Tag Archives: health

DAY 13: Special Edition- 99 Reasons Why We Fast In Ramadan

  • Day 13: Teach A Child About The Miracles Of Fasting

Okay guys no time to waste

Get out your notebooks, pens and reading glasses.
Today’s good deed is a bit academic. This is important. We need to know our stuff.
Silence in the classroom please loool

You know, when children ask why Muslims fast in Ramadan or why God wants to torture us with thirst and hunger, they deserve a better answer than ‘We fast to feel the poor’

Like come on, who are we kidding?

A dinner table with lots of delicious hot dishes, cool yummy drinks, whipped cream covered desserts and ‘zombying’ out on the couch coz we can’t breathe after eating too much wouldn’t really convince a child we’re fasting to feel the poor.
They deserve real, logical, mind boggling answers to their question…
They deserve our investment in their knowledge of their own beautiful religion…
(And frankly we deserve it too! We need to know why Allah believes it’s ‘good’ for us to fast)
So without further ado, I present to you the Golden list of ’99 Reasons of why Muslims fast in the Holy month of Ramadan’
I tried to keep it as brief as possible, but of course I urge you to dig deeper if you need more information (that would be the advanced level for this good deed)

Here we go….

Health Benefits:

  • 1- Fasting speeds up metabolism
  • 2- Helps improve insulin sensitivity
  • 3- Fasting helps us lose weight (Sambousa-less and Konafa-less fasting that is loool)
  • 4- Fasting promotes longevity since it gives the body organs time to rest
  • 5- Fasting improves hunger by releasing the correct ‘hunger’ hormones and in turn fighting obesity
  • 6- Fasting improves the immune system since it reduces free radical damages and lets the body focus on healing itself
  • 7- Human growth hormones are released during fasting, facilitating fat burning and muscle gaining
  • 8- Fasting triggers a metabolic pathway called ‘autophagy’, resulting in cellular repair such as removing waste materials from cells
  • 9- Fasting promotes Gene expression (which are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules) protecting us against diseases
  • 10- Fasting reduces Oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • 11- Fasting can improve numerous risk factors for heart disease such as cholesterol levels and triglycerides
  • 12- Studies show fasting can help prevent cancer! (Yay!)
  • 13- Fasting also reduces the side effects caused by chemotherapy
  • 14- Fasting is a complex and complete detoxification system for the body
  • 15- Fasting has been proven to improve the senses of vision, hearing and taste
  • 16- Reduction of allergies is also one of the many benefits of fasting

Here is also a list of medical conditions improved by fasting (according to Dr. Fuhman’s Book ‘Fasting and Eating for Health’)

  • 17-Adult onset diabetes
  • 18- Acne
  • 19- Arthritis
  • 20- Asthma
  • 21- Atherosclerosis (if anyone knows what that is, please translate it to us in human language loool)
  • 22- Autoimmune Illnesses
  • 23- Benign Tumors
  • 24- Chronic back and joint pain
  • 25- Chronic fatigue
  • 26- Colitis
  • 27- Deterioration of the Musculoskeletal system
  • 28-Digestive disorders
  • 29- Eczema
  • 30- Hay fever
  • 31- High blood pressure
  • 32- Hyperactivity (Should probably let the kids fast more often so we can finally take those long baths)
  • 33- Hypoglycemia
  • 34- Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)
  • 35- Insomnia
  • 36- Lupus
  • 37- Epilepsy
  • 38- Osteoporosis
  • 39- Psoriasis
  • 40- Substance abuse and addictions (well, if you can get drug addicts to fast that is)
  • 41- Uterine fibroids
  • 42- Sinusitis
  • 43- SchizophreniaOkay sheeeeshhh! I have a newfound respect for doctors who use these words in their daily conversations. I’m already tired just typing them out loool

    Mental Benefits Of Fasting:

  • 44- Fasting is the most sophisticated will power workout ever (makes sense right? If you can’t control yourself, what can you control?)
  • 45- Fasting dissipates cravings for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and other less harsh, yet addictive drugs.
  • 46- Fasting increases neurochemical levels in the brain such as ‘Dopamine’, the happy hormone that elevates your confidence to the roof!
  • 47- Fasting actually increases the number of brain cells so it literally makes you smarter
  • 48- Fasting increases clarity, cognitive functions and promotes your ability to make better critical decisions.
  • 49- Fasting encourages better motor skills functioning and precision
  • 50- Research has found that fasting improves the overall quality of your sleep
  • 51- Fasting increases productivity. Like Robin Sharma says ‘If you want to get more done, eat less food”
  • 52- Fasting regularly results in mental breakthroughs and increased free flow of intelligence and creativity

    Beauty Benefits

    (Girls, did you just scroll down to this one?)

