s surreal… It’s like drinking cold water on a hot sizzling day or finding a loved one safe after an earthquake….

There’s no emptiness here… Only joy and peace…

Close your eyes and feel the vibes of blessings coming down from the sky. Push the fast forward button on your busy life and tell me… How would you like your story to end?

Or rather where would you like your eternal life to begin…?

Being here in this Holy place gives us a new perspective… That man in wrinkled and torn clothes praying next to you, and that old woman sleeping on the floor coz she has no place to stay… All these people lifting their hands up to the Great Lord… I paused and eavesdropped on their prayers, knowing they probably have a lot to ask. But they’re not asking for fancy cars or money to buy a new laptop or designer purses. Sit here and listen to the whispers and feel their hot desperate tears…

They’re all asking for one thing… For Allah to love them…

That’s it…

For Allah to accept them as His salves…

I swear I feel so small and insignificant here…

And the only thing that keeps me hopeful is that I have all your hearts here with me…

Perhaps one of you is so beloved to Allah that for his or her sake, He will generously accept us all…

Maybe because of a sincere intention or a loving teardrop or even a kind word, Allah chose you amongst His beloved slaves…

Millions of prayers could be answered tonight because of one beloved heart…

Your heart…

So look inside it and tell me…

Are you the one…?

 

Your Hajj Representative
Lilly S. Mohsen

 

See you tomorrow in Arafat ishAllah. Don’t miss out on fasting on this beautiful blessed day…

Walk The Walk With Me

Throwback, Hajj 2015
Published exclusively on On Islam

Kabah.jpg

Hajj Diaries: Day Three

Life is so very different here. The city literally pauses five times a day, at the beautiful sound of the call to prayer. Everything closes down completely and the Holy mosque is the only place vibrating with life. You’d be talking to someone all absorbed in an important conversation, and then suddenly you both stop, face the Qiblah, and start walking. As if we are spiritually hypnotized. I can talk about this Holy place forever, but someone just tapped me on the shoulder, inviting the whole Hajj group to the meeting room for instructions on the rites of Pilgrimage. I gotta go!

(Pssssstttttt one more thing! The mosque is surrounded with pigeons all day, and yet you NEVER see any bird droppings! Coincidence? I think not!!)

Okayyyyy I’m coming! Sorry guys, I really gotta go!

 

The leader quiets us down and then starts explaining. Of course you’re part of the group! You’re heart Hajjis this year, right? Come on in

“Attention people! Listen up!

Starting the 9th of Dhul Hajjah, you barely have time to breathe! The rites of Hajj will commence one after the other so fast it will make your head spin! And yes, say goodbye to sleep! (Yeah, Hajj is a form of Jihad. What did you guys except?)

But don’t panic. Please take your seats while I explain the process briefly. There’s snacks and refreshments in the hall on your way in, so please help yourselves…

Okay so here it goes:

Step one: Begin Ihram and head off to Umrah

Circumambulation:

I often wondered why we walk around the Kaabah seven times in an anti-clock wise motion. But this year, being your Hajj representative and all, it was time to get some answers!

Do you ever walk into a place, like a green park or a white room, take a deep breath, and say “wow I feel so peaceful here”

Okay, multiply that by a gazillion times and you’ll understand what’s it like to be near the Kaabah. The House of God is located on a blessed spot, in the zero magnetism zone. Once you circumambulate around it anti clock wise, the same direction the entire universe rotates, your whole system is charged with positive energy.

The layers of earth are seven, so are the heavens. And just like each key has a different number of ridges to open a certain door, I personally believe, rotating around the Kaabah seven times opens the doors to a blessed life on earth and an eternal abode in Paradise…

Saei: Walk The Walk

Next comes the seven walks or the “saei” between mount Safa and mount Marwa, another rite of umrah and hajj. It is to honor lady Hajjar, who walked the seven walks hoping to find water for her thirsty baby, and then behold! The eternal blessed spring of Zamzam erupts.

