Tag Archives: women

Do Muslim Women Feel Oppressed?

Published On Islam Faith
October 2017

 

 

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“Why not?”
“Coz I said so!”
“Good one Mom. You should be a lawyer.”

Ahhhh remember the good old teenage years when you died a little bit inside every time you heard one of your friends didn’t have curfews or chores? When they made something called ‘last minute plans’ while your parents needed the exact detailed information of the outing 10 to 12 business days before the actual date?

I distinctly remember asking my friends those same questions that night we were all chilling together. I was on a strict diet at the time, and needed a distraction from the melted chocolate oozing from the center of the giant molten lava cake they had just broken into to.

“No. I didn’t have any rules growing up. My parents let me do whatever I wanted. I’d come home at sunrise and they wouldn’t even ask where I was.” One friend replied.

“You’re so lucky!” We all said.

“Yeah, everyone envied my freedom back then, but you know what I envied them? Feeling protected and cared for. You guys should be grateful for parents who loved you enough to discipline you!”

 

While most of my friends made faces and quickly engaged in a heated debate on the different types of parenting, my mind dazed off like usual and an invisible camera blurred everyone out to zoom in on my thoughts.

Could these be the silent notions going on in Muslim women’s heads too? Do they die a little bit inside when their non-Muslim friends do what they want while they must adhere to all these Islamic rules and decrees? And most importantly, do women in Islam view themselves as being protected and cherished, or just down right oppressed?

 

The ‘Liberation’ Fixation.

We can argue about it till the cows come home, but unless we agree on what it really means to be ‘liberated’, one of us will end up really pissed.

So I looked it up and the literal meaning of ‘Liberation’ is ‘the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery or oppression’

So far so good?

Now, would you guys allow me to use the veil (hijab) as an example?
Thanks!

Let me just add that modesty isn’t just in the way you dress. It’s an attitude. It’s something pure in the heart that affects the way you dress, think and behave. So if a Muslim woman chooses through the power of free will vested in her to wear the Hijab, even though she’s constantly pressured not to, would you say she’s ‘liberated’ from the social imprisonment and the slavery to ‘popular culture’? Yeah, I think so, too.

Alright, how about a Muslim woman who’s forced by her husband or father to wear the Hijab against her will, even though the Holy Qur’an explicitly says:

“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (2:256 Holy Quran)

And even though Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said,

“The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Now this ‘bitter-Hijabi’ woman is clearly suppressed, right?
Of course she is, but can we really blame Islam for it? Is this what God wants Muslims to do, to force each other to do things out of mere oppression? Things they’re probably not going to get rewarded for since it’s not from the heart?

This fixation on female liberation needs to take a more informed form. Are we angry with the Islamic Laws or are we angry with the Muslims who make Islam look bad coz they misinterpret its teachings?

We need to channel this bottled anger at someone people. Let’s make a decision and stick to it. Who’s the real culprit here, Muslims or Islam?

 

Women In The Wild West

While we could argue both sides, many might dismiss the scriptures all together and claim that western culture is the answer, for it is the essence of true liberation.

Well, it really depends on how you look at it.

Take the Hijab again. Some people will equate it with suppression, oppression, depression and all the ugly ‘essions’, while others will simply parallel its modesty with elegance, dignity and poise.

Now that I think about it, for the most part, it does seem like a natural inclination to view ‘modest clothing’ as closely integrated with being ‘classy’. Royalty, respected influencers, businesswomen, professors, educated women whose sole purpose is to make a difference in this world… You’d probably have a hard time imagining them walking down the street wearing hot shorts and cropped tight tank tops accentuating their enormous ‘boob-jobbed’ cleavage, no matter how ‘liberated’ they may feel.

There’s a difference between liberation and dissipation.
Between demanding attention and demanding respect.

