Wistful Wisefool

These days, the intellectuals are silenced while the fools speak. Opinions of the ignorant are taken into consideration while the knowledgeable, the learned, the wise are seen as meddlers who stir trouble and mull over “trivial” matters. They speak in whispers while the destructors of truth get up on their soapboxes to preach falsehood.

Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “In the End Times, men will come forth to fraudulently use religion for worldly ends and wear sheepskins in public to display meekness. Their tongues will be sweeter than sugar, but their hearts will be the hearts of wolves.” (Tirmidhi)

The Prophet (SAW) said about our time, “In the End Times of the community of the faithful, people who adorn the mosques but leave their own hearts in ruins, who fail to look after their religion as much as they do their clothes, who forsake their religious obligations for the sake of their activities in this world, will increase in number.”

6 Things I Realize as I Turn 26

  1. Whatever your mom advised you ever since you were young, you’ll realize now… that she was right. Moms are always right. They just are. That “nanti dah besar, dah jadi mak, ah nanti baru faham ape mama cakap” (“just you wait and see, when you’re older and become a mom yourself, you’ll know what I’m talking about”) will hit you in the face with a resounding “SLAP!”. If my mom was still alive, I would have run to her now to give her a big fat hug and tell her “Yes, Ma, you were right. My fashion sense was mortifying. I live in your favourite neutral, earthy colours now. Sorry I said you only wear boring colours. Turns out I do too. Oh and I can cook. I never realized this until you were gone. You were right. If only I tried.”
  2. You tend to be more straightforward and you care less about what people think. When guys randomly start talking to you and ask unnecessary questions that aren’t urgent or are impertinent to any task at hand then you’d ask “do you like me or what” or “are you interested in making me your wife or nah” because if not, you simply cut all communications to save your time, save your heart and save yourself from unnecessary hurt. You grow wiser basically. Aint nobody got time to play stupid games with boys. Your time is far too precious to be wasted on frivolous matters. Which also means you grow more confident with your unpopular opinion. You embrace being different, being strange, and you start to fully accept yourself.
  3. Nothing excites you more than grocery shopping (!?!?!?!) It’s that therapeutic feeling which sends electric shivers down your spine and your eyes automatically widen, scanning the shelves of dairy products, scouring through the organic section, spending hours at the biscuits and snacks aisle. Best place in the world! Second to libraries, of course. But anyway this shopping for the kitchen addiction is real, guys. I would actually consider going to JB one day to buy my groceries (a ritual I often questioned my mom with an exasperated look whenever she’d travel on Saturday just to buy kitchen things…) I could almost feel the stab in my chest when I calculated the amount I could save if I shopped across the causeway. You start to realize the country you were born in has always been expensive as heck. It hurts to adult.
  4. You cherish lazy weekends. The lazier the better. Forget hitting the town and cleaving through the insufferable crowds and trying to soak up the night life or whatever “fun” there is! Give me a well-made bed and a stack of good books with an inactive cat curled up on the floor and I’m good. Living life on the edge. Of my bed. Wild. Dangerous. Risky behaviour.
  5. You gradually fall out of touch from the trends, the young people slang and whathaveyous. You are no longer in the loop, no longer hip, no longer KEWL. You’re that awkward parent in your child’s get-together party with friends and if you try to be cool and “in” you’ll end up being a laughing stock. So you’d rather shut up and mind your own business. Perhaps I’m getting too old for this, you’ll find yourself sighing.
  6. You’re finally getting your priorities right. And rightly so. You’re older, you have more responsibilities, your death date is nearer, so it’s only apt that you lay your priorities straight so you won’t be on your death bed feeling utterly regretful. You learn to be more thankful, more patient, more contented with this life that He has granted you. You learn to say Alhamdulillah ala kulli hal in the face of a positive or a negative situation. You hold stronger to the rope of Allah. You must hold stronger to the rope of Allah. You want to get your priorities right because ultimately, you know, you want to go Home.

The One About Love, Relationships & All That Jazz

I try to not talk about this topic, mainly because I do not want to partake in the already prevalent discussions online & offline on this thing called love (and partly because my opinion may be an unpopular one). But I guess it’s inevitable, no matter how meticulously I’ve tried to skirt around the topic.

So here’s my two cents… (Brace yourselves for a looong ramble). 

Believe it or not, I talk about stuff like this all the time with with my friends. Well not all the time but it’s a conversation filler which almost always finds it way into our tête-à-têtes especially after not meeting for a long time. It’s a topic that warrants a discussion I suppose because like it or not, we are at that age.

