40Days to transform my life!

Feel like you are letting yourself down? Know you can do better but aren't sure how? Make great resolutions but don't follow through? Sounds just like me. Which is why I am resolving to commit 40Days to making a lasting difference to my life, insha Allah. This blog is the online home of my personal 40Day Challenge - you can join me or simply follow my progress (or lack of it!).

Sunday, May 21, 2006

First Impressions


What a difference three days makes! I have only been in South Africa since Thursday morning and it feels like a month away from home. Could it be because of the sheer intensity of these last few days? No doubt.

These last few days have become a blur of faces and places, speeches, chance encounters, laughter, tears, inspiration and exhaustion. Amazing! Masha Allah!

After every event, be it a visit to a madrassah, a sisters' gathering, a talk, a gala dinner, a bookstore appearance or interview with a journalist, I have tried to record mentally the sights, sounds and memories. But alas! I have not yet had time to fully document all these amazing experiences. Although my journal pages are being filled, the story is making little progress: there is so much to write about.

So let me just try to convey a little of the experience.
We are staying in a guest house in Lenasia, a predominantly Indian area in Johannesburg, or Gauteng. 'Indian' is the term that is used to refer to what we would call 'Asians'. The guest house is neat and spacious, on a quiet residential street lined by medium-sized houses with a penchant for asymetrical architecture and Roman-style pillars. At night, the house is lit up by purple and green lights. That, coupled with the bright green curtains in our room, means that it always lookes like it is almost Fajr time at night.

The store that is stocking From My Sisters' Lips is a quiet 5 minute drive away, past a park of scrubby grass and a school surrounded by red red earth. The children seem to be on break all the time, judging by the noise! Not that we have had much time to savour these sounds of carefree youth - we have not spent an afternoon at the lodge since that first day! After we settled our bags at the lodge, we were whisked off by our lovely hostess to the mall where the store is located - a bright and airy building not unlike others I have seen in Pakistan and Egypt. All white tiles and atriums and escalators and water features.

After a delicious meal at a local steak house chain, (should I name-drop? Ok, it was Spurs. And no, they are not paying me to advertise for them!) we returned to the lodge to change for the evening's entertainment. This was a fairly informal dinner with the women of the broadcasting family. Well, there I met some real characters! The radio presenter who is famous for having brought previously taboo subjects up for discussion on her show but who has now dropped out of the ratrace and presents a lifestyle magazine-style show instead! We got into a fascinating conversation about all sorts of topics, so much so that we were blissfully unaware when all the delicious food had been cleared away and the gathering were patiently waiting for the 'sister Na'ima from the YouKay' to give them a talk. I met the wife of one of the team that will be bringing the Chicken Cottage chain to South Africa - chicken and chips with a twist: theirs will incorporate fried chicken, grilled chicken (a la Nandos, arguably one of South Africa's best exports!) and rotisserie-style chicken. I tasted some of their garlic chicken and it was wonderful, masha Allah - let's see if it catches on in the YouKay...
I met the auntie who after 31 years is still called a 'new Muslim'; the auntie who left her drug-dependant husband in the YouKay and returned to South Africa and, after 20 or so years, married again (she did have a twinkle in her eye, masha Allah!); I also met a group of crazy sisters who were full of fun and interesting stories, including a theory that the reason ISlam didn't spread when the Indians came to South Africa was that they never 'ate the onion of the land'. This curious expression is meant to be taken from a hadith or narration where the Muslim is advised to eat the onion of the land, meaning marry the women of that country. This sparked a very lively debate about polygamy and whether sisters should be pushing their husbands out to 'eat those onions'. Needless to say, there were few takers, until we were all castigated by a widow who showed us the other side of the monogamy coin: that of widows having to fend for themselves and their children without any support, let alone a loving relationship... This gave everyone something to think about. We talked late into the night, so late that our host was frantic with worry taht we would not be able to get enough rest. But there were so many sisters to meet, so many things to talk about! That first night left me with a warm glow and happy anticipation for the days to come.
More about those when I next get access to the Internet insha Allah. And please remind me to tell you about the sister who is being held back from Allah by her own reflection in the mirror...
Til the next time

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

That old devil


Shaitaan is on my back.
He's on the attack.
He won't leave it alone
Until I turn back.

The night before I left for South Africa, I said what I had been feeling all evening, I said it aloud: 'I don't want to go'. I'm thinking of packing, of forgetting things and remembering them again, of my family left behind, of my family that awaits. I'm thinking of confusion and misunderstandings, of a crisis of confidence: 'I shouldn't be doing this. I'm not who they think I am'. Maybe it's that old devil, Shaitaan, trying to throw me off-course, wanting me confused, disoriented, creating bad feelings to leave behind as mementoes.

Then... calm.
Allah is the author of all that exists, all that has been and will be.
And He has written this for me.

For what purpose? To what aim? As a test? As a reward? As an opportunity to grow? In all of life's ups and downs, there is an chance to grow. From the stillest and most meaningful of prayers when your heart is tranquil, your limbs at ease, your focus firmly fixed on your Lord, your Creator, Al-Wadood, Ar-Rahman; fixed on your ultimate goal and your ultimate end. This is a chance to grow.
From the bitter pain of a lost or stolen dream, when your heart cries out and your tears sear your cheeks - and you are forced to re-focus and reflect and find acceptance and find peace. This is a chance to grow.

So I pray that, whatever this trip has in store, of good or bad, I will take the opportunity to grow and come back enriched and refreshed, inspired and energised. For grow I must, in closeness to my Lord, as a Muslim, as a woman, as a sister and a friend.

There is so much work to be done.
Am I woman enough to do it?

"I take refuge within Allah's perfect words which no righteous or unrighteous person can transgress, from all the evil that He has created, made and originated. (I take refuge) from the evil that descends from the sky and the evil that rises up to it. (I take refuge) from the evil that is spread on the earth and the evil that springs from her and I take refuge from the evil of the tribulations of night and day and the evil of the one who visits at night except the one who brings good, O Merciful One."
Du'a said to ward off the deception of the obstinate shayateen; Ahmad with an authentic chain

Friday, May 05, 2006

To blog or not to blog...


"To blog or not to blog,
That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler and more pious
To keep ones deeds and thoughts
Private and hidden away
Or to take arms against a sea of misconceptions,
Apathy and ignorance
And, in doing so, end them..."
A William Shakespeare and Na'ima B. Production

"Well, everyone else is doing it, why can't I?" I asked myself before succumbing to curiosity and the excitement of something new and signing up to join the bloggers' universe.
As a Muslim, and a Muslim woman at that, I had to ask myself why. Why did I want to join the fray and launch my thoughts onto the world wide web for all to see? Well, a part of me thought against it. After all, what about riyah, what about hiding your sins as well as your good deeds, and all of that?
And then I thought about the other side of the coin: sharing your life's journey, sharing what you learn, maybe even inspiring and advising others as you yourself are inspired? I thought about it long and hard then decided to give it a go (obviously!)

This blog is quite specific: it is a record I intend to keep of my travels, local and international, sharing the journey, describing the places, people and things I see and do. Through this, I hope to create a blog that will be interesting, thought-provoking and meaningful; a tall order, I know!
Well, if you are reading this and you know me, please send me a shout-out. If you don't know me, read my book and you soon will!
I hope that this journey is blessed. Climb aboard the ship, come one, come all. May we all benefit in this life and the Next, ameen.

Thursday, May 04, 2006