The word “saei” roughly translates to: the effort exerted to attain something great. Is that perhaps a reflection of our lives too? We do “saei” every day, working hard to do good deeds and avoid sins. Life is just an attempted effort to reach our version of “divine water in the middle of the desert”. We walk the walk in life, knowing that one day, we will be rewarded  too… With eternal paradise inshallah

Once you’re done both sets of walks, you go drench your heart and soul with Zamzam water and pray two rakas then prepare for Arafat, the best day in the history of days…

But wait…

Don’t go…

Take a minute to listen to the sound of the surreal silence of this “overcrowded with millions of people” Holy mosque…

Stare at the Ka’bah…Quench this thirst in your soul you never knew existed till this moment.

The feeling you have now, seeing it up close and personal can never be described in human words…

It’s a mix of awe, shock, serenity, security, and detachment from the world. You feel your soul is being slowly disconnected from your body and tied with an eternal bliss to this beautiful velvet covered House of God.

The rush of emotions in this place is overpowering…

And it makes me wonder… If a place on earth is so heavenly to the point that you wouldn’t wanna blink and miss a second of its view… If the reality of being near the Ka’bah is more enchanting and captivating than any dream… I wonder…what is paradise like…?

 

Your Hajj Representative

Lilly S. Mohsen

Hajj Diaries: Lilly In Mecca

Throwback, Hajj journey 2015
Published exclusively on On Islam

Medina1.jpg

Day One Dairy: Friday

Can I Represent You For 7 Days?

Before you answer that question let me tell you something:

There’s approximately 1.8 Billion Muslims in the world today. And because of the capacity limit of the great Holy mosque in Mecca, only 3 million people out of the 1.8 billion can perform Hajj every year. If you do the boring math, you’ll realize that’s only 0.0016% of the Ummah. If you do more boring math, you’ll be shocked to know, that even if every Muslim gets a fair chance to fulfill their Hajj obligation, which is one of the main pillars in Islam, they’d have to wait more than a hundred years for their turn. Some people will live and die before having the chance to perform Hajj! Not because they’re sick or old or can’t afford it! But simply because of capacity limitations. Now that really sucks, doesn’t it?

Millions of Muslims apply for Hajj visas every year and get rejected. Millions can’t afford it, can’t take a leave from work, have little kids they can’t leave behind or are physically unable to travel. I know Hajj is only an obligation for those who are able, but just looking at these number and odds, it doesn’t seem fair to me! Less than 1% of Muslims get to be reborn through Hajj, sometimes every year, while others have zero chance!

 

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) on a Jihad journey, said “We left many Muslims behind and yet they’re with us in every step and share the same rewards. All because they wished to join us but couldn’t…”

 

Is there perhaps a different kind of Hajj that you can do EVERY single year with your heart, and get the same reward of those who are physically there? Is your sincere intention and longing to please the Lord, enough to fulfill this one, out-of-reach pillar?

Yes, I think so too… Coz Allah is Fair, and He’s the Most Merciful

Try as you may, you’ll never understand the virtue and value of the first ten days of Dhul Hajjah, whether you’re in Mecca or at home. If you’re one of those people, who turn on the TV and watch the floods of white-dressed pilgrims circumbulate the Kaa’ba and hear your heart cry out “Awwwhhh I WISH I WAS THERE”

Then welcome! I’m glad to tell you, you’re in the right place. Please leave your heart in the Lobby along with your consent for me to take it with me. My name is Lilly. S Mohsen, and I will be your representative for the next 7 days inshAllah.

Did I mention I’m one of those lucky 0.016%?

Okay wait, don’t start mumbling jealous words yet. I’m sitting here in the beloved’s mosque in Madina, overwhelmed and humbled by this gift from Allah, and wishing you were all here with me….then I thought “you all can!”

All you need to do is have the intention. A true sincere and genuine intention to come to Hajj this year, have all your past mistakes deleted and start over a new page.

No cheating guys! I’m in a holy place, remember? I’ll know if your intentions are from the heart or not and then you’ll be SO busted! (Actually I won’t know. But I’ll still pretend I do!)

