Tag Archives: society

Day Twelve: 30 Good Deeds In Ramadan

DAY TWELVE: There’s Always A Place To Volunteer

 

Turns out reaching a state of ‘Happiness’ is ridiculously easy.

You finally find the set of keys you’ve been looking for for over three hours and you’re ecstatic!
You see a funny video of a cute baby with a voracious appetite and you can’t stop laughing.
Your life long friend calls to cheer you up and you’re suddenly in a positive mood.

It really doesn’t take much to be happy!

And it also doesn’t take long for this happiness to subside, simply because no one can maintain one mood or emotion endlessly. No one can possibly be happy ALL the time (I mean come on, imagine how extremely annoying that would be!)

So if it’s not constant happiness that we’re pursuing (since we just found out it’s obviously unattainable) then what exactly are we running after? What’s the missing element powerful enough to take this excruciating sadness away?

What in this life is capable of making us feel alive…?

 

 

No really, what is it?

I’m actually asking you guys loool

 

Well studies have shown that selfish people who have everything and live only for themselves suffer from low-self esteem, depression and are the most likely to commit suicide.

On the other hand, thanks to MRI technology, it has also been proven that ‘giving’ activates the mid region of the brain, the same part responsible for cravings and seeking pleasure. (The scientific study uses eating chocolate as an example of intense pleasurable feelings. I think I just fell in love with scientists and researchers; such noble, knowledgeable people loool)

So I thought I’d put the theory to the test…

I joined my dear friend on one of her volunteering jobs to pack ‘Iftar’ meals for the less fortunate. On our way there, she eloquently prepared me for my first experience…

Marwa: ‘So we’re supposed to pack 1000 hot meals in less than an hour’

Me: ‘How is that even possible?

Marwa: ‘We’ve been doing it for years. You basically give up the right to breathe and instead you work NON-STOP! You hear me Lilly? No side talks, no calling the kids to check on them, no whining about the heat or about your feet going numb. And no bathroom breaks!’

Me: ‘I can do that’ (Gulp)

Marwa: ‘Oh and also… uhmmm… heads up…. The supervisor yells a lot. She will make it a point to publicly humiliate you in front of all the other volunteers if she sees you’re not doing a good job, so just be prepared.’

Me: ‘Okay stop right there! Are we volunteers or ex-cons going back to jail? I plan on donating my time not my dignity, thank you very much.’

Marwa (laughing): ‘Dignity? Honey, this is serious work. Hundreds of people around the country are expecting this food and there’s no room for mistakes. Do yourself a favor and leave your dignity at the door. ‘

 

I did….

And honestly, I never thought working in an assembly line, amongst total strangers, sweating from the heat and shivering from the fear of humiliation, getting screamed at while bagging plastic boxes like a maniac and then going home smelling like meat stock would bring me such immense joy!

Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to this beautiful feeling…

So if you’ve never experienced it before, I’m urging you to please to give it a try….

Beginners Level:

Donate your time to a worthy cause.
Volunteer at the local hospital, orphanage, public school, soup kitchen, food bank or help clean up a district in your neighborhood.
The options are endless.
Just pick one and try it out for a day. You’ll see how the humbling experience will be life changing.
You’ll see how expecting the reward only from Allah and no one else, is so amazingly fulfilling….

Advanced Level:

It’s kind of addictive…
I can safely assume anyone who tries the beginner level will most certainly move up to the advanced level of wanting to do this every single day for the rest of eternity because …

‘When action meets compassion, lives change…’
Starting with yours….

May all your days be filled with joy and may Allah accept us all in this beautiful, generous, holy month…

Amen

 

All my love,
Lilly S. Mohsen

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Day Eleven: 30 Good Deeds In Ramadan

 

DAY ELEVEN: Be A Therapist For A Day

 

I’m writing this while being held at gunpoint.

Can I just take a moment before I depart this world to applaud moms who have more than two kids at home….
Seriously, HOW do you do it? Especially single moms like me. No really, HOW?!

My son is sitting right next to me, sending me texts and voice notes on ‘Whatsapp’ while talking to me. And I have to respond to both conversations at the same time or I’m in BIG trouble! And on the other side is my daughter, who had just handed me a revision sheet for me to test her before her final exam tomorrow.
I’m only one person, so how does that work?
Is there some kind of class I missed in high school and that’s why I don’t know this stuff? Loool

 

Even though I’m a very private person, I’ve been told my blog writings can sometimes get ‘too personal’.
Perhaps that’s true….
I guess even the most tight-lipped people will let something slip, because as much as they struggle to stay reserved, they’re human, with a built innate need to be understood. Our ego stands up and nudges us to deny it, but it doesn’t change the fact that we all have a constant crave for our feelings to be validated, no matter how trivial or dramatic they may seem. Sometimes we just need to talk, not to seek solutions or sympathy, but to hear our minds’ inner thoughts and see that we’re not alone, there are people out there who can relate, you know?

