My Mom Told Me to Never Take My Crown Away

A friend once asked me, “So Humairah, what’s your hijab story?”

Almost every Muslim woman I know who dons the hijab would have their personal ‘hijab story’, which is basically a turning point in their lives which made them decide to don the headscarf for the first time, an obligation we Muslim women need to fulfill in obeying God.

So I told her mine.

“Well, I was 5 when I first started wearing it. It all started when I saw my cousin wearing a white tudung which matches her baju kurung. It was during Eid at my late grandfather’s house. I immediately tugged my mom’s hand and told her that I wanted to wear the tudung too.”

And that’s it really. Nothing interesting. It wasn’t exactly a deliberate, contemplative, momentous point in my life when it happened. I was simply an innocent 5-year-old who wanted to wear that piece of cloth over my head because I thought it looked so pretty on my cousin, and I wanted to look just as pretty. Nobody forced it on me. I was still really young so I wasn’t obliged to, and I wasn’t even aware that it’s a command by God to wear the hijab. I can’t remember what my mom’s reaction was, but I kind of sensed she was happy since there wouldn’t be any need for coaxing later on her part. She gladly bought me several instant, ‘Madrasah’ hijabs in different colours, teehee. And I was proud of my collection.

But that was only the beginning of my struggle.

I remember that my parents wanted to enrol me in a Madrasah. But they were late for the registration, and there were no more vacancies. Hence, I was enrolled into a secular school for the next 17 years of my education. (But Alhamdulillah nevertheless, He knows best, perhaps this was a test for me for there’s always a reason behind everything).

As a kid who’s used to wearing the hijab, growing up in a secular school environment was pretty challenging. It was a constant battle between standing up for what you know is right and peer pressure. I felt like I was alone. Strange. Odd. Outnumbered.

But I kept these feelings to myself. I didn’t tell anyone about it. Not even to my late mom. I didn’t want her to feel burdened by my tiny inner conflict.

Challenges I faced were aplenty. This happened more than a decade ago, pre-hana-tajima-yuna-modest-fashion-era (lol) when the hijab was still pretty much unseen and ‘unfashionable’ (unlike now, where more youngsters are more confident in it because it is relatively more visible I believe). I still remember some of the comments my friends hurled at me, and it hurt me even more when my friends were fellow Muslims themselves. I got things like:

“Humairah, why are you so old-fashioned?”

“Can you take off your tudung, please? No one will be wearing the hijab at the party, and… I just don’t want you to wear it.”

“I think you look prettier without the hijab. You should take it off.”

And other unpleasant comments. People would assume that I wanted to be an ustadzah (which means ‘religious teacher’ in arabic) (just because I wear the hijab?) (but ameen to that I guess?), made fun of the style of my tudung, and more. I pretended to not be affected by it… but deep down it certainly did.

Outside my uniform, my friends would basically find me strange and uncool. I received these comments while I was still young. The peer pressure was strong and I just couldn’t understand WHY. What’s the issue with this cloth I wear on my head? What I thought of as a pretty piece of scarf, is viewed as ugly? I’d be lying if I say these comments did not affect me, and I did have moments when I felt like taking off the hijab altogether. I wanted to “dress normally” too. I wanted to be “fashionable”, “cool”, I wanted to belong. and I was at a young, highly impressionable age, who like many other people my age, just wanted to fit in. As a result, I began to think that wearing the hijab wasn’t compulsory at all. I tried to convince myself that the act of wearing the hijab isn’t necessary. I let society have an influence on me. I thought to myself,

“I want to take off my hijab.”

One day, when I accompanied my mom to the market, I decided to not wear my hijab. I thought, I’m still thirteen. It’s okay. Just this once. To be honest, I did feel a pinch of guilt, but I was too lazy that day to change to my long pants and don my tudung. Something in my heart stopped me for a while. It just didn’t feel right. My palms were sweaty, and I was afraid of what my mom would say. But when I emerged from my room without my hijab on, she looked at me different. She frowned.

“Where’s your tudung?

I just shrugged and gave her a look that said, “Just this once, please?”

She kept quiet but I could sense that she did not approve of what I did. Later, when we got home, she simply advised me.

“My dear, if you want to wear the tudung, you must wear it constantly and never take it out okay? You must practise. Allah nampak tau. (Allah sees). So next time when you go out, don’t forget to wear your tudung okay?”

I nodded silently.

I never dared to leave my house without the hijab on ever again. What started out as fear, developed into love, what started out as a discomfort, grew into a comfort. Going out without wearing my hijab now is out of the question for I’ll never want to displease my Lord – it’s so integral to my being, it’s become part of my identity, it’s what makes me, me.

Looking back now, I know that it was my iman (faith), which my mom and dad have sowed in me, which prevented me from taking my hijab off, as I was growing up. I realise now that the little voice nagging at the back of my head, that innate guilt I felt back when I was young, was an in-built warning, His sign, His guidance, that directs me towards the right path.

The challenges did not end when I grow older. In tertiary schools, friends who did not understand would give me the same disapproving comments, when I applied for a particular job, they turned me down because of the hijab on my head, and so on. The hijab will always be seen as something strange, but dear sisters, never think that you are alone, and that for every test, He has promised a reward, if we remain steadfast and patient.

This hadith narrated by Muslim (145) from Abu Hurayrah reassures and comforts me:

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.”

Now that I have learnt and am more cognisant of the wisdom behind the hijab as prescribed by our Creator, as a protection and as a golden status bestowed on us believing women, I realise how blessed I am to have had a mom who guided me, became my role model and advisor, and who never failed to tell me that I look my prettiest when I dress modestly in my hijab, even when I got older. I have learnt that hijab is a Muslim woman’s crown, a valuable gift by our Lord to us, and I can never thank my mom enough for telling me to never take away my crown.

I am writing this to you, young sisters, and anyone who needs an assurance, that you are not alone. That donning the hijab is a part of worship, and the path towards attaining His pleasure and mercy is always full of hardships. This life is full of struggles, let’s embrace it. What’s the point of Jannah if life in this Dunya is a breeze, yes? 🙂

May we remain steadfast and improve ourselves in practising our beautiful deen. This modesty is a gift – let us wear our crowns proudly like the queens He have created us to be.