 

All I’m asking is for you to let go of the worldly distractions for a few days. Believe it with every cell in your body that this year, you can do Hajj with your heart…

 

As for me, I’ll walk you through the journey inshAllah during the coming days, which Allah testifies are the best days of the year and the most loved to Him. I’ll take your hearts with me every where I go, and on judgement day, if you’ve never had the chance to do your Hajj physically, I’ll be your faithful witness that in 2015, you came with your heart…

 

There’s a reason Allah inspired me with this thought, right here, sitting next to His beloved’s house. There’s a reason you’re reading this now and your heart is being opened slowly…

Perhaps it’s the only reason Allah invited me to His house, knowing how imperfect and undeserving I might be of this huge honor…

It’s because Allah loves you… And right now… He is looking at your heart…

 

May Allah accept your spiritual Hajj…

Let’s get this beautiful journey started…

 

Your Hajj Representative

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

Inside The Therapist’s Office: Final Episode

Office

 

“Is everything okay?” I heard Maggie ask her dad on the phone. He’d been calling non-stop during our session. It was obviously an urgent matter.

“WHAT!” Maggie screamed.

She was snow-white pale when she dropped her cell phone to the ground and froze in place….

 

Three months later….

 

“Oh don’t remind me!” I covered my face. “I was this close to calling an ambulance that day! I thought something horrible had happened” I said.

“I know I’m sorry!” Maggie giggled. “I’m a drama queen! I can’t help it!”

“You don’t say!” Her father feigned a shocked look while wrapping his arm around her lovingly.

Maggie’s whole family was here to bid me farewell before their big journey. It was more of a social visit than a session, and I must admit I was beyond touched to see all of them again; Maggie, her son Adam, her father Mr. Ramzy, his wife Hannah and her mom Lila.

 

“I was shocked too! I never thought my dream of going to Hajj would come true so soon!” Hannah marveled. “We’re all so very blessed!”

 

They really were….

Hannah found out her mom stayed away fearing her expensive meds would be a financial burden on her daughter after all she’d been through. But Allah sent Maggie to Lila to take care of her…

 Lila kept an eye on her daughter from far, and was the reason for Maggie and Hannah to meet. That’s how Allah listened to Maggie’s prayers and gifted her with a new sister.

 And Maggie’s son Adam was Allah’s gift to Hannah after the miscarriage. Her genuine love for him melted Mr. Ramzy’s heart, and that’s when Hannah accepted his second proposal.

 

Mr. Ramzy later found out about Lila’s kindness to his daughter Maggie, despite what he did! He personally went to apologize and brought Lila back to live with the whole family in his mansion.

 And surprisingly, Adam did not quit therapy. He kept coming back to learn more about Islam, and gave his Grandpa the idea of starting a charity foundation to help orphans. He’s the one who encouraged Hannah to seek therapy, too, and that’s how the truth finally came out bringing with it the hope of a ‘happy ever after’. Mr. Ramzy is taking his whole family to Hajj, hoping to open a new page in the Holy land of Mecca…

 

“I’m totally stoked! Mom can’t remind me of how messed up I was or of the hard times I gave her these past few years EVER AGAIN! A clean slate is a clean slate! Everything else is erased” Adam said.

 

“But isn’t it kinda unfair only rich people get a sinless, spotless, fresh start, just because they can afford to go to Hajj?” Hannah asked.

“I’m not rich and I’m still going inshAllah!” Lila, the old nanny said happily. “When the Lord of the worlds invites you to His house, He will make sureyou get there!”

“Pilgrimage doesn’t delete your past unconditionally!” I said. “ People going to Hajj must settle their loans, their disputes and make peace with people before leaving, otherwise they still carry thus burden till Judgment Day.

 

“Exactly! Because you don’t hurt Allah when you wrong yourself. That’s why He erases those sins easily. But when you hurt His creations, it’s between you and them. You better rectify it before it’s too late!” Mr. Ramzy explained.

“You see, this is what the fifth pillar of Islam is all about; it’s a rehearsal for the real thing!” I continued.

“What do you mean?” Hannah asked.

“Going to Hajj is like a run through or a practice for the afterlife” Adam said. “You say goodbye, leave your family and money behind, and wear the exact outfit you’ll be buried in. You’re then transported to a different place the same way people will carry you to the grave. And when you’re doing tawaf around the Ka’bah, you’ll look around and realize you’re just like everyone else. Gone is the fame, the wealth, the style and top-notch education! You’re standing in a public place amidst millions of other Muslims, and yet it’s you’re overwhelmed with how personal this whole experience feels, just like on the Day of Judgment when you’ll be questioned alone about your previous life!”

“Okay stop! You’re scaring me!” Maggie panicked.

“No sweet heart!” Lila held her hand. “We all need to hear this! How can we prepare for the inevitable if we’re too afraid to talk about it?”

