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Subhana Allah! November 2, 2011

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“Be sure We will test you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and fruits; but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.” [2:155]

“Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.’ ” [2:156]

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Al-Tirmidhi October 22, 2011

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Allah the Almighty has said, “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me, and hope in Me, I shall forgive you what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds in the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I shall forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with an earthful of sins and were you then to face Me, without having associated anything with Me, I shall grant you an earthful of pardon.”

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Neurosurgical Prowess October 13, 2011

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I think people should really learn to think for themselves.

Over the years, I’ve come to notice that a lot of people are just really good at agreeing and quoting what someone else said. I mean, you have a good memory & you can regurgitate & that’s all well and fine, but one day you’re going to realise that just because someone else said it, that doesn’t mean that it has to be true.

Every single person on this planet leads a life separate and different from any other. We meet different people, we go through different events at different points of our lives, we learn different things. Sometimes we look back, or a particularly major event occurs, and we face a sudden realisation, adopt a new perspective on things etc.

For instance, people generally tend to agree that we shouldn’t have any regrets. “Live life with no regrets”, “Don’t have regrets because at one point it was exactly what you wanted.” The way I see it, regret is a good thing. Okay, so the feeling sucks, but having regrets just means you’ve grown from that experience. It means you’ve learnt a lesson in life, to never do something stupid like that again.

And while giving people the freedom of choice may sound like a good thing, it hardly ever is when it affects other people. Just because you admire someone, it doesn’t mean what they say is always right. We all need to form our own opinions and live life by our own perspectives, see the world through our own eyes.

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Religion October 8, 2011

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I don’t get how some people try to mock Islam and Muslims by saying: they don’t get what’s up with the number of Muslims named Mohamed and that even Christians don’t name their kids Jesus.
What they fail to realise is that, neither do we name our kids Allah. Abdullah sure, because that means ‘servant of Allah’. But instead we name them after the greatest man that ever lived, the epitome of mankind perfected. & isn’t it very common for others’ kids to be named after their grandmother/father or whatever? Muhammad s.a.w. was an even better person than any grandmother/father anyone could have had, so why not? Tell me then, why not name your kid after the most perfect man, in the hopes that your kid could follow in his footsteps?
Muhammad s.a.w. was a man like any other man, he was Allah’s servant raised to the highest honour. He was not a God, simply a Messenger of Allah Most High.
I really don’t have anything against other religions. My stand has always been, ‘To each his own.’ I just hate to stand by and let ignorant people actually spread their absolute lack of knowledge. People should just stick to talking about things they actually know anything about.

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Playing Movies In My Head July 26, 2011

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Movie Reel

Funny thing about people. You look at someone: two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth; two arms, two legs, ten fingers and ten toes. One body. And you think that’s all you’re seeing, really: just one heart and mind and soul inside one body.

For a while now, I’ve started to think that maybe this isn’t quite so true. There isn’t always just a voice inside your head – sometimes there are voices inside your head, crowding the room and making a huge mess in there. You could go mad trying to listen in on everything they’re saying.

It isn’t always a bad thing of course. I sometimes hear three; it’s like sitting in the director’s chair and watching three Voices on set. They argue, weigh your pros and cons and the like. Usually one of my Voices is Religion, who somehow has the ability to shut everyone else up because the other Voices know they’re not allowed to argue with what Religion says. Sometimes these arguments make it to the director’s cut (mine), and sometimes they don’t.

Anyway, here’s another way of looking at it: we aren’t always the same person around different people. Relationships are a two-way thing, so you can’t just behave the same way to everyone. You’d have to look at the other person, and sometimes even the situation. Some people are more sensitive than others, so you have to watch what you say a little bit more; others may be more of a heart person and they definitely won’t appreciate your bitching about… well, anything.

