Month: January 2012

10 Things I Have Learned as a Naqibah

As I recall, I have been conducting religious circles since secondary school under different organisations – Alhamdulillah for the opportunity, and there are a number of things I have learned over the years, some times the hard way.

1. You can’t give what you don’t have. One must equip oneself first – which means increasing one’s effort to pursue knowledge. During my university years, I have seen so many opportunities for this, whether on a structured learning channels (private institution the likes of AlKauthar and AlMaghrib for instance) or the one-off tazkirah sessions, knowledge-sharing sessions etc. Nevertheless, as a consolation, as one shaykh said during Twins of Faith conference – we know more than what we need to become a good muslim(and often it boils down to acting upon what we know), so why shy away from sharing?

2. Do not become a parrot. Often, nuqaba’ (plural form for naqib/naqibah) who involve in a formal system will have a syllabus to follow, and will first undergone a briefing/session themselves on the topics to be covered. Honestly, this is not something that I favour. One tends to parrot whatever one heard, hence his/her sessions later become another copy-and-paste, soulless knowledge impartment. Remember, what comes not from heart won’t touch  the hearts of the listeners. One good listener can see whether one issue has been fully digested by a speaker, or the speaker is just being superficial. I could not stress how important it is to seek knowledge from other sources, as in Point 1 above, and wisely integrate it with the syllabus you choose to follow, if any.

3. Read and be up-to-date. Especially on the current issues. This is in particular a problem with the girls, including me – who tend to be such a lazy bum when it comes to digesting news and current issues. During my student activism years, this has been a source of mockery for the boys . Force yourself to read the news. I still have to, and let me share you one thing I keep doing until now : make Google News your browser’s homepage. The least you could do is reading the headlines, and come on, won’t at least one or two headlines attract you into clicking and reading further?

Well, did I say at least read the headlines? Actually to be able to digest, analyse and form your own opinion is more desirable of course.

4. Conduct the session the way you like your own circle/naqibah to be. Sit down and think hard about your previous experience. What do you like about those sessions? What do you dislike about them? Was it that it has so many segments that they have become superficial and not deep enough? Was the session too one-way that all you do is listening without thinking?

5. Correct your intention and your mindset. We are no superior than those attending the circle we conduct. We are just a mere messenger, but surely this should not hinder us from working towards betterment of ourselves, as one who involves in dakwah. This is a space for discussion, a safe space for people to raise the concerns and confusion, and seek help. It could be a group of people working together to get closer to Allah, not necessarily you leading them. I often see the opportunity of conducting such circles as a motivation, another BIG driver for me to practise what I preach, because the curse is upon me for saying things that I do not practise.

6. Be genuinely interested in people. Learn about them. Read psychology stuff if you must, about human behaviour for example. I know this is more challenging if you are born introvert, but remember, as one ustaz has one said, the more God-fearing you become i.e. the more religious you’re, the more people-inclined you should be. Why? Because Islam is never a religion that condones isolation or monastic living – many of our basic rituals involves societal elements, take zakat (paying of alms) for instance.

I read a book entitled Personality Plus by Florence Littauer a while ago, which I believe is quite beneficial and would suggest reading it. Of course, stereotyping is not necessarily good, but it makes understanding people and loving them for who they are a lot easier. I’ve been using this in my previous student organisation, and it has been quite useful in identifying who’d be happier doing what, based on their individual temperaments and personality.

7.  Bring the relationship outside the circle too. During the final year of my study, I was supposed to conduct two circles, and with time constraint that I have, it was rare that everyone in the circle can agree on a specific time to meet up. And that is not a problem – at all I’d say, unless you are like a teacher being pushed to finish your syllabus before the end of the year or something lame like that. I have always enjoyed my personal time off – be it going for a theatre or movies, or simply sipping a cup coffee in a coffee shop – and I try to include the girls in that, so I could talk to them and discuss things. It may not include everyone, and that’s fine with me because sometimes a one-to-one session can be more effective than a typical usrah session.

