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Why I Will Never Give an “IG Celebrity” Free Stuff

I struggled writing this article because I have always used my own reflections and stories to share lessons that I have learnt and this particular sharing is not one that I have personally experienced but one that I see has been happening a lot lately – a really disturbing and weird “trend” – of young girls (i.e. “Instagram Celebrities) “endorsing” brands or “reviewing” labels after getting free products from business owners. At first I thought these forced “OOTDs” posts were just off-putting, but after speaking to some girls about it, I realised that the situation is quite worrying.

Before I started to write this post, I wanted to sincerely hear opinions and collect thoughts from sisters across various backgrounds – sisters who were the everyday consumers – the girl-next-door, sisters who were entrepreneurs themselves and sisters who are, what some of us would say an “IG Celebrity” (most of us would define an IG Celebrity as one who has amassed a huge following on the platform and one that has successfully grown a community of “fans”). Hearing from all of them made me understand their point of views and perspectives, and I felt even more compelled to write this article as I personally feel that there’s a few things that we can do to make our community not judgy-judgy but one that is only filled with respect, self-worthiness, compassion, purpose and lots of sisterly love.

It all started when my youngest sister (she’s 14) told me very casually that she seldom posts anything on IG unless she was wearing something beautiful, or if she has something cool on to show because IG is more permanent whereas Snpachat (the platform that all younger kids are on now) is more temporary, “quick, and it vanishes in seconds” so no one has the chance to scrutinise your every outfit detail or comment on that pimple you have. Obviously I laughed it off, saying, “Kids these days!” and then a few days later I got a very heartfelt email from a Sister who told me that she is “stuck in this media world of wanting to be ‘popular’ to get sponsored. It was a depressing moment when all you have to do was to just put make up on and dress up & I could not keep up. I was unhappy. I soon realised that it was unhealthy.” The last trigger before I thought to myself that “I should really write something about this” happened last Sunday when I was in bed, cosying up and wrapped in my sheets, hiding away from the cold, impending winter, and I was on my IG’s (it’s like reflex isn’t it? to check it every few hours.) EXPLORE page and bam, every photo on that grid has a lady immaculately dressed – she’s either twirling or behind an “Instagrammable” wall, all fancy. Some were smiling, some has that “faraway gaze” but wow, were they all beautiful.

And being extremely curious, I clicked on one and the next and the other one and at first I was blown away by how many “likes” each post has garnered and then I asked myself, what does she do? Is she a writer? A teacher? An activist? Maybe an artist? A baker? A musician? Something????? But I couldn’t find anything substantial, nothing. Just OOTDs. And every caption I read is about a brand, or an Insta-Shop, or a label and how it’s a “shout out” and that all of us must check it out. And I was wondering… why? Because you told us to? Or because you truly, really believe in the products you are wearing, you know its roots, you know if it was made by a pair of hands, you can guarantee its made of the finest quality and you stand behind the brand one hundred percent because you are sure that it was made in ethical environments. Why are you really endorsing it?

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We can’t save everybody, even if we want to.

When I was fourteen, I had a teacher, Miss M. I didn’t know why she was on my case so much, my friends would sometimes tease that I’m her daughter, or her “most faaaaaavouriteeeee student”. One day, when she couldn’t come through to me no more, she called my mother down to school. She told my mother I was distracted in school, that I had a lot of potential, that I could actually be a writer, if only I focused. If only I didn’t mix with bad company. My mother was disapppointed in me, and needless to say, Miss M was not my favourite teacher, then. When I was 16, I mellowed down a little. Miss M was still teaching me, she taught me English Literature – my favourite subject in school. She was the first person who really kind of nudged me to explore writing. I never knew I could write at all. But she never gave up on me. She was always very strict with me, but she always told me, “Aida, you have potential. You do.” I never saw this “potential”. And then a few years back, I became a teacher myself. I taught Art at upper secondary level, and I saw so much potential in each and every one of my students’ eyes. But they didn’t see it – they were distracted too, just like I was. And a few months before my teaching stint ended, I picked up the phone and called up my old school.

“Hello. I was wondering, does Miss M still teach here?”
“Yes, she is! Would you like me to put you through?”
“Yes, please.”

