Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Ramadan season miracle

 Last Ramadan started like no other Ramadan in my whole life…

Every Ramadan, I expect blessings, I expect Fethe (enlightment) at the end of the way. It’s something I long for and work on, that is why my Ramadans are generally made of strict schedules; especially my bedtime schedule, it’s the only way I can find time to read Quran extensively and do night prayer while still being fit to do my job.

This Ramadan Alhamdulillah there has been hardly any reading of Quran and the minimum of night prayer instead I had: a hundred phone calls, a hundred e-mails, late hours at the office and last but not least an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that made me tear up more than once…

Some of you might wonder? What happened? Had I suddenly turned into a crazy masochistic workaholic at the opening of Ramadan?
Allow me to go back in time:
A few months ago, my friends Ahmed & Zeinab came up with this incredible idea of feeding 20 families every day for the whole month of Ramadan, they prepared a list of the content of the daily food parcel, went to a shop, agreed on the prices and started preparing for the feeding.
When I was told the cost of feeding twenty families for 30 days of Ramadan, I was surprised by how low it was and felt that it was almost Fard (obligatory) on me to do so as it would be if accepted by Allah, an atonement for my sinful soul and the best investment for my afterlife...
“O son of Adam, I asked food from you but you did not feed Me”
“My Lord, how could I feed Thee whereas Thou are the Lord of the Worlds?”
“Didn’t you Know that such & such servant of Mine asked food from you but you did not feed him, and were you not aware that if you had fed him you would have found him by My side?.......
Getting back to the idea of the Iftar, the thing was that I was still in the midst of renovating my house so it clearly wasn’t possible for me to finance a whole iftar on my own money, I’m not a Rothschild heir but for some reason the idea would not leave me…I became gradually obsessed about the population of a certain sector of Nouakchott called Tarheel. This name just wouldn’t leave me, especially after a dear friend, Mariem told me something deep: "Tarheel is a typical case of what we call in Arabic “the weak leaning on the weak”, as it’s a neighbourhood for relocated families –who lived in the slums- unlike other neighborhoods, the poor of Tarheel cannot rely on solidarity to feed themselves because all their neighbors are poor…
Meeting Elizabeth after I had this conversation with Mariem, was the least I can say inspiring …Elizabeth is a researcher studying precarious habitat who’s so passionate that she takes 3 different taxis to go to Tarhil  in the worst heat peeks … What’s incredible is that she has overcome the barriers of language, extreme heat and nationality for the sake of doing something meaningful…  I told myself I should summon up the courage to do this; I don’t have half the obstacles Elizabeth has had to overcome but seriously where am I supposed to get the funding? How to handle the logistics of delivering the parcels & distributing them? (I work 9 hours a day)
The opening came, 4 days before Ramadan when I happened to speak to Mona about my wish of feeding the people of Tarheel, super Mona (Allah Yahfadha) said; “Don’t worry, I’ll do the fundraising and she gave me a large amount of her own money to start with…After Ahmed, Zeinab and Elizabeth had inspired me: Mona gave me the courage I needed. May Allah reward them all.
From that moment, things just accelerated : Ahmed called me to tell that incidentally he had found a reliable person in Tarheel to take care of the distribution. He was talking to someone about my project when this person told him : “Don’t you know that Elhajj the son of .... is an Imam in Tarheel?
I called Elhajj and he happened to be an incredible asset for the feeding with his dynamism and his acute sense of Amana.  This acute sense of Amana is what helped reach out to the poorest of the poor. He began by identifying 20 of the poorest families in his sector; he knew all the names of the women and men and their children’s names, their situation… mashallah! At only twenty five years old he was acting like some old parish priest mothering his flock! Lol
Fundraising too was another miracle; I sent an e-mail to one of my closest buddies, Mohamed Lemine, with pictures of me with some of the most vulnerable families met in Tarheel to send to our friends working in mining companies… Guess what? The crazy dude sent my picture and message to the whole mailing list of Mauritania’s biggest mining company and their contractors……When I saw what he had done, I must say I had mixed feelings : should I strangle him or should I thank him??????For God's sake, all my friends know that my motto in life is “Live hidden, Live happy!”- I finally chose to not physically harm him and instead to thank him profusely J
I did right. Thanks to that crazy e-mail and to a few other e-mails and phone calls we fundraised approximately 18 000 USD and helped 160 families.