8. Keep reminding them the most important thing: Purpose of Life. In my life, I know I need to keep being reminded on my purpose of life – so that I could be consciously and continuously asking myself whether what I am doing (or to do) fits my purpose of life, and I believe, based on my experience, that everyone is aware of the purpose of living as set by our Creator.

9. We are not there as one who  feed them with fish. We are there as a motivator, one who suggest ways and motivate them to act on their own – ‘This is what you can do; if you want to learn about this and that, why don’t you go to this place; here’s a book I found interesting, maybe you’d want to read it as it suits your interest.’ Something like that. Let them grow according to their potentials and if we are wise enough to see the potentials, you might be able to suggest the way. That’s how mentoring works. And you are there, as I’ve said before, to encourage them to think, not to think for them.

10. Stop being self-absorbed. Do not feel down when some choose not to attend or be in your circles, because you are not really good anyway, and chances are that they find something worth spending their time on, rather than being in your circle. Perhaps they are attending a more beneficial learning session, or a course, or reading a more life-changing book, or writing a masterpiece – you’ll never know. Thank Allah for showing them the opportunities for doing so, because only He knows what is best for everyone, and stick to Point 7 above (so that you may learn from them too!).

Surely, some of my readers (if there is any actually) cannot relate to what I am saying above, but for those who could, I hope that reading it won’t waste your precious time – and I leave it to the girls in my circle to deliberate whether their encounters with me were in any way useful.

And God knows best!

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The Pinafore

English: 5 students from SJK(C)Perempuan Cina ...

I was driving this one day, trying to reach home as quickly as I could. My husband was fasting, I’d like to prepare a decent meal for his iftar – if I could not fast, why not reap the reward of preparing the food for those fasting. But then upon entering Jalan Sentul I was slowed down by a motorcyclist. Hormonal as I was, I was almost about to honk him (it was a two lane road, and he was in the middle of those two) but I was softened by his co-rider – his son. He was clad in a blue school uniform, wearing his helmet and seems too small to be a school prefect for me.

I did not honk.

Here’s a father, fetching his child from school, probably riding it slow for the safety of his son, and he must be damn proud for his son to be chosen as a school prefect – he might as well just chosen as one for this new term! Surely that father is excited.

I knew a bit how that feels when my only nephew is off to school – well, to kindergarten actually, he’s only 5. I called my sister twice on his first day, and continued to call again the next day. It was a new experience for him my nephew, and I could not be more excited for that.

And now that I’m almost there into parenthood, I can feel the regret my father felt some 20 years ago, on the first day of my primary schooling.

It was going to be my first day at school, in Year 1, and though I am the second child, my father was still excited for that. I could not recall being overwhelmed by the fact that I was going to school I suppose – I frequented it a lot since my mother taught at the same institution, so it was rather a safe space for me. I have left pre-school for a year (I only went to pre-school when I was five, and too bored to go again the next year since I already knew how to read and such).

I choose to wear a pinafore to school, just like my sister who was four years older, and my parents were happy to obliged – they in fact did not go for the ready-made cotton pinafore they could always buy at the stores, but instead went on to purchase a kind of fabric, a slightly more expensive one, the one which won’t dull over time and sent it to a seamstress.

And then came the day we were to collect the pinafores, all three or four of them as I recall, from the seamstress.

They did not turn alright.

The seamstress was tempted by the fabric to make the cutting of the pinafore a bit more flared – ‘kembang payung’ she termed it, to my father’s disgust. And surely he has the right to feel so, because he specifically requested a normal design for her daughter – it’s a school uniform for God’s sake, and he’s the customer who is always right!

Then came the long, heated argument, and even my mother could not calm him down. Maybe it’s the pride (‘I told you I wanted something else, but you give me something else’), or I just looked really ugly in those that ,y father refused to pay nor take the pinafore.

We just left.