I spoke to her. And I thanked her. I tried to keep it together, but my eyes were welling up. I asked if she remembered me, and she said, “It’s been a long time, but I think I do.” She asked me what have I been up to all these while – I told her I went to College, and took Literature, which I aced and then went to University, and I just came back from the UK and now I was on a teaching scholarship with the Ministry and I swear, I could hear her smile. She told me, “you know, students always call me up to invite me to their weddings! But this is a nice, different kind of phone call.” I do not talk to Miss M as much as I should, but I will always remember her with much fondness and gratitude. May Allah bless her with the highest level of Jannah for everything that she has done and sacrificed as a teacher.

You know what else Miss M taught me? She taught me, that you can’t save everybody at the exact time that you yourself want. We can guide the person, we can pray earnestly for her, we can constantly encourage him and keep telling him about his potential – but ultimately, Allah is the only One who can guide whom He wills, and at a time only He knows.

I know a few of us who wants to save everybody around us. I did too. I wanted to save every Sister I have had the honour of crossing path with. Every Sister who poured their hearts out to me, who tells me tales of love-lost and heartbreak – I wanted to reach out to each and every single one of them and tell them that everything will be ok. That it will all be fine, that in a few months, this pain, this intense, gratifying pain that they are feeling will only be a memory. I wanted to take them out, buy them flowers, bring them out on dates, be their companion, be everything that they need to take their mind off this one single person from the past – but despite everything, the one person who is the cause of their heartbreak is the only thing they want to talk about. The only thing they want to remember. The only thing they want to grasp on to. And I realised, after all this while, that the only way to “save” them is to give them time.

“Time, Aida. Give them time. All in due time, all in due faith, In Sha Allah”.

It is frustrating to see so much potential in somebody so special and so close to us but they themselves cannot see it. But we have to remember that it is not our right to “save” them, it is not up to us to change them – they have to change themselves. Allah aptly reminds us in the Quran that He will “not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves”. They have to go through the personally crafted plans and life-lessons that Allah has written for them, and if somehow we are chosen to be mediators in Allah’s grand scheme of things, then Alhamdulillah – that is an honour. But if we are not, and if it is not the right time for him or her to see her potential just yet, we have to be okay with it. Our role is to be their constant cheerleader, to always have them in our prayers, and to never, ever give up on them. Because that’s what Miss M (and every single soul who loves me for His sake) did for me.

And although we cannot save everybody, we can always save ourselves. And perhaps in our attempt to save ourselves, it may just inspire someone else to give their life a fresh new start, a second chance? In Sha Allah.

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Loving For Allah’s Sake

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Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “Seven are (the persons) whom Allah will give Shade of His Throne on the Day when there would be no shade other than His Throne’s Shade: A just ruler; a youth who grew up worshipping Allah; a man whose heart is attached to mosques; two persons who love and meet each other and depart from each other for the sake of Allah; a man whom an extremely beautiful woman seduces (for illicit relation), but he (rejects this offer by saying): `I fear Allah'; a man who gives in charity and conceals it (to such an extent) that the left hand does not know what the right has given; and a person who remembers Allah in solitude and his eyes well up”. – Al-Bukhari and Muslim.


The above Hadith Qudsi is one of my favourites. I always pray that I will be under His Shade on Judgement Day for loving the people around me fisabilillah (for Allah’s sake) but I always leave out the part about “depart(ing) from each other for the sake of Allah” – simply because I have no idea what it means.

As I grew older, my group of friends have definitely shrunk. There are many whom I have lost touch with and a few whom I have just stopped talking altogether due to many, many reasons of which the one most common justification from both sides is being waved over by the “busy-ness” of life and some, well, simply because we have outgrown each other… I used to be very affected by this, about how people come and go in your life at such rapid speed, one moment we are the tightest of friends, and the next, we are strangers.

I did not know what is the meaning of loving fisabillilah until only about a year ago, and even now, I am still very much learning the sheer gravity of uttering to someone that you love her for Allah’s sake. When you tell someone you love her for Allah’s sake, you cut yourself out of the equation altogether – your love for her is only to earn His pleasures, whatever you sacrifice for that friendship is not because you want something in return, or to even be acknowledged or to be recognised, but solely to attain His Love. And when you love someone for His sake, you will want the other party to be more blessed than you are, to be more successful than you are and to love for her more than what you love for yourself. When you love someone for Allah’s sake, you are kind and sincere and patient and you will correct and advise one another only because you want to see her closer to Him. She is in your prayers, in secret, and you are always protecting her name and her honour in her absence. Loving someone for Allah’s sake is the most purest and most selfless form of relationship, and when we profess that we love the other fisabilillah, our hearts should tremble in realization of the depth and profoundness of its meaning and implications.