Singapore Writers Festival 2016

It’s that time of the year again when my weekends and days are book-ed at the Singapore Writers Festival! The theme this year? Sayang – an untranslatable Malay word capturing pragmatically both love and loss in a single expression. I missed out on some interesting programmes due to many overlapping schedules. Nonetheless, here are the notable panels I managed to catch:

Story of My Life

To kick start the event, I attended a panel which discussed the process of writing personal stories. Alan John, a veteran ST journalist, Angjolie Mae, a funeral director, and Aleksander Duric, a former international footballer, were on the panel. They shared about what they do, and what inspired them to write their own biographies/ personal stories into a book. The panelists gave us a glimpse into the necessary process of choosing what to tell in their stories, and make their personal observations about their life and career as relatable as they could.

Unwritten Country

Boey Kim Cheng and Gwee Li Sui fronts this segment where they shed some light on the trends of Singapore literature past and present, and forecasting its fate in the future.

Interesting to note, Gwee posited that the gradual loss of literature as a school subject is actually healthier and better for writing. He mentioned that literature used to be too boring and academic, but recently, with such pressures lifted, it’s becoming more and more accessible, and as he puts it so amusingly,

Literature has now exploded like a shaken can of coca-cola.

This brings rise to multiple concepts of Singapore literature. As a result, writing, as Gwee predicts, will get weirder, bolder, and more exciting. However, he highlighted that much of Singapore literature still draws from institutionalized support. Our literary climate still lives under these conditions; where our national attention is typically channeled relatively more to sports, science, etc.

Without adequate support, poetry will become a permanent casualty, quality of writing will dwindle, scope of exploration narrows, and literature will thrive sensationally but emptily.

He further reiterated that in order to witness a burgeoning landscape of Singapore literature, the state and the people must have a common goal – to manifest and sustain the magic and power of writing. We should read Singapore literature not to “support Singapore literature, everyone!”, but because “I love reading [insert Singapore author’s name]’s books, they are truly gripping!” We don’t support just because. We must support because we believe in it, because we treasure and we feel the work that has been done. He emphasized how the true future of writing does not lie in award winning writing, instead, it lies in a conducive and supportive place of writing. Our Singapore Writers Festival must be careful to not let itself become another tourist trap in the future – a literary festival must essentially support the writer’s struggles, and motivates writers to struggle on endlessly.

While Gwee analyzes the literature climate in Singapore, Boey talks about writing, and what Home means to him, as a Singaporean-born poet who then migrated to Australia. A few years ago, I have had the honour to be under his tutelage back in university when I was doing one of my creative writing modules. He is a pensive, driven, quiet ‘father figure’ I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from, and whose oeuvre I have much respect for.

Fynn Jamal: Choice to Adopt

Fynn Jamal is a breath of fresh air. Such a feisty and endearing personality. In this session, she shared about her choice to adopt a child and encouraged parents who are having doubts in adopting to not hesitate and just do it out of love. She mentioned this: women have too much love. They tend to make more sacrifices than men and are exceedingly giving in their nature. Something I agree with wholeheartedly.

Inculcating Reading Habits: Lessons From Around the World

When I saw this programme in the booklet, I bookmarked it without any hesitation. This is an extremely relevant and helpful discourse to have in discussing the right ways of instilling the habit of reading in every child.

What I took away from this discussion with Mamle Kabu, Pooja Nansi and Roland Kelts, was that the argument of whether e-books or physical books are better should be the least of our concerns. What matters is that reading is still a habit being practiced, no matter the mediums. Forms of reading have adapted greatly to the rapidly changing times, hence, these devices are inevitably vying for the attention of an increasing number of readers with shorter attention spans. However, the panel still does believe in the persistence of paper – printed word enthusiasts like I, will still be obsessively devoted to paper books (I still bring physical books when I’m traveling, because I am traditional like that). In my honest opinion, it’s not a crime to read from a device, for any form of reading is greatly encouraged, but I’d like to think that books are to Kindle what stairs are to escalators – the former requires more effort, but the result is healthier, satisfying, and much more fulfilling one. The panel were collectively positive about the future of reading – that the transition of digital reading and writing would not lead to a decline in literature.

So when it comes to inculcating reading habits – start somewhere. Start with something your kid likes. Don’t get him to read Harry Potter if Spiderman is more of his thing. Don’t force her to read Aesop Fables if comics is up her street. Entry points are important for young readers – every child has a different interest.

And typically, everyone becomes a reader before they become a writer. Recently, there is an emerging trend amongst many young, digital age writers of this love for brevity, which presumably stems from a lack of time dedicated to read and also shorter attention spans. What does this then do for the fate of literature? Nansi expressed her concern with the lack of revision, something that is not placed much importance to these days. People draft so quickly and do not bother to revise what has been written.

Good writing is rewriting.

She also noticed the steadily growing hype for poetry amongst the young audience which is encouraging. However, the quality of these popular works are questionable. But looking at the bright side, if a certain writing captures one’s attention, if it encourages reading and writing in otherwise uninterested teens who do not typically engage themselves in either, then how can it be bad? In writing, it really does boil down to one’s exposure. Like what Haruki Murakami said,

If you only read books that everyone else is reading, then you can only think what every one else is thinking.

And so, you can only write what everyone else is writing. The sense of ingenuity, creativity, its depth and soul, will not be achieved, if our input from various sources of knowledge remains narrow and restricted.

For The Love of The Written Word

In this panel, these advocates of homegrown literature, Chan Wai Han from Ethos Books, William Phuan from Select Centre, and Kenny Leck, owner of BooksActually, talk about Singapore’s literary scene, and what keeps their passion for the written word going.

Wai Han emphasized how we Singaporeans need to clamour to learn literature, and how more often than not, what kills our love for writing is our fear of not being good enough.

Fear of failure causes the death of our love for writing.

William speaks out about the lack of readers for translated literature, and that greater awareness with regards to this should be raised, not only nationally, but regionally too.

Similar to the issues brought forward at the Unwritten Country panel, there is a concern for the shrinking pool of good literature students in Singapore. Must national policy then be revised?

If we keep on harping on science and technology instead of words, then how do we make a difference?

Wai Han continued to talk about how English writers and poets are respected and revered in their own country, even if their books do not sell well. It is ultimately the nation that brings the value and status to the writers. We need to build a supportive society of active readers and writers.

When asked about what is lacking in local publishing, the panelists agreed that there is a need for more material about political realism and memoirs from the older generation. National narrative must be more colourful, diverse, and not streamlined.