And hey, if wearing the veil is viewed as ‘oppressive” then perhaps Christianity and Judaism should go on the list, too. For it’s not just Islam that preaches about the merits of modesty:

 

“For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man” (Corinthians 11:6, Holy Bible) 

 

…”then, that head or hair covering was law for the daughters of Israel” (Sifrei Bamidbar 11)

 

Do We Need To Be Rescued?

I once read this meme that cracked me up for a whole week. (They’re called ‘memes’ right?)

* Hijabi woman breathes *

The rest of the world goes crazy: “You are OPPRESSED, LET US SAVE YOU!”

 

We’ve been brainwashed into thinking Muslims are brainwashed. But now try forcing a proud Hijabi to take her veil off and you’ll be the one in need of saving, you know, before ending up in a wheel chair that you’ll be steering with your tongue LOL.

The truth is, despite the commotion, and the whole ‘Islam-is-violent-and-isn’t-compatible-with-modern-civilization’ shebang, people all over the globe are converting to Islam left and right. Freedom loses its meaning amidst the chaos. When you don’t have a map, some guidelines and a clear destination, you’re just lost. And that’s the point; so many of us are finally eager for logical answers, finally ready to make sense of this confusion we live in. So many of us are tired of feeling lost. We need a stable, ‘unchangeable’ solid ground to stand on; a doctrine that keeps us focused and doesn’t crumble under social pressure.

Islamic rules might seem firm, what with the dress code, the ‘no-drinking’, ‘no gambling’ and ‘no pigs on the dinner table’ thing. Yet the core of every single one of those rules is based on love, the same way devoted parents, who care about your success, will watch you like a hawk and stop you from ruining the life you’re so eager to start living. Because they love you, they won’t always give you what you think you want, but they’ll make sure you strive for what you need. And because they know you so well, and know your weaknesses, they’ll put you on straight path to try and eliminate your struggles as much as possible because they know the following is true…

“To abstain from the enjoyment which is in our power, or to seek distant rather than immediate results, are among the most painful exertions of the human will” N.W. Senior 1836

 

Take that night with my friends for example; do you know how desperately I wanted a piece of that molten cake? I was practically drooling all over it, with my eyes popping out of my head like a cartoon character in love. Do you know how difficult it was to resist the temptation? Probably just as difficult as it is for you to invest in your ‘future self’, whether it is in your health, wealth, career or physical appearance. It’s SO hard, but you do it. You exercise, eat healthy, study and pull an all-nighter to prep for a test or an important meeting. You find the stamina, perseverance and passion to stick to your plan and reach your goals. Psychologists call it ‘Grit’. It’s a choice to progress and succeed and that’s the most liberating choice anyone can make.

Again, it all boils down to how it looks from where you’re standing.

If you see life on this earth similar to the one of gold fish, ‘live, die, flush, new one’, nothing Muslims do or believe in would make sense to you or anyone else for the matter. No amount of ‘grit’ or ‘achievements’ will count as significant anyway, right? And like duh, of course they’d seem ‘oppressed’ to say the least (I’d use more colorful language but you know LOL). Except Muslims see a life beyond this life, for they believe in Allah’s promise of a huge reward. They believe in justice and let’s face it, what’s happening in this world is nothing but.

So we resist the pulls and lures of this life and keep our eyes on the goal of attaining paradise in the Hereafter. We persevere with this inner battle between our ‘present self’ and our ‘future self’. We ponder on the amazing words in the Holy Qur’an and revel in its truths no matter how many people try to distort it with lies.

 

Once you approach the Holy Qur’an with the humility to learn and understand, you won’t be able to ‘un-see’ what you see.
You’ll find the truth that will purify and free your soul.
You’ll find the answers you need to reach that ‘inner peace’ you’re yearning for.

Once you believe in something so much that it runs in your veins, you won’t really care what other people think.

You’ll stand up for what you believe in, even if you have to do it alone.

If that’s not the ultimate liberation, well….
I don’t know what is….

