Monday, June 30, 2014

Because Allah Loves Us

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Assalamualaikum WRT WBT

Ramadhan is finally here! This year I feel different with the coming of Ramadhan. It may be an age factor. Haha. I wasn’t able to appreciate Ramadhan so much in my younger years, but as you grow up, and your ilm has increased, you know a lot more of the teachings of Islam, you’ll begin to see the specialty and uniqueness, as well as the opportunity Allah has given us through the Holy month of Ramadhan.

With the coming of this missed month, I would like to share some points and knowledge I have gained through my years of learning. Today, I’d like to share about Lailatul Qadr

Allah SWT said:
We have indeed revealed it (Quran) in the Night of Power (1) And what can make you know what is the Night of Power? (2) The Night of Power is better than a thousand Months (3) The angels and the Spirit (Jibril) descends therein by the permission of their Lord for every matter (4) Peace it is until the rise of dawn (5)
[Surah Al Alaq: 1-5]

If you look at the discussions between humans, the questions about Lailatul Qadr is always WHEN. When is it? “It’s on the odd days of the end of Ramadhan.” “No, its on one of the even days” “I think its on the 27th of Ramadhan” “No its not.”

Well, these types of discussion are endless and a waste of time because no one knows when Lailatul Qadr is. Allah made it that way, so you do not have to question and guess. The most important thing you should do it use the 10 last days of Ramadhan to the fullest. If you utilise each day, insyaAllah you will not miss it.

Allah SWT says:

“We have indeed revealed it (Quran) in the Night of Power (1)”

Lailatul Qadr a night of barakah. Is it blessed because Quran came down? Or because it was always blessed so the Quran came down? I heard a talk by Sheikh Nouman Ali Khan and he said that Lailatul Qadr was always a blessed night, therefore Al Quran came down. It became more noble and dignified by the Quran.

But the question you might be asking is, “wasn’t Al Quran brought down bit by bit thru wahyu to Rasulullah s.a.w?” Yes it was. Al Quran was brought down over 23 years during the life of Rasulullah. An opinion by Ibnu Abbas is that Allah sent the Quran down from Luh Mahfuz down thru the 7 heavens. And from there, it was brought down by Jibril to Rasulullah bit by bit based on a question, an issue, an incident, a problem that was faced by Rasulullah s.a.w and the Muslimin.

Allah SWT says:

“And what can make you know what is the Night of Power? (2)”

What is Lailatul Qadr? Qadr is translated as the night of “Power”. It is also a night of appreciation.

Have you ever heard the story of the sahabah quarrelling about when Lailatul Qadr is? Well, they did quarrel and because of these quarrels, Allah made Rasulullah forget the exact day of Lailatul Qadr. Again, when is not important. It’s the “what”. So Allah asks us in surah Al Qadr, “Do you realise how amazing Lailatul Qadr is?” Ofkos we don’t know, so Allah tells us.

The one who really appreciates Allah, they will find the appreciation of Allah on this night. Those who don’t appreciate Allah, will sleep thru it. So in which category are we? Are we among those who really appreciate Allah and are among those who are grateful? Or we say we are but we don’t make an effort at all? Tepuk dada tanya Iman.

Rasulullah s.a.w was with Saidina Ali r.a one day. They were in the masjid and there was a Bedwin sleeping. It was nearing the time of Solah, so Rasulullah s.a.w asked Ali to go wake him up. Ali went to do as told, but he was surprised because Rasulullah would never pass doing a good deed.

So Ali asked the Messenger about it. Rasulullah said, “If I tried to wake him up and he brushed me aside, it would be great sin. It was an act of mercy”.

The same thing can be related to the knowledge of Lailatul Qadr. There is a hikmah of not knowing. It’s good that we don’t know because if we know when it is every year, and we still do not appreciate it, can you just imagine what kind of trouble and how big a sin we would be in? Therefore, Allah not telling us when Lailatul Qadr is, is an act of mercy.

Allah Taala says:

 "The Night of Power is better than a thousand Months (3)"

The deeds and ibadah you do on this night will be equivalent to more than the deeds you do in 1000 months. Ya Allah, how awesome is that? If you think logically, the lifespan of people nowadays is what..? 70? 80? If we use Rasulullah's lifespan of 63 years. 1000 months is more than double of that!

Allah is giving us the opportunity to increase our pahala on this special night that you can't even do in one lifetime. Can you imagine 10 yeards of getting Lailatul Qadr? It will be a millenium of pahala! MashaAllah! So why are we wasting this opportunity?