Yes I am at that age where wedding invitations start choking up my mailbox, every other weekend is wedding weekend, and the dynamics of conversations start shifting from “Have you done this assignment?” to “What brand of diapers does your baby wear?” Yes I am aware. The ball has started rolling. Friends are getting married, settling down, having babies, sending their children to school… I never thought I’d reach this age to be honest. How did I get here?! Sometimes I forget that I’m already past the “early twenties” stage (what?). Random surveys which require us to tick the box beside our age range is a proverbial slap in the face. I no longer fall in the 18-24 group, unwillingly shoved into the late twenties club. Not cool.

Anyway, as it is, I have accomplished none of the above, but I LOVE where I am right now. It’s just that where I am right now does not fit the general society’s expectations of where a woman in her twenties should be. Still studying and figuring things out. I have learnt along the way that things work out in His time, not in our time. So it’s all good. I’m totally alright and super cool with it so it is bewildering if other people find it not okay. You get me? Trust me, you’ll feel so much at ease if you just let go and let God. Stop worrying about things beyond your control. Just put in the effort in doing what He has entrusted unto you to do now and tirelessly make du’a to Him to grant what’s best for you and to remember to express your gratitude for sufficing you always. That’s it. Really. If you find yourself on the receiving end of all negative or unnecessary comments, just smile, excuse yourself from the conversation, say “make du’a for me”, and move along. It may be harder for you whose parents and relatives might be more ‘concerned’ than you are, but you need to try to overcome this. Sometimes, all it takes is a little change of perspective. Often, we can be unknowingly caught up in the quagmire that is the whole process of seeking the right one that we forget to remove ourselves from the whole stifling picture and look at it objectively. Why the unnecessary pressure on yourself when you know Allah is the Planner of all planners, the Writer of all writers, the One you ultimately go back to, at the end of the day?

I believe it helps to be surrounded by people who are going through what you are going through. It is important to be reminded that you are not alone. Remember, there’s a community of us out there, just like you! I guess I am blessed enough that He had me cross paths with individuals in the exact situation as I am and who have grown to become my best friends. Single, ambitious, independent, goal-driven, and never been in relationships (I wish people won’t be so surprised, it makes us feel like aliens– although I don’t mind being an alien, or a unicorn, in this day and age, I feel like I belong to a rare breed of species that’s masyaAllah special lol). As Michael Buble says, “I just haven’t met you yet~“. See? It’s as simple as that! And even if we have, perhaps it’s just not the right time. It all happens in His time, remember?

You know. I used to get puzzled whenever I’m confronted with the question, “Do you have a boyfriend?”. To which I always wonder why is there an interest to know, to talk about, let alone to have one. I mean, I never took to finding out what this boyfriend/girlfriend thing the other kids around me were getting into, neither was I completely unaware of what’s going on around me. I knew what it was. But I guess you could say that I preferred keeping my distance from such things. A friend who was quite the observer once told me that I was always carefree and relaxed when it comes to this. Well, truth is, I didn’t really know what to feel about it. So whenever I’m asked the inevitable ‘so are you in a relationship’ sort of question and I had to answer with an honest ‘no’, in the most favourable of situations I would get an understanding nod and an ensuing silence, or in the least favourable of situations, a further probing investigation – “But why?”. See, my linguistically analytical tendencies would then lead me to discern the choice of words used. Firstly, the “But“. In a big capital B as if to say, “What? Never? How absurd!” It could get worse – sometimes said person would make matters even more complicated by following it with a “But you’re (insert preferred compliment). I’m sure guys have asked you out before!” I would love to take it as a compliment, but I couldn’t and it’d almost always trigger an averse reaction. I’d get even more annoyed but I’d like to think I’ve mastered the art of being proactive, and not reactive.

But the conclusion that I’ve arrived at, the only reason I could give to the burning mystery of “Why has Humairah never had a boyfriend for the past 25 years of her existence?” is this: I never really wanted to. Why have I never really wanted to? I’ve said it earlier and I’ll say it again – because I have not met the one I’m destined for. Why do I not feel like I’m missing out on anything? Because personally, I don’t feel like I do. I guess growing up a bookworm gives me enough drama in my head and ya know, #booksbeforeboys #shelfiesoverselfies and all that (plus I’d like to think I’m limited edition and i want my future husband to feel so darn lucky to have me okay? LOL). But seriously though, I believe that it also stems from my dearest mama’s assurance, who nurtured in me the feeling of love as I was growing up – for her, for dad, for Allah – which made finding love with a boy at an early age much less… appropriate. Less desirable. I grew up with constant reminders that I’m enough. My self-worth and validation must be built from the inside. Internalised, then realised. No amount of relationships can give one that.

I’ve heard of friends who exclaimed, “We are young! We need to try getting into relationships with different guys so we know who’s best for us.” I’m sorry girlfriend but unfortunately I do not share the same life philosophy as you do, thank you very much. I don’t wish to ‘test out’ and taste relationships after relationships like food or boast about a slew of exes and collecting them like trophies; none of this an indicator of your value and worth. I’ve pondered over this for quite some time and I realise that there is a beautiful reason behind why I’ve always been the way I’ve been – He is protecting me, till today, from something undesirable. Allah Azzawajal, the All-Knowing, knows what I do not. All these articles about bgr, all the songs, the movies, the stories that talk about ‘infatuation’, not real Love, are a waste of time and brain space. I have grown to eventually realise this.