When I started to grasp the universal truth that people enter and leave your life at the exact moment that Allah has willed, I started to breathe easy. And to accept the fact that no matter how close you used to be, there are reasons why you aren’t anymore. Sometimes these reasons are not known to you, yet, but always trust Allah and His plans for you. Perhaps by being together you would only hinder each other from being the best version of yourselves, or maybe by staying together, it would only create more harm than good. Whatever it is, only Allah knows and we have to have complete trust in His Wisdom.

I am not as affected when people choose to leave anymore. I would rather pull my efforts together to learn and fully love for His sake towards the people who are in my life right now, at this very moment, instead of harping on the past. Because I have come to learn that loving someone for Allah’s sake might not necessarily mean only loving them when they are right in front of you, but you can also love them in secret, through your constant prayers for them, and without harbouring any ill feelings or judgements even after you have parted ways. Maybe that is what leaving each other for Allah’s sake means.

May Allah make us of those who are blessed enough to bask in His Glory and in His Love, and may we be one of those who gives and receives love, only for Allah’s sake. Amin.

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Happy To Not Be Rich

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I was belting out to the classic Hall and Oates Song “Rich Girl” while working today in my studio and remembered thinking, “Ma Sha Allah, Im so happy I’m not rich”. That thought lingered throughout my entire day so I decided to sit down and take the time to muse about it longer, and to sort my thoughts out by writing down why I’m grateful for what I have and not a single dollar more.

There is a huge difference between being born into privilege and actually earning and deserving that privilege. I have mad respect for self-made millionaires and billionares because they gained and attained it themselves. They hustled, they pushed through and they brave on. I have a soft spot for dedication and hard work, more now especially since starting my own business. Because it is not easy to make it. It is easy to have a spark of an idea, to talk about it for hours, and to maybe even start. But to persevere, to stick it out for months when sales are abysmal, to take hard punches, to hear pessimism from your closest and dearest, and to live from hand to mouth – it ain’t easy.

But man do you learn. Hard.

I learn that money cannot buy me grit, money cannot buy me purpose nor can it buy me faith. No amount of dollar bills can buy me my voice, my story, my history. It cannot buy me loyal, unwavering, dedicated true friends and family and it cannot buy me love.

But I can. I can work damn hard, I can live each day carrying out my purpose and I can and I do believe with every fibre in my being that Allah is watching out for me and has the best plans for me. I have my identity, my principles and I can use my story to connect with souls who are also equally working hard and striving each day to be the best version of themselves. I can serve and I can help and I can be kind and yes, I can love and love and love.

Recently, I just finished doing an 8 weeks online course on how to start your own online business from scratch where I share and guide a group of young ladies on what I feel are important when you are just starting out. As part of the course, we had an individual 30 minutes Skype call where they can ask me anything and everything and the one question that I always get asked is, “How do you keep working on TSL and not burn out?”

I always answered the same thing.

I do not burn out because working hard is the only thing I know how to do. It is the only thing I can do. I am not rich, my husband is not rich, our families are not rich and if I do not work hard, we literally will not survive. Allah knows exactly what I need to carry out my purpose, to start this business and to serve girls that He purposefully and beautifully take away things from me so that He can give me with something that I need even more – the realisation and the utter clarity that I, can.

So I’m happy I’m not rich, that I do not have the safety net of affluence. Because I’ve never been so determined, so strong, and so proud of myself than I’ve ever been, today.

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All these feelings grown ups have

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I love this picture of my husband when he was a kid. He was only 4 years young and he just got discharged from the hospital as he broke him arm and scratched his chin (he had stitches) when he fell three levels down while trying to slide down the rails of the stairs (oh my god, such a naughty kid!).  But with a bag of chips in his hand, and a “like-a-boss” swagger, he had the biggest grin on his face! He had the cast on for two months and I asked him if he ever cried or regretted anything and he said, “I was a kid. I didn’t have feelings then!”