 

 

All my love,
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

 

 

You’ll Be Surprised Today

Throwback hajj 2015

Day Seven Diary:

 

“Allahu Akbaro Kabeera…

Wal Hamdulellah Katheera…

Wa Sobhan Allah bokratan wa aseela…”

The Eid chant has such a sensational vibe. We said it all the way to Mena where we are supposed to stay for three days. We heard about the hundreds of people who died in the Hajj stampede earlier, may God bless their souls, and I think deep down we are all worried about the coming three days of stoning satan.

May Allah make it easier for us all…

I miss Madina! Outside the Holy Ka’bah, life is a bit harsh. People here are more strict I guess. I was wearing a white abaya yesterday with a soft golden trim, and the mosque guard scolded me! He said women should only wear plain black abayas! What the…?

But Alhamduallah the tawaf was easier than we thought, and I made Duas for all of you at the Hijr of Ismail, 10 inches away from Ka’bah!

Zzzzzzzzzzz

Huh? What?

OMG I think I dozed off for a second! I’m so sorry! Please don’t fire me from the representative job!

Anyways, we still have three days to go and I’m honestly super exhausted. We all are! But we are taking care of each other. Women offer each other water, medicine, fever patches & and soothing hugs. It’s like we are all one family.  Aya, my sister in law said something that made so much sense:

“Look at the pillars of Islam, the intensity of physical effort increases with each pillar. Like the shahada is the least and the Hajj is the most physically tiring. But it works the other way with spirituality. It takes a huge amount of faith to say the shahada from the heart, then it gets easier and easier up until the Hajj. Every single Muslim here is  eager to perform the Hajj by the book and do everything right. The joy of faith and spirituality probably comes as a package with the journey. It’s the Great Lord’s gift to His guests…”

 

It’s that joy that makes the effort and jihad of Hajj worth every second! Yeah, I liked that reflection a lot!

Okay everyone, let’s give Aya a big round of applause!

Now it’s your guys’ turn to represent us in Eid! Go enjoy our beautiful Islamic holiday. Go have fun and do something amazing today. That’s the whole point of Eid… It’s to pause the worry, anxiety and any sadness you might feel, and go out in the sun with your families… Laugh and joke and play games. Be a cheerful you this Eid…

 

You never know what might happen tomorrow. The roads are closed here coz they’re still hauling out the martyrs’ bodies….

Their loved ones will never see them again. They’re not going back home with us, and some of their families and friends will never know how much time they’ve spent raising their hands and making Duas for them here…

So go kiss your parents’ hands. Buy your spouse some flowers and chocolates and let your kids paint your face! Go out and make someone else happy… Bring some smiles and joy to the world around you. Tell your loved ones how much you love them. Call up your estranged cousins and let go of anything that’s upsetting you. Open your heart and wrap your loved ones with your arms… You’ll be surprised at the huge number of people who pray to see you happy… And the number of loved ones who truly need your warm embrace…

 

Have a wonderful blessed Eid….

I’ll miss you all so much…

All my love…

Lilly S. Mohsen 

 

Are You The One?

Throwback Hajj 2015
Published on On Islam

door kabah.jpg

Hajj Diary: Day Five

Turns out they weren’t kidding when they said we wouldn’t have time to breathe. After eight long hours in the bus, we finally arrived in Mecca in a state of Ihram. We chanted “Labayk Allahuma Labayk” the whole way! And it was SO nice!

We also stopped at a very primitive, hygiene-deficient, dungeon of a rest house to pray and use the bathrooms! But can we please not talk about this part? Call me spoiled but I think I’m scarred for life!

I’ll save you the gory details. Just know you guys are lucky to be heart-Hajjis when it comes to this part of the journey!

No I mean it, we are not gonna talk about it! End of story. (Hey! You! No debating in Hajj!)

Anyways, once we arrived at the hotel, someone pushed the fast-forward button on our journey, and the new catch phrase became: “Come on let’s go let’s go LET’S GO!”

