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Are You The One?

Throwback Hajj 2015
Published on On Islam

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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

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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

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 Six

Office

 

“What can I do for you today Maggie?” The young nurse asked after introducing herself and checking the filled-in medical chart.

“Oh I’m just here for a routine checkup with Dr. Miller” Maggie replied.

“Very well then! Let’s get started” The nurse nodded.

“Thank you Miss ummm… I’m sorry I didn’t get your name” Maggie said.

“It’s Hannah” The nurse smiled.

 

There was something about this nurse that was very intriguing. They started talking, went out for coffee and a couple of weeks later became totally inseparable. Hannah poured out her heart about her loneliness, her failed marriage and the ache of being barren, while Maggie confided in her about the addiction and how hard it was to be a single mother. Like two faces of the same coin, they somehow completed each other. Hannah was Maggie’s soul mate. She took care of Maggie and doted on her son; she was practically his second mom. She taught Maggie the values and morals no one cared to teach her, and encouraged her to instill them in her child. The three of them shared an indescribable bond until the day Hannah got married….

 

“I don’t know how to explain it, she just changed! She became distant and paranoid.” Maggie gazed outside my office window. “It’s like she’s there but she’s not really there! Why does this always happen with everyone I love? My mom died, my husband left, my son’s aloof and my best friend changed! Every time I get attached to someone or something, I lose it! Why can’t we have just one relationship that’s comfortable and happy? Why do we always have to get hurt? Why does Allah let us find love and care after so long and then take them away and watch us suffer?” Maggie covered her face and wept on my desk for what seemed like eternity. She was ashamed of how she was questioning Allah’s will with so much bitterness, but honestly, I was relieved she did. It was time to address her doubts before they start eating her up alive.

“How’s your son doing at school?” I asked, changing the subject, completely prepared for Maggie to lift her head up and give me a ‘confused, frustrated, you’re-the-worst-therapist-ever’ look.

“His PATs are coming up and he thinks this is the perfect time to bond with his Play Station!” Maggie scoffed while wiping her tears.

“So what did you do?” I asked.

“I took it away of course! And I told him he’s not allowed to play games online or chat for hours with his friends till summer time. He can say I’m strict and mean till he’s blue in the face! It wouldn’t change a thing! I’m doing it for his own good!”

“But why can’t he have both; fun and success? Why must you be so harsh on him?” I asked.

“I’m not being harsh! Discipline is the essence of love, Lilly! If my dad had disciplined me instead of letting me do what I want maybe I wouldn’t have had the time or the chance to take drugs! It’s so easy to slip! And now that I’m sober, I’m going to protect my son, because I love him, more than words can ever say!”

“You’re not gaining anything, you just want him to succeed for him Even if right now, he can’t understand why you’re pushing so hard, one day he will, and he’ll thank you for it!” I said with an unexplainable grin.

“See? Exactly!” Maggie raised her hands. “At least someone gets it!”

“To Him belongs the greatest example, but that’s what Allah does, too! He takes away the metaphorical Play Station so we can focus on our ultimate goal! The people we love, they sometimes change, because Allah knows the real joy is in loving Him more! The friends we depend on, they eventually leave, because Allah wants us to ask Him and depend on Him alone. This life is not real Maggie; it’s only a means to a beautiful destination! Allah takes things away to redirect us to the path leading to Paradise. Yes it hurts, and we might whine about it till we are blue in the face, but without suffering we will never learn from our mistakes! Allah does not gaining anything either way! He does it for our own good, because He loves us more than words can say….”

 

Maggie smiled sadly and said, “Your words touch my heart. But I’m afraid when I go back to my life, my mind will take control again. If everything that gives us pleasure is taken away, how can we find joy in this life? Are Muslims not allowed to be happy?”

“A lot of people ask this very same question!“ I confessed. “ I think we need to define what happiness is first before we start looking for it. Take Ramadan for instance, many people wonder why it is associated with peace and gladness when it’s all about self-restraint! Prophet Muhammad said, Allah says

‘There are two (occasions) of joy for the observer of fast. He feels joy when he breaks the fast and he is happy when he meets Allah.” (http://sunnah.com/muslim/13/214)

 

It’s confusing when you look at it from the outside. Of course we’re super excited to eat and drink after waiting for hours on pins and needles for Maghreb prayer! But it’s only for a couple of seconds before we slip into a food coma, so where is the joy Allah is talking about?” I asked.

 

Maggie shrugged then held her breath for the answer.

“Unlike praying and giving charity, fasting is the only act that can never involve showing off (Reya’). It’s purely and sincerely for the sake of Allah alone, which is what we were created to do! So when you finally break your fast, you’re overwhelmed with the joy of finally fulfilling your real purpose in this world, purely for Allah and no one else. With that first sip of water we get an unparalleled feeling of gratitude and appreciation for His blessings! We’re in sync with our ‘fitrah’, our true nature, and that’s why we feel alive.”