Based on the opinion of the ulama', an interpretation of "khair" in ayat 3 is on good deeds and ibadah, but also be seen as Barakah with the things you do on that day. If that night and that day is a day of Barakah, we should take the opportunity to do a lot of things we have been putting aside.

I heard this from a talk I listened to a while back. If we have a certain friend that we had a quarrel with, a friend that we havent talked to in a while. Or maybe a family member that we are not in good terms with, or someone we did wrong to and need to apologise to, then we should do it on this night. Take a chance, insyaAllah with the Barakah Allah is bestowing on the earth, only good will come out of it.

I found this very inspiring. I will try and do this. Yes, ofkos I have people whom I have deliberately stopped talking to. May Allah forgive my many weaknesses. I will try and rekindle the relationship insyaAllah. (Please pray that I am sincere and I get to do this)

The next ayat Allah says:

“The angels and the Spirit (Jibril) descends therein by the permission of their Lord for every matter (4)”

In the Quran, Allah mentioned angels all the time. But in this ayat, Allah mentions the angles AND Jibril. During this nobel and special night, not only to the malaikat (angels) come down, but also Jibril! Jibril, the one who brought down Al Quran, the one who brought down wahyu to Rasulullah s.a.w is also descending. So it is a big deal.

In the ayat, Allah says, Jibril and the angels will descend with the permission of their Lord/Master. From the tafsir given by Sheikh Nouman Ali Khan, he said that the angels are all eager and desperate to come meet the believers! They cannot wait to meet and greet the believers.

The eagerness is the same as the eagerness to meet a celebrity. Just imagine one celebrity/artist/singer/football player/professor/ulama or anyone you really respect and hold in high regard, you admire and you really want to meet. Just imagine that you have the chance to meet them. How would you feel?

Who? Tom Hiddleston? Christiano Ronaldo? Dr Morsi? Ismail Haniyeh? Angelina Jolie? Who? You really really like them, you really really admire them, you really really want to meet them, get an autograph, take pictures with them.

Ha, that is exactly how the angels feel towards the Mu’minin. They admire the Mu’minin so much that they ask Allah’s permission to go and see them. Can you imagine that? They hold the Mu’minin on such high regard, but are we as Muslims worthy of such respect? We have to ask ourselves this. Tepuk dada tanya Iman. Are we worthy? Have we done enough to be seen as celebrities? Are our amal ibadah enough? Have we been a good servant to Allah Taala? The angels have no sins and are pure. What about us? It was like a huge slap on the face when I heard this. Ya Allah.

The last ayat of the Surah, Allah says:

"Peace it is until the rise of dawn (5)"

There are a lot of opinions from the Ulama', and none of them are wrong. Compared to us, we do not have the knowledge to interpret the Quran, therefore we will have to base our understanding on the Ulama' (the knowledgeable). Among the opinions of the Ulama' as mentioned by Sheikh Nouman:

1. Peace in this ayat means absolutely no evil whatsoever. Each decision is peace. On other nights, there might be punishments, violence, but this night is entirely peaceful.

2. During this night no human can embark in an evil task (Mujahid r.a)

3. It is the night of peace because the angels are constantly saying salam to the people of the Masjid. They pass every single Mu'min and say "peace be upon you"

4. The battalion  of angels descend at once and go into every Masjid, every single Mu'min, say salam and leave a doa behind. Just imagine their long descent, their long journey to earth just to give salam. It is such an honour to the believers on this night. (Ibnu Kathir)

Out of the four opinions, all bring the same message - that Lailatul Qadr is a very very very special night that is peaceful and has a lot of benefits for those who care enough to find out and use it. On this special night, the angels will be all around us, giving salam and leaving their doa. The Malaikat are racing, grabbing every opportunity to meet the Muslimin and say a prayer.

So what are we doing? Layak ke kite dalam doa para Malaikat?

May Allah preserve our Iman and increase it day by day. But my dear friends, it is us who have to seek knowledge on how to increase our Iman. Allah leads you to it, but it is us who have to make the choice. Changing is a choice.

In my research, I have learned that the learning process is proven with the change in action and attitude. Therefore, if there is no change, then the learning process has not happened. Which means what? That you have not learned.

Being ignorant is also a choice. With the availability of knowledge so easily today, there is no longer an excuse, especially to those who have internet. To increase our Iman, we must increase our Amal. To increase our Amal, we must have a strong foundation of Aqidah. Because doing amal ibadah without Aqidah is what syaitan strives for. That is why the feeling of ibadah being a 'burden' arises. So please go and seek knowledge. The RIGHT knowledge from the RIGHT people. Being ignorant is no longer an excuse.