I often find that the most interesting revelations come out when people think nobody’s looking. Like a personal blog that the owner thinks nobody visits anymore. It’s no longer a two-way relationship, because now you’re only writing for yourself. And you spill the stuff that’s been dying to get out – no pretense. And that’s when you see what kind of person they really are: the thoughts that run wildly around their heads, leaving trails of stars in their midst; that one thing or the many things that speed up their heart rate. The kind of stuff that makes you think: “I wish I knew you” or “I wish we were still friends”.

But if and when you do meet the person in real life, they always seem rather different than what you expected. They laugh more, louder. They joke often and a lot. They smile effortlessly. Because everybody knows: wearing your heart on your sleeve, that’s only the way of fools.

Take A Walk Inside Your Head July 19, 2011

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Emotion

I don’t think very many people notice or realise it. Everybody’s so busy, caught up and entangled in the drama of their own lives that we don’t really stop to take a look at everybody else’s. Have you ever noticed how every single person is full to bursting point with emotion? I stopped to take a look today and I couldn’t help but stare.

You think you know their story, but really, there are stories behind the stories. People never tell the absolute truth because there are some things we can never bring ourselves to admit. Sometimes we do it to protect others, or for fear or shame. Sometimes we can’t stand being vulnerable, having everyone else know and never look at you the same.

I took a look at a boy I thought couldn’t care less about anything, and I found him to care so much that it frightened him. I took a look at an old friend who seemed to emphasise her laughter so that it was all anybody would see of her, and I found so much pain and sorrow I couldn’t understand how she never got tired.

We go through the days, never really dealing with our emotions. Sometimes I think the only ones who do are the ones who end up losing it, because they have to deal with so much. What is it that keeps you awake at night? It’s probably only a fraction of what you have stored inside. You know how your body automatically tries to stabilise itself when you trip? I don’t know much about Bio, but unless I’m very much wrong, our body has its own self-defence mechanisms and when we find ourselves tripping in our own heads, we can’t help but deny access to some doors.

You know, sometimes I think I time-travel. But perhaps just my soul, while my body stays obedient to the time-space continuum. There are some periods of my life where I can barely remember anything. I have flashes and glimpses of being thirteen, but most of the year is a black blur. I’m sure things happened at the end of my fifteenth, and even though people have given me the information, I can’t for the life of me put a memory to those details. But then again, this could just be me with the overdramatics again.

And then there are some doors in your head that you deliberately never come near, that you tiptoe your way around hoping it doesn’t bang open so all those dark thoughts and memories you keep stored away don’t come rushing in, flooding the space in your head.

I suppose different people have different ways of dealing with things – for you, maybe, talking about it helps. But if I say no, don’t keep trying to dig out my secrets. What right have you? This is one of those doors I never wish to open, the one I can see out of the corner of my eye, but I know I’ll never turn to face it in full view. I think that people, for a start, need to learn to stop poking and prying. And above all, respect others’ decision because what works for you doesn’t always work for me. Getting a bit personal here, but I don’t wish to have anything more to do with you if all you care about is satisfying your own damn curiosity and ‘pride of knowing’ at the expense of everything I have built up again these past months.

You know, if I could liken myself to anything, I’d be a see-saw – two extremes, always on one end or the other, but never in perfect balance. That’s how it is with my character, my personality… my emotions. I either feel too much or not enough. But you know, maybe finding yourself isn’t about discovering whether I’m really good or bad, greedy or selfless, tolerant or impatient; maybe it’s really finally realising that I’m neither one nor the other, and certainly not a little bit of both – but a whole lot of both instead.

/Side Note: What I write here is basically the reason I haven’t been writing at all the past few weeks. It’s because I’m so often brimming with emotion, that I can’t not let it get in the way of my writing. In the previous posts, I hadn’t quite reached where I have now – not sure if my glass is completely full now, but my head, mind and soul are practically swimming in a pool of emotion, yearning adventure and chasing that zest for life that I might have had once with a renewed vigour. Take a second look, you’ll see it’s written all over today’s post.