The parcels distributed everyday
Mohamed Lemine & one of the cute kids in Tarheel

Believe me, it was a miracle... until now, the ease of how the money was obtained still leaves me speechless. Apparently the Ramadan season miracle is experienced every year by people active in charity works. This Ramadan,  I had the pleasure to have ftour with sisters who do charity work all year long. Beautiful women, heart and soul, radiant women, who only want God.
Not only did they tell me that they experience this Baraka every year but actually it seems like most great social initiatives start up in Ramadan!
Finally, as usual Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, my Shaykh, my mentor emphasized in one of his lectures, what was for me one of the greatest teachings of this whole Iftar project: “The group with it flaws is better than sectarianism with its purity”(NB “flaws” might not be the exact word he used)
Indeed, it's the Baraka of having a group working solely for the sake of God that has made this project possible. These past months & for the first time in my life (remember guys, my motto was "live hidden, live happy"), I have felt embraced and supported by a sisterhood and brotherhood  who accept to disagree & be different but at the same time are bonded by the Love of Allah & Muhammad (SAW) the Chosen One.
This project wouldn’t have been possible without : Ahmed, Zeinab, ElHajj (the two El Hajjs :-), Mohamed Lemine, Olga, Mona, Elizabeth, Hafsa, Mariem,  Nathalie, Gueye, Junior, Mohamed Cheikh and the wonderful private donators may Allah reward them.

                             Some of the volunteers : Med Lemine, El Hajj (n°1); El Hajj (n°2)




Monday, June 3, 2013

Craving security

Have you ever had moments in your life where you felt agitated, insecure, worried about something whether the state of your finances, your career, your health or something even bigger like your community, your country, the world?
I’m so sorry for those who thought I was super woman in disguise: I’ve definitely felt that way J

The message in a bottle in my last post –never completed- what actually a cry expressing a deep feeling of insecurity.  It manifested itself by a sudden urge to be active; to get involved into a peace related activity and the upsetting feeling that there were forces working hard to disrupt the peace.  

I did not realize at the moment that I was misguided although I was surprised by the strength of the feeling: why was I suddenly so upset about the state of our world, after all it’s God’s will, where was my Ridha (serene acceptance of Allah’s will)? Deep inside, I knew something must be wrong. ..
I found out what it was after listening to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf talking about the tricks of shaytan and the Nafs (the Self/the ego) in his lecture "Poor Man's book of assistance". Four days later, I had to admit to myself that I had been misled by the voice of the Nafs or Shaytan and because I’m a peaceful person, my insecurity was magnified through peaceful involvement.
Please don’t get me wrong; activism is great but it shouldn’t be a symptom of one’s insecurity. I remember a few years ago, a French psychologist saying that parents who push their kids and have them go to tons of private classes were just expressing their insecurity about their own jobs and they should be careful that their anxiety doesn’t transmit to their children. It’s a clear example of how something in appearance so banal and even positive; parents pushing their kids to do well in school, can actually be the outward expression of a deep anxiety.

Someone might wonder how an old trouper on the road of self-improvement like myself ;-) didn’t see that my unease about certain social issues was being manipulated; the answer is that I was taken by surprise. ..Shaykh Hamza Yusuf says that Shaytan is creative; when he can’t get at you through something, he tries something else. I guess that now that he has trouble (Alhamdulillah!) getting to me through the classical triggers of worry in the modern psyche like “Career “or “Money”, he has turned to something else ; the love I have for this place, its people and more generally for the Ummah.
May God protect me and the believers from Shaytan for there are yet many more gates to anxiety that make us vulnerable, like dwelling on past choices: why did I ever apply to study Law  instead of English literature, I must have been on crack that day?%!!!!????

Having now admitted that I’m not immune to waswas ;-) what exactly is this security we crave for so much and how can one achieve it?