Except another part of human nature dictates the exact opposite. We think no one will understand. We think no one else has problems or pain or a ‘plate full of tears’. We can be so self absorbed that we only see our merits and look at other people’s faults, even when it comes to the closest people to our hearts.

Our problems are magnified (coz we are so up close against them with our cheeks squashed into the closed window) and so we fail to notice the rest of the world’s problems, yet insist we’re compassionate people, who live to serve others.

Once the ego stands up, it completely blocks our view of how others might feel..

We expect them to be there for us ALL the time, no matter what they’re going through, yet give ourselves excuses when we can’t do the same..
No wonder some of us end up alone, because a relationship based on ‘always taking’ or ‘always giving’ doesn’t stand a chance..

Does all the above sound a little bit too familiar?
Did it hit home yet?
I know, I would never admit it either, not even to myself loool

Now men might not relate to this very much, but women will totally get it, coz our relationships with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers are what matter to us the most. Once any emotional connection is threatened (especially if it’s a close one) we go a little bit insane.

We TRANSFORM loool.

We turn into creatures we barely recognize; professional blamers, psycho maniacs, stalkers, naggers, private investigators, and bitter hatemongers. We stone wall and shut people out, or just hibernate and disappear into thin air.

And when we’re finally alone, and especially when we realize our relationship with ourselves is devoid of peace and harmony, too, that’s when depression hits hard…

We collapse..

We lose the ability to help ourselves
And that’s when we need help the most..
That’s when we need real ‘empathy’….

You know, sympathy is the easiest thing in the world. You can watch a movie and cry buckets when the noble dad dies, or see a picture of a Syrian refugee and feel your heart ache.
It’s easy because you’re in your comfort zone, safe and detached.
It’s getting down to your knees, and actually feeling that person, that’s the hard part.
It’s putting yourself in their place and realizing the only difference between you and them is a twist of ‘preordained destiny’, the same Divine will that put them there could have easily put YOU in their spot.

We just want to feel like someone understands what we’re going through…
We just want ONE genuine person who won’t run or get defensive, or start lecturing us or emotionally abusing us more when we’re drowning and need help..
For God’s sake…
Be that ONE..

Beginners Level:

It’s time for you to step in.
Someone in your circle has gone through this cycle, hit rock bottom and is now in a dark hole they can’t get out of.
Someone in your circle is sad or depressed and needs to talk,
And you know it!
You just don’t know that you know it loool
Be a therapist for that person today. Just call and ask how they’re doing and mean it.
Listen and let them talk it out…
And you can sue me if you don’t get multiple rewards for this beautiful act of consideration loool.

Advanced Level:

Depressed people are stuck. They can’t get out. They’re not enjoying the suffering and emotional torture, trust me.
They just can’t help but feel down.
So don’t try to give them solutions like ‘let’s go for a run’ or ‘just read Qur’an and you’ll feel better’. No! Coz they really can’t do it.

All they need is for you to empathize. Listen and try to understand and keep following up with as many sad people as you can handle. Keep knocking their doors till they get up and open it for you.

Show them there are still good, caring people in this world…
Maybe just knowing this might be enough for some of them

Special Level:

This one is for my regular and ‘anonymous’ clients
I usually take Ramadan off, but here’s a green card to contact or email me this week (till Saturday) if you guys really wanna talk.
It would be my pleasure to be your online therapist (and hopefully help if Allah will allow it).

You never know…
Sometimes a total stranger can do what a soul mate can’t..

Here’s my email:

lillysmohsen@gmail.com

 

Ramadan Kareem everyone
All my best,

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

Day Ten: 30 Good Deeds in Ramadan

DAY TEN: Happiness is Homemade

Nutella Konafa Cone By CleoButtera

Nutella Konafa Cones By CleoButtera

 

What?
No, for real, this is homemade.
Would I lie to you? In Ramadan? About chocolate? NEVER!

Turns out some uniquely talented people like ‘CleoButtera’ can actually whip this up in their own kitchens a couple of hours before Iftar*. Just like that! MashAllah!

