2013 In Retrospect

13304-Don-t-Waste-Time-On-What-Could-Have-Been

Hello 2014!

2013 was a tough year for me, lots of tough love and brutal lessons and honestly I am glad to leave it… and step into a more exciting 2014 InsyaAllah.

Exciting moments await for me this year, InsyaAllah!

 

I would like to highlight a few things in 2013 that summarized my year:

  • Embarked on the chaos that is wedding planning. This experience has opened my eyes and taught me lots of valuable lessons of wedding planning and marriage, MashaAllah. It also made me realize that marriage is a lot of hard work. One of my favorite teachers and speaker, Ustaz Pahrol said, “Don’t find happiness in a marriage, instead bring happiness into the marriage. Happiness in a marriage needs to be built.” That is so deep and true. Very useful advice for a BTB like me.
  • Deciding to leave a place that was not doing any good for me in terms of growth and development. It was tough, but a decision that had to be done.
  • Being forced to face a situation whereby I was turned down by something I had been good at all this while. Or at least, I thought I was. It was a total bummer and shattered my ego. But everything in 2013 made me truly believe that everything happened for a reason – and for some reason that opportunity was just not for me at this very moment. I choose to see that God has other things planned for me instead of continuing telling myself I was not good enough for it.
  • Started blogging again by starting this blog! I started this blog because I missed writing. When I first started this blog, I had an editorial calendar to help me discipline myself to blog regularly especially because I had not been blogging for a while before that. I also participated in the Daily Post as well as Weekly Writing Challenges, and it has been fun exploring the world in words again. I didn’t expect to gain any followers, but it seems I did and I thank each and everyone of you for it! 🙂 It’s really nice to have a community of writers and bloggers whose intention is to write and blog better, be a better writer, blogger, photographer. But as you can see I have not been writing as regularly as my editorial calendar. Partly because I started a new blog specifically on my wedding planning, seeing that this blog is not a wedding planning blog but a space to practice my craft. Another thing is I have been spending more time off-line, off-writing online because I choose to concentrate on more reading (physical books), finally traveling out of SG this year (after almost a year of not traveling, I finally I went to Melaka and Kuala Lumpur recently, Alhamdulillah). I have also been just enjoying the moments and getting not too caught up with social media, except for posting some photos on Instagram. Just doing some much needed reflection on my quarter-life… I will still be blogging regularly, but will be scrapping my editorial calendar as I have somewhat got into the swing of things, or the momentum of blogging.
  • Wrapped up 2013 with getting to meet Prof Dr Muhaya at Seminar Celik Famili in KL! I am so inspired by this ophthalmologist and motivational speaker. She is just amazing. I went to the seminar with my mum and sis, and we were hoping to meet her personally after the seminar but she didn’t come out of the hall. Then, lo and behold, just when we were about to leave our hotel, she came into the hotel with her husband. MashaAllah it was our rezki! It was also a challenge to make the trip happen, but Alhamdulillah Allah made it possible. Truly, Allah is with those who seek knowledge. InsyaAllah, Ameen.

Since my birthday is in December, I used to make a list of things I did for the year in conjunction of the age number. So for example, “22 Things I Did When I was 22”. It was inspired by a fellow blogger, and I did that for several years and had a lot of fun doing it. However, as I thought about doing that this year I didn’t want my life to be measured solely by “things I did” or “places I traveled” or “things I experienced” which was kind of what I was doing sometimes.

Life is not just about “getting” or “having”, but it is about “being” and “becoming”.

I’ve thought a lot about how and what I want in 2014, and I’ve decided that it will be a year of taking chances, being bold, being loving to myself and the people around me, and being happy for no reason! This year, I want my happiness to be “Inside-Out” instead of “Outside-In”. InsyaAllah.

I hope you have an awesome year ahead! 😀

5 Things You Will Never Know

“Indeed, Allah [alone] has knowledge of the Hour and sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs. And no soul perceives what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul perceives in what land it will die. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”Luqman, 34

There are five things we will never know that only God knows. Allah has mentioned this in Surah Luqman, verse 34.