Yes, as much as I love my ‘perpetual’ solitude, of course I’d be lying if I said that I have never once had the thought that a certain event or activity would be more fun or meaningful if I did it with a significant other. But it’s just a passing thought I don’t dwell on. I embrace being alone and living in the present. I wish more people would embrace this and be more confident with their aloneness. It’s a gift from God to have the luxury to spend time with Him only. Use the time to strengthen your relationship with God and have more conversations with Him. See, this is how I see it. I have always held the opinion that I have a whole lifetime (insyaAllah) ahead of me to spend with the person I’m meant to spend with, so I need to enjoy at least a third of my life being a single, because God knows I’ll miss this feeling and everything that comes with it, and how much I enjoy doing things on my own, with just Him looking after me, before I get a worthy him by my side. In the meantime, I’ll take this gift of time to focus on being better. I want to strive to be deserving of a love deserving of me.  Not just any ‘boy’ who looks ‘cute’ or is ‘decent enough to try to love’. Women like us know our worth, and we’ll wait till someone comes around one day and proves he is deserving of it; with the help of His guidance. I remember asking my mom, “Ma, what if I don’t get married? What if I can’t find the guy that I’d like to build a home and spend the rest of my life with?” She simply replied, “Then you’ll find him in Jannah. Remember, the goal in this life isn’t to marry, the goal is to please Him.”

Mothers… they know what they’re talking about. And so the issue of whether I have a boyfriend or not seems far from significant or worthy of my attention. And so will the case of whether I will get married or not. That’s not up to me to decide. The mightier author knows what He’s doing. I’ll let Him surprise me with His story written specially for me. He knows what’s good for me. He always does. I’ll just live my life working towards my goals and be the flow,  so what comes, comes, what doesn’t, goes.

Isn’t this whole wide world so darn fascinating that there are so many things to do and knowledge to gain and thoughts to think and issues to worry about that worrying about not having a partner by your side becomes such a trivial matter? So my point in saying all of this is… don’t let ‘being single’ be the biggest concern in your life that it hinders you from all the goals you are meant to achieve while you are still young and free with lesser responsibilities, yes?

Till we meet the one whose name He has written beside ours, get out of your couch of pointless worries and max out every singleton’s ultimate gift of time and opportunity to be a blessing to family, friends, community, and relish in the abundance of ME time to accomplish all you’re set to do!

May He suffice us all with His love 🙂

P.S. You may want to click here to read a related entry I posted last year; perhaps you’ll better understand where I’m coming from.

Certainty Anchors

In his book ‘Uncertainty’, Jonathon Fields mentioned that every one of us, whether we realize it or not, are in need of certainty anchors to get us through our daily lives. ‘Certainty anchors’ are several routinized pockets of time throughout the day to recalibrate and regain our focus and energy. He also noted that some form of meditation daily is necessary as it anchors us down and helps to exercise our creativity, rejuvenating our state of mind..

Is it any wonder then that we are commanded to hold on to our ‘certainty anchors’, our ‘meditation’, every single day, 5 times a day? That it is the first deed to be questioned when we are no longer given the chance to do so places such a heavy importance on this routine. Who better understands our physiological, mental & spiritual state than our creator? We are creatures of habit built with an innate desire for certainty. This brings about the need to plan our life around prayers, to ease into conversations with God.

That unspeakable calm that can only come with praying, enveloping and fueling us for the rest of the day, is proof of its immense and often unseen benefit. We might not think we need it (how arrogant are we to think so?) but that restlessness, sadness, emptiness that settles ever so discreetly in our hearts which we then subconsciously make the effort to ignore by distracting ourselves with entertainment or other sources of comfort essentially are signposts leading us to discover the wisdom behind the ultimate solution – this prescribed daily routine of certainty we let slip.

How to Live a Life Worth Living by Productive Muslim

What is a life worth living?

A life worth living is all about making choices in life and living with no regrets. Our time is limited – there is just so much we can do with our time. Hence, we need to make smart choices that will make every day count and so we won’t have any regrets when we are on our deathbeds.

What is a life worth living according to the Qur’an & Sunnah?

It is all about connecting it back to our living purpose. What is our living purpose? It is in the Qur’an:

مَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Ad-Dhariyat 51:56]

So everything that we do, every goal we set, must be aligned to our bigger purpose in life, which is to worship Allah SWT.