  • 53- Fasting promotes glowing clear skin by accelerating the body’s self healing ability
  • 54- Fasting promotes faster cell regeneration, which means healthier nails
  • 55- Fasting leads to healthy shiny hair
  • 56- Fasting promotes faster healing of scars and wounds
  • 57- Fasting lowers stress levels, and stress is one of the main culprits for premature aging

    Emotional and Spiritual Benefits:

  • 58- Fasting boosts self-esteem (it confirms in our minds the notion of ‘YES WE CAN!’)
  • 59- Deprivation leads to appreciation, which is the root of joy.
  • 60- Fasting trains us to be mindful and consciously aware
  • 61- Fasting teaches us ‘delayed gratification’, a concept proven to be the number one element behind success in this world
  • 62- Practicing patience during the month of Ramadan adds to our personal growth and us attaining maturity
  • 63- Fasting provides tranquility and peace to the heart and mind
  • 64- Fasting is the method of moving towards self-realization and reaching ‘super conscious energy’. This explains how we can stay up all night praying, feeling spiritually charged even though we are food and sleep deprived.
  • 65- Fasting is described as ‘Spiritual Catharsis’ (Sort of like a reset button to restoring the soul)
  • 66- Fasting in this Holy month expels, discharges and vacates impurities within us to purify ourselves and connect with Allah (like a shower to the soul)

    Other Extremely Important Reasons:

  • 67- So yeah in simple terms we fast because Allah said so. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, without it our religion isn’t complete.
  • 68- Allah says ‘O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed to you as it has been prescribed for people before you so that you will (learn how to) attain taqwa’ (Holy Quran, 2:183)
    Attaining Taqwa (piety and fear of Allah) is the MAIN reason why we fast. It serves as a shield to protect us from sinning.
  • 69- Fating trains us to listen to our heart and make it the boss! (So when the heart s
    ays ‘lower your gaze dude’, or ‘stop gossiping girl, you’re fasting’, you’ll do it)
  • 70- Ramadan schedule encourages time management since every minute of the Holy month counts!
  • 71- Fasting teaches us flexibility. Even when we’re tired and cross-eyed, we still go to work and get things done under dire circumstances.
  • 72- And here it comes, finally, the most popular reason we all quote: Fasting helps us feel the suffering of the poor and hungry.
  • 73- Fasting strengthens faith! Even when we’re parched, cranky or just downright exhausted, we will still fast. And we won’t break it even when no one is around, because we know Allah can see us.
  • 74- In Ramadan, our sense of competition is heightened, especially with ‘who is at which chapter of the Qur’an’ kind of thing loool (or is that just me?!)
  • 75- The most beautiful ‘ummah unity’ happens in Ramadan. Two billion Muslims suddenly speak the same language, eat the same food for suhoor and even tell the same jokes (The “Ramadan is my favorite month coz I have a ‘date’ every night” tweets never get old loool)
  • 76- Which reminds me, when you follow the sunnah and have a ‘date’ for iftar, (the fruit of course!) on an empty stomach, you’ll gain multiple health benefits, since dates are rich in potassium, iron, minerals and nutrients. They’re the queens of all fruits.
  • 77- In Ramadan we pray Taraweeh together at the mosque. Do I need to list the amazing rewards of that? (Easy bonus point)
  • 78- In Ramadan, we are more likely to invest some time in learning about our religion. (Since we are right there at the mosque, we might as well listen to the shiekh’s lecture)
  • 79- And when you stand in line to pray next to hundreds of other people, you realize you’re just the same like everyone else. Ramadan is the month of unpretentiousness and humility
  • 80- Of course you’re not gonna get up and run outside right after prayer! You’ll probably say your ‘salams’ and ‘may Allah accept you’ and ‘what did you guys have for iftar?’ Praying together strengthens human relations since you see the same people every day, and get a chance to socialize with practicing Muslims.
  • 81- The month of Ramadan is a cure for loneliness. I’m pretty sure that’s the most time reverts can make new Muslim friends.
  • 82- You’ll see this the most with teenagers. Try telling them anything and they’ll debate it till they’re blue in the face, but when it comes to fasting, they do it calmly. Just proves how much fasting teaches us the most important skill of all: ‘acceptance’
  • 83- Ramadan is the month of generosity. We truly experience the joy of giving charity during this month, reminding us to do it more often, which benefits the whole society.
  • 84- The Holy month brings you closer to your family. And you know the saying, for a tree to grow high it needs strong roots…
  • 85- Ramadan is the month when the Holy Qur’an was revealed. Even Muslims who don’t touch their book during the year, will read it during Ramadan. It’s like an involuntary act, and yet it brings forth multitude of blessings.
  • 86- Since the meal of suhour is eaten right before dawn, Muslims follow it by praying Fajr (even those who aren’t used to praying it on time) And you know what the Hadith says: the sunnah of fajr prayer is worth the whole world and what’s in it.
  • 87- I know it’s an obligation, but because the Holy month is full of blessings, many Muslims are reminded or encouraged to pay their full zakat during that time. On a wider scale, such activity is good for the economy and when done regularly and promptly should prevent poverty in the Muslim world. (But you know..)
  • 88- Performing Umrah in Ramadan is equal to the reward of one Hajj (there you go, an extra gateway for those who didn’t get accepted for Hajj because Allah is so Kareem)
  • 89- Two billion Muslims taking part in the same ritual for a whole month is such a powerful demonstration of our power and effectiveness (maybe one day it will be used to change the world to a better place. Amen)
  • 90- Muslims know that fasting isn’t just abstaining from food, water and sexual relations. It’s also a practice of self-discipline namely by controlling anger. In essence, Ramadan is like a yearly anger management course.
  • 91- Since we completely change our routine, Ramadan is the best chance to adopt some new healthy habits and lifestyles. It’s like a head start for positive change.
  • 92- Allah promises us tons of forgiveness in this blessed month, In fact, whoever fasts the month ‘properly and faithfully’ will have all his or her sins forgiven. Ramadan is like a yearly chance for a clean slate with Allah (Doesn’t it just make you love Him more and more?)
  • 93- Now you wouldn’t ask and expect all these showers of forgiveness if you can’t forgive others, right? I mean that’s just rude!
    Ramadan is the month of mercy and forgiveness and it should make us better people, capable of forgiving one another
  • 94- Okay so you’re gonna forgive all these people and not yourself?
    The most person worthy of your kindness and forgiveness is ‘you.’ The Holy month comes every year to remind us of that little simple fact. Ramadan is the time to let go of the past mistakes and start anew…
  • 95- Which brings us to resolutions and stuff. Yes on New Years, many of us come up with a list of goals and pledges for the year ahead. But in Ramadan, the list is spiritual, related to our relationship with Allah, and our determination to be better Muslims and attain Paradise inshAllah. Ramadan is in a way the beginning of a new year for Muslims.
  • 96- We expect our kids to fast when they reach the appropriate age, even though it breaks our hearts to see them hungry and thirsty. But isn’t that the best training for us parents to discipline them? If we can deprive them of the means of survival like food and water loool, we can surely deprive them of what will spoil their brains and lives (like TV, too much candy, bad-influence friends and wasting time on Ipad games)
  • 97- For married couples only: Since physical intimacy is forbidden during the day, it makes spouses miss each other. Ramadan rekindles lost romance in marriages, don’t you think? (Insert innocent wink here loool)
  • 98- If you think about it, Ramadan uncovers the real meaning and purpose of this world. For when you live your life like ‘Ramadan’, your Hereafter will be like ‘Eid’ (Deep huh? Loool)
  • 99- And the finale….
    Dan Dan Daaaaaaaaaaaaa
    Laylat al Qadr: the night which is better than 1000 months. Worshipping Allah on that night is worth more than spending over 80 years (your whole life basically) worshipping Him day and night.
    What more could be said here?