We headed off to the haram to start the rites of Hajj and to be perfectly honest, walking into the Holy place and seeing the cranes, construction workers and annoying partitions, I suddenly felt a bit disappointed. I kept my head down as my brother miraculously infiltrated us through the huge crowd, and then when we finally reached the tawaf area, I felt like a soft invisible hand slowly lift my chin up… And my eyes were glued open…

I saw it…

The Ka’bah…

And the glorious magnificent sight of it pierced right through my heart with a million rays of shimmering light…

No matter how many times you’ve visited Mecca. Seeing the Ka’bah each time is exactly like seeing it the first time!

How can I explain this?

If Madina is peace and serenity, Mecca is…

Intense… Powerful… Awe-inspiring! Especially in these blessed days….

Even the imam welled up during Isha prayer and choked on his tears while reciting Quran out loud from the intensity of the soul-captivating energies emitting from the beautiful House of God…

(Wait, I’m not sure if that was a secret. But we all heard him, so that’s not gossiping right?)

A little bit later, amidst the heat waves of summer nights in Mecca, it started to rain…

I think even the sky is overwhelmed by the yearning hearts coming from all around the world to please Allah… The Most Merciful…

Sometimes I wonder if non-Muslims watch the rituals of Hajj on TV and think we are a bunch of cucko-heads dressed in white towels and doing ring-a-roses around a black box!

Let them think what they want…

Because what we feel now is worth a lifetime of bliss. What we see and do and say is done with love beyond measures…

What we believe in is what keeps us grounded, hopeful and at peace…

At this exact moment… Some people are off partying wildly somewhere. They’re living it up and chasing meaningless, temporary pleasure. But the minute they’re alone with their hearts, they cry out screams of despair. They feel empty inside… Running after a mirage with no goal or end in mind.

But here…

Once you’re done each ritual, oh the feeling you get… It’s surreal… It’s like drinking cold water on a hot sizzling day or finding a loved one safe after an earthquake….

There’s no emptiness here… Only joy and peace…

Close your eyes and feel the vibes of blessings coming down from the sky. Push the fast forward button on your busy life and tell me… How would you like your story to end?

Or rather where would you like your eternal life to begin…?

Being here in this Holy place gives us a new perspective… That man in wrinkled and torn clothes praying next to you, and that old woman sleeping on the floor coz she has no place to stay… All these people lifting their hands up to the Great Lord… I paused and eavesdropped on their prayers, knowing they probably have a lot to ask. But they’re not asking for fancy cars or money to buy a new laptop or designer purses. Sit here and listen to the whispers and feel their hot desperate tears…

They’re all asking for one thing… For Allah to love them…

That’s it…

For Allah to accept them as His salves…

I swear I feel so small and insignificant here…

And the only thing that keeps me hopeful is that I have all your hearts here with me…

Perhaps one of you is so beloved to Allah that for his or her sake, He will generously accept us all…

Maybe because of a sincere intention or a loving teardrop or even a kind word, Allah chose you amongst His beloved slaves…

Millions of prayers could be answered tonight because of one beloved heart…

Your heart…

So look inside it and tell me…

Are you the one…?

 

Your Hajj Representative
Lilly S. Mohsen

 

See you tomorrow in Arafat ishAllah. Don’t miss out on fasting on this beautiful blessed day…

Don’t Tempt Us!

Throwback hajj 2015
Published exclusively on On Islam

Hajj Diaries: Day Four

“Here’s a not-so hypothetical question!” I looked at my brother Mohamed with one eyebrow up. “You know, hundreds of pilgrims die cramped in the humongous crowd of Mena during the stoning ritual. If your wife and I fall, who will you save?”

“I guess that’s why God gave me two strong arms! So I can lift you both up at the same time!” He replied.

“Well played Mohamed….”

Other than understanding why women need a mehrem, evidently for situations like this one, I have learnt so much about the wisdom and blessings behind Hajj and umrah this year, and one of them is that it brings people closer. Up to five or six people a room, you spend day and night together and so a special bond is created that nothing and no one can break. Ask anyone about their Hajj companions and they’ll smile from ear to ear for half an hour first before replying!