1. When Judgement Day will come.

2. When the rain will fall.

3. What is in the womb of a pregnant woman.

4. What you will earn tomorrow.

5. Where you will die.

Bear in mind that technology, no matter how updated it is, will never be 100% accurate. If it is designed by human beings, it will be prone to error. Our jobs and businesses, no matter how efficient and effective they are, do not guarantee you will still have them tomorrow. True security lies with God. All knowledge and sustenance comes from Him. May Allah protect us from our own arrogance and may He grant us sustenance always, InsyaAllah. 🙂

Jonah.

Jonah. (Yunus in Arabic).

The Prophet who got stuck in the whale for a long period of time until finally, he got out of it by saying the tasbeeh.

Subhanallah. Walhamdulillah. Walailahaillallah. Wallahuakbar.

He recited it repeatedly, praying to God countless times, to have mercy on him and to forgive him for giving up easily.

He was supposed to spread Islam to his community but he had given up due to their responses. He got upset. And he was not willing to continue. Until he was thrown out of the boat he was in and landed in the whale’s stomach. The wet, disgusting, smelly, fishy, slimy, stomach of a whale.

That’s who I’d like to meet. One of the days we shall, sit under a tree in Jannah and have a little chat about his experience InsyaAllah.

It’s about “How I Survived Being inside the Whale’s Stomach.”

And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no repeller of His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. – Yunus, 107

It reminds me that when we’re stuck, feeling like there is no other way out, recite the tasbeeh. And repeat.

Glory be to God. Thank You Allah. There is no God but Allah. Allah is the Most Great.

And if Allah permits, I’d like to meet the perfect man, Muhammad. And courageous Moses, cool Jesus, handsome Yusuf, and the rest of the Prophets too.

InsyaAllah, Ameen.

Inspired by Daily Prompt: It Builds Character.

Muharram – the First Month in the Islamic Calendar

have a blessed new year

via Alchemy of Hippieness

According to the Islamic calendar, as we reach Maghrib, or dusk time today it will be 1 Muharram 1435H.

While the Gregorian calendar follows the solar year, the Islamic calendar follows the lunar year.

A lunar year is based on the moon which is the motion of the moon around the earth. Islamic calendar is based on the lunar year, and was introduced by the 2nd caliph, Sayidina Umar r.a. There are 354 days in the lunar year.

A solar year is based on the seasons. The Gregorian calendar is based on the solar year. There are 365 days in the solar year.

Watch this slide to learn more about Time and the Quran.

Have a blessed new year to all my Muslim brothers and sisters! May this coming year bring you closer to your Creator and His Beloved, InsyaAllah. 🙂

Foot Reflexology and Wudhu’ (Ablution)

Yesterday, I went for foot reflexology. My left knee somehow will hurt during running and I don’t know why. I stretch, but perhaps I don’t stretch enough. But it is strange that my right knee is fine while only my left knee hurts. No worries though, it only hurts while running long-distance. My legs are fine for daily walking, Alhamdulillah.

It’s been a while since I went for any foot reflexology. I went to my uncle’s shop, Bodicaire and had my feet massaged by his friendly, motherly and firm assistant, Suraya. I told her my the problem with my left knee and she really worked on my knee. Some parts were okay while some left me with “Ouch, that was painful…” But after 30 minutes, my legs and feet feel so much better – more “lighter” and relaxed.

footreflexology

Suraya shared with me that the veins on your feet links to the rest of your body organs, so foot reflexology actually helps to regulate our body’s system. Interesting aye? Hence, it would be good to go for foot reflexology at least once a month.

How to Read a Foot Reflexology Chart

Besides foot reflexology, Bodicaire also provides neck & shoulder massage, upper back massage and also body massage. My aunt who was there as well joked that I needed to have my feet massaged since I would be getting married soon and thus, will need to toughen up my feet and body. Lol thanks, aunt. But in hindsight, I think I might just do it… Wedding planning can be quite a workout itself!

Anyway, it got me thinking how when we take ablution before prayer, one of the compulsory body parts that we have to wash is the feet. Maybe this is why, because by washing the feet we are also washing our whole body. Wow, MashaAllah if that’s true that’s amazing.