So, when we say ‘Ramadan Kareem’, we actually mean it…

In 99 different ways…

All my best,
Lilly S. Mohsen

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Final Episode: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Ted Talk

 

Inside The Therapist’s Office
Final Episode: Feel Your Life Purpose

 

A few years later…

February 3rd, 2016
San Diego, California
Ted Talk Conference: Ideas Worth Spreading

(Applause)

Zahra stood tall on the red-carpeted stage and said, “When I asked my sister-in-law about the upside of me being blind, she said “I can now roll my eyes at you anytime I want”’

The audience laughed.

“It’s strange really. My nickname had always been ‘Supa’ as in ‘Super girl’. My loved ones believed I’d accomplish something big one day and become an influencer. Only they didn’t know my journey to becoming an international motivational speaker and a best-selling author would start AFTER losing my eyesight. The night I got nominated to give a Ted Talk my husband, who is also my publisher, planned a secret celebration dinner and invited the whole town. I had no idea what was happening. Before introducing me to the curator, who was amongst the hundred invitees, my husband said “Honey, guess who this is!”

Zahra froze with a funny, puzzled look on her face.
I’m as blind as a bat. How would I know?”

The crowd cracked up laughing again, including her husband Ali, who was backstage watching her like a hawk. Ali laughed from the heart even though he had practically memorized his wife’s speech since he was the one helping her practice it for the past two weeks.

You’re probably thinking ‘wow, this blind girl is making jokes about her own disability, she must be really strong. Believe me, I wasn’t at first. A couple of years ago I lost my sight in a car accident and lost my faith along with it. I was angry at the world. I completely broke down. I broke things, broke up with my fiancé and then felt my heart break into a million pieces. I’ve been broken for a long time. I refused to learn how to deal with my disability. I steamed out on anyone who tried to help, and those who came to soothe me became my worst enemies. ‘What did they know about my struggle?’ I fumed. It was a constant nightmare I was sure I’d never wake up from. Try finding your way around the house blindfolded. Do you have any idea how difficult that is? Instead of leaving my room, I’d enter the closet. I’d spill drinks on the floor and slip on my own mess. I bumped into walls, broke glass bottles and used shaving cream on my toothbrush instead of toothpaste! Living in darkness became the reality of my life and I couldn’t accept it. I’m sure my therapist would have horror stories to tell you about my anger; she was practically my punching bag. It was a slow, tiring progress. And even though deep down I knew I wasn’t ready, I thought perhaps getting married would lessen my pain and speed up the process of moving on.”