Greek Romance June 16, 2011

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Greece

The ceiling fan whirrs slowly above me. In the dark of night, I close my eyes and dream.

Tonight I am wandering the streets of Greece. The smell of roasts burning fills the air around me. Music rains down and around, a whirlpool of voices and melodies. A woman is dancing in the street, for the amusement of another, sitting in a lonely space at the cashier’s of a small shop. She moves lightly, gracefully, almost impossibly. The two women laugh. Their mouths move in the same way – they have the same smile. But different eyes, different noses, different hair. Everything is different but for their smiles and the look in their eyes. They must be in their early twenties, but looking at them, one would think a hundred years had passed in which they were never without each other.

Across the street, a young man sits alone at a coffee house. He pretends to drink the poorly-brewed coffee, but really, he is watching the girl who keeps shop. Something about the way he sits, his posture and the convenient angle of his seat suggests this is not his first time here. His eyes never leave her. He seems to be waiting for something. Her friend to leave? The perfect moment? No. No, he is waiting for courage to come knocking on his door. I can almost hear the frantic beating of his heart above the mix of song and noise.

From the roof of the coffee house, a small bird flutters down to land on the man’s table. It cocks its tiny grey head to one side, then takes a step forward, two. The man notices nothing. So fixated is he on the cashier that the bird gets away with a large chunk of his bread.

Farther ahead, a little girl is running up the footpath, her white dress only managing to stay down for the small rucksack on her back. She trips over an empty drink can that someone has carelessly thrown over their shoulder. She stumbles; then falls. Her ordeal almost goes unnoticed but for the cyclist behind her. He is too close; he does not have enough time for the brakes. He swerves but he, too, falls to the ground.

All eyes on the street turn to the pair now. The child, having picked herself up, now rushes to the cyclist to help him and apologise. Her white dress is stained with dirty greys and browns, hands and knees scratched bright red from the fall. The woman in the street has stopped dancing; she, too, rushes to aid while her friend stays, helpless, alone guarding the shop.

The cyclist’s face is flushed. Flowers from the basket attached to his bicycle lie strewn across the pavement, even to the road. Luckily for him, it is a small road that very few cars trudge along. His flowers – lilies and daisies and orchids – are safe. Woman and child pick them up while he picks himself up off the ground and rights his bicycle. The rest of the street resumes their play button.

All the flowers are collected now. The woman moves towards the cyclist to return them – then startles. It is a familiar face that averts her gaze – red, but familiar. She knows him. He dares not meet her eyes; the flowers were meant for her. Weeks and weeks of planning and summoning his courage – wasted. He wishes she would not see him, but right through him instead.

Quite surprisingly, the child has managed to pick this up. She cannot be much older than ten – twelve at most – but I suppose sometimes children see things with greater clarity than even the best of adults do. She smiles, puts the flowers in her hands back into the basket, then appears to be rearranging it. She looks up at the woman and gives her a suggestive wink, then runs off in the direction she was originally headed.

The woman glances down at the basket. A card is nestled comfortably in the middle, facing up towards her – ‘For You.’

Dysfunctional is the New Normal June 4, 2011

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Family

Family. What a boring topic. Who in their right mind would choose to watch a lame family comedy over an epic romance film? After all, family stopped being so great when dysfunctional became the new normal. Divorce rates are climbing higher, working parents shower their children with more money than time and grandparents are abandoned in Old Folks’ Homes. If you’re a kid, then hanging out with friends is way cooler than spending time with your parents.

Things used to be different in the past, didn’t they? People used to care more about the pride and honour of their family than romance; hence, the term ‘star-crossed lovers’. Nowadays, everybody’s looking for their own Shakespeare story. And who can really blame them? We grow up to the tune of Disney’s fairytales: Prince Charming rescues Cinderella from the horrid life at home with her step-family; Snow White is saved from her step-mother’s curse with True Love’s first kiss; Ariel finds escape from the clutches of her over-protective father with Prince Eric. Romantic love is being over-emphasised at the expense of family love, putting it way back in the shadows and, have you noticed there always seems to be something wrong with the protagonists’ family?