Let's all strive to become better Muslims with this Ramadhan. Start now. Ramadhan is a month of forgiveness and barakah. Use it.

May everyone gain Lailatul Qadr this Ramadhan. Ameen Ya Rabb.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Something Called Usrah

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Assalamualaikum WRT WBT

What is Usrah? Read on to find out :)

Allah Taala said in Surah Al Alaq:
“…Sujud and come close to Allah.”
(Al Alaq: 19)

We want to be close to Allah, to feel His love. But how?

One of the methods to keep close to Allah is thru Usrah. It is constant, it helps you to be istiqamah. Usrah from one point of view is a way to maintain your level of Iman, and in the same time increase it. And by having constant reminders, new knowledge from the Al-Quran and Hadith, insyaAllah He will keep us on the Siratul Mustaqim.

So Usrah is great for you. If you only knew.

My question to you is, when was the last time you actually sat and concentrated in learning about your religion? Some might answer high school, some of those more fortunate would say, I had a subject in uni.

But again, how is 5 years learning "pendidikan Islam" in high school enough? We were barely adults then. We were small, young and naive. No ounce of maturity at all. We didn’t know better. Do you really remember what you learnt?

Usually after every Usrah, you'll get this refreshing feeling, like a new beginning, a new start with your Iman tank full of enthusiasm. That's what I feel after my Usrah session. It's very hard to explain the feeling you get with Usrah. I love the Usrah group I am in now. Going to Usrah for as long as I can remember, changing Naqibah, changing groups, getting new group members, having member being changed to other groups -- its been a great journey.

You'll get a lot of different feelings -- from being reluctant to attend, being too lazy, too tired, and giving excuses. But later, it changes to waiting patiently each week to meet up, feeling like the discussions during Usrah being too short, feeling that the discussion you have during Usrah so interesting that you don't want to stop, having the feeling of love and ukhuwwah with your group mates that you pray really hard you will be reunited in Jannah, having the feeling of wanting to help them however you can, and share all the ilmu you have with everyone in the group so that we'd all be able to spread it to others too. I have been thru every feeling you can think of, either it be negative or positive.

I should admit that there was a time where I disliked my usrah group (I’ve changed groups a couple of times now), and I really didn't like to attend. I found myself finding every excuse under the sun for not going -- Im not feeling well, I have a family matter, I have an office matter, my friends are here, etc etc.

But later you will realise that attending Usrah is like a lifeline. It’s like a time and place you refill your fuel (Iman) with reminders and Islam for your journey. So, no matter how much you might dislike the methods of your Naqibah, or you dislike a few members of your Usrah group, you still go because you know it's a necessity for you. For your own Iman, for your own Akhirat.

During my undergrad studies, there was a time I stopped going altogether. During that time, you'd think you're strong enough, you'd think you have enough ilmu on Islam, you'd think your basics in Islam is enough, and you'd think that listening to online lectures is enough to refuel your Iman. But my dear friends, its not enough. You need maintenance.

As the days past without attending Usrah and having people remind you about Allah Taala, you will start diverting from the right concepts. Your hijab/tudung start to become shorter, you start changing your principles bcoz it suits your needs at the time, you start thinking about unimportant stuff like fashion, you start reading really weird books, fashion magazines, attend events that you would have never thought of before. You start to loosen you boundaries, your amal is decreasing, and your ibadah start to become insincere.

Without your friends to guide you, without reminders from the Quran, Hadith and Sirah, without support from friends, without having a support group to help you better yourself, and a group of friends who practice biah solehah, you will in the end divert and crash on the side of the road.

I felt that once. You will feel different and feel like you are so far from Allah Taala. But that feeling is your fault because Allah has never moved, He is still close by. But it's you who chose to step away.

But alhamdulillah, Allah brought me back into this Biah Solehah. The ukhuwwah, the ilmu, the reminders, the amal and ibadah we do together, the meeting with the intention of remembering Allah Taala. It becomes a majlis ilmu that insyaAllah is surrounded by the angels who are praying for us.

However, you need a lot of things in order to obtain knowledge. Going to Usrah isn't an easy thing to do. The ease and enjoyment comes over time. Here are two important things you will need to understand:

1. Sacrifice
You need to make a bunch of sacrifices. You will have to choose either you want to watch your favourite TV series, play with your kids, indulge in your hobbies, finish doing work from the office, do overtime because you want extra money, OR putting all those aside for one specific night for just a few hours to concentrate on refreshing your Iman.