“Have you ever been in love Maggie?” I asked.

“Yes” She blushed.

“When you love someone, you want to run to them! You want to please them and stay by their side forever. Fear is not in the equation, even when you make a mistake!

 

“You know your beloved will forgive and embrace you with all your imperfections!” Hannah continued with tears in her eyes. “Those who truly love Allah, crave this meeting, because they know Him! They trust in His Mercy, Kindness and Compassion!. They spend their whole lives fixing themselves in preparation for this meeting… He is all what they think about! Death is not scary when you’re craving to meet the Beloved…” Hannah said.

Now it was my turn to well up! I couldn’t believe how far along Hannah had come! We were all mesmerized and so proud of her!

“What if you’re not ready?” Mr. Ramzy asked.

“I believe the ones He personally invites to visit His house will come back transformed after this overwhelming rehearsal for the Hereafter. This whole experience will definitely compel us to start getting ready!” Lila replied.

“Hajj is a spiritual journey more than anything! It’s a shift in perspective that will change your life forever!” Hannah smiled.

There’s captivating beauty in strong foundations. The first pillar of fully trusting Allah leads to the second; the desperate need to connect with Him through praying. This bond waters the love inside of us for Him and His creations, leading to the third pillar; Zakat, in which helping others makes us happy. It also takes us out of our comfort zone into the outside world, and that’s when we need ‘taqwa’ or protection to prevent us from going astray, which is done through fasting, the forth pillar of Islam. Ace all of that and you’re ready for the final pillar, the gift of rebirth….

“And we will all be as pure as newborn babies! That’s so cute!” Maggie giggled and everyone laughed.

“So trust, connection, helping others, prevention and then you’re reborn and ready to meet your Lord!” Adam recapped.

“And it goes the other way too!” I challenged him.

“Yes! When you experience the purity of rebirth, you’re more determined to develop a shield with fasting to protect yourself from sins. This will pull you towards the goodness of giving charity, and once you see the joy on people’s faces, you’ll run back to thank and connect to their Creator through salah, and that bond will strengthen your faith and trust in Allah more and more!”

 

“Perfection!” I applauded the bright young man. “But why is ‘salah’, the second pillar of Islam, considered to be the backbone of religion and without it nothing counts?” I asked.

“Oh I know this one! Because many people can’t fast, or have enough money to give charity or go to Hajj but everyone can pray!” Maggie said excitedly.

“Because praying combines all five pillars in one!” Adam explained wisely. “You recite the shahada every salah. You take time away from work to pray; time you give up instead of using it to make money, which is zakat for yourself. And during salah you abstain from drinking, eating and other worldly desires. like fasting. And finally you face the Ka’bah, which is like a spiritual journey to Hajj. See? Five in one!”

“Oh Adam! This was amazing! Whoever raised you did a wonderful job!” Maggie hugged her son and everyone one laughed again.

“We better get going! We have taken up so much of your time!” Mr. Ramzy addressed me as he got up to leave.

“Well, it’s my pleasure sir. I hope you’ll remember my loved ones and I in your du’aa inshAllah!” I smiled.

“Any pearls of wisdom before we go, Lilly?” Hannah asked softly.

“Yes please! Give us one final advice on how to be happy and prevent heartache!” Maggie pleaded.

“If you’re on a flimsy raft in the middle of the sea, would you be scared when the waves get high?” I asked.

“Terrified!” They both replied.

“How about if you were aboard a grand ship?” I asked again.

“We’ll be a lot more calmer!” Mr. Ramzy added.

“Life is like an unpredictable sea!” I said. “Controlling or even avoiding the high waves is practically impossible! The sea will never settle, and the hardships will never cease. All you can do is build a stronger ship. The same waves that might flip the raft will hardly affect you!”

“The farther the destination, the stronger the ship must be” Lila added.

“And we’re aiming for Jannah! We need a ship with super powers to get through this life!” Maggie joked.

“Once you keep your eye on the purpose, distractions won’t interest you Maggie! Obstacles will be challenges and mistakes will become valuable lessons!” Hannah said.

“Like a poor man who discovers he’ll receive his inheritance of a billion dollars in a year!” Mr. Ramzy explained. “He will stop wailing and complaining about the same dire circumstances because there’s something to look forward to! That’s the beauty of Islam…. There’s an ultimate goal and all the hardships in this life actually bring us closer to it!”