I’m staying with my brother and sister-in-law, and at the airport I was delighted to meet a few of my dear cousins, too. We left our kids, families and loved ones behind… And in this beautiful place, after Allah, we have no one but each other…

So this is basically how the day goes: We pray Maghreb at the mosque and read Quran till Isha prayer then go back to hotel for dinner. We usually return to the Holy mosque again for some peaceful remembrance of Allah (dhikr) and come home exhausted, shower and sleep for two to three hours. We open our eyes with the sound of a VERY insistent alarm clock, all sleepy and groggy we debate and negotiate for a good twenty minutes on who should get up first to make wudu and give the other two a chance to sleep five minutes longer. We then head off to pray Fajr and stay in harram till sunrise to pray duha and go back to hotel for breakfast. This is when we sleep for another three to four hours and then go to the Holy mosque to pray Dhur then Asr prayer.

People are more connected with their inner beings here. They really and truly want to do everything right. The women at the mosque are very friendly and kind hearted.  While most of my loved ones have figured out how much of a cry baby I am by now, strangers still haven’t. So random women come up to me while I’m making duaa, offer me a tissue and ask if I was okay. I think I cried on half of the female Hajji population’s shoulders this year! There’s a unity of Islam during these days… The kind of unity that can make us the most powerful and respected ummah in the universe….

Anyways, now that my crying secret is our. Let me prepare you for the scary part of the journey, the stoning of satan, where millions of pebbles (and sometimes flip flops!) fly right over your head. Even though it still happens on the 10th of Dhul Hajjah, I thought we should talk about it now, you know, just in case some one misses the pillars and stones me! If that happens, know that I’ll miss you all and that my will is in the second drawer of my nightstand. Please tell my kids that I love them and that it was me who ate all the chocolates that day when I pretended they had gone missing!

Okay back to the “stoning of the devil” ritual. Pilgrims throw seven pebbles on three different pillars representing Satan for three consecutive days. Most of us know the story behind it, right? When Allah ordered Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son Prophet Ismail, and on their way to carry out the unbearable task, satan appeared three times in the same locations of today’s three pillars. Prophet Abraham stoned satan when he tried to convince him not to kill his own son! Until the third time, satan is knocked down like a silly idiot!

But did we ever think of the wisdom behind the story? I mean, we say it so casually!

Can I ask you something? Do you have a son or a daughter? One you’ve waited years for, and watched grow into an amazing, obedient loving boy or girl ? Do you have a beloved nephew or niece who bring so much joy to your heart? A dear child whose laughter is the only sound that keeps you going?

Would you be able to sharpen a knife and put it to your child’s throat? Would you be able to look in his or her eyes, knowing it would be the last time…

The last time to kiss them and hold them and breathe in their scent…?

And even more so, would you stone and curse the person who tries to stop you saying “Wait! How can you not have mercy on your own child? You must be hallucinating! God would never order you to end the life of an innocent pure boy!”

If God ordains it… Would you really kill your own flesh and blood, your mom or dad or offspring and then live with the grave memory forever?

I’ll give you a minute to think about it…. But I want you to be honest with yourself…

Coz this is what “Ram’y Al Jammarat” is all about… Sacrifice…

It’s about understanding the reason behind your existence … Submitting to the will of God no matter what it is… The mission is total submission… “Islam”

God won’t ask you to slaughter your own child to test your faith. But he might take something away from you. A loved one… Money… Health… A safe home…

We all have something missing or will face a great loss one way or another… And then the devil will come to counteract…

You might be poor, and satan will come in the form of unlawful wealth…

You might be single, and satan will come in the form of passion and love out of wedlock…

You might be lonely or insecure, and satan will come in the form of devious friends who live to drink and smoke up

You might be needing something and satan will intercede to offer it beautifully wrapped up. Unless you close the door in his face and swallow the key, temptation WILL overcome submission…

Prophet Abraham was willing to give up what he loves the most for the sake of Allah… He was willing to sacrifice his Ismail…

If you had to… And if the One who holds your life in His hands wills it, would you give up your desires, dreams, wealth, pleasures or loved ones…?