Clearly, the family today is under-appreciated for all its majesty. These days, everyone wants to follow the lead of Romeo and Juliet: it’s all about self and ‘true love’ before family. Did you forget how that story ends? You only end up killing yourself – an unnecessary death, if I might add.

Even in the working world, having a family is often seen as a distraction, a sign of weakness. More often than not, single women are presented with greater opportunities than working moms. For some weird, inexplicable reason, people at the top seem to think that just because you have extra mouths to feed at home, that makes you less capable. It couldn’t possibly be a motivation for you to work even harder. In fact, the only way being a family man can be seen as a good thing is if you’re a politician. Having a happy family somehow becomes a pre-requisite, a job requirement – apparently, a man’s ability to lead his country is judged by his ability to keep his family together.

Perhaps the reason why people appreciate romance more than family is this: the former isn’t always something we can have, while the latter is something everyone has, whether dead or dysfunctional or not. The children of today always feel the need to one up each other. Since everybody naturally has a family, then that’s really no basis for comparison. So instead, we turn to romance, when what we really need to do is treasure what we already have. Because that which we have, we take for granted. Always.

Family is like the sky that shelters you or the ground you step on – it’s been there for as long as you can remember. So long, in fact, that you’ve already forgotten the beauty you used to see in it.

Crippled by Your Own Fears June 4, 2011

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FailWhen I was about five, there was a little funfair held near my house. I went there one night with my mom and my four sisters. I don’t really remember much of what happened that night; whether we went on any rides or if we bought anything. I only remember one game we played that night: a diagonally upright board with little obstacles or whatnot on it. You threw marbles and looked where they landed – some spots gave you points, others could put you back to zero. We had only four marbles for a round, so after my three older sisters had each thrown a marble and scored some points, my mom offered the last marble to me. I looked at the little ball lying on her palm and I knew this was it – this was the deciding marble. This was the marble that could make or break the game. We could either walk away with a fluffy soft toy, or leave with nothing.

I guess as a kid it must have seemed like life and death. The pressure was too much for me to handle: a 50% chance of losing. Maybe even less; I don’t remember how many zero point spaces there were. All I know is I started crying like a baby and insisting that I didn’t want to throw the stupid marble. So instead it went to my little sister. What’s ironic is that we got a cute little palm-sized puppy toy – that I got to keep. Even as a kid, I was already of failure.

The problem with fear sometimes is that it keeps us from trying. We’re so afraid that we don’t try – because at least if we never try, we can still hold on to the belief that we just might have succeeded. ‘I could have if I’d tried’ is easier to deal with than ‘I tried and found that I could not’. We all want to believe there’s so much more behind the person in the mirror; that secretly there’s a light inside of us just waiting to shine and that the only thing holding it back is us, rather than our lack of talent. Nobody wants to know for sure that they’re just not good enough.

Why are we so afraid of failing anyway? Society today has created its own image of success: it doesn’t always have to do with being rich and famous. Sometimes it’s about how much you’ve accomplished in life, how many people you’ve helped or how much goodwill you’ve done. They can be good things or bad thing – but always, always, it has to be something big. As long as you haven’t earned a lot of money or saved a lot of lives, then you’re not a success story. You haven’t lived a life that’s exactly ‘worth living’. Ask any man on the street – nobody’s going to interpret success as ‘leading a very normal, very average life’.

But a lack of success isn’t always failure, and perhaps that is the reason why some of us are willing to settle for the ordinary. Because then, at least, we wouldn’t have invested all our effort, time and money on a failed venture. We’re not the rich and the famous, but we have a family and a stable income… You can’t call us failures.