One of the most common misconceptions that Muslims have is the thinking that the dunya is bad. But it is not the dunya that is bad but al-hayat al-dunya, the comforts of this world that distracts us from our living purpose that is detrimental. We need to remember that we are both Allah’s slave and successor. Hence, we need to live a life that goes according to His laws as well as be someone who contributes and value adds to the life on this earth. We must not forget that we have a responsibility to fulfil on this earth, and we must not live a life where we simply “go with the flow and see how things go.” It’s not simply about following your dreams, following your passion, and you can achieve whatever you want to achieve, but it’s about setting goals for yourself and constantly ensuring that these goals align to our living purpose.

You know why we hate death? Because we have built our dunya and we have grown to be so attached to it, to love it, that we have unknowingly destroyed our akhira. So it’s only wise that we build both our dunya and akhira. That’s the goal of having a life worth living, and worth leaving.

Importance of having life goals

 A life worth living starts by having Life Goals. A life without goals is boring, don’t you think? Goals give us directions and happiness; it gives us a reason to live. Goals also help us improve ourself. A life goal is not just a single mountain, where you overcome it and, well, that is it. It should take you through your entire life – it’s a life mission, it is continuous, it goes beyond you even after death.

Why do some people not have life goals?

  1. Everything is fine! But they forget that everything might be fine now, but not later. Will I have the same energy and health 20 years down the road? Will I still have a stable income 40years on? If you don’t take consistent action starting today… you will face undesired consequences later when it will be too late to change.
  2. I never achieve my goals! Well, we all have a choice. Do you want to be a defeatist or a go-getter? Ultimately the choice is in your hands. You either (a) give up, or  (b) keep trying, and continue trying using different ways this time.
  3. It’s all written… This is the excuse that destroys us as an ummah. First, we must debunk this misconception that everything that happens to us is absolutely due to the qadar of Allah. Yes of course, we have to believe in that but we need to remember that we play a huge part in the course of things that happen to us too. Consider this equation:

    Free will + Allah’s laws + Allah’s permission = Outcome

    It requires thinking and planning and discipline in taking action on our part. Aligning that to Allah’s laws, and Allah’s permission (which is where our du’a comes in)… and finally we arrive at our outcome. Hence, it is important to begin with sincere intentions, work hard, work smart, make du’a, and never worry about the outcomes. For even if the outcome is not what we expect (haven’t we all been there before?), well, then we must remember that what Allah decrees for us is good! There is always good in everything – no matter how undesirable we might deem it to be.

 Setting our vision

Our vision must encompass both the dunya and the akhira. And when we set our vision, we must remember to not be selfish – it should not add value to yourself only, but to others as well. We must also ask ourselves these questions:

  1. What do I want to experience out of life?
  2. How do I want to learn, grow and develop?
  3. What do I want to contribute to the society?

 

Our Roles

We all take on different roles to play in our lives. Our roles can mainly be classified into two: Mandated Roles and Elective Roles. Mandated Roles include our biologically defined roles like being a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a nephew, an aunt, a Muslim. Elective Roles on the other hand refer to roles that we take up in our lives, like an employee, a friend, a boss, a student. We must remember that whatever we take as our elective roles, we must keep in mind not to neglect our mandated roles. We have a set of responsibilities which we will be asked about in the akhira if we have carried out our roles well. So whatever life goals we have set for ourselves, we must ensure that we do not compromise the rights of others in order to achieve our set goals.

Link between spiritual, physical and social aspects and our goals

We need to see the link – the closer we get to Allah, the closer we get to achieving our goals. Just look at our Prophet Muhammad SAW who completely changed the map of the world in just 23 years, Ibn Jawzi who wrote over 500,000 pages in his lifetime, Ibn Taymiyyah who wrote 40 volumes of tafseer… all their stellar achievements boil down to their nearness to God, their strengthened spirituality.

How to achieve goals spiritually

1) Plant your niyyah (intentions)

Everything we do needs to start with our niyyat (intentions). We must first ascertain our intentions for actions are according to our intentions, as the hadith by Bukhari & Muslim goes. Having the right intentions will boost our productivity for the clarity of our intentions give clarity of our actions, and we are reminded to have them aligned with our living purpose. It is thus important to write down our intentions and review them often.

2) Develop taqwa (piety)

To have taqwa means to be constantly conscious of Allah SWT. Having taqwa increases productivity as it develops our discipline, strength, builds trust and dispels procrastination. To build on our taqwa, we have to constantly engage in his remembrance, learn about Him, and make taqwa-based decisions. A man, working as a hotel manager, decided to quit his job, his only rice bowl, because his hotel wanted to approve the consumption and selling of alcohol in the vicinity. He was jobless for months until one day, he receive an offer to be a hotel manager at a well-known hotel in Madinah. Subhanallah. All because of his taqwa. Allah will always make a way out for you, so don’t be afraid to stand up for your values and never compromise them if they will displease Him!