 

Perhaps Allah is redefining the meaning of real happiness and joy for us because, let’s face it, we got it all wrong! The people you see dancing and smoking up at parties, who center their lives around being ‘hip’ and ‘fun’, are actually very sad deep inside. No matter what they do, they always feel lost and ‘dead’ inside. Trust me, I’m a therapist, and if these walls could talk, they’d tell you the same thing! Happiness is elusive; everyone is chasing it but no one is able to pin it down. Muslims on the other hand hold the secret to everlasting joy, in both this life and the Hereafter.

We get a crash course every Ramadan on how to be genuinely happy. We’re able to master our own minds instead of being slaves to our desires. Fasting helps us set our priorities straight, because even the simplest craving can become an addiction. When your eyes are glued to the TV then you hear the call for prayer, you’ll get up! You’ll remember how you give up basic needs in Ramadan and put Allah first, and it will strengthen your will power. When you see the drugs, or hear of the rave parties or any other ‘allegedly’ fun things in life, you’ll remember the day you were parched from thirst yet wouldn’t touch that bottle of water because you’re fasting.

 

Do you know what real happiness is? Look up any self-help book or motivational speeches by top entrepreneurs and inspirational speakers; they all agree that happiness is in achievements and real joy is in helping others be happy! Because the ‘purpose of life is a life with purpose’, and that is the essence of the forth pillar of Islam.

 

Ramadan unites us Maggie. We gather for ‘Iftar’ and walk together to the mosque and sit side by side to recite Qur’an. This is the month when we are reminded we’re not alone, the month of smiles and charity and kindness. Muslims all around the world see themselves as brothers and sisters, even if they’re far away from their families. They find happiness in helping each other. This is the love for the sake of Allah… the most joyous, most precious love of all… and trust me, once you find it, it will never be taken away…”

 

“I feel so peaceful and content…” Maggie smiled.

Two minutes later, her phone was vibrating non-stop and she politely asked me if she could take the call.

“My dad won’t stop calling. It must be urgent!” She panicked.

 

“Dad is everything okay?” I heard Maggie ask. She then stood up, and screamed “WHAT!”

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

You see, it always comes as a shock even when you’ve been expecting it…

You never know when your life will completely change to a point when you hardly recognize yourself. It could happen in a heartbeat! And for Maggie…

This was it…

 

To be continued…

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

Inside The Therapist’s Office: Episode Five

Office

She dragged her feet into my office and reluctantly handed me a small bag of pills.

“I must say I’m very proud of you Maggie!” I smiled.

“I’ve been clean for a year, 4 months and 26 days, and yet every time I’m feeling down I still think of drugs! Like they say ‘once an addict, always an addict’, right?” Maggie smiled sadly when I offered her a cup of water. Tears of regret flowed down her face silently, as she remembered how it all started…

 

“Umm hello? Dump him!’ Tanya said, rummaging through her fridge.
“He’s my husband! We have a child together and I love him!” Maggie replied.

She’d been staying at her friend’s house for the past three days. Maggie was trying to put pressure on her husband, hoping he would take her seriously and start realizing there were two people in this marriage.

“He hasn’t called which means he’s already made his decision! How can he possibly think I can do it alone? I can’t!!” Maggie cried.

“I told you he’d leave one day because you’re too conventional Maggie, it’s boring! You need to loosen up a bit and have some fun! You’re still too young for this heartache!” Tanya said, “Here take this!”

“What is it?” Maggie asked.

“It’s a magic pill… it will make all your problems disappear…” Tanya smiled wickedly. 

Maggie knew exactly what the pill was, but she ignored her better judgment and took it anyway! Day after day she went on the ‘drug escapade’ until pretty soon she was completely strung out! Mortified at what had become of her, Maggie’s family shipped her off to a rehab facility a couple of months later. And by the time she was released, her husband had left, her friends had abandoned her and her child was treating her like a total stranger.

Maggie was shaking when she looked up at me. “I stayed in rehab for three months! It was a nightmare, but at least I was getting better! Now that I’m out in the real world, it’s a constant struggle to stay strong! It’s so hard to stay away from that ‘high’ especially at times when you feel so ‘low’ ” She said.

 

“I love how you summed up the three types of adversities in life;

1-Staying steady in times of turbulence,

2-Staying away from sinful pleasures in times of weakness

3-Staying sane enough to see the light during our darkest times.