Medical Benefit of Wudhu’ (Ablution)

Mosque Meets Sky. Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

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That point where the arch of the mosque’s minaret “touches” the horizon.

That day when the sky and the clouds seem to be having an adventure of their own.

That time when you just have to say, “SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah). Thank you God for creating such a beautiful world.

Taken just before dusk, with my Samsung Galaxy Note 1. (Mosque: Masjid Alkaff Kampung Melayu)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

How to Cope (and Heal) with the Grief of Losing a Parent

Grief.

What a short five letter word, but which carries a huge burden of emotions.

On 23 December 2006, I lost my father due to an unexpected heart attack. I was 19, and it was my final year studying in Nanyang Polytechnic. As he left very suddenly, my family did not have any time to prepare mentally for his passing as compared to if he had been suffering from any major illnesses. Death is like that. When your time on Earth is up, your time is up. As Muslims, Allah teaches us that death is inevitable for every human being and it has been written in the Book of Records (Lauh Mahfuz) the age that we will die and leave this Earth to move on to the Hereafter.

“Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere,”Al-Baqarah, 155

Accepting his death was manageable, but it was dealing with his loss that was difficult. To accept and redha with Allah’s qada’ and qadar is the key to dealing with the grief of a loved one’s passing. It is only then can you be at peace with the loss. But how does one actually accept and redha, and overcome this huge grief, all the while filled with the pain of knowing that you will never see this person again, ever..?

I’m sure everyone who has gone through a similar experience has their own ways of dealing and managing grief, but these were some of my ways of coping, grieving and healing as well as the lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. Realize that death is NOT the end. It is only the beginning to Hereafter, and that you WILL meet them in Jannah, InsyaAllah.

We have been put on Earth to worship God and collect pahala, or rewards, and then return back to Jannah, our permanent dwelling place. So death is just the opening to that world, the place where we truly belong. The place where we came from. Heaven. Eventually, we will all meet in Jannah one day, so don’t worry about not being able to meet them anymore because you will, insyaAllah. This thought has comforted me a great deal especially at times when I miss my father so much. My father was a gift to me, but now Allah had taken back this beautiful gift because truly it had belonged to Him in the first place. Who am I to complain?

“So glory to Him in Whose hands is the dominion of all things: and to Him will ye be all brought back.”Yasin, 83

2. Don’t shut off from the world completely. Keep your support system close; even if you do not feel like talking to anyone.

I had a healthy social life but there were many times when I just wanted to be alone. I wanted friends to stop asking me how am I? I wanted to say, of course I AM NOT OK. But I didn’t want to be looked at pitifully as I already was. I didn’t want people to think I am weak. So I would say I’m OK and flash a smile. What I had done was put on a mask instead of being honest with myself and other people. What I should have said was,

“I’m not OK, but I do need to be left alone at this moment. Thank you so much for checking with me, I truly appreciate your concern. But at this moment, even I don’t know how to exactly cope with this so do give me space to figure it all out. I know I can always contact you if I need your help.”

I’ve come to understand that people will understand it if you are honest with them. After all, they just wanted to help even if they may not know how. Let them help you, in their own ways.

3. Don’t be afraid to get help. There is nothing wrong with you if you seek help for grieving. You are NOT mental.

Two years after his passing, I was at the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was the eldest of my siblings and I was feeling very stressed with the added responsibilities. I felt that I had to do something about it. I had a family friend who was a counselor, and without anyone knowing at that time, I requested to see her. She recommended me to her friend, a psychologist and counselor from overseas who would be coming to town that weekend, arranged for our meet-up and even booked a place for the consultation. The psychologist, Hani, had me do some exercises which were very useful and listened to me objectively. Hani was such a warm person to begin with. I didn’t know how much she was going to charge me for it, knowing how much these sessions usually cost, I just left it to God and prayed,

“Dear God, I want to be a better person and be redha with your plans but it is so difficult now. Please make it easy for me.”

And MashaAllah, at the end of the session, she told me that I didn’t need to pay a single cent! Wow, truly Allah is the Best of All Planners.

4. Throw away your guilt and regrets. Nothing happened because of you, and no amount of “if only I had…” will help you with anything.