Do you guys know what the ultimate definition of happiness is? (Other than Nutella of course loool). It’s having something to look forward to everyday. And when we’re fasting, the most thing we look forward to is some home-cooked goodness.
Slow roasted chicken with gravy, Butter pouched shrimps and creamy four-cheese spaghetti. Crunchy Konafa drizzled with heavenly sweet syrup….

If you think about it, this isn’t just food, it’s art…
Delicious, mouthwatering, scrumptious art!

Any yet sometimes (especially when we’re fasting and cross-eyed-drained) we forget to appreciate the artists (who are fasting too by the way). We forget there’s a lot of hard work involved backstage. The people who cook this food spend most of the Holy month in the kitchen! Either preparing the food, rummaging through cookbooks and blogs for new recipes, shopping for missing ingredients, planning menus, or worrying whether the food will be enough, especially when the kids decide to invite 20 of their friends 5 minutes before Iftar!

A couple of days ago I was watching an Arabic series about this group of people stuck on a deserted island. Oh my God, their struggle to find food alone is a nightmare. They had to climb 70 feet trees to get coconuts, then learn the lost martial art of ‘Taekwondo’ to break them open. Some had to figure out how to fashion sharp spears out of tree barks and use them for fishing, which took all day, besides the hours it took to clean the fish and start up the fire to grill it on. And yes, they only had fresh seawater to drink, wild and poisonous animals to keep them company and no bathrooms!!!

Makes you look at your life differently huh?

Thank God we don’t have to go through all of that to eat a single meal. But some of us still must worry about, saving money, getting Halal meat, defrosting, marinating, frying and making good use of leftovers. It’s not a nightmare but it’s not easy either. I promise you it’s not!

As much as those food artists love feeding their families, and as much as they enjoy cooking, it’s still a huge responsibility and a load of effort, especially when you’re standing over a boiling pot of stew on a hot summer day, with cranky kids tugging at your apron and asking ‘how long till Iftar’ every 34 seconds.
(I’m not exaggerating; I’m actually toning it down loool)

Day Ten is here to celebrate our ‘Kitchen Heroes’. To let them know how much we appreciate every minute they spend making our food with love. And to humbly confirm that yes, chances are we would starve to death without them or go bankrupt ordering take out!

Beginners Level:

Never underestimate the power of compliments. Say something sweet to the person cooking your food and make yummy noises while you eat. A little gift would go a long way too. (Just do it. You’ll thank me for it later. You know, on the Day of Judgment when you realize how heavy it is on your good deeds scale). Feeling appreciated and acknowledged is probably the best feeling in the world. It’s really all what anyone needs.

Advanced Level:

Roll up your sleeves and get in there.
Help out for one day! One meal! One dish even!
Do you know how hard it is to peel and cut onions? It’s the kind of task that would reduce a grown man to tears looool.
Just ask the person who cooks your meals ‘How can I help?’.
This simple act of thoughtfulness in a world where everyone is so selfish and self-absorbed is a rare gift in itself. Even the people who supposedly ‘care’ the most, will ask how you’re doing then run before you could even answer loool.

It’s sad but true..

Ramadan is the Holy month of kindness, generosity and consideration….
So be there for your loved ones, and appreciate their efforts and their existence in your life while you still can….

Special Level:

Oh so you’re the ‘Kitchen Hero’?
Honored to meet you!
Well, I don’t really have a task for you today, just tons of appreciation and gratitude.
How about you sit this one out? You’re rewarded for every little crumb you feed a fasting Muslim anyway, so that should do it. Don’t be greedy loool. Let others pamper you for a change…

Ramadan Kareem guys.
All my best,

Lilly S. Mohsen

* Check out Cleobuttera.com for some amazing mouthwatering recipes. Mind blogging to say the least. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Day Nine: 30 Good deeds In Ramadan

DAY NINE: Do It Once From The Heart

Is it really day 9?
So the first third of Ramadan is almost over?
I’m sure you guys know the widespread Hadith breaking up the Holy month into three stages

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “The first part of the month of Ramadan is mercy, the middle of it is forgiveness and the end of it is freedom from the Hellfire.” (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.: 93, Pg.: 342)

Even though some say it’s a weak narration but still, I believe it serves as a roadmap for believers.
A roadmap of ‘very much needed’ hope….