 

It’s not easy, Maggie! Whoever says otherwise is either lying or is not human! Think of drugs as all kinds of sinful desires people yearn for and you’ll see how every one of us is struggling too!” I said. “It starts with an instinctual alarm sound, like the one you disregarded when you took that first pill. At times of weakness, we go against our own belief systems because of a strong ‘pull’; be it forbidden pleasure or passion, peer pressure, loneliness, temptation… whatever the trap is, we’re drawn into it through either doubts or desires. The doubtful thoughts are hopefully cured with Islamic knowledge, but the desires, those need special training, like boot camp!” I smiled.

“What do you mean?” Maggie asked.

“Patience doesn’t just come naturally, Maggie; it needs practice and training!

For the three hardships in life we spoke about, we desperately need three shields:

  • Patience to stay on Allah’s path
  • Patience to restrain ourselves from sins
  • Patience during the hard times..

 

Lose one of those three guards and you’re a prime target for Satan to lead you astray! Without extensive training, you’re literally a sitting duck!” I joked.
“Where can I find this ‘Patience Boot Camp then’?” Maggie asked.
“It’s in your mind, body and soul. And your heart is the strict coach keeping everyone in line. The forth pillar of Islam is all the training we need. Every Ramadan we practice the three types of patience and win the battle against our weaknesses and desires! The fact that we can stop ourselves from ‘halal’ acts like eating and drinking, is enough proof we can surely restrain ourselves from doing ‘haram’. We’re a lot stronger than we think Maggie!” I said. “So no, once an addict is not always an addict! Allah is more Merciful and Kinder than to put us amidst temptations without the proper tools to fight them! Now, if you don’t want to change, no one can help you, but if you do want to change, nothing and no one can stop you! Don’t tag or label yourself. Allah forgives all our past sins in Ramadan so we can get a chance to start anew after 30 days of vigorous self-discipline and training.” I said.

 

“I remember now. Every time I would ask my nanny why she was always fasting, she would relate this hadith.” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said.

“Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins.”(http://sunnah.com/bukhari/30/14)” Maggie reminisced. “I was a spoiled child and a trouble maker sometimes, but my nanny…. She never gave up on me! She loved and took care of me. Even after my dad kicked her out, she didn’t treat me differently! Perhaps you’re right, some people do master the art of patience…. Those are the people who change lives, for last year she had surely changed mine….”

 

“Eat something sweet heart! You look like a ghost!” Her nanny said. She served her a bowl of soup and stared lovingly at the daughter she never had.

Maggie had never stopped visiting, making sure she brought groceries and meds and anything else she thought her former nanny might need. She couldn’t imagine her life without this old woman who came to replace her late mother. She only babysat her on weekends, yet had given Maggie more care and softness than she’d ever known.

“When are you coming back?” Maggie asked. “The house is not the same without you! It’s like a morbid grave!”

“Aren’t you a bit too old to have a nanny?” The old woman joked.

“Don’t change the subject. I know exactly why you left, and I’ll never forgive my dad for what he has done to you! He’s horrible!”

“Manners Maggie! You must respect your parents no matter what they do!” Her nanny scolded.

“I’m sorry. I just feel so lonely now. My dad has been miserable lately, my son hates me, my husband is gone and my friends are scared of me! I wish I had a ‘person’ you know? Someone who can be there for me and lift me up when I’m down…Like a sister or something.” Maggie said sadly.

Her nanny was silent for a long time; her mind had obviously drifted far away. When the old woman finally woke up from her temporary haze, she took Maggie’s hand and headed to the door.

“I’m not going to watch you wither away! You need to get checked by a real doctor! You’ve lost so much weight you look like Popeye’s wife!” Her nanny said.

“God you’re old!” Maggie laughed.

 

The old woman took her to the clinic to see Dr. Miller, and then made a lame excuse for why she couldn’t accompany her inside, which was weird, given it was her nanny’s idea to come see this doctor in the first place.

 “What can I do for you today?” The young nurse asked after introducing herself and checking the filled-in medical chart.

“Oh I’m just here for a routine checkup with Dr. Miller” Maggie replied.

“Very well then! Let’s get started” The nurse nodded.

“Thank you Miss ummm… I’m sorry I didn’t get your name” Maggie said.

“It’s Hannah…”

 

 

To be continued…

 

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

 

The Amazing Race Of Ramadan: The Final Episode

Published On OnIslam.net
July 14th, 2015
This is the original version

The Amazing Race Of Ramadan: The Final Episode

Trophy

Oh man! Does that mean I’m going home after this? No more Ramadan episodes? No more camera crew and filtering out contestants and being asked 237 times a day how many minutes till Maghreb?
Fine I get it. It’s the final countdown, and before I start I’d like to say something to all of our lovely readers who are probably beating me to the finish line: I’ll really miss you guys!