Love, Loss, And Everything in Between

This is one of my favourite panels because the topic resonated with me deeply.

Featured were Alan John, Heng Siok Tian and David Wong. David started off by saying that love and loss does not exist in a continuum, thus, literature is meant to explore the in-betweens – what matters isn’t the love, or the loss, but what happens in the middle. If you are writing a poem about love, essentially you are also writing a poem about loss.

Siok Tian mentioned that as a writer, you need to have faith that if the words you write can move you, then they will do the same to another person, but most importantly, you have to be authentic and sincere in your writing. Yes, certain details will be embellished and edited, but the essence of the story will always stay true.

Alan pointed out a fact: We don’t sit around to talk about what we feel about things. When we meet, we tend to talk more about our work, our life, our family, anything other than how we honestly feel. So in writing, we reflect and write about what we feel, hoping that this is what others would feel as well. There are people out there who don’t quite know how to articulate their thoughts and feelings, so when they see a line or two that they resonate with, they will like what they read.

Alan mentioned that if one has experienced loss, as opposed to happiness, everything becomes different but also easier. He acknowledges that human beings respond to loss differently. How does one walk out of it and live after an unimaginable loss? His answer resonated with me for I share the exact sentiment. We simply have to look at those who have it worse, and be grateful. Be grateful. Be patient. Your own loss will drastically pale in comparison when you read about other more tragic losses, like hearing the news about loved ones dying in an airplane crash, or loved ones being shot to death in front of their eyes. We read inspirational stories of those who have gone through what we are going through, igniting our resolve to look up and say, “If they can do it, so can I. If they have lived through it, so will I.” 

Some of us crash and crumble at the smallest loss, some of us stand and go through life with strength despite facing a tremendous loss. What will help us is fixing our focus on our purpose, and to be acquainted again and again to the reality of this fleeting life, and to soldier on stronger, braver, yet softer. Strong enough to move, yet staying soft to dispel numbness in the heart till we forget we are supposed to feel and turn our loss and pain into a lamp to light the way for others. Life goes on and we just have to keep moving.

How are we all so brave as to take step after step? Day after day? How are we so optimistic, so careful not to trip and yet do trip, and then get up and say O.K. Why do I feel so sorry for everyone and so proud?

I was reminded of this quote by Maira Kalman. We all possess the inherent capability to be strong and weather the toughest times. We just don’t know it yet – until we are being tested. Until we are being pushed to the periphery and then forced to jump. We underestimate our capacity to feel and gradually heal. Imagine if we are not removed from our situation of loss – how do we carry on living? We all have it. It’s God’s gift to us – He knows we need to move, and let nothing deter our spirit to live, to love, & to lose again. This is what keeps us going.

You only feel a loss so keenly because you have had felt that happiness once.

Siok Tian summarizes the reality of loss and love succinctly above, and it reminded me of one of Rumi’s beautiful sayings:

God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites so that youwill have two wings to fly, not one.

When love happens, loss is sure to happen. You can’t have one without another.

Bahasa in the Archipelago: A Language Imperilled

This panel was so necessary, and the #linguistgeek in me was zealously agreeing to many of the points surfaced in this discussion. It features three different personalities – Eka Kurniawan, ZF Zamir, and Azhar Ibrahim – representing the three neighbours, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore respectively, to give different perspectives on this topic. This discussion sheds light on the fate of our mother tongue, the Malay language in the SEA region and its declining use.

Dr Azhar dished out strong, valid points about the reality of our national language in Singapore. He mentioned that the hegemony of English language causes the failure of our national language. Does the language provide value for the community, when the national language is not developed as a vital language?

Post-independent years was when language planning began taking effect, and a very dictionary, formalized type of effort were emphasized for a standardised language. In the intellectual and social dimension, the Malay language gradually grew into a language that sadly fails to capture an increasing vocabulary.

Once critical concepts cannot enter into the localsphere, into the lexicon, the value of the language will continue to spiral downwards, as most would not find it helpful, and lacking in its ability to capture cerebral thought processes. The academics and scholars have a vital part to play. Just look around us – almost all the Malay intelligentsia speak English 90% of the time, as if the Malay language cannot be used to articulate these important ideas.

We usually associate those who can speak English as the ones who are more educated. Almost all the elites are able to converse in English. If there is no strong philosophical commitment to speak that particular language, it would lead to a decline in its use and efficiency –  something that is worryingly a trend, causing a half-baked command of both the English and Malay language.

So does the Malay language hold a significant value, if at all? Do we live the ‘native Malay stereotype’? Does our stereotype of ‘lazy, easily satisfied, and refusal to advance and develop further’ reflect our language’s usefulness? These were just some of the language attitude questions put forward by Dr Azhar for us to ponder.

In the case of Indonesia, the use and value of its Bahasa is comparatively stronger to that of its neighbours. Eka asserted that it is not the problem of the language itself – the preservation of its language lies in the power and pride of its people. Majority of Indonesians are resistant to the government’s attempts to formalize the language, as they avoid using the ‘Englishization’ of certain terms in their Bahasa.

Personally, I feel that Bahasa Indo is less imperilled because the language is a practised national language that is not tied to any ethnicity, unlike Singapore. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the lingua franca of this island, Malay, slowly dwindled to extinction. The value did not continue to be upheld. Our national language, Malay, is merely on paper. A statue. It only retains in our national anthem and drill commands. Our national language isn’t used by every single citizen, regardless of race or religion, which is a trait we lack that keeps a country’s identity strong (eg. the use of Bahasa in Indonesia, French in France, Korean in Korea, etc.)

What we gather thus far is that the colonialization of language is largely to blame for the decline of our mother tongue’s value and use, a factor that is largely irreversible. But what can be done now to turn things around? Can the educators still defend and do justice to our mother tongue, in instilling the love and subsequently, pride in conversing in Bahasa? The panelists discussed that the onus still lies in policy makers.

A language cannot thrive in a politically conservative society.

Political conservatism largely controls language formalization. The way out? The language of criticism and alternative must come in. Space for discourse with regards to this issue is much needed. There is a lot of work to do in our language and policy department. Our children are bombarded with English every day, and the amount of time and money spent on Malay is not enough. We organize the annual ‘Bulan Bahasa’ where intensive activities and exciting programmes are carried out to promote the use of Malay language, but what really matters is what comes after. The question of whether we can sustain the use of our national language and inculcate within us the pride of our mother tongue still remains.