I laughed and kind of agreed how carefree we were when we were kids and when we “did not have feelings” – everything was so much simpler then! We forgive in a second and we forget we ever had an argument by lunch. We made friends with everyone as long as they do not pull our hair. We share things, we whisper secrets and we laugh more than we cry. It was quite simply, awesome!

And then we grew up, and suddenly we have all these feelings. There is that annoying one, called envy. And the one that is always lurking around, insecurity. Then there’s the whole family that constitute of Father Ungratefulness, Mother Anxious, Daughter Bitterness and Son Anger. We always throw the blame on our “circumstances” and our “responsibilities” when we find ourselves having these negative reactions. But we forget that we have the capability to balance all these emotions with positivity, to have fearlessness, courage and a huge dose of emphaty when the going gets tough (and trust me, it will get tough).

Do not get me wrong. I do realise the importance of having a plethora of feelings instead of just being constantly happy and jovial (that just gives me a picture of someone who is extra hyper, like an Energiser bunny – wow it must be tiring to always be that perky) because that is what makes us whole. I do not encourage feigning happiness if we are not feeling good because of certain reasons but what I do advocate and believe in is that no matter what happens in life, to always fall back on Allah and trust in His Love and Plans for us because that will always re-assure and comfort us. So even if we do feel vulnerable and small, we do not feel hopeless. Instead, we will be in the company of the beautiful teacher that is humility. And even if we have lost something or someone was taken away from us, we are not chained by remorse,  instead we will feel grateful for what we presently have and we learn to depend on Allah, and we surrender.

I believe feelings are good – even the not-so happy, but equally necessary feelings – like vulnerability, humility, the courage to resist to be “perfect” and to accept yourself for who you are. To just be. But be mindful and aware of which feelings you give strength to, and which emotions you allow to reign.

I have this photo of my husband right smack in front of me in my studio because this photo taught me that every one of us can be a trooper and to smile after a big fall (it also proves that having a bag of chips also helps the healing process, or ice-cream!). But I also have it up there as a reminder that unfortunate circumstances are going to happen in life – we just have to balance it out with equal doses of positivity, courage and reliance on Allah. If we do that, In Sha Allah, we will go through this journey in this world, just fine.

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How do you take care of yourself?

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My grandmother is 90 and she has forgotten a lot of things, including her own children’s names. Every day, she shrinks smaller and smaller, but never into oblivion as she still is quite charming and beautiful at her age, Ma Sha Allah. But you know what my grandmother never forgets? Her prayers and the Quran. During her younger days, she taught Quran to the children in the neighbourhood. I’ve always admired this about her. She taught my mother and in turn my mother has taught me – I can only pray that one day I will be half as good as them and to be able to teach my kids the Quran.

Recently, my mother told me a rather hilarious story about my grandmother that at the same time made my heart breaks. My mother told me that she went to visit my grandmother the past weekend, and as usual, she was not able to recognise my mom. Their conversation went like this:

Nenek to my mother (in malay): Oh, I have not seen you in such a long time! Where are you currently living?
My mother (who goes to visit her regularly): I live in Singapore now!
Nenek: Oh yeah? I heard you went to jail! You are out now?
My mother (extremely tickled, and a little confused, decided to go along with this notion): Yes, I am!
Nenek: Well, do you have a bed to sleep on? Weren’t you scared? If I were you, I would have run away!
My mother: But you can’t run away because the walls are high! And no, we slept on the floor! We had to do everything in a tiny room!
Nenek: Oh! But most importantly, can you pray in there? Did they let you perform your solat?

When my mother told me the story, we burst out laughing but after the euphoria has died down, I said, “I cannot imagine you not remembering me.” And my mother said, “yeah, I wonder how I would be when I get older…”, her voice trailing off.

The truth is, we are all getting older. And one day, the youth and the health that we take for granted now will slowly slip through the hands of time.

My grandmother worked really hard. She was up early every single day and she would get ready and prepare her kuihs so that she can sell them out on the streets in order to put food on the table for her family. On top of all the household chores and having to take care of her children (she had 6), she was also a wife. But my grandmother had her “me-time” when she spent those precious few hours teaching the children Quran. She was in her zone, it was what she was good at, and it was what she truly enjoyed. And after all these years, those re-assuring words of the Quran are still being uttered between her lips as she quietly sits in the corner of the room, unfazed by the bustling around her.