These sacrifices are not easy. I speak from experience. But once you realise its importance, it will no longer become a sacrifice. It will be something you look forward to every single week.

2. Sincerity
You will need to be sincere in your quest to increase your Iman thru gaining knowledge. Usrah is not a class, but a “family” that sits down together and talk. We talk about issues, we talk and share about interpretations of Allah’s Holy Book, and we talk about the Sunnah and akhlak of Rasulullah S.A.W. We talk about how to increase our ibadah, we talk about our family, our husbands, our children and how to make our household into a house with strong foundations of Islam. Summarizing it all, we talk, discuss and take action on how to obtain Allah’s Redha and be reunited in Jannah together. We strive to become Soleh Wa Musleh. Become good and invite others to be good too.

Sincerity is important because being sincere makes the heart free of prejudice. Be sincere in wanting to change to become someone better and Allah will be there to help you every step of the way. Allah’s help will come in the form of the people around you. The company you keep will help you strive to become a better Muslim, together. Be sincere in helping others, and be sincere and willing to be helped.

Through years of going to Usrah, and now having a few groups of usrah under my care, I learnt a few things. We must always be husnuzon (think positive) towards our Naqibah (naqibah is the leader of the group). And as a naqibah, I also must be husnuzon towards those under my care.

I have also learnt that as a person who attends usrah (I have an usrah I go to every week under my own naqibah, and I have a few groups where I am the naqibah), I must always renew my niat whenever I attend my usrah. And as a naqibah, I must always renew my niat too.

Another thing to remember is Allah’s ayat in surah Ar Rad: 11

Allah SWT said:
"For each (such person) there are (angels) in succession, before and behind him: They guard him by command of Allah. Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). But when (once) Allah willeth a people`s punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect."
(Ar Rad: 11)

Allah will not change you if you yourself do not have the effort to change. It is a matter of choice. Whatever you do on this world is your own making, your own decision. Going to usrah? Not going to usrah? Again, it is your choice. If you really want to go, you are sincere, and you have put in an effort, then Allah will insyaAllah ease your passage. But if deep down in your heart, you don't really want to go, then Allah will give you a reason not to go.

For those who really want the chance to feel what usrah is, feel the nikmah of ukhuwwah and be constant in their effort to become a better Muslim, then please inform me. Tell me and I can help you however I can. I have friends who attend usrah all around Malaysia. If you are Malaysians studying overseas, InsyaAllah I can help you too. Where there is a will, Allah will always find a way.

May Allah ease everyone reading this post. And may Allah reward you the opportunity to celebrate this coming Ramadhan.

Wallahu a'lam Bissawab

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I Am Unworthy

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Assalamualaikum WRT WBT

Yesterday was a funny day. I'm not sure how to tell you about it, but I will try.

The day started like any other day. I was feeling rather unproductive at the office, maybe because the undergrad students in our building have finished their exams, so it's rather quiet here.

As the day progressed, I received a message from one of my friend's mother on FB. We were chatting and suddenly she said something that made me stop multi-tasking (I was actually on my laptop doing some reading). She said to me "Thank you for being best friends with my daughter".

I was taken aback. Ya Allah. Never in my life have I ever had anyone's mother say that to me. Ya Allah. I was speechless. She really doesn't know how much I appreciate her daughter's friendship. It's a friendship that I value very much. A friendship that I will bring wherever I am, till Jannah insyaAllah.

And then she started saying prayers for me and gave me a bunch of heartwarming advice. Thank you makcik. It is so beautiful how Allah sends you people who remind you of Him out of the blue. People who remind you to keep Allah close and remind you how the tribulations Allah makes you go thru is His way of showing His love for you.

I was very moved with what she said to me.

Then I contacted my bestie to tell her what her mother said to me. And I got another heart stopping moment. She told me about how her mother always asks about me, and what her mother said about me. I had tears in my eyes. Ya Allah. I cannot believe the beautiful hearts the people around me have. I left so loved. Ya Allah, please bless them.

But it made me sit down and think.

Later in the day, the whatsapp group that consist of a bunch of girlfriends from high school started being really active. Message after message. My phone was vibrating like crazy, so I picked it up to see what the conversation was about. As everyone was joining in the conversation, the group came to life. We rarely have stuff to talk about, but yesterday was a blast.

