Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Each Other's Garments

My poor husband is facing great trials on his job. I am wringing my hands trying to come up with ways to support him through this difficult phase in his career.

Save from abandoning my post in the home as wife and mother just so I can alleviate his burden as the provider for the family, the wisest thing to do is to continue keeping my mouth sealed, i.e. no nagging, complaints, or criticisms. So far, doing so brought much peace and harmony between us, praise be to Allah. It is also important that I express true sympathy, appreciation and sincere admiration for him. Listening to him and understanding the sacrifices he has to make daily in order to provide for us makes it easy to do so.

I should also let him know that I believe in his true worth, even if others do not (or that is how he perceives). And I must find it in my heart to forgive him if I feel he has slighted me in some way. I must stay positive and not allow his dark moods to influence me. I must not panic but continue to be his gentle confidante and loving supporter. The next best thing is to keep the household running intact and not allow my rambunctious son to run all over him when he is in need of rest. Last but not least I need to keep him constantly in my prayers.

It may seem like a tall order but we all have our parts to play in a loving marriage. A beautiful line in the Qur'an describes the relationship between a husband and wife, "they are your garments as you are their garments". In His mercy, Allah gave us the right to protection under our husbands' care, so to show our gratitude we do our part to preserve our husband's best interest at heart by doing all that is within our means, Insha'Allah.

"Remember Me, and I shall remember you; be grateful to Me,
and deny Me not."
(Quran 2:152)

Friday, 6 February 2009

My Brand New Niece!

Here's Alipuddin' puckering up to plant his new sweet cousin a hearty welcome-to-this-world kiss on the cheek!

My younger sister just gave birth to her first-born daughter, Umairah on the 5th of February 2009.

The happy mother and daughter pair are now cosily ensconced in our family home for the traditional 40-day confinement period.

The rest of us are on standby to give her the support that she needs during this time of healing and adjustment.

Ali, you have to act like a big boy now that you're no longer the baby in the family!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Authentic Wife, Virtuous Wife

A lot has happened over the past month. I decided not to rant and rave over the Palestinian tragedy in Gaza as so much has already been said and written (so much better than I ever could) on this heart-rending topic. My condolences and prayers go to all the victims of this senseless conflict. Everything has been razed to the ground over there and I pray that they will at least be given the chance and enough aid to rebuild their fragmented lives in peace.

Meanwhile on the domestic front, my baby has finally learnt to walk. He is officially a toddler now. He doesn't need to be carried around as much now that he is happy to explore the house on his own two feet. Unfortunately he insists on participating in all the domestic routines such as cooking, sweeping, and mopping. I am praying he would be just as enthusiastic when he grows into a teen. I have been ill since New Year's Eve. Still am. Nothing serious but enough to make me feel inept around the house. My book project is temporarily on a creative back burner (or so I try to convince myself). But I'm happy to report that I managed to squeeze in time to work on my garment. I have always intended to create my own housedress. I am sick and tired of my dull biege and grey wardrobe repertoire that I wear around the house all the time. It is completely uninspiring. So I planned to make something cute and feminine out of my cotton fabric. I am currently adjusting the dress pattern in order to accommodate my breastfeeding figure. Instead of the zip at the back, I intend to have buttons down the front. The dress pattern is coming along nicely albeit slowly. Insya'Allah I would like to post a picture when I have something substantial to show.

Last weekend we stayed over at my parents-in-love's house in Terengganu. The last time we went home was to celebrate Eid-ul-fitr. Even then it was a whirlwind event what with festive celebrations and multitudes of relatives . My husband wanted to cast his vote for the Kuala Terengganu by-elections and I was hoping this would be the perfect opportunity for my son to spend some quality time with his grandparents. But as it turned out, Ali point-blank refuses to go with his grandparents! He is perfectly happy though playing with his 5 and 6 year-old cousins but with one caveat; I could not leave the room! It was an exhausting weekend. I could not blame him though, the environment is still new to him and he needed some time to warm up to the new-to-him- faces of his kindly grandparents and uncles. It didn't help matters that our stay was so short it left us no time to breathe. We arrived on Friday evening and by Sunday morning, we had to leave for the city so that my husband could catch the bus back to Kedah that night. I believe we had spent most of our short trip in the car!