You know, I always want to help girls. It is something that I live for. The very thought of Allah using me as a mediator to help a Sister in need, warms me up so much. A simple “thank you” from a Sister that I’ve never had the chance to meet in real life, never fails to remind me why I do what I do every day and to put every single difficulty that I face into perspective. It fills me up – this act of service. It is something bigger than myself and it is something that I would love to do till my dying breath.

I also know many among us that loves to help. Many among us who wish to inspire and encourage others. But we cannot help anyone, if we don’t take care of ourselves first. We can’t give, if we are not whole ourselves first. Think about this. Why do you think airline safety videos always tells us to put the oxygen mask for ourselves first before helping others? Because we cant help, if we ourselves are not okay.

It’s that simple.

A few years back, I once asked a friend who was much older than I was how she kept herself happy despite playing so many roles that carries distinct and heavy responsibilties. She told me, “Aida, always remember the No. 1.” I asked, “Who is No. 1?” She said, “You. You must always be No.1″. I always kinda thought that it was a bit selfish. But today, I remember her words, and I realised, she’s right.

So today, I am going to ask myself, how am I going to start taking care of myself? Will I stinge on my “me-time” just so I can fuss over and work longer on another product launch? Will I sacrifice more sleeping time to watch crappy YouTube videos? Will I hasten reading my Quran just so I can make it for the next Skype meeting?

My grandmother’s centre was the Quran and now, when she forgets how vivid her life was, and what a remarkable and strong woman she was, the Quran remains as her only true companion in her golden years. The Quran is taking care of her now, because she took the time to take care of her relationship with Him and His Book when she was younger. She took the time to take care of the one thing that would make her happy.

And that’s where I think I will begin, to start taking better care of myself. What about you?

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Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

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I remembered when I was fifteen, I was flipping through a magazine and it had a small column on boys and their preferred hairstyle for girls. I remembered touching my short hair and feeling a little unworthy when every single one of them answered “definitely long hair”. I remembered being asked, “are you really applying for art school for University?” and remembered excitedly answering “yes” and the response I got was “but you have no artistic talent whatsoever”. I remembered a few concerned friends who told me that it is not wise to marry a man who is younger, and that really, I should find someone at least three years older. I remembered a bunch of overzealously concerned relatives as they fire questions after questions about my financial stability when I told them that I run my own business – and how my confidence plummeted after all these seemingly innocent incidents.

But the most significant one, and the one that I finally put my foot down and firmly said, “enough is enough” is when people start stereotyping me just because I wear the Hijab. They either think ladies who wear the veil are rigid, weak, traditional and uncool or deeply religious, stoic and an extremist.

I refuse to say anything in retaliation.

Enough is for me that Allah knows what is in my heart. And it is better for me to ovecrcome and break these assumptions through my actions and my doings than to be defensive through words and proses.

Now, I have never been as comfortable as I am with my own skin than I was ever before. And yes, I do remember who I am now, thank you very much. I am Aida Azlin, a Muslimah, a Wife, a Daughter, a Sister and a Friend above all else. And I will carry out these roles, with honour, compassion and with a fierceness and fearlessness that nobody in this world can diminish and question through their nonchalant and careless preconceived assumptions.

I urge all of you to remember who you are and to leave behind every other redundant labels that the world has slapped on you. Because then, no one can break you and no one can dim the brightness that is your light. Shine on, ladies.

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Thoughts On Writing

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Writing drains me. That’s the truth. I wish I can write for hours on out, beautiful words tumbling out from my fingertips, all ready, aligned. But I can’t. Writing, I realised, is like an old, ultra-sensitive friend, that if you have not put any effort to visit or say “hello” every once in a while, will just slowly disappear, forgetting you or any of the beautiful memories you once shared. She will take you back in, but only, only, after you have made considerable effort to charm her, sit with her and to profess every single secret that you have kept since the last visit. She demands attention, rightfully so.

I usually spend hours writing a blog post and after every post, I would feel so consumed, like every single ounce of energy that I have in me would slowly, but achingly, leave. And yet at the same time, I would feel like a huge burden has been lifted after I penned down my thoughts – Ma Sha Allah, how beautifully strange…

Today, I am trying to re-connect with my old friend. I braved myself to sit myself down, to block out every single distractions, and to write. And to be honest, it has not been all that scary like I have imagined. I am breathing easy. I am enjoying the solitude, and I feel ready to engage and share what’s in my heart.