Piety in Consumerism: Peddling Religious Products in South East Asia

This is another panel I truly resonated with.

Fronted by Imran Taib, Okky Madasari, and Raja Ahmad Aminullah, the panel discussed about the escalating trend of ‘Islamisizing’ products and services, especially in this region. Where crowds flock towards goods that are halal, or ‘syariah-compliant’. Case in point, Air Anugerah, which is a typical mineral water sold for a dollar at 7-Eleven stores, is sold for three times its price due to some prayers chanted upon it. And people still buy it because of their naivety in its perceived spiritual benefits. There are many other products branded as ‘Islamic’ that are gaining great commercial value, like Islamic films, books, cosmetics, etc. There is an increasing demand for this lifestyle consumption which mainly afflicts the middle class. This begs the question of whether these ‘piously’ sanctioned products are getting popular because more people are turning to faith, or because of a result of capitalism?

Imran closed the discussion with something to think about:

Who do we blame for the rise of capitalism when the center of Islam (Makkah) itself is burgeoning with consumerism and familiar household names of globalization?

The SWF panels I’ve attended were insightful and timely, and the crowds attending the various programmes were encouraging as compared to previous years. I guess we could all see SWF coming back bigger and better for the next. SWF 2016 has been that spark of inspiration I, and I’m sure many others, so needed. Till 2017!


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In the distance, Namsan tower pierces the cloudless skies,
sentinelled against the misty skyline, overlooking
the quintessential Hanok village rooftops
snaking in an organized fashion –
a postcard-perfect juxtaposition of the old and new,
while the streets of Myeongdong and Dongdaemun
are choked with a flood of university students in procession,
stall sellers ready to jump at the next wandering customer,
and a steady stream of goggle-eyed tourists
bargaining in a foreign tongue they embrace like their own.
I weave through the crowd, looking up to the sight of tangled power lines
redolent of dreams half-chased, hanging on to a future
gleaned from resilient yesterdays, my gaze then interrupted by
a genial man in his thirties who speaks in an accented Malay
as he eagerly chirps an Assalamualaikum, apa khabar?
when he sees me sauntering past his pushcart in hijab,
and I smile, as he pulls me to witness an impressive show
of his gloved hands kneading and unspooling a fascinating
lump of doughy, chalky sweet, once enjoyed only by royalty
now commonplace, delicacies so accessible like language,
when one makes the effort to learn, unlocking doors of another’s home.
There are stares, mostly out of unfamiliarity than contempt,
with lingering smiles and annyeongs and cafes
punctuating every corner, and conversations lasting for hours
strung in a clumsy syntax of laughter and gestures.
I observe the ahjumma with a youthful bob cut at the subway
talking on her cellphone, her lilting tone at every “yes” and “no”
as I listen to her voice like strange music to my ears,
their Ls and Rs roll into one while landscapes dissolve,
rapidly blurring in a timelapse from time immemorial,
while I stand privy to the secrets carried in signals
through travel lines stretching miles into the night
that envelopes the looming tower, the august silhouette of a mountain
and lights in distant buildings flickering like stars in the cold summer wind,
the city wafting its soul through fields stripped off
its cosmetic beauty, remaining a prized antique,
a souvenir in my mind.

Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

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Her name is a letter different from the great Persian poet, and her magic too lies in stringing poems that touch hearts.

Rupi Kaur. The first time I heard about her was through this empowering piece of writing I had the pleasure of stumbling upon on Instagram.


Milk & Honey is a book of poems that addresses abuse, feminism, love & loss. It’s divided into 4 sections – hurting, loving, breaking, healing. Her ability to turn hurt into honeyed words which hint at these universal themes has gained her legions of fans – young and old – across the globe.

Her style of writing is fragmented and rule-breaking – brief, no capital letters (which lends it a certain soft, quiet way of delivering the message), and a deliberate lack of punctuation. I’d classify her work as part of this new wave, contemporary, minimal, ‘tumblr’ poetry you see popping up these days that you either hate or love. Think Lang Leav, Nayyirah Waheed, Nikita Gill, and the likes.

There were a few poems that wow-ed me, some I bookmarked, and some others that were pretty underwhelming I think. But I’d still recommend it as the sort of good, quick read you grab to accompany you on your daily commute, or whenever you need to take a break from all the noise and complexities of life, and have someone tell you the kind of uplifting words you need to hear to make you feel better.

I’ll leave you with one of the poems I have bookmarked. Get a copy for yourselves if Rupi’s poetry is your cup of milk & honey.


Rupi Kaur
Title: Milk & Honey
Published: 2014
Format: Paperback

Me Migrant by Md Mukul Hossine


Me migrant
Live overseas
Thousand thousand miles away

Me migrant
Beyond borders
Mislaying smiles
Dawn to dusk then dawn again

Found this gem nestled amidst rows of books by familiar local writers at the Singapore Literature Book Fair held at Booktique just a couple of weeks ago. Me Migrant is a book of poems that center around the theme of loneliness, longing, and displacement. Md Mukul Hossine, a Bangladeshi migrant worker in Singapore, has been writing poetry since he was 12. His debut book of poems published by Ethos Books is a promising move in the relatively nascent field of migrant worker poetry. What I like about his writing is his ability to convey raw emotions of his struggles of leaving home and living abroad, reflected in his simple, unpretentious words, imbued within it an apparent earnestness and hope. The piece below, titled The Minaret of Sorrow, is one of my many favourites from this book.

Breaking the minaret of sorrow
Pouring a rain of ache on my heart
My drenched heart.
At the door of unsheltered frustration
The passionate soul steadily
Burns like a lamp’s flame.
But I fear it will extinguish!

Leaving behind sorrows in the darkness of the night
A procession of fireflies in every neighbourhood.
A revelry of chirping crickets.
Are they laughing out of happiness
Or crying out of sadness?

Like me?

Like birds fluttering at daybreak,
A lightning of despair comes down as snow.
Chattering, shivering, unclad,
I am alone.
I must travel this dark and directionless path.

At the port of despair I am the only traveller
I do not know where it will lead me. 

I’m excited to see new voices emerging in the local literary scene. This is a necessary step in the direction towards inclusiveness; using poetry to open up conversations and take further initiatives to improve the reality of someone underappreciated, othered, and who’s humbly eking out a living by building us homes, while being oceans away from their own.