When my father came back home from work the day that he passed away, I was in the room using the computer and did not go out and salam him like I usually do. I can’t remember why but I must have been busy with something. Moments later, the Angel of Death had taken him away. I felt guilty and regretted not salam-ing him afterwards. But no amount of “if only I had..” will help you with anything. Realize that these are just the whispers of syaitan who aim to make you feel guilty and regret so that you are so consumed with grief that you forget about God. Do not succumb to the devil’s whispers!

5. Listen to Yasmin Mogahed’s videos and read this amazing article; “Why Do People Have to Leave Each Other?

Do not attach yourself to dunya. It is very easy to say that but Yasmin Mogahed has a such a beautiful way of expressing and articulating this. Reading the article, listening to her videos and audios really helped me lot in my healing process, Alhamdulillah.

6. Realize that your mother is going through this for the first time and sometimes, she will not know what to do.

What happens when you lose a father? You start to discover your mother at a whole new level. Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah, 187, that husband and wives are garments of each other. They are tag team players in their marriage institution, they are supporters of each other, they complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, they cover each others’ shortcomings. So when one of them is gone, the children start to see things in the other parent that they normally do not see because the other parent, now gone, does such a good job of being an excellent partner who covers up for the other. It was through this experience that I can see how truly what Allah means in the verse, MashaAllah. It is only natural that when you lose a partner, you will feel lost doing things alone.

7. Ask Allah to make you and your family strong. Allah is the Almighty. True strength only comes from Him.

This may sound simple, but many times we forget to ask God because it is so simple. Prior to losing my father, my mother lost her mother one month before that. Imagine the “bomb” she had to go through. Imagine the devastation that she would have felt. But Alhamdulillah, Allah gave her strength to carry the tests and overcome it in a matter of years.

8. Take time to grief, do not rush the process. Do not compare your grieving period with others because it differs and that’s okay.

I eventually took three years to overcome my father’s death, but it was only after three years that I could admit that it had taken me three years to do so. Previously, I had been in denial and thought that I didn’t need to grieve. It varies from person to person on the time it takes to overcome grief after the passing of a loved one, and the grieving process should not be rushed.

9. Your family will surprise you. They need to heal too, and they are what they are – human beings designed to feel.

I’ve always seen my aunts as “my aunt”, my uncle as “my uncle” and my grandmother as “my grandmother”. My father was the eldest among his siblings of five. He was the leader of the pack, always the organizer of events, the jovial person in the family, the one who would lead the prayer in family events. So when he was gone, even his siblings were at a loss and needed time to heal. My two uncles, sibling number 4 and 5, now had to step up and lead the prayers. My first aunt, the second out of five now became the eldest sibling. My grandmother, who had relied on my father for many things, now had to cope with losing her first son. As she was approaching the 80s, she was also sad that her son went before her. Through this experience, I could see them as siblings going through the loss of an older brother, and a mother going through the loss of her first son.

10. Keep the Quran close to you all the time. The Quran is a Healer, take time to read, understand and reflect on it.

Last but not least, never underestimate the healing powers of the Quran. It is Allah’s love letters to you, your Creator who knows every single thing about you regardless of whether you show or hide it. Surely, His words will heal you. He presents you with tests and He also presents you with the tools to help you pass the test. It is not his wish to see you sad without a purpose, but to make you stronger in faith. I shall end this article with one of my favorite verse, a beautiful verse from Surah An-Nur. Remember that grief, a time of darkness, is only temporary. Allah will get you out of this dark times and into His Light, InsyaAllah.

“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.”An-Nur, 35

A Muslim Astronaut’s Ramadan and Quran in Space

In today’s Faith Friday, I will be sharing an inspiring interview I did for Ramadan.sg in 2011 with Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a Muslim astronaut from Malaysia. He flew to Space on 10th October 2007 and returned to Earth on 21st October 2007 under an agreement with Russia through Malaysia’s Angkasawan Program. An orthopedic surgeon by nature, he shares his experience fasting in Space (Eidulfitri was on 13th October 2007 so he managed to experience Ramadan in Space for 2 days). 

sheikh muszaphar shukor_muslim astronaut

“And whomsoever Allah wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam, and whomsoever He wills to send astray, He makes his breast closed and constricted, as if he is climbing up to the sky
” Al-An’am, 125

That was indeed how Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shah felt while he was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Soyuz TMA-11 almost four years ago. In Singapore for a 2-day talk at ITE Simei last week, Ramadan.sg interviews him about Islam, Ramadan and the Quran.