 Sitting with the vast audience at the conference, I watched Zahra on stage and felt the tears of joy slowly roll down my face. I was very proud of her. She had come a long way in her therapy. Screaming, crying and talking about her feelings made them by time become less overwhelming and less upsetting. She owned her story. She realized losing her sight wasn’t her choice, but dealing with it was. And that was her first step to healing….

“I ran out on my wedding.” Zahra confessed. “I couldn’t actually ‘run’ anywhere, I just hid under the bed for an hour before my best friend found me…”

And sitting in the front row with her husband, Salma was genuinely proud of ‘Supa’ too. Seeing her on stage inspiring thousands of people truly warmed her heart. Zahra wasn’t only her life long best friend; she was also her beloved sister-in-law. Salma smiled at her husband Omar, who smiled back warmly, patted her very pregnant belly and whispered the words ‘I love you’, before turning his attention back to his twin sister whose presence lit up the stage.

 

“I was scared of marriage. I didn’t think I was good enough because of my disability. You know we all think we have big problems until we compare them with bigger problems. When you face your biggest fear, your small fears kind of fade out. I remember when my biggest fear was leaving home and being responsible for a house and a family of my own. This fear dimmed completely when I lost my sight. It felt like a death sentence, I thought nothing worse could ever happen to me, until I learned my fiancé got into an accident and almost died. My blindness didn’t seem like that huge of a problem anymore when I thought of losing the love of my life, even if I couldn’t see him, I just couldn’t imagine living in a world where he didn’t exist. I suddenly reclaimed all my strength and willpower and sent him a letter begging him to push through. I asked my sister-in-law to write it for me because I trust her…….. Blindly!”

Aisha laughed out loud. She came to the conference with her husband and her friends Lola, Sara and Helen, who, like her, were all wearing the Hijab proudly now, too. Aisha was working on acquiring a degree in marriage counseling to help struggling couples the same way her marriage counselor helped her and Ibrahim fix their relationship before suggesting they go on a second a honeymoon and thanks to Allah her life with him had been happy and peaceful ever since.

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In that hour of hiding under the bed on my wedding day, I realized I was only pretending to be in the acceptance phase, when in reality I was still swinging back and forth between denial and depression. I wasn’t ready to start a new page yet, and to my surprise, Ali, my fiancé was very understanding and promised to wait till I was. We called off the wedding, I went back to blind school and started therapy full time. And Ali waited for me for two years…. Because….” Zahra’s voice crackled and she couldn’t help her tears. “In his heart he believed only I could make him happy. He didn’t care about my disability. He said it made him love me even more.” Zahra smiled and wiped her tears as the crowed applauded her while ‘awwwwing’ and ‘ohhhhhing’’ sentimentally. “Yeah, he’s not always that romantic though. Just so you know, we got married last summer, and since then, whenever he wants to get back at me during an argument, he simply rearranges the furniture!”

 

(Audience laughter)

“You know, life is hard. This is an inevitable truth. It’s once you accept this truth that life ceases to be hard. And it’s when I accepted my destiny, that my blindness stopped being a ‘disability’. Everyone has problems, and God never burdens us with more than we can endure. There were probably seven thousand things I could do before losing my sight. And now maybe that number has gone down to three thousand! But I’m motivated to do more now than I ever was when my eyes were functioning. The only reason life throws horrific traumas our way is because there’s an area that needs to grow. God took away my ability to see, but gave me the will to achieve so much more with all my other senses. He gave me ‘insight instead of sight’ and it was a blessing in disguise. It was also the title of my first book. And I hear it sold over 15 million copies!” Zahra smiled while the audience applauded her again.

“In Islam we have six pillars of faith; belief in one God, His angels, His holy books, His prophets, belief in the Last Day and belief in destiny (Preordainment). We skim through them and say we believe, but do we? To trust God in the light of day is easy, we can all do it. But to trust Him in the pit of darkness… that is true faith. Even if bad things happen, you must believe it’s God’s will and it’s always for the best. You must believe He’s protecting you from something worse. Losing my sight is a blessing compared to being completely paralyzed. Being paralyzed is a blessing compared to losing your loved one in war. And you know what’s so much worse than any trial you can think of? Do you know what is the scariest calamity that can happen in this life? It’s losing one’s faith and dying a disbeliever…. I believe every other problem and hardship pales in comparison.

 

We are only as blind as we want to be.
Our Lord says: ‘Indeed
It is not the eyes that go blind, but it is the hearts, within the chests, that go blind”
(Surat Al Hajj, ayah 46, Holy Qur’an)

So many people still have their eyesight intact, but do they really see the truth? Do they really notice the miracles around them and look at life from different perspectives? Does sight count when there is no insight?” Zahra asked. “They say ‘love is blind’ but I disagree. Anger is blind. Hate is blind. Bitterness, envy and despair are blind. Hopelessness is blind. But love is what keeps us going. It’s what keeps us strong. My love for my Lord and my unwavering faith in His promise is what helps me get through the day, because even in the worst of times, I remind myself whatever He wills is good.” Zahra said.