Author: Md Mukul Hossine
Transcreated by: Cyril Wong
Translated by: Fariha Imran & Farouk Ahammed
Title: Me Migrant
Published: 2016
Pages: 68 pages
Format: Paperback

The Istanbul Intrigue by Melati Lum

When Melati Lum reached out to me on IG, I fangirled a little.

OK I lied – I couldn’t sleep for the night, wildly anticipating her book to arrive on the shores of Singapore! This Australian-based author (and Jill of all Trades), puts a refreshing twist to the oft-portrayed cool-headed, broodingly pensive, crime-busting detective, enigmatic Sherlock with an annoyingly nonchalant demeanour. See, not only is the main character of her book a female, but a young, curious, independent, kick-ass Muslim one at that! Think Nancy Drew, with a hijab on. She’s more than just meets the eye.

In The Istanbul Intrigue,  Ayesha Dean goes on an adventure with her two close friends, Jessica and Sarah, to Istanbul. When she discovered a mysterious note in a book she found at an old bookshop at the bustling Grand Bazaar, she began on a journey to find for clues and get help to decipher the message in the note. She was more determined than ever to put the missing pieces of the puzzle together. It’s a thrilling journey of staying undercover from the bad guys, gobbling up yummy kebabs for lunch, whilst exploring the beauty of Istanbul’s rich culture and history.

I personally think more impressionable, Muslim (or non) pre-teens should follow Ayesha Dean’s adventures because of its relatable content and accessible language, and The Istanbul Intrigue is a good place to start! A light, quick, page-turning read which didn’t take me more than a day to complete.

Growing up reading books largely with a western bias (Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, etc.), while there is nothing inherently wrong with it, inevitably shapes our worldview in a certain manner. I’m glad there is a rising interest amongst youths in local literature, and literature from other parts of the world these days. Being exposed to alternative narratives is always more encouraged than purely consuming eurocentric texts which have been conveniently pervading our literature platter since we learnt how to read. The novelty of this novel brings to light the modern and interesting take on this relatively untapped YA literature segment, which is definitely something I am greatly inspired by! I’m confident Ayesha Dean will pave the way for a generation of more Ayeshas – a young lady, firm in faith with her own idiosyncrasies, who’s always up for an adrenaline rush of adventures…

Largely YA with a bit of chick lit, a dash of mystery, a sprinkle of history, travel, and a hijabi heroine leading the way… and you have The Istanbul Intrigue in a nutshell. You can get a copy right over here 🙂

A Letter to My Fifteen-Year Old Self

Dear you,

I know there are days when you doubt yourself. Days when you wished you were prettier, smarter, funnier. When you’re exhausted from everyone’s expectations. Listen: you are enough. Shut out your doubts. Learn to build your confidence and quieten them down. You are the most intelligent, beautiful, hilarious, never-to-be-repeated person the world will ever know. Trust me, you’ll grow up to love yourself the most. Because you’ll learn that you are the only person who will dive with you in your oceans of solitude. You will discover that the only company you will have is the divine One that moves along with you. You will feel lost, but keep going, and you will be found. Along the way, you will meet people who won’t recognize your value and treat you like you’re dirt. I’m telling you that you’re diamond. You’re rock, solid, gold. They simply never dug deep enough to see how much you’re worth. You hold a world within you, girl. Never let anyone tell you you’re too heavy to be held. They’re not strong enough to handle you well. I know there are days when you look into the mirror and hate how your nose looks when you laugh. When you cried so hard after failing your maths test by half a mark. When you get puzzled seeing friends flocking towards relationships. You sit there and wonder what does all of these mean? What am I missing? What is this “happiness” that everyone’s chasing? Don’t believe the hype. Don’t exchange your values for things that aren’t worth your being.

Let me tell you that life doesn’t get easier, but trust me that you will get stronger. You will face sorrow and failures ahead of you, but along the way, you will also meet their siblings, joy and victory. Don’t worry, they come in pairs.

And listen, because I’ve been exactly where you are. When your friend looks at you weird because you wear the hijab, remember that He looks at you with love. When you excuse yourself to pray in between conversations, pray that they will join you too one day. When your friends tell you to do things that go against your morals, stand up for your rights. You are a warrior with a foresight. You know this journey will only be a moment, so make it a moment of fight, for eternal paradise. Who cares if you stumble, what’s important is this: you try, and try, and try. Keep trying. Keep moving on this path. Don’t stall, don’t quit, don’t lose your focus. Don’t waste your youth on things you’ll regret. You are special, you are wonderful. You are the kind of person that Allah loves.

So keep being that.

How to Hold an Unpopular Opinion by Joshua Becker

You might have already known by now how much I adore Joshua Becker’s articles from The minimalist view and lifestyle he advocates resonates a lot with the Islamic perspective of materialistic detachment, focusing on the inner development. Because, as we already know, the most important things in life really aren’t things.

This is one of the articles which I find extremely relevant because in an age where popular opinion is oft-seen as right, it is important to note that they aren’t always mutually exclusive. Many popular opinions these days do not typically stand for what’s right. There are plenty of much celebrated views or goals that go against our morals or beliefs. I believe it is crucial to stand with your own opinion, the one that you strongly believe in due to your religious/ social/ cultural inclinations, and hold on to it, especially in times where the media, or friends around you, might be more influential and overpower in number.

This is a helpful piece by Joshua Becker, detailing some ways on how to hold your own opinion, no matter how unpopular it is in the eyes of the crowd.

There are no unanimous opinions. Beliefs held by 100% of the population are not called opinions, they are called facts. And other than the most elementary truths (2+2=4, the sky is blue), 100% belief in anything is becoming increasingly rare.

Change, by definition, requires us to embrace a new (or contrary) opinion. Whether we are seeking to change ourselves or the world around us, there is no transformation without the introduction of a new idea. And new ideas are almost always met with confrontation on some level.

For me, this occurred just hours after making the decision to remove our unneeded possessions and pursue minimalism. I made a phone call to my mom to tell her the news. She was less than excited. She had plenty of preconceived notions about minimalism—at one point even wondering aloud how we were going to eat if we stopped going to the grocery store.

We laugh about it now, but in the moment, it was significant. Only hours into my journey, I was forced to decide if I would succumb to the pressure of popular opinion or if I would pursue what my heart was telling me to be true.