RAMADAN.SG (RDSG): This year’s Ramadan theme is Rejuvenate Ramadan with the Light of Al-Quran. So we would like to know, did you happen to bring a copy of the Quran when you were in Space?

SHEIKH MUSZAPHAR (SM): I did. I brought 2 copies of the Quran, when I came back I gave one to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and the other one to my mum. I read the Quran everyday when I was in Space and it was the best feeling ever. And since I came back from Space, I’ve been studying the Quran a lot, because I realize that everything is in the Quran.

When I was giving a talk in Egypt, I was sharing about how I felt when I was launching up in the Soyuz and just couldn’t breathe as I went higher and higher into Space and a professor from Egypt came up to me and said, “Dr Sheikh, whatever that you have shared with us, it is in the Quran,” and he shared with me this verse;

“And whomsoever Allah wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam, and whomsoever He wills to send astray, He makes his breast closed and constricted, as if he is climbing up to the sky. Thus Allah puts the wrath on those who believe not.”  (Al-An’am, 125)”

So it really intrigues me, and I have been studying the Quran especially on life in Space and life as a whole. Are there other life forms outside the Earth? The closest I have come to this was this verse, although it doesn’t say specifically if there are other life forms out there;

“There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, or a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you.  Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.” (Al-An’am, 38)

RDSG: What is your favorite verse in the Quran?

SM: My favorite verse is definitely Al-Fatihah as it is the mother of the Quran.

RDSG: What about any particular zikir or doa that was in your mind the whole time you were up there?

SM: Well when I was at a very young age, my grandmother taught me this doa that says,

“O Allah, increase me my knowledge, ease my task for me, and remove barriers in my speech, so they may understand what I say.” – Taha, 25-28

I have been reading the doa repeatedly ever since and it just calms me down. I’m blessed that she taught me this doa.

RDSG: Can you explain in detail on how you spent Ramadan in Space?

SM: Even though I am the 9th Muslim astronaut to go to Space, I was the first Muslim astronaut to go during the fasting month of Ramadan. Spending 2 days in Ramadan before ‘Eid Mubarak was the best exciting experience ever. I did not feel hungry and tired, on the other hand I felt so calm and relaxed that I wish this Ramadan it would be the same. It was a great feeling to be able to experience Ramadan in Space.

RDSG: So what do you miss the most about being there during Ramadhan?

SM: The thing I miss most is just experiencing how beautiful and magical the Earth is. Allah’s Greatness could really be felt when we were above the clouds. I was in awe and at the same time feeling touched at how big Allah’s Greatness is, which can be felt all the time. Every time I look at planet Earth from Space, I would get goose bumps and I could feel my heart beating faster and my eyes just affixed on the magic that is Allah’s World.

During my Hajj last year when I was looking at the Ka’abah from my hotel, I noticed some similarities between what was happening (on Earth) and what I saw in Space. It was that the Tawaf was being done in an anti-clockwise direction, similar to how all the planets also orbit in an anti-clockwise direction. So why is that so instead of them moving in a clockwise direction? Everything is done for a purpose and that is something I would like to study about.

RDSG: So was the Ka’abah visible from Space?

SM: No, I could not see any man-made buildings from Space, but Prince Sultan (referring to Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud , the first Muslim astronaut who have traveled to Space in 1985) did mention that he saw the Ka’abah light up from Space. Everyone gets a different miracle while in Space, for me I heard the Azan while I was there.

RDSG: Yes about this, where did you hear the Azan from?

SM: It was inside the ISS and I was very sure I heard the Azan. I look around whether anyone else heard it, and I didn’t know whether they did not understand what the Azan was or they did not hear what I heard. But it was such a magical experience for me at that time.

RDSG: Wow. So what did you eat when you were there?