As I was suggesting a reunion for Eid, we were trying to decide on the location. Since most of friends from my batch are in the Klang Valley, I suggested that we do the get together in KL rather than in JB (coz not many of us are left here -- which is what I said.) Then one of my friends said something that also startled me.

It was along the lines of "In JB there is You who is Qawiyy. Someone who is equivalent to all of us here".

Ya Allah.

It made me stop in my tracks again and I felt a tremble deep in my heart. It made me suddenly feel tearful.

Ya Allah, I am not as good as they think I am. It made me think about myself and about how much I need to change and improve. Some people might like being praised, but Ya Allah I am scared of those praises.

I am afraid because I know I am not like what they said. I am scared Ya Allah.

These two events have deeply affected me. I don't know how to explain it. But I feel so disappointed with myself, and ashamed with Allah because He knows how I am, what I have been doing, either with sincerity or not, and with the right niat or not. Ya Allah, please forgive me.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about those praises. I am unworthy.

Ya Allah please forgive me. I need to add my tarbiyah, my amal, my ilmu, my ibadah and increase my Iman. I am unworthy. What is the use of being seen great by humans if Allah doesn't think the same thing? When in fact, how Allah sees and think of us is the most important.

It was like a hard slap in my face. A rude awakening and a reality check.
Thank you Allah, for this funny day.
Thank you Allah, for still loving me and remembering me.
Ya Allah, help me become one of the Ghuraba

Thank you for those who have kept me in their prayers. What happened to me today might be a result of the sincerity of your prayer. May Allah bless you and reward you with Jannatul Firdaus. Ameenn

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

From Retainers to a Book!

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Assalamualaikum WRT WBT

This all started about two days ago. I was brushing my teeth, looking at myself in the mirror and noticed a slight gap in my upper teeth. I found myself thinking, "Oh no, please dont tell me my painful years wearing braces are going to waste just because I havent been wearing my retainers."

Yup, I stopped wearing my retainers a while ago. And now I can practically SEE the outcome of it. Against the instructions of my dentist, I arrogantly stopped wearing them each night when I "saw" that my teeth were looking awesome -- Only those who have worn braces would understand because they know how it felt to have awful teeth before. And seeing them look great is just *sigh* wonderful.

And it hurts to wear them. I was supposed to wear them before going to bed. And each morning, my teeth would be so painful, that it makes we wonder what happens to my mouth during sleep. So I stopped wearing them.

After seeing the consequences of my stubbornness, I went around my room looking for my misplaced retainers -- looked in every zipped bag I used as either toiletry bags or medicine bags when I go travelling. Looked in every handbag that was still in my possession (coz most of them I've thrown away due to the straps being torn, or being well used, or those that are no longer fit to be used). As this was happening, like any other female (this is totally assumption by the way), you would go thru everything. Every note, every piece of paper, every book, every pockets, every card in the bags. For me, it would be the time to throw unused items and rubbish that has been in your bag for ages. Another thing I like to do it read EVERYTHING. Hahaha.

Can you see how unrelated the earlier story to how this all ended up? Hahha yup, how beautiful Allah works. From something really vain to something totally different!

I would call myself a sentimental person. I like to keep stuff that reminds me of something in particular. An event, a memory, a feeling. So there I was looking in bags, taking out note books, paper and reading them, flipping thru them. And I stumbled on a few old note books. They were my Usrah/Daurah/Katibah/Research/Class notebooks. Yup, all combined into one. Hahha.

Then -- it came to me. I should sort these all out! What a waste!

So Im doing a project. I took all the notebooks I have and Im doing to read thru them and rewrite them back in specific books. I found a lot of tazkirah notes from Usrah and Katibah. And ilmu notes from Daurah. But they are all mixed up. Rimas tengok.

I also had notes from a lot of leadership training which I think would be really useful when trying to come up with new modules. Oh wau, I found a treasure chest! Alhamdulillah.

Therefore, I would like everyone to help me with this project. I will be compiling these writings into books, therefore I would also like to make you a part of this special project. If you have this one special tazkirah or reminders that you found really touched your heart, that you really want to share because it brought a huge impact on your life, please come and share it with me so that I can put it into this book.

I plan to share this book to those who would like it -- It can be used for usrah, or just daily reminders.

We as Muslims are all encouraged to share our ilmu and keep reminding others and also ourselves.

So I would like to start this new project with everyone. Please share. It can just be a story or an experience you faced that make you reflect on your life. The sharing of ilmu is one of the things that will continue on so as long as someone is gaining manfaat from that particular ilmu. Just imagine the mountains of pahala you will be receiving just with this simple act of sharing knowledge.