To be fair, years later, I have learned to present minimalism differently and cut off many of the most common objections before they even surface. Nowadays, rare is the individual who argues vehemently against my understanding and case for minimalism. I have learned to promote the positives of minimalism rather than the negatives of consumerism.

However, on a macro-level, the objections refuse to slow. The stakes are just too high. There are businesses and economies and governments and personal livelihoods based on the pursuit of consumption and mass production. The introduction of any idea that seeks to tear it all down will be met with confrontation. It will require us to stand firm against the sway of popular opinion.

How then, in the case of pursuing simplicity, do we hold an unpopular opinion? How do we stand firm against the sway of popular opinion in this regard or any other? Whether we are in conversation with family and friends, attempting to live in a countercultural manner, or alone battling our own thoughts, here are some helpful principles to remember.

How to Hold an Unpopular Opinion

1. Celebrate your uniqueness. Your life was never meant to be lived like everyone else. You don’t look the same, you don’t sound the same, and your deepest-held values are unique. Throwing that away just to conform to popular opinion is one of the cruelest things you can ever do. And it will always prevent you from living your fullest life.

2. Remember popularity and accuracy are not the same. As the proverb goes, “Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.” Our desire should be to discover and hold the right opinions, not just the prevailing ones.

3. Count the benefits. Discover, remember, and focus on the benefits of your belief structure. Be able to quickly articulate to yourself and others why you hold the position that you do by embracing the positives. In the case of minimalism, whenever I explain my countercultural decision to others, I always highlight the benefits of owning less. It helps makes a stronger case for the lifestyle in both my mind and theirs.

4. Find strength in community. Unpopular is not the same as alone. From politics to religion to world views, there is no shortage of opinions available in our world. And almost certainly, while unpopular, there are others who believe the same as you. Find them. And discover greater resolve because of it.

5. Understand the counterarguments. Thinking critically and asking questions go hand in hand. Know your opinion, but work hard to understand the case and arguments against it. If you are right, you have nothing to fear. If you are wrong, you have everything to gain.

6. Hold opinions humbly. When discussing opinions of any kind, exercise humility with others and with yourself. We live our lives with certain assumptions and biases based on experiences. Sometimes these experiences lead us to truth, but other times they lead us away from it. Find the proper balance of humility and fierce resolve in all of your opinions.

7. Present your case boldly. I think owning less is a better way to live. Because of this opinion, I feel a responsibility to tell others and present the case for it whenever possible. Inviting others to a better way of life is an act of love. We must see it as such and stand firm in the face of opposition. This obligation remains true whether we are speaking of minimalism or countless other unpopular opinions.

Your life is valuable. It is the greatest asset you own. And it holds potential for great things.

Don’t slip into mediocrity by living your life based solely on popular opinion.

Understanding the Whys & Hows of Supplication

I was bummed when I had to miss out on the 3-day Fiqh of Du’a talk by Shaykh Waleed Basyouni… until my beautiful, selfless friend shared with me notes she took down from the talk! The takeaways have been so beneficial to me, so I’m putting it up here for you guys to read. May it be of immense benefit to you too, and may we put into practise this knowledge we have learnt. Please also make du’a for my friend, Nurul Jannah, for sharing with us all what we’ve mostly missed.

Notes from Fiqh of Du’a by Shaykh Waleed Basyouni

Du’a (supplication) is not so much as getting what you want or what you asked for, rather it is about the du’a itself, which signifies your connection to Allah and dependence upon Him. Umar al-Khattab (ra) said, my concern is not the answer to my prayer, but my utmost concern is whether I can make a good du’a or not (i.e. whether my connection to Allah is strong or not). A reminder to myself, what is the first thing you turn to when you face a problem? Is it du’a? Is the first thing that comes out of your mouth, “O Allah…”?

Who is the person who turned to Allah and Allah let him down? (No one!)

A dialogue between the righteous followers (tabi’een):

“Those who knock on the door (through du’a), soon the door will be opened for him.”

“Bless you, so-and-so! Who told you the door was ever closed?” – Rabi’atul Adawiyyah

During the Shaykh’s youth, they would identify a Muslim person as practising or not by two qualities:

(1) Whether they prayed in the masjid,

(2) Whether they did the daily dhikr (rememberance of Allah).

The companions would hold firmly onto du’a and adhkar (plural of dhikr). The Prophet S.A.W would teach his companions a du’a and ask them to memorise it as they would memorize the Qur’an.

“Since the Prophet S.A.W taught me a supplication I never missed it.” – Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra).

The Prophet S.A.W said, whoever reads ayatul Qursi after every obligatory prayer, there is nothing between him and paradise except death (Nasa’i, sahih). Ibn Taimiyah, when he heard this at around ten years old, never missed reciting it every since. Ibn Taimiyah also would engage in dhikr from fajr til mid-day, when asked about it he responded, “This dhikr is like my food. How would you go to work without eating? Your body will be weak. Just the same, the heart will be weak if it is not nourished with dhikr.”

Saying “Subhanallahil azeem wa bihamdih” plants you a tree in paradise. When Imam Nawawi learnt this he said, “We have missed so many opportunities to plant trees!” The people who came after him said, “We missed more opportunities than an-Nawawi.” Last friday, who made du’a during the last hour of it? Who read surat al-Kahf? Who made abundant shalawaat upon the Prophet S.A.W? Who took advantage of it?

Two men who came to the Prophet S.A.W and one of them said, “Who is the best man, O Muhammad?” The Prophet S.A.W said, “One who has a long life filled with good deeds.” The other man said, “Indeed, the laws of Islam are too many for us, so give us something comprehensive we can hold on to.” The Prophet said, “Keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah the Exalted.” (Musnad Ahmad, sahih).

“There is nothing more dear to Allah than a servant making du’a to Him.” – The Prophet S.A.W in Sunan at-Tirmidhi.

The benefits of dhikr and du’a in the life of a Muslim

The connection between us and Allah is two-way: from Allah to us through the Qur’an, and from us to Allah through dhikr and du’a. If one side is missing, the entire connection falls apart.