Comfortable. Like two old friends, just having tea.

Some people write with brutal honesty and you can really sense the raw emotions, it’s somewhat cathartic for them. Some people write to please their readers, some do it more than others – I likened these to “playing pretend”. I write because that is the only way I could be the best possible version of myself. When I write, I feel like I’m giving away a part of me and throwing it out there, unsure if it would ever be recognised, or accepted so I present myself in the most fitting way – still true to myself, but requires more effort on my part. More thought. More aware. More mindful. Something I fail to do in the comforts and privacy in my own home.

Therefore I have challenged myself to be more conscious of my speech and actions in private first, in the presence of my family and my closest friends, instead of placing too much emphasis on seeking acceptance through my public persona. Because my best should be for them first, just like how our Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “the best of you are those who are best to their families”.

So instead of writing for other people or writing for myself, I should always write to seek Allah’s pleasure and I should write to constantly remind myself to serve my family better.

Maybe then writing wouldn’t be so difficult for me anymore, In Sha Allah.

 

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(Might Be A Tad Strange But) What The FIFA World Cup Has Taught Me

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My dad is (yes, is, even at 52 years of age) a footballer, so I grew up with soccer largely embedded into my DNA. When I was a baby, every single Sunday would be spent on the pitch, and for the whole 90 minutes of the game, I would be passed around and would be in the arms of different footballers’ wives. I honestly have no recollection of that memory but my parents swore by it. I asked if I ever cried when another stranger would pick me up, my mother said “oh no, actually, you are one of the easiest baby to care for!” (oh yeah! I was so cool and flexible even when I was a kid, heh!)

My dad is a Goalkeeper – he never played any other positions. I always thought (but never had the courage to tell him) that being the Goalkeeper is like the worst position ever. I mean, doesn’t every one aim to be the forward/striker? Anyways, I thought that being the Goalkeeper has no special merit – if the team won, no credit will be given to the Goalie (only to the scorers); and if the team lost, everyone would blame the Keeper. And that sucks. But when I saw, at the end of every single game how each and every one of the players would go to my dad and give him a big (manly) hug and a high-5 and the respect that they give to him (plus he’s the Captain of the team), I realised it’s really not so much about your ‘position’ in the team, but how much of a team-player you are and how much value you can bring to the game.

After a while I realised, although being a Goalkeeper is not as glamorous as being a Striker, the team cannot play without a Goalie and the game cannot go on without the Keeper as well.

Now, on to what the World Cup Has Taught Me About Life:

Champions Don’t Always Stay Champions; Losers Don’t Always Stay Losers.

The only constant thing in this life is change and the teams playing for the World Cup can definitely testify to this. France won the World Cup in 1998, but at the next World Cup (2002), they were eliminated at the preliminary group stage. So did Italy (champions of the 2006 World Cup, eliminated at the 2010 preliminary stage) and more recently Spain (champions at the 2010 World Cup, eliminated at the 2014 preliminary stage)! This proves that it doesn’t mean you were once a winner, you will always stay at the top.

Additionally, more and more Underdog teams have made it to the next round of the World Cup. This year, we saw Costa Rica, Algeria, USA and Nigeria, all beating the likes of Spain, Portugal, Italy and England to make it to the Round of 16. And they deserved to be in the next round as they all played well, it wasn’t just by sheer luck or chance.

It made me realise that life is fair. Very fair. If you work hard, you succeed. Its very simple. It might take days to see this “success”, it might take months, and in the case of the World Cup, 4 years, but if you work and train hard, and you hustle, you will succeed. If you are complacent, smug, self-satisfied and you lack humility, you will be trampled by other much, much deserving individuals/team.

Don’t Just Keep Chasing Balls, You Have To Score Goals.

In every match, teams have 90 minutes to score as many goals as they can within that period to win the game. It doesn’t matter if your team has the higher possession rate or if your players can kick the ball at a much further distance; the main aim of the game is to score goals. Life is similar. We do not have an infinite amount of time in this world, so we have to stop chasing unnecessary things and instead focus on “scoring goals”.

Also, theres a million and one ways to net a goal: sometimes you have to take risks, sometimes you have to run harder for the ball, sometimes you have to use your head or your chest or your knees – whatever it is you need to do to score that goal, you do it. Similarly, when it comes to life, if there is something that needs to be done to achieve your aim or your dreams, do it. Just do it. Don’t just keep forming plans and schemes in your head without putting those ideas into actions!