SM: We had so many kinds of food. The French brought cheese, the Italians brought pizza, the Japanese brought ramen, the Koreans brought kimchi, so we brought Malaysian food to space, like satay, rendang, nasi beriyani and kuih bangkit during my fast in Space. We even had chicken, fish and vegetables. But your taste buds changes in Space. Some foods that you like on Earth, you may not like in Space.

RDSG: That’s very interesting! So did you bring dates, or kurma, to break your fast?

SM: We did not. We were not allowed to bring just any kind of food as the Russians were very strict on the guidelines. So there were certain selective foods that were allowed. We even wanted to bring durians, and Malaysia actually created a no-smell durian which we thought was good, but then we were not allowed to bring it.

RDSG: Did you bring any supplements or good vitamin food to Space? Like raisins?

SM: Prior to our trip in Russia (for 6-months training), we had selected the foods that we would be bringing. Hence we selected the kind of foods that we like and everything was based on the amount of calories that we would consume every day in Space, which is why it was a very selective process. But, kurma is definitely one of the best foods ever as it is high in energy. If I am given the opportunity to fly to Space again, I would definitely bring kurma.

RDSG: How did the other astronauts react to you having to stick to Halal food?

SM: The best thing about Space is that it doesn’t matter what country, race or religion you come from, everything is being treated professionally. So I did not have any problems praying in Space or eating Halal food. They knew my religion as a Muslim and they respected it.

RDSG: So did they ask any questions about Islam? And what was the most-asked question?

SM: They do. Majority of them are Christians and not many Muslims have gone up to Space. They always ask “What does Islam mean?”, “Why do you have to believe in Allah?,” “Why do you have to eat Halal food?” as these things fascinate them. Thus we try to explain to them the beauty of why we do all this, why we need to slaughter animals the Islam way – that it benefits the animals, and it is not healthy for us if done the improper way. They were amazed by the explanations and wanted to know more.

RDSG: Ok last question. What do you have to say to Muslims all over the world for this Ramadhan?

SM: When I went to Space, it was very important for me to show the world what Islam is all about. Islam is a way of life, no matter where you are – whether you are on Earth or in Space; you must do your ibadah as it is your responsibility as a Muslim. These are the things I did, and I am trying to bring back the glory of Islam especially in Science and Astronomy.

So I am trying to reach out to the Muslim community out there to be more “ber’ilmu”, or knowledgeable, especially in Science and Astronomy. This will bring back the glory of Islam so I do hope to inspire the Muslims out there, all over the world. InsyaAllah.

END.

Watch the video interview here: http://youtu.be/mGv2NNcUQ70

The Beauty of the Day of ‘Arafah

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Today is 9th Zulhijjah, which is the Day of ‘Arafah.

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arafah normal day

This is how Mount Rahmah, (“Mount of Mercy”) in ‘Arafah, Makkah looks like on a normal day.

arafah hajj 2

And this is how it looks like on the Day of ‘Arafah which is today.

arafah hajj 3

Arafah was the place were Adam and Eve met once again when they were sent down to reside on earth. They came down on two different spots but eventually were able to meet and recognize each other on this plain. Arafah here means “to get acquainted”, so based on this opinion Adam and Eve got acquainted to each other on that very same land we call today Arafah.

The Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “ Ű§Ù„Ű­ŰŹ ŰčŰ±ÙŰ© “ or “Hajj is Arafah“. The Arabic text implies a very important concept of the meaning of Hajj. This short statement means that the whole hajj and its validity is confined in the actual day of Arafahi.e. Hajj becomes valid only when the day of Arafah is observed and witnessed by those who undertake the journey, the pilgrims. Regardless how long the hujjaj stay in Makkah, if they missed that single day, they have then missed the whole Hajj.

Source: The Truth Behind the Day of Arafah & Its Name

arafah hajj

To me, the day of ‘Arafah is such a special day. Even if we are not in Makkah, today is the day Allah grants all our prayers. The air is just different this day, it is a day where hearts are united; not just Adam and Eve but the hearts of Muslims all over the world. Unity in prayer. Unity in love. Unity in asking for forgiveness from God. And that is such a beautiful thing.