Okay so what would be an appropriate grand finale? Come on people, give me some brilliant ideas and let me take the credit for them!
Wait… I hear something! Call me crazy, but I think it’s a conversation from thousands of years ago. Shhhhhh listen…

“Mary, where did you get this food from?”
“Oh uncle Zechariah, it’s from God. Indeed Allah provides to whom He wills with no limit!”
At that time, Zechariah called upon his Lord, saying, “My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication.” (Holy Qur’an, 3:38)

At that time? Seriously?
I was pretty sure Prophet Zechariah asked God for a child all his life. Why does it say ‘at that time’? Or was it a different kind of supplication….? The kind based on the true belief that nothing was impossible when it came to Allah’s power?

How Do We Ask?

‘It’s not what you say it’s how you say it’. I guess many have heard this phrase before. There’s a difference between mumbling a request half-heartedly and then wondering why it was never answered and it’s a totally different thing when you feel every word without even saying it, knowing that with those silent screams of desperations and those helpless tears falling down your face, God will never, and I mean NEVER, let you down…

When Prophet Zechariah made a du’aa, he started by telling God his story. He told Him how he was growing old and his hair was turning grey. How his wife was barren and how they still both desperately yearned for a child. As if God didn’t already know that! But that’s the beauty of submission… it’s talking to Allah like He’s your best friend… Explaining to Him what you’re going through as if you can see Him. Certain and 100% convinced that your prayers will be answered, and then searching for the blessings that God has definitely lifted you up with while you were down on your knees begging for help….

Why Do We Have To Ask?

I’ll take one for the team and ask the inevitable question: Why doesn’t God give us what we want right away without having to ask? Isn’t He the Most Giving? Why does He put us in hardships to start with? Isn’t He the Most Merciful?
(Whoa I think my heart stopped there for a second at how brazen these questions sounded. You guys owe me big!)

Volumes could be written from the Qur’an and Sunnah to answer these doubts and queries, but I’ll just mention the one that makes my heart melt…

Did it ever occur to us that God loves to hear our voices…? That we are so dear to Him to the point He inspires us to supplicate, then rewards us for it. He then rewards us again by giving us what we want. He then inspires us to be thankful, then rewards us for that, too. He then inspires us to share the joy by giving out charity, puts those in need on our path, then rewards us for that, TOO! He then inspires us to encourage others to ask Him like we did, then rewards us for that, and in the end, when we meet Him on Judgment Day, we find all the above stored for us with the ultimate reward of Paradise….? Wow!

Is there perhaps a chain reaction of out-of-the-blues-blessings that starts with a simple, genuine plea from the heart…?
Yes, I think so too….

What Do We Ask For…?

Don’t look at me! I don’t know!
Yet…There’s a force dragging me away from my laptop and bringing me down to my knees… Come kneel next to me… lower your head and raise your hands… and just open your heart to the One who owns it…

My Dearest Most Merciful Lord….

Where do we start…? How do we thank You for every beautiful thing You’ve given us and every scary thing You’ve protected us from….?

How do we call on the One who says “Indeed I am close…”

How do we talk to the One who knows our inner thoughts and forgives our worst mistakes…?

But we have no one else to go to… My Lord we stand by Your door, needy and desperate, and even if you don’t answer right away we will keep begging until You do… There’s no where to run but to You my Lord…

Some of us come to You sad and damaged… we beg You to heal our broken hearts…

Some of us come to You sick and helpless… we beg You to take our pain and suffering away….

Some of us are lost and confused… some of us have fallen and failed too many times… and we beg You for guidance and support…

Some of us are scared and lonely…. And don’t know how we’ll survive another day… we beg You God to fill our lives with love and warmth…

Some of us are poor and can hardly make ends meet… we beg You to open for us the doors of wealth and success…

Some of us are ashamed… humiliated by what we’ve done or how we’ve gone astray… we beg You to give us a sign we’ve been blessed with Your forgiveness…

Some of us are desperate…. Oh God each and every one of us is desperate for something only You know of and only You can provide….

Bestow Your mercy on us my dear Lord… life is so hard sometimes… so grant us the patience and the will to stay on the right path and help us….

To the One who says “I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me” (Holy Qur’an 2:186)

This is our poor and humble supplication, and from You is the Best and most Greatest response….

The race has come to an end, and we don’t know if You’ve accepted us or not… if we are worthy of Your blessings or not… We don’t know who’s been saved and who’s lagging behind… All we know is that our only hope is Your everlasting mercy…

And today we ask You… please…

Please… look at us today… don’t let this Holy month pass by without admitting us into your eternally blessed servants… we don’t deserve it, but my Lord, You’re the most Merciful and the Most Giving….

Lilly S. Mohsen