However, please make sure if you use any hadith you check it's sources first. I will be doing some form of editorial work and facts checking. Even so, please be careful with what you share. We wouldnt want to share the wrong information now would we :)

By the way, I did finally find my retainers. Hehe.

Happy gaining pahala everyone!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Niat, Motivation and Distractions

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Assalamualaikum WRT WBT

I've been wanting to write for a couple of days now, but at home there's always something to do. Without a proper place for you to open your laptop except on your bed, it really makes you feel that it's too much of a hassle. And there's usually other things distracting you - laundry, dishes, clearing up the fridge, moping the floor, cleaning the stove, more laundry, folding clothes. Oh wau. Im not even married yet and I have tons to do! Especially when mak isnt around. Hehe.

For the past 4 years doing my PhD, the journey has been ups but mostly a lot of downs. As Im nearing the end of my journey, I feel much more enthusiastic. Can't wait to finish! But honestly, I have tons more to do *long sigh* You cannot imagine the workload Im supposed to be doing compared to what I have actually completed. Tons more I tell you! I havent reached the point of panicking just yet, but Im nearly getting there.

If you have been along with me throughout my journey, you will know that my downs were awful. And dealing with them were worst. But alhamdulillah, Im here today, still smiling.

Im writing this post because all around me, many friends and colleagues are just starting their journey. I've met a lot of people who I found out are starting their PhDs, thinking about it, or just wanting to do it. Alhamdulillah, may Allah guide them and ease their passage.

I felt compelled to write this, not to scare you. But with the purpose of preparing you what is to come when you actually do your PhD. I've been thru a lot, and I hope that my sharing will help others (especially those around me who are thinking or actually are doing their PhDs).

The number one thing you should have is The Right Niat
I used to have the wrong niat. Personally, I wanted to do my PhD because I wanted to become a lecturer. I wanted to become a lecturer coz I wanted to have lots of money and be able to travel the world like my father. I was naive enough to think that Allah would allow me this if I worked hard.

I also wanted to show people that Im capable. People used to question my education bcoz I didnt get good results to further straight to degree. I had to go thru diploma first, so I wanted to prove people wrong. It was like a personal goal I wanted to achieve to show people.

But as you can see, both niats were wrong right from the beginning. A year into my PhD, I started questioning myself. It is beautiful how Allah created Niat. The reason for doing something either a deed or an action will all change when you change your niat. If you started with the wrong niat, later when you realise your mistake, you will have the chance to alter it. The Messenger told us: "Innama A'malu bin Niat" Everything starts with Niat.

If your niat (intention) is good, then insyaAllah Allah will guide you and help you. If it is wrong, then Allah will make you realise it, reflect on it and change it. What a waste to do something without the right intention. Thats pahala just doing down the drain. Just imagine how you will be rewarded if you do something with the best of intentions.

My niat for furthering my studies were obviously wrong. It was all duniawi. It was selfish, thinking about myself, without thinking about my akhirat. It was also about "vengeance" in a form of wanting to win an invisible competition for status quo. There is a fine line between taking something as a motivation and being vengeful. And I had crossed the line. It was selfish, and Im ashamed to admit it.

But alhamdulillah, after a long time of self reflection, I changed my niat and found a bigger purpose. Why is this important? Well because PhD is hard. Really hard. And after 2 years into it, you will loose a lot of hope and a lot of motivation. You will be questioning yourself "why on earth am I doing this?" "why am I suffering myself through all this torment when I can just go about working?"

Oh yes, you will be going thru that, I assure you. So when you see clearly your reason to go thru this hard road, then insyaAllah it will give you the best form of motivation ever.

Allah SWT said:

"Read in the name of your Lord who created" (Al Alaq: 1)

This ayat was an introduction to Quran for humans. Read. The first revelation that Allah sent down to Rasulullah s.a.w. was the command to Read. Allah said Read, and Rasulullah did this command for 23 years.

READ. The start of any civilisation begins with reading. It begins with knowledge. In response to that command, the Muslims became the most educated civilisation in history -- Math Education, the developed University system as it exists today, and so many more. What really got to me was when I found out that the PhD system we have now was actually taken from the ijazah system in Islam.

Can you just imagine that? It made me think. Ya Allah, PhD is so hard but in Islam that is the standard of Ijazah (degree). I was astonished. Then later in the tafsir of the surah, we later see that Allah is commanding us to do research. Go find out things you know nothing of. Allah will teach you. Go study, go seek knowledge and understanding of Allah's creations. The system that we have today with the classes, lectures and a ton of spoon feeding comes from the Greek system. But in Islam, learning is a form of research, discovering and finding.