 

“In one of my therapy sessions, I was asked about whom I would trade my life with. And after much contemplation I answered ‘no one’. I really wouldn’t want to trade with anyone. I’m where I’m supposed to be…and I’m finally happy. May the Lord give us the wisdom to accept the things we can’t change (which isn’t easy) and may He fill our hearts with love, faith and light…. Amen. Thank you….”

  

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

Episode Six: Inside The Therapist’s office

Office

Episode Six: Feel The Truth

The Whole Story

 

 

Six months earlier…

 “SURPRISEEEEEEEEE” Everyone yelled when Zahra, the bride-to-be walked in. Salma had invited all the girls to celebrate her best friend Supa’s engagement to Ali, the hottest bachelor of the year.

“Oh my God you know those irritating people who flutter their eye lashes and say ‘I’m so blessed’? Well, I’m one of them now.” Supa giggled. “I really am blessed. AlhamduleAllah”.
Salma forced a smile on her face even though she was seething with jealously; she literally thought her envy might emit a sizzling sound. But then again, she was positively sure none of them would notice the green eyed monster she’d been harboring deep into her soul for weeks. Salma covered it up so well. She’s throwing a party for Zahra! Would a jealous friend do that?

Oh if only they knew…

Zahra’s eldest brother Ibrahim and his wife Aisha waited in the car with Omar, Zahra’s twin brother, for the bride and her best friend to come down. They were all invited to the groom’s house for dinner, Ali, who also happened to be one of Omar’s friends.

 

Sitting in the backseat of the car between Salma and Omar, Zahra couldn’t help bouncing up and down with excitement.
“Ibrahim is married. I’m engaged. It’s your turn now, Omar!” She winked at her twin.

“Oh now I know why they call you Supa, coz you’re ‘Super Delusional’.” Omar mocked. “I’m happy for you Zoe, but just so you know, don’t go expecting to hear any wedding bells in my future.”

“First they won’t be bells, they’ll be old women’s shrills’ Zahra laughed. “And secondly, who wouldn’t want to find everlasting love? It’s the best feeling ever. Ibrahim, say something.”

Ibrahim didn’t reply or even smile. He kept on driving silently while Aisha sat next to him in the passenger’s seat, staring at the ‘Oscar’s Best Dressed posts’ on ‘Instagram’, completely detached from the conversation.

“Maybe there’s a special girl out there who might one day change your mind.” Salma fluttered her eyes, desperate to get Omar’s attention. She’s been in love with him since God knows when and yet he barely knew she existed.

“Trust me, she doesn’t exist. Besides, I’m not the marrying type. I’m more of the ‘fun-partying-watch-my-friends-get-hitched-and-shake-my-head-at-their-dubmness’type of guy.” Omar replied.

Salma was fuming, especially when everyone laughed at the stupid insinuation, even Supa! Well, as long as she was happy with Mr. Perfect, what did she care about other people’s feelings? Salma’s jealousy, resentment and anger were bubbling inside her like lava. She had to do something about it before the fire coming out of her ears burns through her Hijab.

“I heard you’re throwing a party for Ali, too” Salma commented. “Copycat!”

“Yeah, the difference is I know how to plan one. You invite a few girls to gossip in your living room. I on the other hand party like a rock star” Omar boasted.

“You mean dancing and drinking till dawn. Isn’t this what you’ve been planning for Ali’s bachelor’s party? Yeah, I definitely can’t compete with you.” Salma smiled wickedly. That should ruin the night she thought.

Omar threw her a dirty look and glanced quickly at his eldest brother Ibrahim, who was on the phone. Thank God he didn’t hear her snide comment. Of course Aisha made an unreadable face and turned away. It was his twin sister Zoe who was shocked and hurt the most.

“Alcohol?” She whispered. “Seriously Omar? I thought we talked about this. Is this how you want your future brother-in-law to start his life with me?”

The twins argued while Salma listened, taming her envy with a liberating conclusion that ‘Supa’ wasn’t that super after all. She had a reputation for having such great motivational and persuasive techniques, that some of their friends predicted Zahra would become one of those famous influencers or inspirational speakers. Yeah right! She couldn’t even get her own brother to believe in God.

“I’m sick of hearing this Zoe. You don’t need to be religious to be a good person.”

‘I say it because I love you. Just try to open your heart. I know you’ll eventually find your way back to God” She said softly.

“If God has a problem with me not believing in Him then He should take it up with me, man to man. Right here, right now!” Omar yelled.

 

It all happened at the same time

Omar was challenging the great Lord..

Salma was simmering with envy to the point of wishing evil upon her own best friend.

Aisha was disappointed they were almost there. She had secretly asked God to create an excuse big enough to stop them from going to the dinner party, just to spite her mother-in-law.