I have to say though, life has been sweet these last few weeks. Although my nose is running like a leaking tap, I am currently basking in my husband's love and affection. The path to get to this place has not been without pain. The moment I made my intention to become a 'virtuous' wife and mother (see previous post) the challenges begin. Allah would not let me go untested until I had proven my worthiness to wear the mantle of Virtuous Wife. I did a lot of praying and rumination and I realise the problem stems from me. I did not play out my God-given role of the understanding, appreciative, and submissive wife. Outwardly I did the typical but honoured wifely routine; prepared his meals, did his laundry, mend his shirt etc., inside I was fuming over his apparent carelessness regarding my feelings and his constant sarcasm that he threw at me. Everything felt so strained and unnatural. I seriously started to believe that the love I have for him is gone and that I am doing all this out of a sense of duty as a Muslimah. I felt like a walking time bomb ready to explode at the slightest misstep. So the following night after he had left for Kedah, I wrote furiously in my journal in an attempt to uncover the reason why I feel so exhausted, dissatisfied and unhappy. Love has become so much work! And I thought parenting was hard! Finally after my aggression has worn off its edges, I contemplated whether or not I should tell him the truth concerning us. I then decided I should go for it. I cannot live under this facade anymore acting as if everything is fine when it's not. So I sent him a message through my cellphone. (I was afraid I would not be as coherent if I heard his voice through the phone) I asked him if he feels that marriage is hard. He instantly replied with a confident Nope, and that he feels blessed to be so filled with love. Immediately tears started trickling down my cheeks. Now I know that this unhappiness had only been on my part. I was also relieved that I did the right thing by keeping his daily needs intact and not succumbing to my nafs by continually pouting and acting sullen. I sent him a message telling him I am so glad he feels that way. He then asked me how I feel about our marriage. I was silent for a while, contemplating how to tell him the truth without sounding as if I was blaming him. Marriage is about honesty so he needed to know how I really felt, because I cannot continue acting like the perfect Stepford wife when inside my blood was close to boiling point! Besides it is close to impossible to serve my husband with a willing heart if I continue to feel resentful and under-appreciated. Before airing my grievances I told him that he should know that I am always on his side. He then replied that he knew that, that is why he decided to live the rest of his life with me. I then told him that I too feel blessed to have him in my life. But in all honesty my attempts to please him never seems to be enough. I hear no positive feedback. All I tend to do is arouse his anger and it is making me feel sad. He immediately replied that he is not angry with me and that he loves me for who I am. He also added that he wanted to give me a hug right there and then. After silently basking in the hug he sent me over the phone, I then told him that I knew he was busy (my husband and his colleagues are in the process of establishing a new degree course for a college in Kedah and at the same time chasing after stiff deadlines for their newly-emerging company. Talk about stress. Phew!). Perhaps that's the reason why I feel neglected, I told him. He then said maybe, after all he has been working 24/7 since before Ramadan and he may have overlooked a few things. I sensed the humility in his words and immediately I felt a rush of forgiveness for my man and told him so. I also told him that I hope when everything settles down, our marriage would be like how it was again. He gave me his word. That night we parted over the phone with renewed love for each other. I felt like my insides were glowing. The tender feelings of love for my husband once again settled itself over my newly mended heart.

There is a lesson to be learnt here. It is well and good to serve our husbands with a sense of duty but as a woman we want to do it out of love and affection for our husband. I learnt the hard way that it is of no good to me to let the unaired grievances to fester inside of me. I do need to choose my battles wisely but it is also vital to communicate how I feel when something is obviously bothering me. It is important too that the communication be done in a trustful and respectful manner, free from blame and resentment. For me personally, writing my feelings out in my journal helps me pinpoint the problems so that I can communicate to my husband directly without having to go on a painful merry-go-round ride in order to get to the root cause. Writing in my journal also helps me drain away the resentment and anger that I was experiencing leaving me clear-headed enough to clarify my feelings to my husband in a language he can emphatize with.