To do research, to seek knowledge and find the wonders of the world and humanity was the first command Allah asks us to do. So find your purpose, find your strength in Allah's ayats. Find your true niat and may Allah guide you the way.

The second most important this you need is Motivation.

I used to think that I had high motivation. I was confident, secure with myself and believed that I could do this. But boy was I wrong.

When I say PhD is hard, I mean it. If you think PhD is simply reading journal papers, abstracting details of this and that, combining it together, testing it out and writing about the whole process -- then Im afraid you're in for a rude awakening. It is all that, but adding a few more things. The hardest thing that you are going to face is making decisions. Yes, you will need to read a lot. And by reading, you will notice how much you really dont know. The more you read, the more you find yourself not understanding. So you read some more. And understand even less!

I came to the point where I found myself not understanding one single thing, not being able to relate one thing to the other and thinking about how stupid I am. Yes, you will go thru this too. You will be overwhelmed by the stuff you found and you will have an even tougher time deciding which one to choose. This is where I faced the most difficulty.

It sounds petty, but you wont believe how many dozens of buckets of tears I cried myself. But I later realised, that is why seeking knowledge is a form of Jihad. It is hard. No one said it was going to be easy. And you also will realise from research that everyone goes thru it -- the learning curve. Although not everyone is comfortable going thru it, but insyaAllah Allah will help you when your niat is right.

This made me think about the saying "When a tree has fruit, its branches come down". The more you gain knowledge, the more humble you become. Because you realise that its not even 1/10 of the ilmu of Allah Taala. Which is why the most humble of people are the Ulama' (the knowledgeable).

You will need a great deal of motivation. A strong foundation of belief. Belief that Allah's plans are the best of plans (there is a reason why you were led to this path in life) and belief in yourself (that you can do this).

My tip: If you don't know if you are strong enough, make sure you have friends who will support you. Preferably who have gone thru or are going thru the same thing, because they totally get what you are feeling. Mine is Uswah. Thank you love. You've been there when I was at my worst. You brought me up and pushed me back on my own two feet. And I love you for that. You are my friend till Jannah!

The third thing you must have is Distraction
Yes, this is important. Very much important. It can be anything you want. Some have their family, some have their husbands and children. Some have side businesses, some have hobbies, others have volunteer work.

There will come a time during your long study where you just want to get away, think about other things, leave your work at the office/library/etc. During this time, you need something as a distraction. And the best distraction is something that will bring benefit to you and the community.

I have a couple of distractions in my life right now. So Im juggling three things -- my studies, my volunteer work and my business. I have put aside my business for a while because I cant deal with too much on my plate. So now Im concentrating on studies and my dakwah work.

When I want to run away from the bunch of papers on my desk and the long list of books I have to read, I involve myself with my dakwah work. Going around spreading Islam.

When I feel stressed out, I design. Yup. It calms me down. Or I cook, or I do DIY craft. Yes, you need this. If not, you might go crazy.


Those are my three most important tips when embarking on this long and winding road. Even so, those are just a few. I have a ton more, but Im gonna leave you with just those for the time being. And again, this is not to scare anyone from pursuing their studies. Im just preparing you for what is in store.

When I look at the innocent enthusiastic young people excited on doing their PhD, I have mixed feelings -- one part I want to wish them the very best of luck along with prayers and words of encouragements. The other part I just wanna say "Oh yay! You're in for a treat!" *sarcasm* and "It's not as good and easy as you think its gonna be". Yup, definitely mixed feelings.

Best of luck everyone! :) And please pray for me.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Hard Truths About Myself

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Assalamualaikum WRT WBT

Oh my. The last time I actually wrote here was nearly two years ago. I feel so ashamed. I've always fought about how blogging is therapeutic, yada yada yada. But huh. Even I havent had the time to blog.

I dont wanna use the advancement of technology as an excuse. Its too mainstream. I was just to lazy to do it. Technology does make humans lazy.

But somehow or rather, I suddenly remembered a post I once wrote years ago and wanted to see it again. Isn't it ironic how an event makes you remember things you've forgotten? Its like its as the back of your mind somewhere, then suddenly someone, something on an odd day you are reminded of it.