And I started my schooling days wearing my sisters’ uniform (as time has run out), which you could not tell if it’s already four years old and used (thanks to the fabric) feeling indifferent to it at all (and pretty much could not figure out what the fuss about the ‘kembang payung’ navy blue pinafore or the need for a new uniform for that matter!). But my father’s remorse still lingered, pitying me for having to resort to my sister’s old uniform on the first day at school – and I think I have said ‘I don’t mind’ so many times, I still thought it was never enough.

I still could see the pinafores whenever I passed by the seamstress’ shop for months, and still wonder why my father made a big deal out of it. There’s nothing special about my first day at school as far as I could recall, but this is what I do remember – the pinafore story that stuck in my mind, and only recently can I de-puzzle – it is just the urge parents have, to give the best they could for their offspring and to never ever settle for anything less than that, that drove my father mad about it that day.

Word-less Friday : Common Sense

I just choose to ignore it!

I think it’s either you don’t have common sense, or like Calvin, you choose to ignore it.

I’ve learned recently that some people just lack common sense in working life.

You know, simple things like you shall not bypass the chain of command, always refer to your superior first (even if you are given the independence to figure it out on your own – well, unless the organisation you are working for operates on a more liberal basis. And sometimes lacking this kind of common sense costs you your job. I believe it is more about respecting them and for the fact that our superiors are accountable for most of the things that we do.Perhaps what we termed as ‘common’ (i.e. derived from common experience) is not common at all. So maybe we should not judge that much?

And by the way, my partner said I DO lack common sense too. But I guess my answer is like Calvin’s : I have plenty, I’m just too lazy to use them!

The Whole 9 Months

Note: This post was written in two parts, both at separate times, weeks ago.

I figured out, maybe I should start writing about my pregnancy beyond the tweets and Facebook status updates.

When I knew I was pregnant, 7 weeks at that time, I know I should be ready for a less-than-smooth pregnancy, solely because in general I inherit more of my mom’s genes more than anyone else in my family, which could potentially mean I’d face a relatively rough first pregnancy. My mother had a 9-month-long morning (however misleading that term is) sickness, accompanied with occasional bleedings.

The bedside reading for the whole 9 months. A favourite of my 4-year-old nephew too.

On the other hand, knowing this actually makes me less panicky. I had my share of bleeding on the 8th & 9th week of pregnancy. There was one time I had that while my mom was around, then I showed to her what happened, she told me it is nothing – it’s just a little stain, hers forced her to wear pads, but nevertheless advised me to seek the doctor advice should it happened again. It did happened again, and the fetus was very much alive at its 9th week when I went for the emergency check-up.

In between attention and warm wishes from those around me, I’d say, there were and still are tearful parts of the story. Of course I could not be anymore grateful for this blessing, but I am just human.There were nights spend where the Partner would be surprised with my random tears – which normally a result of mixed feelings: helplessness, exhaustion, frustration and all – and had to spend time comforting me.

And there were no morning (yet) in which I woke up without this nauseous feeling, and there was rarely a night in which I lie on my bed trying to sleep without the same feeling wondering if it would ever go away (and it seemed forever at that time I told you!)

Of course I had that pregnancy leg cramps too. It was a mixture of coordinating a three-day event which saw me running here and there (in two of the days in heels even!) and the lack of water and salt, which had me waking up in the middle of the night, for the first time, screaming in pain and almost bursting into tears as my calf just would not cooperate with me – it just could not stretch! And my Partner was there, as he always is, awaken by the night scream asking if everything alright. And funnily the pain subsided in seconds – he must have thought it was just a nightmare I was having.

Most of the time, I am left feeling helpless. I could not eat as I would like to. There’s no formula on what I could stomach and what I could not, the tummy has its own mood. I had to forget nasi lemak for a month and half (which I would have everyday previously if I could), and learn to live without rice (which I crave a lot before this), and most of what I ate just come out again and before anything I will be there exhausted and running out of energy to even lift a spoon, literally. There’s surely no fun in having to face the toilet bowls in random places, and to face the disappointment that all the food that I have just swallowed a few minutes ago are already down in the drain, and I’m going to face the hunger again.

And no, salty crackers don’t help when you are too hungry.