3) Always having shukr (gratitude)

Allah has promised that He will increase us if we are grateful. Having shukr will increase our productivity as it fuels progress, improves our mindset and removes greed. We must practise showing our gratitude by recognizing the gifts you have inwardly, outwardly, thanking people and asking Allah for help.

4) Practise sabr (patience)

“Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affair is good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him” (Saheeh Muslim)

With sabr, it will aid us a lot in handling calamity, in giving us energy to persevere, and to have positive patience. To practise this we need to always remember God, think well of Him, push your goals and keep going!

Acts of worship that will help to achieve our goals

1) Remembrance of Allah

The remembrance of Allah is our spiritual food and it gives us physical strength. We must develop our taqwa, utilize idle times and learn specific du’as for every situation.

2) Salah (prayers)

Salah does amazing things to our productivity levels. It manages our time, emotions, focus, energy and ego. Interestingly, John Fields, in his book titled Uncertainty, mentioned that every one of us are in need of certainty anchors (several pockets of time throughout the day to recalibrate and regain our focus and energy) in our day, in our schedules, in our lives. And how beautiful it is that we are blessed with our fail-proof certainty anchor – our 5 daily prayers! We should plan our life around salah, ease ourselves into salah, and don’t rush afterwards. Stay, engage in the disconnection, connect with Him and confide in Him all that weighs heavy on you. He’s always ready to listen to you and help you, if only you’d spend the time to talk to God.

3)  Charity

There are so many benefits of giving and volunteering. We should not be withholding our money (or time) in carrying out acts of charity. If you have a business, you can develop your own CSR and plan a CSR charity day.

How to achieve goals socially

1) Build a supportive team

Ask Allah for a team of supportive people. Your vision should be compelling enough for it to attract willing volunteers, and you must know how to manage your team fairly and professionally.

2) Win your family’s support

Work on your idea and let it grow first without telling the whole world what you are doing. Then, when you have small wins, you can showcase your successes to your family members, and then let them in on your plans.

3) Build your tribe

Share your journey as you build a life worth living. You are someone else’s hero, even if you don’t know it. Your tribe can either be online or offline. Take care of your tribe and be there for them, and they will do the same.

How to achieve goals physically

In this segment, most of the techniques are similar to the ones I have written in detail in my previous post on his productive Ramadhan talk in Singapore last year. Brother Mohammed Faris also talked about SMART and STRETCH goals, which I have included in there as well. Check out under my ‘Writings’ tab – Takeaways From Talks – High Performance Ramadhan by Productive Muslim.

Note: The notes here are points taken from Brother Mohammed Faris’ talk. I merely paraphrased them. All credits to him and his team. Wallahua’lam.

The Bookshop Trail

The Bookshop Trail in Singapore (click to watch)

Every bookstore carries the often little-known literary aspirations of the owners. Scattered across the island state, these bookstores help to build Singapore’s cultural foundation while leaving footprints from their historical interactions. These footprints form a portrait of the crossing of the paths of the literati, the bookstores and the readers.

Passage of Time, Singapore Book Stories 1881-2016

Every bookshop visited is a significant cultural, literary and historical barometer of the multiculturally rich Singapore we know today. Bookshops have always been the place I run to whenever I need a safe space to hide. I find comfort and warmth in a bookshop’s embrace. Quite like my mother’s arms. I went on a bookshop-hopping adventure across our tiny island – just a few weeks after watching Between The Lines: Rant & Rave, a play tracing our nation’s history of bookstores and policies in promoting our culture of reading from past to present. I did this partly for assignment reasons, but mostly out of own accord since I have always wanted to go on this little personal learning journey. Decided to follow The Paper Trail route organised by SWF just the other day. Added a few stops. Got lost along the way. Bagged a couple of books (of course). I found respite in every bookshop; chatting with booksellers, touching the paperbacks and hardcovers, unwinding in the intermingling of ideas and lives and imagination bounded by paper, discovering unseen nooks and crannies and simply immersing myself in the company of books. It took me about 3 to 4 hours to complete the trail. Here’s the route I took:

BooksActually (Nearest MRT: Tiong Bahru) | Woods in the Books (Nearest MRT: Tiong Bahru) | Grassroots Bookroom (Nearest MRT: Outram Park) | GGS Books & Stationery (Nearest MRT: Little India) | Basheer Graphic Books (Nearest MRT: Bugis) | Wardah Books (Nearest MRT: Bugis) | Booktique (Nearest MRT: City Hall).

If you need a coffee and cake break, there are plenty of cafes around, all within walking distance. You’ll know when you go on the bookshop trail around town 🙂

Have fun exploring!

Quiet Mornings

On the 30th of January 2016, exactly one year ago, Quiet Mornings saw the world. My friend, Cherilyn, and I, launched our debut self-published poetry book.