I received a beautiful message from a friend today and I’d like to include it here, making du’a (prayer) on “Makeful Monday”:

On this day of Arafah, the most favoured day of Allah my du’as for you…

May the Rahmah of Allah pour down on you and in your home continuously.

May Allah record your name amongst those who will be forgiven.

May Allah accept all your du’as and grant you sustenance with lots of Blessings.

May Allah grant you the strength to fulfil your obligations to the best of your ability and confirm your entrance into Paradise InsyaAllah.

To know more about the significance of the Day of ‘Arafah, click here.

It’s Hajj Season & A Reminisce of My Umrah in 2009

makkah

Today is 6th of Zulhijjah which means we are only 4 days away from Eid’ul ‘Adha! We are in the first ten days of the month of Zulhijjah, the month of Hajj MashaAllah. And during the month of Hajj, Masjidil Haram in Makkah is truly that crowded (picture) and more. Muslims from all over the world gather to perform the 5th pillar of Islam, performing the deed called Hajj, loosely translated as pilgrimage.

I might not be going to Hajj anytime soon now (there’s a long waiting list and you also need a lot of time to prepare physically and mentally, as well as the stability of finances – unless someone happens to sponsor you, which is MashaAllah, ah-ma-zing) but praises be to God for allowing me to have stepped into the Haramain lands 4 years ago for my umrah, or mini pilgrimage.

For Hajj, you have to go during a certain period of time and there are more specific actions to do but for an umrah, you can go anytime and there are not as many specific actions to do as compared to Hajj.

In 2009, I went to Makkah and Madinah with my mother and my male cousin. I was in my second year in uni during that time and we went after my exams during my semester holidays. It came as an epiphany to my mum who felt that it was the “right time” to perform umrah, without knowing exactly why. Surprisingly, I actually felt the same way.

Prior to the trip, I was feeling depressed over several things. Also, about 2 years had passed since my father’s death and I was still grieving over his passing (they say it gets better after a while but the first few years are always the hardest). I wanted these issues to go away. I wanted to go away to somewhere, so when the opportunity came to go to the lands of Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) who had to go through more depressing moments in his life but who was always smiling all the time, I thought “this is it”. Turns out it wasn’t about me going away, but going back to Allah…

Madinah

Masjid-al-Nabawi

We arrived at Jeddah International Airport in the wee hours of the morning and proceeded to Madinah. Our journey was to spend 3 days in Madinah and 10 days in Makkah, making it a total of 13 days. When the bus first stepped into Madinah, I felt overwhelmed with emotions knowing that the Prophet had been here, to step into a land he has stepped on, to finally be here in Madinah. Furthermore, the hotel that we stayed in, Dar Iman Intercontinental, was located directly in front of Masjid Nabawi. I was swept with a feeling of calmness and tranquillity being in the mosque. Marble flooring, gold-plated accessories, oriental carpeting
materialistic description aside, it was being in the space itself that was beautiful. After making my prayers for the first time there, a rush of calm swept over me. Every ounce of misery and depression that I had melted away. The feeling was just indescribable.

sign
Just a stone’s throw away from the hotel.

We visited Raudhah at night, the area where the Prophet used to live with his wife Siti ‘Aishah. At this spot prayers are accepted so my mother and me as well as the rest of our group prayed 2 rakaats of the tahiyyatul masid prayer along with other supplications. Outside, the temperature in Madinah was 45 degrees celcius. I had never felt that kind of heat ever before, no matter how hot and humid Singapore is. However, the magical thing about the heat was that even though it can be blistering hot ‘if-you-don’t-wear-sunglasses-you-can-hurt-your-eyes-hot’, it’s not humid and it’s always breezy.

masjid-nabawi-dalam2
The inside of Masjid Nabawi

Even though I wear the hijab, I had a bit of a culture shock seeing the sight of many Muslim women decked out in their black abayas, some with their niqabs and burqas. Honestly at first it kind of scared me, but after going into the mosque and discovering that the ladies were super nice and pretty and gorgeously beautiful I realized the niqabs and burqas were really just on the outside. After that onwards I started to appreciate the beauty of wearing the abaya, jubah and actually, that is one of the things I miss most about being in Madinah and Makkah.