“But how do we build a stronger ship to survive a storm?” Adam asked.

“With strong foundations” I smiled. “The five pillars of Islam….”

 

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside The Therapist’s Office: Episode One

Published on Productive Muslim
9th June, 2016

 

Office

Fidgeting with her fingers, it was obvious she was very agitated. And why wouldn’t she be?

Sitting here with a complete stranger talking about your worst fears, your sordid past and shattered dreams. It takes a toll on a person. We’re trained to run away from scary things, but today, this anxious woman was asked to face and stare at her fears while sipping herbal tea with her therapist.

“So you mentioned you stayed up all night ‘googling’ your symptoms. Did your research yield any results?” I asked.

“I kept waiting for the word ‘cancer’ to flash on the screen. I’m going crazy! I’ve seen twelve different doctors so far and they all insist I’m physically healthy and should seek therapy instead!” Hannah replied. “So here I am!”

“I suppose since your scans and labs came back clean, your doctors had to explore other options to find the source of your sickness. But now the question is, do you trust they all did their best to help you?”

“I don’t trust anyone!” Hannah crossed her arms and looked away. “I learnt my lesson the hard way, a very long time ago….”

 

He was her high school sweet heart and the love of her life. They got married as soon as they both graduated and after years of feeling like a stranger in this world, Hannah was finally happy, like she had finally found a safe home. Nothing mattered as long as they were together. With no financial support from neither of their families, they both worked hard to make ends meet. But as years went by, the stress burst their beautiful love bubble and left them dangerously exposed to the sharp edges of responsibilities and frustration, especially after her husband got laid off, and Hannah had to take extra shifts waitressing at a restaurant to pay off their debts.

“Can you at least acknowledge the fact that I’m speaking to you?” Hannah sighed during dinner.

“I’m hoping if I ignore you, you’d get the point and shut up!” Rasheed scoffed. “You make it sound like I’m the lazy idiot husband who’d rather stay at home and watch TV instead of find a job! I AM trying Hannah!”

“But it’s been eight months! I’m exhausted! I thought it was the man’s job to take care of his wife! You’re obviously following the footsteps of your father!” Hannah yelled.

The few words they exchanged turned into another huge fight, ending with Rasheed throwing his glass cup at the wall and storming out. Hannah sat motionless in the corner staring at the floor. That’s exactly how her dreams looked like now; shattered into a million pieces like this broken glass. It wasn’t until sunrise when Rasheed came back home that she finally realized; it wasn’t love that held them together anymore. It was fear. The tremendous fear of losing him and being all alone.

 

“Didn’t we have stew yesterday?” Rasheed asked still half asleep. That’s all he seemed to do lately; out all night and asleep all day.

“Yes! I’m sorry! But until you find a job we need to tighten our belts a bit and start saving!”

“Am I in the mood for your nagging shift? Ummm no!” Rasheed said sarcastically.

“We barely buy anything yet we run out of money by mid month! Where does it all go?” Hannah asked.

“I can’t do this anymore. I’m outta here!” Rasheed got up to change and leave.  

Walking away was what he did best. This wasn’t the man she fell in love with. He even looked different! He’d become depressed, irritable and scrappy, and she had been patient for way too long and now was the time for a serious talk! Enraged by his carelessness, after a couple of hours of him ignoring her calls, Hannah grabbed her purse and rushed outside to find her husband. But she took a fall down the stairs and ended up in the hospital instead.

 

“He didn’t know I was pregnant” Hannah cried softly, as I handed her another tissue. “I lost the baby and the doctors informed me my injuries affected my reproductive system and it would be impossible for me to have anymore children. A couple of months later, Rasheed left too. I lost everything! I suffered for a long time; I almost gave up on life completely. Until I got married again a few months ago, and I can’t help but think what will happen when if he leaves. I just don’t feel safe! There’s no one in my life I can truly trust and depend on! I don’t wanna die alone! I’m scared! All the time!”