Being energy-less means it is getting more challenging to drag myself to do housework – and you can only imagine how much of share has been transferred to the Partner, who could not be any more accommodating. When I thought he’s probably already dreading the idea of me getting pregnant for at least another two times, he answered: ‘I don’t mind, it depends on you really.’How could I be ungrateful for such an answer?

If people ask me how I was doing, I’d say I’m alright for a pregnant woman – it’s a pregnancy with textbook symptoms: sickness, constipation, leg cramps, diarrhea, exhaustion, heightened sense of smell – so that means I am alright, am I not?

All praise be to Him indeed.

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Today marks the day my pregnancy turns 16 weeks, all Praise to Him.

If you can figure out what this little fellow is doing, let me know!

I told my husband a few days back that I have forgotten the suffering I had to endure a few weeks back when I had to hug the toilet bowls (which I still do now occasionally, but due to all different reasons). I guess that is exactly what people have been saying all this while – giving birth to a human is painful, but one can forget the pain within minutes (well, include the miraculous hormone that causes amnesia – oxytocin)

Approaching 15 weeks, I actually feel a lot better. I wake up in the mornings only too happy to prepare breakfast (a routine I have abandoned for almost 2 months, largely due to the fact that I didn’t have any idea what I actually could stomach and too weak ) for the Partner before we are off to work.

The appetite comes back, but luckily my body warns me earlier that I should not eat like pig as binge-eating means I’d be kissing the toilet bowl again in no time. I lost almost 4kg during my first trimester, and now I might need to catch up.

The belly gets bigger, and though I am happy to don baju kurung everyday, the skirts are often too tight I have to half-zip it.

The leg cramps are still there and so do faintness, dizziness, constipation,fatigue (super sleepy at 9pm, can you believe it?) and the latest, the round ligament cramps – but no I won’t whine.

I’m looking forward to weeks to come until I could see the resident of tummy – in God’s Grace, but in the mean time I have to agree Linda Wooten:

Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.

And all praise be to Him for giving me a chance for this!

My 2011 Wrapped Up

It's a wrap!

I missed last year’s personal review – with no excuse – and I thought this year is so monumental I could not afford not recording it. So here I am, trying to write down, in brief, how 2011 passed…

1. I got married

This beats anything else I suppose. I plight my troth before Allah to this man named Wan Mohd Hafizuddin W Husain at 11 o’clock in the morning of 2 July 2011, at Masjid Jamek Beseri, Perlis. I wish I could say that he’s lucky to have me as his wife (and I’ll make sure he’d feel so!) because really, he is such a blessing to me, All praise to Him. I had a number of friends asking how we two met, and I think I’m going to write about it soon.

Sometimes as I reflect upon my life, it seems so funny that a year before that I really have not thought of being someone else’s other half – and within a year I have changed my status. People might say things were moving too fast for me, that we only barely knew each other (Really? Often I feel that we’ve married for years instead!), but when you know what you want making such decision is not hard. At all.

Years ago I had imagined how sad it would be to depart with my single life, but I guess, when the right person comes at the right time, things fall into place and you can only get excited for the days to come.

So as I said, the year 2011 marks the year I found a partner, for both my life here and hopefully the one in His Paradise insha Allah.

2. I’m pregnant

Ha! The next best thing that happened this year is the fact that I have become a mother! Me, with all the selfishness in me can you believe it – is a mother, well, based on the saying that “A woman becomes a mother when she gets pregnant, a man becomes a father when he sees his baby”.  I wrote a specific entry reciting how I found out I am pregnant here , and really, everything else seems so tiny against this one!

By now, 20 weeks into pregnancy, this little creature is happily kicking me from inside, and let me tell you, that’s one weird sensation.

And becoming a mom comes with not only this happy feeling (though this one is more prevalent). It is twinned with a lot of other things – anxiety (Will I be a good parent? Is the baby healthy?), pain (oh yeah, this one include the leg cramp I suffered the other night!), and of course, a whole new discipline I need to push myself to master – parenting which gets me all geared-up.