The Prophet S.A.W said, “Du’a is the essence of ibadah (worship)” (Tirmidhi, Ahmad). He also said, “The mufarridun will be ahead of everyone else on the Day of Judgement.” The asked, and who are the mufarridun, ya Rasulullah?” “They are the males and females who remember Allah a lot.” (Muslim)

  1. Dhikr brings about tranquility and serenity within you; it strengthens your heart, such that you will fear none but Allah. (Qur’an 13:28)
  2. Dhikr is a form of protection from syaitan (Quran 7:200) The messenger of Allah S.A.W said, “Do not make your houses like graves, for the syaitan runs away from a house in which Surat al-Baqarah is recited.” (Muslim)
  3. Dhikr and du’a brings you success in this life and the hereafter (Qur’an 62:10). Such success can come through the clarity of mind and heart. Ibn Taimiyah through remembrance of Allah was able to accomplish more (wrote books of knowledge etc) with less effort.
  4. Dhikr is a testimony against hypocrisy. (Qur’an 9:67)
  5. Dhikr brings harmony and strengthens social ties (eg. spreading salaam – prayer for peace upon others and praying for someone who sneezes, and vice versa)


Who should you make du’a for other than yourself?

  1. Parents (Al-Isra’ 17:23-24 du’a for parents in the Qur’an)

    The Prophet S.A.W said, “When the son of Adam dies, his deeds come to an end apart from three: sadaqah jaariyah (ongoing charity); beneficial knowledge; or a righteous son who will make du’a for him.” (Sahih Muslim). A sign of your righteousness is that you pray for your parents when they’ve passed away. And it is not easy except for those who make du’a for their parents while their parents are alive.

  2. Family members (Al-Furqan 25:74 du’a for spouse & offspring)

    The Messenger of Allah S.A.W said, “Three supplications are answered without doubt: the supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveller and the supplication of the parent for his son.” (Tirmidhi)

  3. Your friends and those who benefited you and did good to you in your life

    The Prophet S.A.W. said, “If good is done to someone and then they say ‘jazakallahu khairan’ to the one who did good, they have indeed praised them well.” (Tirmidhi). For a whole year, Imam Abu Hanifah never missed making du’a for his teacher. Abu Darda’ (ra) would make du’a for 70 people by name in his witr prayer. “I don’t know how you claim someone to be your sister/brother in Islam and yet not make du’a for them. – Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal (some narrations said he would pray for 100 people by name every day).You do not know how a du’a can benefit another or come back to you. A man whose father had passed away saw his father in a dream in a good state (happy & well-dressed/ fed) and asked, oh father what were those deeds that led you to such a good state? The father replied, no but it through the du’a of this man and the father mentioned his name. The man woke up and asked around for this man, it was neither family nor friend. When he asked in a congregation a man later came and said, I am that man. He never knew the other person’s father. But when he prayed jenazah on father that day, he said, “Oh Allah, this man is entering Your world, so be generous to him. If he were to come to my house, I would be generous to him. Oh Allah, He is your guest now so be generous to him.”

  4. Praying for all Muslims and asking forgiveness for them (Muhammad 47:19)

    The Messenger of Allah S.A.W. said, “Whoever asked forgiveness for the believing men and women, Allah will give such person hanasah (reward) for each believing men and women.” (Tabarani in Mu’jam’il Kabir). Imagine, more than a billion believers, more than a billion rewards! Making du’a for the believers is indeed the sunnah of the Prophets; Prophet Nuh, Ibrahim, Muhamas (a.s.).

  5. Praying for your country and its leaders

    If now Allah tells you, you have one request and I will grant you, Al-Fudayl ibn Iyad said he would ask Allah to guide the leader. Ibn Mubarak said regarding teader, this, only Al-Fudayl would say this (how selfless he is, naturally most people would make du’a for themselves to enter paradise and such). This is because when you pray for the leader, the ummah is guided (through the leader). Pray for their guidance (even for non-Muslim leaders – pray that Allah guides their actions).It is permissible to make du’a for non-Muslim’s guidance while they are alive, but it is not permissible to make du’a for them when they have passed away (do not make du’a for or against them). Rather one can pray for their family members and give them his/her condolences. “To Allah belongs what He takes and what He gives, and when He takes He takes in a perfect manner so be patient.” (Variation of a hadith in Bukhari and Muslim).Allah ordained du’a to request for good things to happen and anything else. So every time we make a du’a for something bad to happen or for something that incurs the wrath of Allah, it goes against the purpose of du’a (Ibn Qayyim). One of the worst things is to make du’a against oneself (e.g. by saying “I wish I was dead.”) The person who you pray against is one of two: the transgressor or the victim. It is permissible to pray against a transgressor in the area where he transgresses. Still, forgiving and praying for their guidance and forgiveness is better.The Prophet S.A.W. said, “When a person curses somebody or something, the curse ates are goes up to the heaven and the gates of the heaven are closed. Then it comes down to earth and its gates are closed. Then it turns right and left, and if it does not find an entrance to go anywhere, it returns to the person or thing that was cursed if he or it deserves to be cursed, otherwise it returns to the person who uttered it.” (Abu Dawood) i.e. if someone prays against a victim, the du’a goes back to them.Cursing a believer by name is NOT allowed. Allah’s Messenger S.A.W. said, “Cursing a believer is like murdering him.”


The etiquette of dhikr & du’a

(a) It must be done with sincerity (Qur’an 40:65) and according to the sunnah of the Prophet S.A.W.; the closer you follow the sunnah, the more likely your du’a will be accepted.

(b) It is recommended for the person to be in a state of wudhu’ and to purify the tongue with the siwak or any other method that can make the mouth smell good as the angels come close to a person who is making du’a.

(c) It is recommended to face the qiblah.

(d) Choose the times, the location and the situation where the du’a and dhikr is most likely to be answered – From the sunnah, e.g. on Friday when the imam sits during the khutbah or at its last hour, in Ramadhan, in the masjid, in Makkah, when it’s raining or while travelling, etc.

(e) Have khushu’ while making dhikr and du’a – “If our istighfar needs istighfar, then we are in big trouble.” i.e. When we are seeking forgiveness from Allah we do so hastily or without paying any attention to our words, that is not how we would apologize to anyone so how can we do that to Allah?