Both of us have been working on this project together quietly for the past year and a half. The entire process took more than that, but it was worth the wait. The minute we ended our FYPs, we immediately started on our brainstorming. We wanted to achieve something else in the same year we graduated from university; we wanted to commemorate this milestone with something more. We endeavoured to materialise our dream of publishing a book, and we needed each other to make this project work – Cherilyn was the InDesign and illustrator expert, while I contributed more on the direction and writing.

2015-08-27 12.43.41
at one of the countless cafes we worked at, sometimes from a good 9 to 5
We did everything; from writing, researching, illustrating, editing, formatting, printing, up till the launch day itself. One of the main reasons we wanted to work on this poetry project independently was to gain experience in handling the entire publishing process from start to finish, besides eliminating the amount of time needed in getting through to authorities, seeing that we had a deadline we wanted to work with. The kindest Anthony from Booktique allowed us the space to hold our book launch, @carpelibrum.sg, @thewriteseries, @bumbakes who were all godsend, sponsored goodie bags, bookmarks and cupcakes respectively, and Tysha and Iskandar who were such sporting poets, entranced the audience with their gift of words. And family and friends who came down and spurred us on with their support. Without them, Quiet Mornings would have merely been a sliver of idea reclining at the back of our minds.

Quiet Mornings Launch-DSC_0021
goodie bags courtesy of our good friends from @bumbakes, @carpelibrum.sg, @thewriteseries
Looking back now, I don’t know how I, how we, got through it. The whole process. We were two broke fresh graduates who were struggling to find a job. I lost my mother and my grandmother in the midst of it all. Cherilyn lost her grandmother too. We were a little tight in financing but we pooled whatever we had left in our banks to make this a reality. The journey was filled with so much tears, so much fears, yet, so much hope. We thought it apt that Quiet Mornings would be a culmination of our quiet fears and quiet tears in the darkness that seemed to have no end, hoping to bring with it a quiet ray of hope in mornings, a refreshing and promising new start.

There’s only so much we know about a person’s life through social media. But people often forget. As a storyteller, I’ll choose to share what goes on behind a picture. Through my story, I hope you’ll remember life is never picture perfect, that everyone has their struggles hidden behind their smiles, and that despite all our hardship, we will be gifted with ease. All we see oft-times are glossy representations of reality, the product of an endless struggle, the light at the end of a dark tunnel, the first rays of sun after the longest night, the smile after a long, hard cry.

Just hours before the launch, I was an absolute wreck. I broke down suddenly whilst packing the gift bags in my room. My knees just fell to the floor and I cried hard in quiet. It’s a feeling I can’t explain. This sharp pain that hits me like a knife stabbing my chest. I felt the missing coming back to me in waves.

Truth was, I almost gave up. I did. Ever since the departure of the dearest person to me, it took every bit of strength left in me to carry on. Plans were cancelled. We were supposed to debut our book at an event last December, but I felt I wasn’t ready. It’s only been a few weeks. I was afraid if anyone were to see me, let alone start talking to me, I’d spill. I was a glass filled to its brim. I couldn’t put myself out there just yet. How do I continue when the person I love the most left me at midsentence…

But I prayed for strength every day and told myself this: I need to finish what I started. I didn’t want to disappoint her. I needed to realize this idea which I first told mama – the first person to listen to my every little hope, whim, fear, dream. The first person I run to for a hug whenever life threw punches at me. She’d left me, on a quiet morning too. But I held the side of my bedframe and stood up. Stronger this time. Ever since her departure, I’ve been keeping myself occupied with many things. I needed to move – staying still would kill me. And all along, Allah was there to help me up and move.

During the reading, I was confident I wouldn’t crumble, although I was aware that the wound was, and still is, new. But I felt overwhelmed – He’s gifted me this opportunity and sent kind souls my way to help me accomplish this. I didn’t have to go through it alone. Each time I looked up, the crowd steadily grew. More people streamed in. My heart swelled. And then that familiar, stabbing feeling returned. I didn’t know why but at that moment, all I could think of was to search for her face in the crowd.

And so I teared. I hated being so vulnerable, but I’ve been reminded that vulnerability is a form of strength. I wasn’t tearing up because I was sad she couldn’t be there. I was in tears because I was grateful to Him. Her love kept me going. She’s the main reason I was there, standing in front of a crowd in the bookshop. A love as vast as hers was enough to light the rest of my journey. Ever since I could remember, she had held my hands, taught me to crawl, to walk, to run… and now I will fly on my own, smiling as she watched me go, from afar. And I know Allah is watching over me. Always been. All praises to Him for lifting me up and getting me through it all, gifting me with this gift which I know has been in my mother’s prayers too. For He is Al-Jabbar, The Compeller, Al-Wahhab, The Giver of All, Al-Muhaymin, The Guardian, Al-Wali, The Protecting Friend.