On a side note, I love being pampered as a pregnant lady – be it by the patient husband (waking up almost instantly as I scream out of my leg cramp pain, the daily foot massage, breakfasts-in-bed, the comforting hugs and in general, the sympathy – May Allah grant him Jannah for his kind deeds), or from my friends and colleagues. And also, I reckon I bonded with my own mother better now that she had a lot more to share with me as a mother – which added a new dimension to our relationship.

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Those are the major events that happened, so when you put these two against the rest, others seem unimportant by several orders of magnitude. But for the sake of this entry, I shall put it anyway, just for the record

1. I got engaged

We were engaged in the eye of God on the day we agreed to be married to each other in the future, but the ‘official’ ceremony (if it is so to be called) was precisely two months before we tied the know, on the 1 May 2011. Though there was a ring on my finger, it did not feel any different at all I assure you, but the physical ceremony was indeed a happy memory for me with all my family members coming together for the occasion (and I could remember the sadness in my father’s eyes just the next morning when everyone was leaving).

 2. The big purchase

It was him who injected the idea of owning a house before we were married – because as short-sighted as I am, I never include a house in my wish list as a single, unmarried person. With him being very money-savvy, and me, who once bought the idea of owning a house to live in (not invest) became a lot more fussier (How is the parking area, is the bedroom big enough, how is the neighbourhood, where’s the dumping area, where will the sunlight come from, is the house elderly-friendly, how long will it take to drive to work and so on), hence wonder not why it took us almost a year to find one that satisfies us. It took numerous house-viewings – I took the advice that you should view at least 50 houses before buying one – and towards the end, when I was flooded with progesterone which caused morning (or to be exact, all-day) sickness I could not accompany the Partner to any of those that I could not help but praying hard that the One will find us soon.

But it all ended when we signed the agreement on the fifth mensiversary (please assume this word is accepted), and let’s hope by March we will be ready to entertain you in our new home, God willing!

 3. Career

This could not be any more satisfying. I had some down times too, but in essence I still cannot find any reason to find another job. If I were to work and have a career, my policy is that it should be meaningful and lead to a greater good (in whatever sense it could be, according to my view) – or else I should just stay at home. Hence money is not (and I hope it will never be) presence in the equation, I am pretty much happy with how much I earn and it always seems to be more than enough (especially after I got married). I bet when you have a superior who subscribes to the same work-life balance principle, sees and recognises you and your ability, allows rooms for you to keep learning and being supportive all along you could not just help but being thankful.

 4. The beaches

The upside of being married is you have a partner to travel with, and lucky me, I found someone with similar travelling principles (not a camera whore is the major criteria) – not that I was specifically looking for that trait in a prospective husband before. As he’s pretty much ‘makhluk air’ as my friends and I would have termed it, we are easily entertained by beaches. We were hoping to go to some eastern coast islands, but the wedding was in July, and since August is the fasting month, and September was pretty much filled with so many occasions, we could not find time for the getaway. Came October those islands are not fit for visitors anymore.

Nevertheless, in between receptions we managed to hop on the ferry to Langkawi Island (which is approximately 1.5 hour away from my parents’ house), dropped by Port Dickson and Tanjung Bidara on our ways to friends’ weddings (even a short break listening to the sound of waves on a sandy beach suffices at times) and yes, the ad-hoc trip Pangkor Island. It all started with ‘Dear, can we go to Pangkor this weekend? I need a break.’ on a Thursday and on that Saturday I was already overwhelmed by the amazing view of the Island, thanks to my ever-understanding partner.

I guess those were the highlights for the year 2011 from one dimension of my life, if I were to look into typical life milestones that is. On the spiritual and intellectual aspects, perhaps I could say there were improvements, but I guess I will keep that in my personal journal. All I can say is that, even in these two areas, having a husband, partner, best friend, whatever you wish to call him, makes it all easier.

I pray for a better year in 2012 for each of – one filled with blessings and forgiveness from the Lord All-Mighty insha Allah whether we live through it or leaving it in the middle.