And Ibrahim, consumed with fear, passion and guilt, while checking his cell, he took his eyes off the road for exactly two seconds. The wrong two seconds.

And then the crash happened and everything went dark..
“Is everyone okay?” Ibrahim panted. The pipes on the truck they rammed into speared through their glass, completely shattering it. Ibrahim could hear the ambulances’ sirens approaching and was relieved to realize that even though the sharp pipes caused some minor injuries, everyone was still breathing.
They had no idea the car crash chose only one victim to pay the price.

“I can’t see anything…” Zahra whimpered.

A week later..
“Mom I don’t care if she’s blind. I love her and I promised her nothing would tear us apart. I know you disagree but it’s my life.”
Ali slammed the door behind him and went to see his beloved Zahra, who was still refusing to meet him. Her parents asked him to stay away and let her move on with her life.
“I’ve been praying day and night for them to agree. They will eventually. They know I can’t live with her.” Ali insisted.
“My daughter is a proud young woman, she’ll never agree to marry a man without his parents’ approval” Zahra’s mom said.
He left the building feeling crushed, got into his car and drove off like a maniac at the speed of lightening. This is when he got into a terrible accident too and was rushed into surgery about two hours later. The plastic surgeon said it might take years before a reconstruction could make him look half normal again.

No one dared tell Zahra about Ali’s accident. She was now at the institution learning how to cope with blindness and trying to adjust to her new life. Although her anger at the world made this ordeal an impossible, endless struggle.

“I know you don’t want to see anyone..”
“See? You think I can ‘see’ anyone? I’m as blind as a bat you idiot!” Zahra snapped at the poor nurse.
“I’m sorry” Zahra’s mom apologized to the nurse. “Please don’t take her tone personally. She’s been through a rough time”
“There’s a woman here to visit, and she’s insisting to meet Ms. Zahra” The nurse continued.
“Who is she?” Zahra asked.
“Her name is Rehana”
Zahra clenched her jaws, and pressed a hand to her throat, feeling her veins about to pop from her suppressed rage. “Mom, give us a minute please.” She hissed. “I need to speak to Rehana alone”

Later that day

“Rehana honey tell me what happened” I ran to hug my friend who had been waiting for me on my porch. She was shivering and sobbing hysterically, I could hardly understand a word she was saying.
“I talked to Ibrahim’s sister” Rehana sniffled.
“You what? Rehana you told me it was all over! You said you had repented and closed that page.” I scolded.
“No Lilly you don’t understand. They got into a car accident and his sister Zahra lost her eyesight. She’s staying in the same special needs institution I volunteer at. I couldn’t not go see her. Especially after what Ibrahim said. He blames me for the accident and for everything that has happened.”

I tried to hide my disappointment and be supportive instead. After all, I wasn’t just her life long friend I was also her therapist now, ever since she finally decided to confess her sin and asked me to help her get back on the straight path.

“Ibrahim thought confessing the truth to his sister would help him clear his conscious. He admitted he got distracted while driving coz I was texting him.” Rehana gasped for breath. “I went to ask Zahra for forgiveness, but she wouldn’t listen. It was horrible.” Rehana sobbed. “Even after I swore I ended it with her brother, she called me the worst names. She said she couldn’t understand how good people like her end up suffering instead of devils like me. She’s right Lilly. She’s so right.”
“She’s angry, Rehana. No one knows what they’d do if they were in her situation.”
“She said she wasn’t gonna suffer the consequences alone, and then threatened to tell my husband and my parents. She said she’ll make sure this scandal follows me everywhere I go, at work and at the institution. She never gave me a chance to explain.” Rehana was shaking uncontrollably I could tell she was about to have a nervous breakdown.
“Somebody HELPPPP” I cried.

Later that night

“Psych ward? Are you people insane?” I asked the nurse when I went to visit the next day. “Rehana is fine. She’s just a bit stressed out.”
“Doctor’s orders, ma’am.” The bored nurse replied.
“I need to see her”

Rehana was sitting on the floor alone in a dimmed room, barefoot and her hair disarrayed. She looked exactly like the first time I met her in fifth grade sitting in detention outside the principle’s office. She had the kindest heart yet, ever since we were little girls; she always ended up getting herself in trouble.

“It’s over Lilly…” Rehana stared at the wall blankly.
“It’s not honey. Have faith in Allah. He can change the unchangeable. You know that, right?”
“Ibrahim hates me. Zahra hates me. My parents hate me. My husband hates me. And even you hate me..” Rehana bowed her head down in disgrace.
“I don’t hate you Rehana. I love you and I’m gonna help you through this.” I cried.
“It’s too late for me. I don’t deserve Allah’s forgiveness…”
“Please don’t say that. The door to repentance is always open..”
“I know Allah hates me for what I’ve done. Zahra’s right. I am the devil.”
“What happened to Zahra isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s an act of God, and God will never allow bad things to happen unless good comes out of it.” I insisted. “Allah loves us, Rehana.”
“I’ve done so much damage, Lilly. You don’t know how many people I’ve hurt and how many lives I’ve singlehandedly ruined.”
“There’s still time to learn from your mistakes and fix what you broke. Like Omar Ibn Al Khattab said, ‘sometimes the people with the worst past create the best future.’”
Rehana buried her head in her two pale palms. “Lilly, I really loved Ibrahim and I never wanted to hurt him or his family. Promise me you’ll help him fix his life and find happiness. Promise me you’ll help everyone who suffered because of my actions.”
“I’ll try” I replied, desperate to say something soothing.
“I left a letter to my husband asking for his forgiveness, please make sure he gets it” Rehana whispered before sliding out a gun from under the carpet she was sitting on.