(f) Lower the voice – Do not make du’a or dhikr silently (in your mind) you should still be able to hear yourself but what is meant is supplicating softly as in Qur’an 7:205

(g) Make dhikr individually or alone, away from people – The Prophet S.A.W. said that Allah said, “I am just as My slave believes e Mto be and I am with him when he remembers Me. So if he remembers Me within himself, I too will remember him within Myself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

(h) One should perform a good deed prior to making the du’a e.g. after reading the Qur’an, close to breaking fast is a time where du’a is accepted for those who fast, at the end of prayer i.e in sujood and after the tashahhud; some people make a lot of du’a after the prayer but not during the solah itself, making du’a in solah is better! Also, charity and tawbah are among the best deeds to offer prior to making du’a (and Qur’an 94:7-8)

(i) Praise Allah and convey prayer (salawat) upon the Prophet S.A.W. in the beginning and end of du’a.

(k) Making du’a with conviction. The Prophet S.A.W. said, “Let not any of you say, ‘O Allah have mercy on me if You will, O Allah have mercy on me if You will.’ Let him be resolute in the matter, whilst knowing that no one can compel Allah to do anything.” (Bukhari and Muslim). Being resolute meaning say, ‘O Allah forgive me’ knowing that Allah is Most Forgiving and will forgive. This is also why when someone makes du’a for you or says a du’a we should say ameen instead of insyaallah, because ameen means “Oh Allah accept” or “Oh Allah give me the same”, while insyaallah which means “if Allah wills” should be said with regards to the future and such.

(l) Make an encompassing, general du’a where possible.

(m) Mention the Names of Allah and His Attributes that are suitable to the request or du’a that you are making e.g. when asking Allah for knowledge make du’a to Al-Aleem the Most Knowledgeable, Al-Fattah the Opener to the doors of knowledge and ease and Al-Hakeem the Wise.

(n) Raise both hands during du’a. There are more than 100 narrations that the Prophet S.A.W. raised his hands in prayer. His hands were always touching each other (not apart). However it is not reported that the Prophet S.A.W. wiped his face after supplicating, rather he raised his hands in supplication then put them down.

The best dhikr is the Qur’an

It is never too late to learn the Qur’an. Ibn Abbas was teaching Qur’an as a teenager and amongst his students were the elderly like Abdur Rahman Ibn Auf, one of the first ten to embrace Islam. Your struggle with learning (to read/ understand/ memorize) the Qur’an doubles your reward.

Another important thing to note is that at the end of the day, it is not about the amount of Qur’an one memorized but how much of it is loved, honoured, and lived by. One of the companions of the Prophet S.A.W. would recite Surat al-Ikhlas in every prayer and when asked why, the man said because I love surat al-Ikhlas very much. This was related to the Prophet S.A.W., who said, tell him that Allah loves him too.

All the verses of the Qur’an are equal in their perfection, as they come from a Perfect Source, but the verses of the Qur’an are not all equal in virtue, i.e. from the perspective of subject, verses describing Allah hold more virtue than verses describing the earth. In authentic narrations some surahs have been mentioned their virtues or recommended to recite regularly such as Al-Fatihah (mother of the Qur’an and the best surah, Hadith Bukhari) and Surat Al-Baqarah and ayatul Qursi, Surat al-Ikhlas (1/3 of the Qur’an, Bukhari), Surat al-Imran, al-Mulk.

If you read 10 verses of the Qur’an everyday (night), you will not be recorded amongst the heedless (ghafileen). If you read 100 verses, you will be amongst the righteous (qaniteen). The Messenger of Allah S.A.W. said, “Whoever recites ten verses at night will not be recorded as one of the heedless.” (Sahih according to al-Albaani). The Messenger of Allah S.A.W. also said, “Whoever prayers qiyaam reciting ten verses will not be recorded as one of the heedless. Whoever prays qiyaam reciting one hundred verses will be recorded as one of the devout. Whoever prays qiyaam reciting one thousand verses will be recorded as one of those who collected a great deal of reward.” Classed as sahih by al-Albaani in Sahih Abi Dawood (1264).

So let’s try to make the Qur’an a habit, insyaallah.

The Best Dhikr after the Qur’an

The Prophet S.A.W. said the most beloved words to Allah are four: subhanallah, wa alhamdulillah, wa la ilaha illAllah, wa Allahu akbar (Muslim).

The Prophet S.A.W. said that these words are more beloved to Allah than anything the sun will reach (Muslim) i.e. anything the world has to offer.

World leaders never for a summit except for something that is really important. So imagine, a summit between the two great leaders of the ummah, our Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. and Prophet Ibraheem (as), in the highest of Jannah during Rasulullah S.A.W.’s isra’ and mi’raj. Prophet Ibraheem (as) said, ‘O Muhammad, tell your ummah tah Jannah, a huge portion of it is empty, so you plant therein with seedlings and trees and foliage, and the deeds that you plant in paradise with are subhanallah, walhamdulillah, wa la ilaha illAllah, wa Allahu akbar. And the summit ended (Ibraheem met with the Prophet just to tell him that).

The echo of your voice saying these four tasbeeh will be heard around the throne of Allah. So heavy in your scale on the Day of Judgement are five things: the four tasbeeh, and number five, a child dies on you while you are still alive and you are patient.


This Life is Temporary

I’ve been thinking about what Muhammad Ali said during one of his interviews. A boy asked him what he’d do after he retires from boxing. He did a breakdown of the years – most of the hours we have we’d spend it on sleeping, schooling, commuting, so whatever time we have left, that’s the amount of years we get to really live. Makes us realize just how short that is.

I have always thought of it this way: Most of us are already in our twenties, so if we were to live another lifetime, basically multiplying by two, you’d already be about half a century old. If we can still remember our childhood like it was just yesterday, then surely when we reach that stage, we’d think that our youth was just a few years ago. Anyway, who’s to guarantee that we’d still be alive by then? Like he said, some of us are gonna die in 20 years time, some in 30 years, 5, 10, 50, all these numbers, who knows? Only He does. We musn’t withold our obligations as a Muslim til we’re older because nobody guarantees us old age. So many of those who have left us are young people. Death knows no age & escapes no one. Think about it, is it worth disobeying Him for this brief period of time in exchange for eternal pain? Or live this life obeying Him and be rewarded with eternal bliss?

This life is temporary. How scary yet comforting is this word? That means all the happiness in this world won’t last, but so does all the sorrow and calamity you see in every corner of this earth. Everything in this life will perish including ourselves… except God. So it only makes sense when Muhammad Ali answered the boy’s question in a nutshell, “[I’m gonna] get ready to meet God.