I choked up in the middle of a poem which I had written as a reminder to rise and grow stronger from the pain, titled ‘Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You’. And so I managed to move on. Alhamdulillah. What am I without Him? What am I without these experiences that got me to where I am today?

I’m grateful to be blessed with reasons to bleed these words, in a way that has helped me, and prayfully others too. So many more stories I’ve yet to tell. I pray He’ll provide me more of what He has gifted me, so I can be of benefit to others. And to you reading this right now, I pray the same for you too. Keep going. He will take care of your affairs. He has planned it all perfectly for you right down to every detail. Don’t worry, and more importantly, never give up. Stand up. Stand stronger. All you ever need to do is trust Him, the only One who knows you best. You know your story will turn out beautiful, because the Author has figured it all for you. Keep believing the sun will shine brighter tomorrow for you. Keep believing in mornings.

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our debut collaborative poetry book project in the flesh!
We are elated and beyond grateful to know that it is now sold out in bookstores, and we do not intend to release a new print as we no longer wish to extend our pilot poetry project. If you are still interested in getting one, I have only a select few copies with me. You can drop me an email at humairahjamil@gmail.com. Thank you.

Here are the videos of the event taken by my lovely and patient friend, Faiezah. Enjoy watching us struggle to maintain our composure in front of a crowd – we tried, despite us internally shrieking from all the nerves. ps: you need to log in to your google account in order to watch it.

Quiet Mornings Launch Part 1

Quiet Mornings Launch Part 2

Quiet Mornings Launch Part 3

Quiet Mornings Launch Part 4

Quiet Mornings Launch Part 5

Quiet Mornings Launch Part 6

Keep reading!

A Page off My Journal

So that was it. The end of non-fiction class. The funnest class out of all other classes I’m taking this semester. Also the only class that isn’t my major. Hopefully I’ll get to do poetry and advanced creative writing next semester and file at as a minor. Funny how I enjoy my electives more than my major subjects. Semantics and cognitive almost murdered me good! Don’t get me started on morphosyntax. Or just linguistics in general. Not that I despise my major, I just have a love-hate relationship with it, yknow? People will never believe that it’s more than just a “science of language” or that we simply learn many languages and graduate a polyglot (which is entirely a myth). But I have never regretted this. Not once. Okay maybe once while I was bent over past midnight reading spectrograms and questioning the reason for my existence, pulling an all-nighter to measure the duration of people’s breaths. I’m taking the craziest and most misunderstood social sciences major, I’ll be honest. But I’m proud of it and I’m grateful to be blessed with the opportunity to delve deeper into the subject I’ll always have a deep fascination with. I’m pretty sure I’ll go bonkers by the end of my 4 years and start looking around for jobs that could put my deep-seated knowledge of VOTs and MLUs to beneficial use, but at least I know I’ve learnt a whole damn lot. I love what I’m doing. I’m passionate about it. It’s definitely an area of humanities which has made me more aware and appreciative of God’s oft-dismissed gift to men – languages.

In a way, I’m also reassured of my decision of not putting English Literature as my first choice and to have gone with my gut feeling for Linguistics instead. According to my English buddies, reading ten books in a week is a norm, gasp! I mean, given that I’m a slow reader and the fact that I know I’d be pressured to read and remember every single detail (because, exams) and not because of leisure, is enough to convince me that I have made the right choice to read my current major. Personally for me, at least.

Anyway, back to the whole point of this post (I digress). It’s the end of non-fiction class and my tutor, KCB, a local poet and author, shyly addressed the class how it’s been a pleasure to teach and that he hoped we have learnt a lot in his class. I sure did. I never thought non-fiction could be this interesting. KCB is a quiet and funny (without-him-realising-it kind of funny) man. His introverted disposition is a trait I could identify with completely. Everyone left the class in haste while our table stayed back for a cupcake party. I gave him one and he accepted it willingly, holding it awkwardly in his palm. I have a feeling he hasn’t tasted red velvet cupcakes before. I don’t know, he just doesn’t seem like a cupcake person. Such a privilege to be taught by a famous Singaporean writer. It’s definitely a class to remember. Aside from the fiction class taught by Romesh Gunasekaran, a Sri Lankan British author, who is as endearing. So far, these two tutor-writers are the only ones whom I’ve shared my deepest fear with, through my stories. It did feel strange initially. But it feels liberating too. To have an outlet to express my sadness, despair, anxiety, and having them read by writers you know you could trust. What better way to let it all out than through writing.

It helps that they are incredibly supportive of my work. Romesh told me that I am blessed with a knowledge of beautiful language and that I should keep writing. KCB told me that I have written a brave and honest story. These comments are my fuel to keep writing. They keep me going. I’ll always remember why I’m doing this, and the people who have been so encouraging, and keep improving on my writing. Times may be hard for dreamers, but if we were to channel our hardship through art, we will witness a priceless beauty. No one gets the satisfaction out of it but you. Writers get no compensation out of writing – only freedom in its absolute. That’s the only reason writers do it. To free our soul.