“You’re right! Trust is life! Without it we’d go insane. But it’s not something we give regardless of the circumstances; it’s very pragmatic depending on the situation. You trusted your ex-husband to take care of you, but he let you down, since he wasn’t working. You trusted him with something he wasn’t capable of doing. Now that you’re married to someone else, perhaps you trust him to take care of you, but you don’t trust you can rely on him forever. You can trust a loved one with one thing but not the other. It doesn’t make you suspicious, or paranoid, it makes you SMART and proves you possess wisdom! I mean sure your current husband can run a whole company for example, but would you trust him to fly a plane or give you a new haircut?” I asked.

That’s when Hannah finally smiled.

“Trust is the secret to life, Hannah. Without it we would all feel paralyzed. If we didn’t trust the locks on our doors, we wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. If we didn’t trust our coworkers, we wouldn’t be able to work as a team. If we didn’t trust the legal system, we wouldn’t follow the rules. Without trust, there would be no productivity or security or even life on this Earth. We would live in constant and utter FEAR! Trust is the essence of any healthy relationship. But before giving it, we need to build it through knowledge! You need to find out if that person is capable, honest and reliable. Without this knowledge, trust is obsolete!”

 

“That’s true” Hannah nodded.
“Why do you trust your nose won’t go missing when you fall asleep? Or that the sun will come up every day! Or that the whole planet won’t run out of water and food! Who are you trusting to keep this whole life system intact?”

“Almighty Allah of course!” Hannah replied.

“But why do you trust Him?” I asked again.

“Because I know Him. I know He is the One who created everything and He is capable of managing His creations!” Hannah said.

 

“But what if I told you that I set the alarm really early and I’m the one who commands the sun to come up every morning?” I smirked.

“Astaghfar Allah! That’s impossible!” Hannah frowned.

“Exactly! As Muslims, we all have an intact belief system based on knowledge of our Creator. The more we learn about His limitless capabilities the more we trust Him! This is why the ‘shahada’ is the first pillar of Islam, and it’s based on complete trust in Allah. The ‘shahada’ is the solid belief system we need to wash away all our negative feelings! It’s the antidote to fear, sadness and worry. But now you’ve created another belief system that you’ll die alone because the people you depend on to take care of you can’t be trusted to outlive you. And you know why they can’t be trusted? Because they’re human! They aren’t capable or reliable to be around forever! And that’s why your new belief system scares you! Your life is like the plane your husband is in charge of. You’re depending on him, even though he’s not a trained pilot! Of course your terrified ALL the time!” I explained. “Isn’t it time to depend on the One capable of managing your life, Hannah? Isn’t it time to submit to Him alone?”

 

Hannah’s tears flowed down again, but this time her tears washed away the doubts and made her see the bigger picture she was blinded to. Belief systems are what keep us grounded, and yet when built on falsehood they can take us to the darkest places. Creating a belief system based on assumptions or desires or fears is no different from creating a stone idol and worshipping it besides Allah, True and genuine faith cannot be half way. It cannot be shared or conditioned; because it’s the solid ground we need to stand on before we start the journey to Paradise.

 

“You’re not alone, Hannah. Allah is with you. Every time He takes something you want from you, He will replace it with something you need!” I said.

“That’s true… When Rasheed left, Allah sent me a friend to soothe me, and her child is like my own. I don’t know what I would have done without them!” Hannah whispered. “I’m finally able to give the love I never got from my own parents!”

“That’s the first time you mention them” I said carefully. “I can tell it’s a subject you try to avoid. Are you angry at your parents, Hannah?”

“My dad died years ago. And my mom is also dead…. Or at least to me she is….”

 

 

To be continued

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

What Your Mom Never Told You

 

 

Mom day

Her face glowed with excitement as she handed me a very colorful (and may I add very tacky) invitation card.
“My friend is having a party this weekend! Can I please go?” My daughter asked, her heart beating so loud with anticipation I literally felt the walls crack.
“No” I answered calmly, my eyes still on my book.
“OMG why? It’s like THE party of the year! Mommy please!”
“I said no”
“This is so unfair!” My daughter ran to her room, trailing gigantic tear drops on the floor. “I’m never allowed to do anything I want.” She mumbled before locking herself to write about her miserable, prison-like life in her pink diary.

I sighed and closed my eyes… and the memories sneered back at me with a mean smile.

This is the part where an image of me today is distorted in a wave-like motion with twinkling background music and the title reads:

 

Twenty Years Ago…

 

“Mommy can I please go to my friend’s house this weekend?” I pouted (And I had mastered the puppy dog face at that time if you’d like to know!)
“No” My mom said calmly, still reading the newspaper.