The problem is, when you’d rather stay with Safe than risk a shot at success, you’re blocking out your own light. You’re preventing the world from witnessing what a bright, beautiful star you truly are. Imagine what great poetry or art could have been produced if some people weren’t so afraid of failing. Maybe the world would be simply overflowing with beautiful paintings and sculptures. Maybe we’d have found a cure for cancer. Maybe we could have saved some animals from extinction. Maybe we could have saved a life- ten- a hundred. Maybe I could have gotten a bigger soft toy. Maybe.

Bottom line is, stop thinking you can do so much more if you just take the first of that thousand and one steps – and start doing it.

When One Death means the End of the World May 23, 2011

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Earth

The issue of our dying Earth has been talked about so many times over and over again that we’re practically sick of hearing about it. Although a relatively new phenomenon that began only in the late ‘90s, being born earlier in that decade only means that I grew up with it; it was a part of my childhood. As a kid, green living became ingrained in my young and impressionable mind as the right way to go. Like how you learned what was right and what was wrong when you were so very young: Patience, Integrity etc. etc. … those were the good guys. The bad guys had names like Stealing and Punching and yes, Pollution.

But for all the talking that’s been going on in the last 20 years, how much have we actually achieved? Forget about the steps and actions we have (or haven’t) taken. We’re heading straight to the basics: do we really know how much damage we’re inflicting on Mother Earth and what we really can do to stop her deteriorating health?

Paper versus computer: killing trees or polluting the air? (Think power stations and tonnes of coal-burning.) Would it be better to watch the news on television or read about it in the papers? Or perhaps read it online? Styrofoam that releases harmful gases into the air when broken or non-biodegradable plastic? Is anybody else about as confused as I am at this point? I mean, I know what’s bad – but which is worse?

And despite all the information that’s been passed down to us, how many are actually doing anything to help – on a daily basis rather than respecting Earth Hour once a year? So how much hope do we really have of saving the Earth anyway?

You might think this ridiculous, but because we’ve grown up hearing so much about how our planet is dying, most – if not all – of us have actually become largely desensitised without even realising it. “Hey, when I was a kid, the Earth was dying then, too. Now I’m almost an adult, but the Earth hasn’t died yet. By the time I’m old and wrinkled, I guarantee you: the Earth will still be ‘dying’.” Face it. We all think this way on a subconscious level. No one actually thinks this planet will be gone tomorrow – so a lot of people just brush it off as ‘The Future Generation’s Problem’.

Sure, some of us try not to waste paper; reuse, reduce, recycle. We switch off the lights when we leave the room. We turn on the fans instead of the air-conditioning. We do good things for the planet. But sometimes, we slip up too. You just unwrapped a sweet and you’ve looked everywhere around you but you can’t find a single dustbin anywhere to throw this measly, pathetic piece of wrapping. Most people wouldn’t think twice about littering – you can’t be expected to hold on to rubbish for hours till you find a bin. Can you? (I admit I sometimes have a nasty habit of pocketing my trash, but then I’ll forget to throw it away when I’m standing next to a bin.)

But Gaia’s failing health – can it possibly be slowed down, stopped and eventually reversed? Thanks to advances in medical research, we can now expect to live longer, fight off numerous disease-triggered deaths, experience higher infant mortality rates etc. etc. The land space needed to house these 6-billion-over people alone is going to require some massive killing of rainforests. And once they’ve found a place to stay, they’re going to need and use up electricity – watts and watts and kilowatts of it. Then, as quality of life improves, they’re going to want to drive around in fancy sports cars and increase their carbon footprint. Okay, I know I’m generalising, but surely everyone knows how the devil tempts.

Personally, I don’t really think we can go back to the old days of ‘green and sunshine’. So what if everyone took public buses? (Like that’s ever going to happen.) Buses pollute the air, too. Less pollution isn’t the same as no pollution. And we’re always going to need books and toilet paper. And light. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the computer and Internet and mobile phones and basically every single thing we have right now.

I’m not saying there’s no point in going green. I’m all for ‘saving the Earth’, but the people of today – we’re not doing nearly enough.