And now that the first part of the Holy month is almost over, tell me, how do you feel….?
Are you tired or still gearing up for full speed?
Do you think Allah has accepted us yet…?
Do you think we’re at least nominated to join the group He’s pleased with?
Do you think….
He loves you and me?

We endure the heat of the hot summer days, feel the inside of our throats cracking slowly from the thirst, and feel the tiredness sinking in, but we push through the day till dawn. And when it’s time for iftar, we hold back for an extra minute, holding a cup of water with our eyes closed, resisting the urge to take a sip, until we finish whispering a special prayer, asking Allah to forgive the sins of the past, grant us a better future in the next life or to just heal the pain only He knows about…

Day in day out, we repeat the same pattern of “pushing through- inhaling our food- praying- reciting Qur’an- more food (plus gulping down tanks of water at suhour time)- pray- sleep- wake up- push through”
I think by the first week, we’re kind of on autopilot, right?

Except genuine feelings can never fit into a daily pattern. They need to be felt, touched and cried out….

You need to pause and think for a second, right here, right now, ‘has Allah accepted me yet…?’
Does Allah really love me…? And more importantly, do I love Him with all my heart…?

What will happen to us on the Day of Judgment? Will we find heaps of sins we once thought were ‘no big deals’? Or will we find heaps of rewards stacked up because of our little acts of kindness we also thought were ‘no big deal’?
Will we be pardoned or will He ask us tough questions? Questions we’ll be too ashamed to answer?

“Did you truly understand who you were standing before when your mind wandered during prayer?”
“You knew your sister was heart broken, why did you look the other way?”
“You had dinner tables rolled out for you while others down the street were starving. Why didn’t you help?”
“You found out some ‘hot gossip’ about this person and didn’t waste time spreading it. Haven’t I concealed your faults?”
“”You had books, internet, research facilities, lectures and countless resources to learn your religion and teach it to your kids. What else were you busy with that was more important than pleasing your Lord?”

Tears roll down when I think of this day…

I know Allah is Merciful but He’s also Fair, and let’s face it, we haven’t been through a fraction of what true believers have been through, and we’ve done so little compared to others: those in war zones, those who are homeless or suffer from chronic illnesses or disabilities. Those whose faith is severely tested through loss, deprivation and torture. I know I shouldn’t think that way, because it’s the intention that matters and Allah is the final Judge. I’m just scared we’re all doing the ‘high-five-great-job’ kind of thing and secretly being full of ourselves after praying ‘Taraweeh’ every night or doing a teeny-tiny good deed, when in reality we’re just sabotaging our relationship with Allah.

I know it sounds pessimistic and morbid, but it’s something we need to consider too.
Are we doing it all from the heart?
Ya Allah have you accepted us yet…?
Are You pleased with us?
Do You like to hear our voices…?

And then I remember this beautiful Hadith where Allah says:

“He who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And he who comes with vice, his reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive him. He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me. (Muslim, Ibn Majah and Ahmad).

 

He doesn’t expect perfection…
He promised to be there for you… even when you’re broken
Even when you’ve sinned…
Even when you’re scared and weak and a total mess…
Just run to Him, humble and sincere, and He will accept you….
Just talk to Him from the heart, and He will listen and respond, no matter what you’ve done or said…
For once He loves you, this emptiness you feel inside will be washed away; that emptiness that nothing and no one can fill expect the genuine love for your Merciful Creator…

I’m sorry I don’t know why I can’t stop crying. I’m a bit emotional today…
Plus, I found ants all over the piece of chocolate I saved for Iftar, so I’m also partly crying about that too LOL

Day Nine’s act of kindness is directed towards you. There is no better deed than filling that void in your soul by drawing closer to Allah… and those who’ve felt the ‘closeness’ before know exactly what I mean…

Beginners Level:

Ask…
Ask Allah to love you and to make you love Him. Tonight, ask Allah with sincerity and humility, not for Paradise or refuge from the fire, but for His love, and for Him to love you back…

Advanced Level:

Do something to show you’re serious about your request. Spend the whole day asking again and again. Help someone who can never repay you or do a secret good deed just for His sake. And then ask for that love we all desperately need.