Choose Your Best Players For The Team. No Ego-Personalities Please.

Like football, you need a solid, reliable and formidable team to win at life. So choose amazing, positive, like-minded friends and company. Choose the best spouse – a partner who can not only cheer you on but who can also shake you out of your ego when you are getting too conceited. Choose amazing collaborators and colleagues, work with the best craftsmen and artisans and study under the wisest teachers and leaders.

Every single individual that you allow in to your life has to add value to your being. And likewise, we should give to the people around us more than we receive. Avoid anyone who is too pessimistic, or calculative or self-absorbed – they will just drain all your energy!

(Notice that I did not include family. Our family members are special as God has chosen them to be our family for a reason. Cherish and serve our family more than anyone else in this world, especially our Parents!)

Stellar Sportsmanship + Consistency = True Champions

It doesn’t matter if you are the top footballer in the world and getting at least £20,000 / week and having $5 million in endorsements. If you play dirty, or spout vulgarities, or bite your opponents, you will be sent off or be banned from the game. How will you be a Champion when you can’t even play? Similarly, if our characteristic sucks and we are just plain mean to the people around us, it doesn’t matter if we make big bucks when at the end of the day we have no one we can share the joy and “success” with.

Consistency is another vital factor. Ive seen so many games where a team will be leading by 2-0 by the end of the first half, but because they got complacent, their opponentns can very easily turn the table and steal their lead by 3-2. Also, do you know that only if a team/country has won the World Cup thrice would they be able to keep the Cup for good? There has been 19 World Cups held so far, but there is only one World Cup Trophy (it belongs to Brazil) in the world! This shows that you not only have to win, but you have to win consistently to keep the prize, to be Champions!

In life, we got to be consistent too. Consistency is key. This always reminds me of my favourite Hadith where Rasulullah (peace be upn him) said: “The deeds most loved by Allah SWT are those done regularly, even if they are small”. (Bukhari/Muslim)

So here’s a quick re-cap: Change is the only constant so don’t be too complacent or too dejected. Stop chasing unnecessary things, aim to score at bigger, more important things in life instead. Always work and play hard, choose the best players to be on your team and be super nice and consistent!

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The Only Thing You Need To Be Happy

happiness

This morning, I sat myself down by the window, slowly eating my breakfast. K was still sleeping and I was enjoying my space. The weather was beautiful, Summer has wrapped her arms around us here in Tangier and as we live really close to the beach, the whiff of seabreeze gently kissed my skin. My favourite instrumental was playing in the background and as I watched the birds circling around in the air, soaring, and lifting, I thought, “Ma Sha Allah, this quiet feels really nice. I’m at ease, I’m healthy and I’m happy.” I took out my pen and paper and decided to list down things that makes my soul and my being, happy:

  • When I pray Tahajjud in the mornings, when I feel closest to Allah.
  • When I read and learn about the wonderful miracles of the Quran.
  • When I pray. Persistently.
  • When I give back, to family and friends, to Sisters, to strangers.
  • When I pursue knowledge, when I create, when I write.
  • When I listen, when  I emphatise.
  • When I simplify and take a day at a time. Life is not complitcated. But we make it to be. 
  • When I am productive, and when I am of use to my family, to my community. 
  • When I do yoga and I take note of my breathing.
  • When I forgive. 

I remembered writing the exact same list a few years back on what were the things that made me happy, it was filled with material possessions, or jobs that I wanted to land, or places that I needed to travel, or people that I needed to impress.

I attatched my happiness to everyone and everything else other than myself and that was, to put it bluntly, stupid.

K always reminds me how we are not going to be on this world forever, so we should not even be too attached to each other. What if one of us leaves this world, would that mean the other should stop living? How unjust would that be. And if you truly love someone for Allah’s sake, you would want to see them happy, with or without you.

Happiness, I learned, is a form of courage. Happiness happens when we are brave enough to choose ourselves, to fight for ourselves, to strive to be the best version of ourselves. When I looked at my “happy list” that I wrote this morning, I realised a common thread running through, one recurrent factor that I needed, and that integral element, was me. I do not need anyone or anything else, just me and Allah and that realisation, that affirmation, just made me all the more happier.

Alhamdulillah.

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