(I’m just rephrasing what Roald Dahl said. But it’s the absolute truth so preach it!)

Keep writing,
Humairah (Monday, 14th May 2014)

Reflecting on 2016

If 2015 was punctuated with endings, loss & leaving, this year was the complete opposite – beginnings, gaining & an enlightening rediscovery of love. Publishing a collaborative poetry book project which was once a mere sliver of an idea, embarking on a calling, & the opportunity to be invited again to where light is… it’d be foolish of me to think I’ve ever lost anything. I’ve only gained more. الحمدلله. In a span of a year, He rebuilt the ruins of this heart into a fortress I forgot was ever shattered. Reconstructed from what I once thought was irreparable. I take a step back to witness my heart beating as though it never broke. How does He do it? Fixing my heart and healing all scars as He’d promised. Allah.

Please. Trust me on this. Don’t let the heaviness weigh you down, don’t let the darkness consume you. Throw your sorrows up & let Him catch it. Fall into prostration, cry to Him, talk to Him, complain to Him, get closer to Him, turn to Him. Then look up, wipe your tears, stand up, arm yourself with solid faith. That only He has the power to remove your darkness completely, make you forget whatever sadness, anxiety, fear, or grief that grips you, and replace in your heart a climate of contentment & tranquility. Look at the nights turning to mornings. Look at the mountains, oceans, galaxies that are fleeting… if all these will soon crumble to dust, if all these will one day perish, what more your pain & worries? He will heal you. He will heal you, only if you turn to Him & let Him. He will remove your bruises as though the hurting never happened. For He is Al-Jabbar; The Repairer. The Restorer.

Looking forward now to where sky meets sea – all the infinite possibilities privy to Him, awaiting my discovery. To read more, write more, to struggle more & smile more on this journey Home. God willing.

Consciousness in Cosmetics

When it comes to beauty products, I’ll admit to using makeup on the daily to make myself look and feel confident, but I’m not crazy about it (ie. owning fifty shades of lipsticks and palettes of eyeshadow in all colours). I know absolutely nothing about skin care regimes and the works. All I have is a facial cleanser. And a decent collection of makeup.

But before I arrive at my current stash of cosmetics, it took me several years and numerous trials of the various types of makeup available over the counter, and a drastic turning point in my life; the day I threw all my makeup away (and renounced my faith in Maybelline, Silkygirl, and other drugstore makeup whathaveyous).

Sometime last year, I took out my makeup box, feverishly filtered the products containing difficult-to-pronounce, suspicious-sounding chemicals (which make the bulk of it), and solemnly swore to henceforth use only non-animal tested, vegan, organic beauty products. The lesser the amount of ingredients, and the more familiar they sound to me, the better it is, generally (same principle I adopt when it comes to food). So yes, basically I went bonkers and threw the entire box.

In my defence, my decision wasn’t completely irrational. It was sparked by some health articles sent to me by my SIL and after doing further research. It was about the various kinds of harmful chemicals typically found in most beauty products. I was aghast at the fact that 99% of the products we have been using contain something toxic and carcinogenic. With this realisation slowly sinking in, I hear these voices in my head – Humairah, what have you been putting on your face? What have you been slathering on your skin all these years? What exactly have your skin been absorbing and accumulating in your body? What have you put yourself into?!

Article after article, my disbelief escalated. Seriously? How can I be so careful about the ingredients that go inside my food, but so heedless as to what goes into my skin?

That’s when I became more conscious and discerning when it comes to my beauty product purchase decisions. Before being swept away by the promise of suspiciously miraculous benefits overnight or cleverly contrived celebrity endorsements, I ensure that the ingredients list is explicitly seen. After skimming through it, I ensure that it is non-animal tested, organic, and if not completely, contains as little synthetic stuff as it possibly can. (You can read all about it at the end of my post).

Shopping for makeup and beauty products, on the bright side, is less time-wasting simply because there are lesser choices to choose from. Sephora no longer got a hold on me – the bright lights spell H A Z A R D O U S everytime I stumble upon a corner in a mall. Call me paranoid, but I’ll save myself from lacing excessive toxic things on my skin in the name of beauty, especially after finding out that sometimes beauty can be skin (toxic) deep!

P.S. Bud Cosmetics (there’s an outlet in Mandarin Gallery and Paya Lebar Square) is the “organic and safer” version of Sephora. The products are free from all the nasties, but be prepared to part with more bucks than you would on makeup found in a drugstore. Still, I guess anything good is worth the investment!

P.P.S. It’s a personal choice, but if you’re interested to know more and subsequently take the oath to become an organic makeup convert, the articles I mentioned above can be found here, here, here, here, and here.