“Everything is ‘no’! This is so unfair!” I cried as I ran to my room, trailing tears on the floor before taking my anger out in writing.

 

Dear Mrs. Diary…
Another horrible day in this prison my parents call ‘home’! Being a teenager sucks! I can’t wait to grow up and have a daughter of my own and believe you me, I will never raise her the way I was raised. I’ll be a fun, hip mom (like TOTALLY!) I’ll let her do everything and anything she wants! The rule in my house will be ‘there are NO rules!’. She’ll go out with her friends and have no curfews coz HELLO! I’ll trust her! We’ll stay up all night gossiping and eating chocolates and I’ll make sure her life is one amazing adventure! I’ll never badger her about grades. I’ll buy her everything she asks for and let her watch cartoons till her eyes fall out! I mean it Mrs. Diary so mark my words!
And then years later something happened to me. I became a mom…

 

Listening to my daughter cry in her room today made my heart bleed. But I know even if I explain till I’m blue in the face how I’m protecting her from bad influence, she will never understand. When I was her age I didn’t get it either. I guess by the time you realize your mother was right you have a daughter who thinks you’re wrong.

 

Oh mom, why didn’t you ever tell me…?
You never looked up from your newspaper coz you didn’t wanna see the hurt in my eyes. It wasn’t because you didn’t care…

You took the role of the ‘bad guy’, putting rules and making sure I’m disciplined because you were preparing me for the real world. It wasn’t because you enjoyed having all this power. In fact, it was heart-aching and tiring and the easiest choice would have been to say ‘yes’ to everything and hope for the best.

 

I wish you had told me how you stared at me while I slept, and how you begged God to give you my pain instead when I was sick. I wish you had told me how you masked your worry with an angry look when I was late, and secretly locked yourself up to cry when I was sad. All these strict rules make sense now. I wouldn’t have become the person I am today if you had let me do what I wanted to do back then. I just wish you had told me that you wanted nothing more in life than to enjoy me, but you put your needs aside and endured my resentment, because you had a bigger purpose; to raise me right as a proud, ethical and responsible Muslim who will keep your legend alive. I see so many men and women struggling nowadays and blaming their parents for their failures. I see confused grown-ups unable to differentiate between right and wrong, lost amidst vague principles and zero ethics. It scares me, but it also makes me fall in love with you even more, thanking God He picked you to be my mother, even though I didn’t deserve such a blessing….

 

Oh mom… Every time my daughter feels like a victim when I’m being too stern I just wanna run to you, go down to my knees, kiss your feet and cry ‘Mommy please forgive me”. This is so beyond hard! And with all the non-believers, peer pressure, social Apps, perverted Internet and shameless TV content that poison the youth’s minds, it’s even much more brutally challenging! I’m raising a beautiful unique gem who will one day make a difference in this world (inshAllah) and I will not allow the media, the spoiled ‘diva’ group of friends, the fear of being resented or even chocolates ruin that for me. I just WON’T!

 

To all the sons and daughters reading this, you’ll never know how it feels to have a part of your heart walk around in the form of a human, whom you’ll love unconditionally with every cell in your body. You’ll never understand it until you become a parent. Cherish your moms while you still can before time steals her away and you’re left with a void that no human on Earth can ever fill. Your mom is the only person in the universe who will love you no matter what you do and where you go. She’s the ‘safe home’ even when she seems hard on you, there’s nowhere to run but back to her warm embrace.

 

And for those who have said goodbye to their mommies, I will not pretend I understand your pain… but I do know that out of all people we Muslims know this: Just because you can’t see her doesn’t mean she’s not there watching over you…

Cheering you on and praying for you to stay on the right path….
It’s time we let our gratefulness to those great women in our lives bloom beyond their imagination. It’s time we drape our moms with love and prayers, and let them see how it was all worth it. For what your mom never told you is that she never really wanted anything in return… Just for you to be safe and happy… and given the chance she’d do it all over again in a heartbeat…

Happy Mothers’ Day to our guardian angels… May we never let you down, and may your whispered prayers never come from sadness or loneliness, but from joy, love and a lifetime of being magnificently proud of us…

I love you Mommy…

 

Lilly S. Mohsen