Would you sacrifice your Ismail…?

 

Your Hajj Representative

Lilly S. Mohsen 

 

Walk The Walk With Me

Throwback, Hajj 2015
Published exclusively on On Islam

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Hajj Diaries: Day Three

Life is so very different here. The city literally pauses five times a day, at the beautiful sound of the call to prayer. Everything closes down completely and the Holy mosque is the only place vibrating with life. You’d be talking to someone all absorbed in an important conversation, and then suddenly you both stop, face the Qiblah, and start walking. As if we are spiritually hypnotized. I can talk about this Holy place forever, but someone just tapped me on the shoulder, inviting the whole Hajj group to the meeting room for instructions on the rites of Pilgrimage. I gotta go!

(Pssssstttttt one more thing! The mosque is surrounded with pigeons all day, and yet you NEVER see any bird droppings! Coincidence? I think not!!)

Okayyyyy I’m coming! Sorry guys, I really gotta go!

 

The leader quiets us down and then starts explaining. Of course you’re part of the group! You’re heart Hajjis this year, right? Come on in

“Attention people! Listen up!

Starting the 9th of Dhul Hajjah, you barely have time to breathe! The rites of Hajj will commence one after the other so fast it will make your head spin! And yes, say goodbye to sleep! (Yeah, Hajj is a form of Jihad. What did you guys except?)

But don’t panic. Please take your seats while I explain the process briefly. There’s snacks and refreshments in the hall on your way in, so please help yourselves…

Okay so here it goes:

Step one: Begin Ihram and head off to Umrah

Circumambulation:

I often wondered why we walk around the Kaabah seven times in an anti-clock wise motion. But this year, being your Hajj representative and all, it was time to get some answers!

Do you ever walk into a place, like a green park or a white room, take a deep breath, and say “wow I feel so peaceful here”

Okay, multiply that by a gazillion times and you’ll understand what’s it like to be near the Kaabah. The House of God is located on a blessed spot, in the zero magnetism zone. Once you circumambulate around it anti clock wise, the same direction the entire universe rotates, your whole system is charged with positive energy.

The layers of earth are seven, so are the heavens. And just like each key has a different number of ridges to open a certain door, I personally believe, rotating around the Kaabah seven times opens the doors to a blessed life on earth and an eternal abode in Paradise…

Saei: Walk The Walk

Next comes the seven walks or the “saei” between mount Safa and mount Marwa, another rite of umrah and hajj. It is to honor lady Hajjar, who walked the seven walks hoping to find water for her thirsty baby, and then behold! The eternal blessed spring of Zamzam erupts.

The word “saei” roughly translates to: the effort exerted to attain something great. Is that perhaps a reflection of our lives too? We do “saei” every day, working hard to do good deeds and avoid sins. Life is just an attempted effort to reach our version of “divine water in the middle of the desert”. We walk the walk in life, knowing that one day, we will be rewarded  too… With eternal paradise inshallah

Once you’re done both sets of walks, you go drench your heart and soul with Zamzam water and pray two rakas then prepare for Arafat, the best day in the history of days…

But wait…

Don’t go…

Take a minute to listen to the sound of the surreal silence of this “overcrowded with millions of people” Holy mosque…

Stare at the Ka’bah…Quench this thirst in your soul you never knew existed till this moment.

The feeling you have now, seeing it up close and personal can never be described in human words…

It’s a mix of awe, shock, serenity, security, and detachment from the world. You feel your soul is being slowly disconnected from your body and tied with an eternal bliss to this beautiful velvet covered House of God.