I have a long way to go though, to become the Virtuous Wife to my beloved husband. Pray for me, will you?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Muslim Woman as Queen

“The wife is responsible for taking care of the home of her husband, and she will be accountable for those given in her charge.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

A woman holds great powers in her hands.

Her powers are God-given, for Allah has placed His trust in the gentle hands of a woman. She is commanded to establish a home of warmth and security for her children, and a haven of comfort and joy for her husband. Her role is sacred, and her influence wide; it is in her hands that she is raising God's little soldiers and handmaidens.

A woman in Islam knows how to wield her powers wisely. She constantly refuels her mind with wisdom and knowledge and replenishes her soul with words from the Holy Qur’an.

She is answerable to her Rabb only, thus all her deeds and duties proceed from her love and fear of Him. Even if the sputter of the car would mean another visit to the workshop, she trusts that Allah never burdens His servants more than they can bear. For her source of comfort is constant and abiding, in that she has Him to turn to for divine assistance.

She feels blessed for Allah has given her a sheltered position, to thrive in the security of her home, protected from the needs to earn a living: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means.” (Surah Nisa’ 4: 34)

Although she may supplement her husband’s income through her own means, it never crosses her mind to usurp a role that rightfully belongs to her husband. Unencumbered from the weight of having to support herself, she roams her Kingdom freely with the independence and pride of a Queen whose duty is to use the powers bestowed upon her to make her kingdom a reflection of God’s order and perfection.

She starts her day with the Morning Prayer and offers supplications to her Rabb. She drapes herself with the clothe of modesty and virtue, and welcomes the day ahead with hope and joy. She keeps the home fires burning by attending to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of those in her charge. Wiping a runny nose here, changing a dirty diaper there, her faith in the words of Allah inspires her to forge on and give only the best to her family: “Whoever works righteousness, man or women, and has Faith, verily to him will We give a new Life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.” (Surah Nahl 16:97).

It does not matter that the dirty dishes are piling up in the sink, what is important is that her home is a welcoming shelter for her husband because she appreciates how hard it is having to go out into the world come rain or shine in an effort to provide adequately for the family. She has successfully carved herself a niche in her husband's heart through the daily love and affection that she showers upon him. And in return, he is willing to spread his heart and soul across her feet to make her feel loved and cherished. Truly this is what Allah meant when He referred to the celestial love between a husband and wife “… And He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Surah Rum 30:21)

As husband and wife, they are an equal, but their roles are not identical. The husband sets the tone of leadership in the family, while the wife upholds his rules. However his role is greatly reliant upon her to make sure the family is guided correctly, according to the values of Islam. It is her duty to speak up wisely if he digresses from the true path. Mutual respect and regard for their complementary contributions greatly reduces friction in the family. They are a team, and if divided, the insidious influences of the world outside will slowly but surely spread their evil from within.

Allah has bestowed upon the woman with characteristics that set her apart from man. Her patience and sensitivity makes her attuned to the needs of her children. She cares that her children eats nutritiously, rests comfortably, dresses modestly and speaks politely. Neither nursery nor nannies can provide the moral direction, devotion, and enough patience to instill character and goodness in the children better than the mother.

Her children are taught to appreciate the greater good in doing things of lasting value instead of squandering their time on temporal pleasures; she teaches them to set a worthy goal, and the importance of working hard to reach its end. She protects her children from the glittering allure of this fleeting world by insulating their hearts with wisdom from the sunnah and the Qur'an.

Though her children still clings to her skirt, she does believe in propagating Islam with the rest of the Ummah. Perhaps time and energy prevents her from giving herself completely to the cause now, when her children will only remain children in the blink of an eye. But she understands that the greatest contribution a woman can offer to the Ummah is by wielding her powers of influence to those who are nearest and dearest to her heart. Her work at home is of eternal value. It is in the glory of Allah that her crown of jewels lies, not in the applause nor the tantalizingly heaped up hoards of riches offered by this secular world.

Today as she gazes down at the adorable, imploring faces of her small children begging for her love and attention, she feels satisfied in knowing that she has made the best use of her role as Queen to prepare herself for the day when she will be “accountable for those given in her charge”.