Where on Earth would she get a gun in solitary? I wondered silently, my heart pounding so loud, evidently distracting my brain from coming up with a plan.
“Please, don’t” I pleaded. “Trust me, there are other options!”
“I wish that were true..” Rehana whispered.
“Noooooooooooooo”

A couple of weeks later

 

“She tried to take her own life?” Zahra repeated the question like an endless tireless echo.

“We stopped her at the last minute. Unfortunately she suffered major deficits and is now in a coma. Doctors don’t think she’ll wake up anytime soon”

I came to see Zahra at the institution, still overwhelmed and heartbroken.

“I can’t believe she tried to kill herself. Why? How can any Muslim do that? I swear I wasn’t gonna say anything. I’d never shame anyone that way. I didn’t mean it. I was just blabbering out of anger, I didn’t mean it.” Zahra slurred.
It took a couple of days for her to absorb the immense impact of her words. She couldn’t eat or sleep; she was practically going insane with remorse.

“My heart is gonna explode. I don’t know how to go back to my life as if nothing happened. I’m so angry and hurt I don’t think I can take this anymore.” Zahra cried.

“Rehana gave up the Lord’s endless mercy and submitted to the whispers of Satan. She forgot that He says “No one despairs of Allah’s soothing mercy except those who have no faith” (Holy Quran, 12:87). Her hopelessness affected so many people. Her loved ones will never be the same again and they’ll probably never forgive her. If you give up now… Zahra I don’t know what will happen to them, to Ibrahim, Ali, Omar, Salma, Aisha, your parents, your friends. It will change them. If you fall apart now, you’ll drop their hopes to their ground, shattering their faith and willpower. And like poison, this anger and bitterness will spread around and it won’t end. It will never ever end.”

“This is a huge burden to carry…” Zahra wept softly.
“Life is a test; it’s full of hardships. But we must remember the events that take place during our journey don’t control us, our decision do. And you have a decision to make. This is the tipping point Zahra, whatever you decide today will change everyone’s life forever….”

 

Three months later

“I can’t find Zahra” Aisha panicked; still holding her sister-in-law’s abandoned wedding gown. “I think she ran away”

“How could she possibly run away? She’s BLIND!”

 
To be continued….

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

The Amazing Race Of Ramadan: Episode One

Published on OnIslam.net
On 22nd June, 2015

Episode One: It’s An Inside Job!

heart and brain

Thundering slamming sounds of doors locking.
Roaring noises of steel chains clatter together.

Hearts melt as the smiles fill the skies…
And the golden gates are opened, filling the universe with the sparkling scents of Heaven….
People from all around the world gather together, excited and anxious to be amongst the frontrunners. From every race, age and color, the chosen contestants hold hands in peace; awaiting further reminders before they head off for the big win.

“Listen up people! This is it! The doors of Hell are locked, the devils are chained down and the gates of Paradise are wide open. Tonight we start the 30-day countdown of the Amazing Race! Let’s make EVERY. SECOND. COUNT!”

Millions of Muslims raise their hands to the sky and chant in unity “Allahu Akbar! God Is Great!”

“The more people you help along the way, the more you raise your chances of winning the ultimate reward, so stay close and have each others backs! Now please pick up a copy of your craziest imagination before heading to Conference Room A for a staff meeting with your organs. Good luck!”

Health Benefits Of Fasting: 

All the organs take their seats, giving full attention to the Heart that stands up and speaks first.
“I’d like to welcome you all to this great event. I’ll be your team leader and I hereby make it very clear that my approval is essential before every word and action you make. That means you Mr. Brain!”
“Hey! What did I do?” The Brain looks innocently confused.
“I would rather this meeting be productive so I won’t be pointing fingers! We are one family after all” The heart replies calmly. “If you look at the white board, you’ll see a list a job descriptions and goals for the Holy month. Let’s go through them quickly…”