In front of Masjid Quba, which was the first mosque that the Prophet built upon reaching Madinah after 13 years in Makkah.
In front of Masjid Quba, which was the first mosque that the Prophet built upon reaching Madinah after 13 years in Makkah.

The three days that we had in Madinah were spent mostly going to Masjid Nabawi, exploring the area including some shopping for books and abaya. Even though we had a lovely hotel room, it was such a waste to stay in! Another thing that shocked me was the fact that 5 – 10 mins before every obligatory prayer time everyone would rush to the mosque to get a space to pray and to be there in time for prayer. It was such a surprise to me because as soon as the Azan calls, the mosque would have been full house and that is why you have to come earlier. Praying in Masjid Nabawi gets you 100 times more pahala than usual, furthermore praying in congregation multiples it by 27 times. MashaAllah no wonder every prayer time is like an event over at the 2 holiest mosques! Now if only we can treat our home mosques and our prayers that way. Talk about the power of place.

date trees 2
Visiting a date farm! Unripe dates still hanging on date palm trees.
dates
Ripe dates all decked out for selection.
We also stopped by Mount Uhud, where the second battle took place.
We also stopped by Mount Uhud, where the second battle took place.

When it came to time to leave Madinah, it was such a sad feeling. 3 days was simply too short. But, looking at the bright side we were off to Makkah, to the Kaabah, to Baitullah! We were encouraged to wear white and guys would wear the ihram (although ladies, not a good choice to wear white unless you are completely sure your garment is not sheer at all) and off we went in our bus to Makkah.

Makkah

me in front of masjidil haram
Me in front of Masjidil Haram

We reached Makkah at night when it was already dark. There was a traffic jam nearing the Masjidil Haram so our bus was constantly stopping and braking. Suddenly however, as we were very near the mosque, the bus broke down. So even though we were tired from the journey, we proceeded to walk to get to our hotel, which fortunately was located near the mosque, along with our bags.

view from hotel
View from our hotel

But once we reached the mosque, all the tiredness and the efforts were so worth it. Again I was overwhelmed with emotion of finally being in the mosque where the Prophet and his companions had once been. Being in the places where Islam first began and thinking of their struggles, MashaAllah may Allah bless all their efforts and make us more steadfast in our faiths.

One of the best things about being at both mosques was the continuous supply of the waters of zam-zam. There would be tumblers of zam-zam waters in several sections of the mosque, along with plastic cups provided. Anyone can take them and drink from these tumblers. Some, like me, would fill up their bottles with them. So can you imagine, to wake up and drink air zam-zam only for 13 days? SubhanAllah. We were also told that it was not safe to drink water from the hotel taps so we turned to the best source – zam-zam water!

mount rahmah
Mount Rahmah, which means mount of Mercy, was where Prophet Adam met Hawa on Earth after being separated in Paradise.

In Masjidil Haram we performed the tawaf; circumambulating 7 times around the Ka’abah in an anti-clockwise direction and saie; walking back and forth Mount Safa and Marwa 7 times in commemoration of Siti Hajar when she did that years ago in search of water for her son Ismail.

We also went to visit more historical places such as Mount Nur, the place of the first revelation from God to Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I joined some of the team in climbing up this mountain. We started our climb at 3am and even though it was still dark and the mount was treacherous, we could navigate our way up because the light, or nur, that came from the moon allowed us to do so. that’s why it’s called Jabal Nur, or Mount of Light. One of my favourite moments was when it was time for Subuh, we could hear the call of prayer from the many mosques nearby collectively. It was truly an amazing moment.

mount nur gua hira mount nur

Next we went to the museum which displayed historical items used in the history of Islam in Makkah.

kaabah fabric manual

On our last day we went to the floating mosque at the Red Sea to perform our prayers, and then we had a little walkabout exploring the area… before going back to the bus for our departure to the airport and back home.

floating mosque

May Allah give me and us all the opportunity to perform our Hajj and Umrah InsyaAllah.

Photo credits: Most of the photos are from me, except for the first photo of Masjidil Haram, Masjidil Nabawi (exterior) and the inside of Masjidil Nabawi.