“Indeed, to God belongs the dominion of the heavens, and the earth;
and to God is the final goal (of all).” (Surah Nur 24 :42)

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Tragic Landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa

So many thoughts and emotions are bubbling up to the surface in response to the never ending calamities that have befallen our world. The latest tragic landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa, Selangor ended up burying 14 bungalows and killing 4 people.

Dunya life is so fleeting and fragile, to be attached to it makes me feel like we are foams on the crest of waves not knowing where we will end up or how it will turn out for us in the end.

We are in dire need of Allah. He is extending a life rope for us and it is up to us to hold on to it.

"He knows all that enters the earth and all that emerges therefrom, and that which comes down from the sky and all that ascends therein; and He is with you wherever you may be." (al-Hadid47:4)

Saturday, 29 November 2008

'Snapshots' for the Baby Scrapbook

I may moan about the endless rounds of nursing and childcare. But truth be told I am desperately clutching onto these fleeting moments which I know will be over all too soon.

Eventually all I will be left with are fragments of memories to savour during my time alone while my son blazes on towards his own future. He will no longer turn to me for his source of comfort and nourishment, instead he'll be running out the door to pursue his own dreams and ambitions. While I undoubtedly look forward to see him grow into an independent young man, a part of me is already mourning for his dimpled innocence.

And these are just some of the moments that I want to capture and emblazon into the scrapbook of my memory...

The look of eagerness and delight on his face just before he chows down for milk.

The look of peace that descends on him as he drifts off into slumberland.

The swirl of baby soft curls on his pretty head.

His lips ripe and moist as he continues to suckle away in his sleep.

No matter how difficult the day had been with Alipuddin', I can always count on the night to hush in and eventually bring sleep to my precious baby.

I am eternally grateful to Allah for sending a taste of His Mercy into our humbled lives. Alhamdulillah.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Insha'Allah

I've been hemming and hawing, tinkering, polishing, yet have nothing much to show for my so-called Creative Dream.

I couldn't decide which part I should work on first. I kept changing my mind about it, making all kinds of excuses about how it's not good enough, not original enough, ad nauseam. If the publisher hadn't called me to say she's interested, I would've abandoned the whole idea yet again. Having someone to answer for kept me chained to my desk. Unfortunately, my eyes kept wandering to the clock on the wall which only intensified the urgency I felt. And do I have ants in my pants? Every time my baby twitches or groans in his sleep I'd find myself jumping up from my seat. What a horrible experience!

Pursuing my Creative Dream felt a lot like going through my hubby's stash of lost socks and trying to find a mate to match the one that just came out from the laundry basket. It is not the ecstasy that I came to expect when I was fresh out of design college fantasizing about living the creative life.

Just to show how desperate I was, I binged on a novel by Sophie Kinsella by day and watched Gossip Girl by night .

It is not like I'm working on a great novel, heck it's not even for young adults...it's for kiddies for goodness sake. Sigh.I admit I am deathly afraid of sending my pock-marked work out into the world. Perfectionist strikes again and this time it's holding me back from doing the work I love.

But then I am reminded of a system called 'Micromovements' introduced by SARK in her book, 'Make Your Creative Dreams Real'. I ONLY have to take tiny actions which can last from 5 seconds to 5 minutes. Fine, that doesn't look too hard. So during a lull one quiet afternoon, I gave myself 5 minutes to switch the computer on and tinker to my heart's content. I promised myself some reading time once my time is up. Soon enough my minutes are over but lo and behold, I found myself on a creative roll and I did not want to stop!

This system got rid of the guilt I felt when I could only make a couple of simple sketches for my work and nothing else. It also gave me permission to celebrate my turtle-like work style. At least I'm no longer stuck in that perfectionist hole I keep falling into. And that is a big turnaround for me, Praise be to God.

I'm now in the habit of switching my computer on standby mode and leaving my notebook ready on my desk for whenever inspiration strikes or when time and family commitments allow. Besides it's very rare that I get to have chunks of time to spend on my projects; Real Life always gets in the way. But I've come to believe that tiny movements add up to miles of progress. And wasn't it the Turtle who won the race in the end?