 

Sheeeshhhh
Intense task, huh?
But you know what, when you ask the One who calls Himself ‘The Generous’ and ‘The Giver’, you’ll be granted so many blessings you didn’t even know existed.
It only takes one time…

One time from the heart…

 

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

Day Eight: 30 Good Deeds In Ramadan

 

DAY 8: It’s Time To Thank Your Favorite One

 

It’s amazing how just one person can make a difference in so many lives. I still remember the ones who made a difference in mine, and amongst them are my schoolteachers, from Mrs. Gohar in 2nd second grade, who taught us that ‘sharing is caring’ (and I honestly hated sharing!) all the way to Mr. Boylen in college, who treated our work like masterpieces. (Of course I blocked out the scary mean ones, including my math teacher, who mercilessly picked on me, and is the main culprit behind my phobia of numbers. Ughhh)

Anyways, so eventually we grow up and realize there’s still so much to learn, especially in matters of religion. Yes our parents and schoolteachers probably give us the basic, textbook information, but a part of us still yearns for more. And because we’re different, we’re attracted to different methodologies of learning, all the while knowing, the best teachers are those who teach their students in ways they can understand.

When it comes to belief systems, especially religion, some of us need details. Like scrutinized and dissected information, down to a list of what the narrator of a certain Hadith had for dinner that night and the name and address of the woman who cooked it!

Some of us like brief explanations and others learn best through figuring out the morals of stories. I for one need a little bit of humor for my mind to process information properly. I got straight A’s in history because my dad used to make up funny story about Historical figures just so I can remember them all.

Let me ask a question.

Whenever you’re confused, sad or anxious or in need of a dose of spirituality, who’s the first scholar that comes to your mind?
Whoever it is, it must be someone who speaks in a way you can relate to.

Thanks to Allah, we have a lot of amazing Muslim speakers nowadays and they’ve all left their marks in this world, cured broken hearts, answered our doubts and taught us the most important lessons of all; how to be better Muslims, and how to please our Lord. These people have spent most of their lives studying the Qur’an and Sunnah and Aqeedah and Fiqh (Oh my God, do you know how difficult Fiqh 102 is?!) just so they can teach it to others and spread the words of Allah. And in the darkest most crooked times, those scholars are the bright stars guiding us to the straight path.
Day 8’s act of kindness is to show appreciation and gratitude to the Muslim leaders, and let them know how much they’re needed, loved and respected.
Seriously, it’s the least we can do for them, right?

Beginners Level:

Drop a nice comment on an article or a video by your favorite Muslim scholar or speaker. They may never have the chance to reply, but trust me, they’ll always read comments and it’ll bring much deserved joy to their hearts.

Advanced Level:

Send a thank you note, along with a story of how that scholar had affected your life positively. Take the time to show your gratitude in a heartfelt email or letter. The greatest need for humankind is to be acknowledged and appreciated, especially when the work is so noble and effective.

It’s true they do it for Allah’s sake, but whoever doesn’t thank the people doesn’t really thank Allah (that’s a hadith btw). And this Holy month is the best opportunity to thank Allah for opening our hearts to Islam, and thank the scholars for their efforts.

I’ll even make it easier for you guys and add all the top Muslim speakers’ names and contact info to this post.

Now you have no excuses!

Special Level:

Hmmmm so you don’t have a favorite scholar, huh?
What you don’t even listen to Islamic lectures? Like at all?
You’re so missing out dude! Seriously, it’s an obligation for us to learn everything there is to know about our religion, and these people make the process such a great pleasure.
Okay, don’t panic.
Deep breaths everyone.
Better late than never, right?
You’ll find the names of the top Muslim speakers below. Take your pick coz they’re all fantastic!

Who’s my favorite?
Okay I don’t know if I should say LOL. I really love and respect them all but of course one person tops the list. (Uhmm hint hint loool).
Alright here we go:

 

Nouman Ali Khan

http://bayyinah.com/

Hamza Yusuf

https://www.zaytuna.edu/contact

Mufti Menk

https://www.muftimenk.com/contact/

Zakir Naik

http://www.zakirnaik.net/contact/

Omar Suleiman

https://yaqeeninstitute.org/team/omar-suleiman/

Bilal Phillips

http://bilalphilips.com/

Yasmin Mogahed

yasmin@yasminmogahed.com

Yasir Qadhi

http://www.memphisislamiccenter.org/programs/ayq/

Amr Khaled (Arabic)

http://www.amrkhaled.net/

Mustafa Hosny (Arabic)

http://mustafahosny.com/

Omar Abdel Kafy (Arabic)

http://abdelkafy.com/

Yusuf Estes

yusuf@shareislam.com

 

 

I hope I didn’t forget anyone. If I did please let me know so I can add them before they find out!

All my best to all my beautiful readers, and have a lovely blessed weekend.

Lilly S. Mohsen