  • Lungs: Good news! Fasting helps remove built up toxins there. This month is for us to literally take a ‘breather’.
  • Stomach: Will be using the foodless and waterless hours to work on removing any waste matter and allowing for better digestions. Good luck!
  • Blood vessels: Since less blood will flow to the digestive system, more blood will go to other tissues, removing the cholesterol lining in our blood vessels. Well, about time!
  • Intestines: Like the stomach, will finally use this period for detoxification.
  • Kidneys: Will absorb more salt and water, which will help stabilize blood pressure, improve the organ’s functions and avoid kidney stones. Congratulations!
  • Immune System: Fasting reduces free radical damage, regulates inflammatory conditions in the body, reduces stress on the internal system so we can fight infections and starve many types of cancer cells. (Impressive, ha?)
  • Complexion: While fasting, the body has free time to focus on its regenerative energies on other systems like clearing up skin, sweat glands and preventing acne. Yeah that’s why we glow in Ramadan.
  • Liver: Reserved ‘Glycogen’ in the liver will be broken into glucose, which all of us organs can use as extra fuel or energy. Thanks pal! We owe you one.
  • Body Fat: When the supply of glycogen runs out, we turn to stored body fat, breaking it into fatty acids and converting that to useable energy. Let’s lose some of that stubborn weight this summer guys!
  • Brain: Fasting boosts the levels of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’ that beats depression. It also enhances the production of proteins that activate brain stem cells, promotes brain functions, and protects it from diseases such as Alzheimer’s. We’re all counting on you this month dude!

    “Ummm Mr. Brain? Are you there?”
    “Ouch! Horrible Headache! Ahhhhh this really hurts!” The Brain screams as loud sirens shake the room.

Attention! Brace yourself while system resets. I repeat. All organs brace yourselves. This Is An Automated message.

“What’s happening?” The Kidney twins panic. “Is that an Earthquake? Oh my God we’re getting dizzy!”
“No that’s the Brain going into shock. It’s one of the expected side effects of adjusting to the new system” The Heart replies. “Guys if you’ll excuse us, I need to talk to the Brain privately please.”

Mental Benefits Of Fasting:

The Heart puts its hand on the Brain’s shoulder and speaks softly.

“Listen to me. I know the headache hurts but it will only last a day or two till the body adjusts to the fasting process. I need you to stay strong. This will pass I promise! Just breathe it out”
“I want pain killers, coffee, sweets, anything! Please!” The Brain holds its head.
“A war is raging inside coz you’re physically feeling hunger and thirst to the fullest. But I’m in charge now and I will see you through this. You’ll thank me later and here’s why…”

  • Increased focus, mental clarity and creativity.
  • Fasting is a powerful tool in maintaining a healthy mental state through clearing out suppressed ‘emotional baggage’.
  • Controlling impulsive urges which enhances wisdom.
  • Discontinuing bad habits and overcoming addictions
  • Fasting improves quality of sleep.
  • Ultimate awareness and living the ‘now’ helps you feel the ‘joy’.
  • Strengthening your will and inner power.

“You can do this. That’s the training you need to survive another year in the outside world. Together you and me, we will win this race every single day, because we have the ultimate goal in mind: Pleasing Allah and attaining the highest levels of Paradise inshAllah. You’re not alone pal”

“Oh you’re so sweet. How come we don’t spend more time together? Listening to you is really soothing… You’re so pure and genuine!” The Brain smiles.
“Tell me something I don’t know” The Heart winks back jokingly. “Now let’s catch up with the rest in Conference Room B. The ‘Soul’ will give the final speech.”

Spiritual Benefits Of Fasting

Dressed in a sheer white suit, the ‘Inner Being’ welcomes each organ with a rose. The sound of Qur’an in the background fills the room with tranquility. After the recitation is done, the ‘Soul’ stands up and asks the audience to close their eyes.

“Shhhhhhhh…. Listen to the silence inside of you. Separate from the worldly life for a moment and focus your attention inwards…

  • The body starts to feel lighter, senses are heightened and our beliefs and principles are crystalized. It’s Allah’s pleasure we are seeking.
  • This is the chance to embrace your new beginning. For even those with the worst past can create the best future.
  • The energies of the universe are bright and colorful in Ramadan. Your aura is cleansed and activated. Polish the mirror of your heart to reflect the ‘Divine Light’.
  • Feel the presence of your Lord and the angels around guarding you and recording your deeds. Allow yourself to absorb this month’s blessed glory.

    “Fasting is more than abstaining from food and water; it’s a spiritual journey towards Jannah. Let’s work as one team and promise ourselves to stay on the right path this year folks. Thank you for being here and good luck!”

I overhear the chitchats of millions of contestants on their way out of the auditoriums. Sorry, but I couldn’t help eavesdropping on some random conversations

“Man! That was impressive! It’s like all the organs are one happy family. How come we aren’t as close to our own parents and siblings outside Ramadan?”

“Tell me about it. Like my brother is so annoying I fantasize about punching him in the face sometimes.”

“I don’t remember the last time we all had a meal together!”

“My husband is married to his social media. I think if I disappear, the only way he will notice is if someone posts it on Facebook!”

Hmmmmm…I run quickly to fetch the blueprints for the next phase of the race and I chuckle with amusement!

Episode Two: ‘Joy Is A Six-Letter Word’.
Coming right up…. Stay tuned.

Lilly S. Mohsen