The rush of emotions in this place is overpowering…

And it makes me wonder… If a place on earth is so heavenly to the point that you wouldn’t wanna blink and miss a second of its view… If the reality of being near the Ka’bah is more enchanting and captivating than any dream… I wonder…what is paradise like…?

 

Your Hajj Representative

Lilly S. Mohsen

Hajj Diaries: Lilly In Mecca

Throwback, Hajj journey 2015
Published exclusively on On Islam

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Day One Dairy: Friday

Can I Represent You For 7 Days?

Before you answer that question let me tell you something:

There’s approximately 1.8 Billion Muslims in the world today. And because of the capacity limit of the great Holy mosque in Mecca, only 3 million people out of the 1.8 billion can perform Hajj every year. If you do the boring math, you’ll realize that’s only 0.0016% of the Ummah. If you do more boring math, you’ll be shocked to know, that even if every Muslim gets a fair chance to fulfill their Hajj obligation, which is one of the main pillars in Islam, they’d have to wait more than a hundred years for their turn. Some people will live and die before having the chance to perform Hajj! Not because they’re sick or old or can’t afford it! But simply because of capacity limitations. Now that really sucks, doesn’t it?

Millions of Muslims apply for Hajj visas every year and get rejected. Millions can’t afford it, can’t take a leave from work, have little kids they can’t leave behind or are physically unable to travel. I know Hajj is only an obligation for those who are able, but just looking at these number and odds, it doesn’t seem fair to me! Less than 1% of Muslims get to be reborn through Hajj, sometimes every year, while others have zero chance!

 

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) on a Jihad journey, said “We left many Muslims behind and yet they’re with us in every step and share the same rewards. All because they wished to join us but couldn’t…”

 

Is there perhaps a different kind of Hajj that you can do EVERY single year with your heart, and get the same reward of those who are physically there? Is your sincere intention and longing to please the Lord, enough to fulfill this one, out-of-reach pillar?

Yes, I think so too… Coz Allah is Fair, and He’s the Most Merciful

Try as you may, you’ll never understand the virtue and value of the first ten days of Dhul Hajjah, whether you’re in Mecca or at home. If you’re one of those people, who turn on the TV and watch the floods of white-dressed pilgrims circumbulate the Kaa’ba and hear your heart cry out “Awwwhhh I WISH I WAS THERE”

Then welcome! I’m glad to tell you, you’re in the right place. Please leave your heart in the Lobby along with your consent for me to take it with me. My name is Lilly. S Mohsen, and I will be your representative for the next 7 days inshAllah.

Did I mention I’m one of those lucky 0.016%?

Okay wait, don’t start mumbling jealous words yet. I’m sitting here in the beloved’s mosque in Madina, overwhelmed and humbled by this gift from Allah, and wishing you were all here with me….then I thought “you all can!”

All you need to do is have the intention. A true sincere and genuine intention to come to Hajj this year, have all your past mistakes deleted and start over a new page.

No cheating guys! I’m in a holy place, remember? I’ll know if your intentions are from the heart or not and then you’ll be SO busted! (Actually I won’t know. But I’ll still pretend I do!)

 

All I’m asking is for you to let go of the worldly distractions for a few days. Believe it with every cell in your body that this year, you can do Hajj with your heart…

 

As for me, I’ll walk you through the journey inshAllah during the coming days, which Allah testifies are the best days of the year and the most loved to Him. I’ll take your hearts with me every where I go, and on judgement day, if you’ve never had the chance to do your Hajj physically, I’ll be your faithful witness that in 2015, you came with your heart…

 

There’s a reason Allah inspired me with this thought, right here, sitting next to His beloved’s house. There’s a reason you’re reading this now and your heart is being opened slowly…

Perhaps it’s the only reason Allah invited me to His house, knowing how imperfect and undeserving I might be of this huge honor…

It’s because Allah loves you… And right now… He is looking at your heart…

 

May Allah accept your spiritual Hajj…

Let’s get this beautiful journey started…

 

Your Hajj Representative

Lilly S. Mohsen