Today, a dear sister got married. Asma', one of my juniors who I really care about. I dont really remember how we got so close, but she is such a dear. You know the expression "loving someone for the sake of Allah"? Well, thats how I feel about her. She has a special place in my heart. I wish her all the best in her marriage and pray it will be happy till Jannah insyaAllah.

What made me suddenly decide to write again, was this very weird feeling that I got after I said goodbye to Asma' at her reception. I suddenly felt sad (sayu hati). As I was driving back to the office, I nearly choked up. I didnt understand this feeling, so Im writing about it in hope that I'll be able to identify the reason behind it.

The feeling that I got made me think about Sherlock. Haha I know right about now you might be saying "what? what does that have to do with it?" Hold on to your pants. Ok, so let me tell you.

For those who watched Sherlock the series, remember the time when Sherlock gave the best man speech? The time when he mentioned about he doesn't even understand how someone would consider him as a best friend. I dont know if its the same, but yeah.. its along the same lines.

Today, when I arrived at the ceremony, Asma was entertaining guests inside the hall. When she saw me, she looked so happy. Yes, I wouldnt have missed that look for the world. Alhamdulillah Asma'. Then after a while, she came all the way from the other side of the hall to our table. I didnt want to bother her because we were eating and she had a hall full of guests to say hi to. But she came to us and sat down next to me.

Then I shooed her away because she wanted to keep talking, but people were coming up to her to see her. When it came for our turn to take pictures with the bride and groom, she said "akak, kite ambik gambar kite berdua dulu". Then when I said, "Ok, panggil Sabiq" so that we could take pictures together, she introduced me as "Ni Kak Amirah, kakak super senior yang sangat osem".

I was super surprised. And terharu. I guess that's what made me suddenly choked up in the car. Someone actually thought of me that way.

You try your best when dealing with people. You try to be your most sincere. But at the same time, be a person who is assertive and stand by your principles. No one, and I mean no one has the right to tell you to change your principles. I am a person who will tell you the hard truth if you need to hear it. I am a person who will say "I dont like this" when I really dont like it, no matter who you are.

I also dislike people who do things sambil lewa. I guess my parents brought us up that way. We were consistently reminded that we should TRY our best. My parents dont really mind what results we got in our exams. As long as we tried. If we didn't try, then that's when they got angry. But if we tried, we studied, we showed some effort, yet we didnt get good results, then they didnt mind at all. We were not penalized for it, but were constantly reminded how Allah rewards our efforts, not our results.

Some would definitely consider me as a difficult person. I am difficult to handle, especially to those who have gotten on my nerves and doesnt show any sign of changing their attitude. It would be one of my goals to bombard them with hard truths as long as they are like that. This might be one of the reasons why people dont like me that much and are afraid of me.

You know when a situation is tough, and there's no one to just stand up and say "we have to stop doing this!"? Or a situation where no one wants to address the elephant in the room? Or when no one wants to really state the problem at hand in fear of hurting ones feelings? Yeah, Im usually that person. I think I've scratched a lot of egos along the way. But hey, what is so wrong in saying what is right? It's not like Im doing it minus the manners and akhlak. Its just that I'm putting aside the berkias-kias, or the fear of orang terasa sini terasa sana. Why not say the hard truths when its true and honest?

So yeah, some people fear me because Im like this.

Which is why I was so surprised when Asma' introduced me like that. I felt so.. I dont know what word to use. I used to question the reasons of people being friends with me. Some friends, I know the reason. Others, not so much. I question how good of a friend I am to others. Sometimes I feel that there is no benefit people befriending me. I feel like Im such a lousy friend.

But when she said that, I found myself thinking "I must have done something right. Alhamdulillah."

As time pasts, our live goals change, we change as people, we change in attitude and actions. We change in our hopes and dreams as we grow up. And when this happens, we find ourselves no longer having anything in common with some of our old friends. It's possible. I find that sometimes, when I hang out with my many group of friends, I don't know what to talk about, as if we have no longer anything in common.

But don't ever break a friendship that was once there. I finally understand the meaning of "loving someone for the sake of Allah". That is a friendship of sincerity that has the strongest basis for a everlasting friendship. You stay friends because you want to go to Jannah together. You try your best to help your friend and remind them when they do wrong. You pray for them without their knowledge. And you love them unconditionally.

There is a saying "... people will forget that you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.." ~ Maya Angelou

I really hope that among the many people I have met along my 30 years of life, I have touched people's hearts more than I have broken them

To those whom I have ever hurt, please forgive me. I am really sorry.

p/s: Thank you Asma'. You made me do some reflection today. Mubarak'alaik Asma & Sabiq