Let us begin by speaking about the contrary of Ridha which is to be in a state of worry/anxiety. Some might say it's not a big deal, after all, we all worry sometimes and feel insecure. Well guys, it’s not banal, worry has to be subdued for in some pathologic cases, it manifests in the most atrocious of manners: an unemployed, mother taking her life and the life of her children after having been abandoned by her partner,youth vandalizing public buildings and streets during demonstrations...It all stems from a feeling of worry that turned into despair...
It’s great how some old North American series can teach kids some good believers’ wisdom. Who remembers Anne of Green Gables? There is an episode where freckled red headed Anne is horrified because she tries dyeing her hair black but instead it becomes green…. Hahahaha

When Anne cries emphatically: “I’m in the depth of despair”, her foster mother tells her: “Child, to despair is to turn your back on the Lord!”  ...  Profound isn’t it?
It’s exactly in line with what a devout believer should do : refuse to despair, put his faith in Allah and believe it will all be for the best for Allah Almighty the Exalted said : “Ana 3nda Thani 3bdi bi. “ "I am as my servant thinks of Me".
I once watched a TV program where a preacher explained this concept in a very simple way:

Two men are speaking about the meeting they will have the next day with a King.
One is worried and expresses doubts about the King's welcome and the response he will give to his plea.

The other one is confident, trusts the magnanimity of the ruler and is certain his request will be answered favorably.  
What the two men do not know, is that the King had been listening to all their conversation…

The preacher concluded the story by asking : who do you think is more likely to have a positive answer?
In this world, Allah Subhanahu Wata3la is omniscient and He is the most compassionate, we should submit to him for His rule is the best of rules and we should come to Him with a heart full of confidence. My cousin told me the other day a Hadith Qudsi that moved me deeply:
“My slave, you want and I want. But nothing will occur except what I want. So if you obey Me in what I want, I will give you what you want. But if you disobey Me in what I want, I will tire you seeking what you want. Then nothing will occur except what I want.”

It’s incredible that thanks to Allah Subhanhu Wata3la’s Infinite Mercy for his creation, there actually is a moment where what the Lord of the Universe wants, and what his poor slave wants, meet : “If you obey Me in what I want, I will give you what you want…” Subhanallah...
There is another a Hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (Pbu) that helped me finally get out of  my “I’m afraid of fitna" mood ;-):

“My Ummah is one to which mercy is shown. It will have no punishment in the next world but its punishment in this world will be trials, earthquakes and being killed”.
Honestly if I had to choose, I’d gladly suffer in this life than be deprived from seeing my Lord in the next life ;-) O Allah, do not deprive us from your Sight & resurrect us in the company of your Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Saw).

For a Muslim, security is not something related to one's actual circumstances, it’s something related to a deep sense in one's heart. I heard a woman saying that she had become Muslim after having spent some time with the people living in old graveyards in Cairo for they were always smiling, serene and caring albeit their poverty. In Mauritania, you see the same thing, a donkey cart driver will flash you an incredible smile (before Marlboro unfortunately took over the country and ruined people’s teethL) and when asked “how are you?” will answer: “Alhamdulillah, Na3em 3laya Mulana!” ("Alhamdulullah, Allah has given me his blessings!")
These people say Alhamdulillah, smile and sleep well at night because kana3a is not a vain word; you can see it in yourself. There have been moments in your life where you’ve felt secure even though you didn’t have any money in the bank and that you were in between jobs because your trust in Allah was strong and other times where your savings' account was full to the brim but you were still worried you wouldn’t have enough money to make that extension to your already huge villa and pay your kids’ private tutors!!!!

In one case you’re broke, unemployed but happy and in the other you seemingly have it all but you’re unsettled and fidgety… It's obvious that the feeling of security doesn't come from how much bucks or dow you have (ask Britney Spears  for that matter;-)
Last but not least, I recommend that you watch the following mesmerizing and soothing lecture of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad that not only helped me understand the primordiality and the importance of  Ridha for a sound 3aqida but showed me that albeit the sorrows of the ummah there are truly reasons to rejoice.

Guys, I would like to thank you for being such good followers of my blog, I'm always so surprised at the stats, Jazakumullah.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A crazy world we can change

Sometimes I feel that we’re living in a crazy world and that I want to run away screaming into the wild!
Yesterday, I was heartbroken listening to the latest news about Syria. What started out as a noble cause: people united to overthrow a dictator, seems to be turning now into sectarian violence… It really got me thinking….
Has it evolved this way because of the antagonism between violence and a just cause? Let me explain, I believe that the heralds of a just cause should never embrace a violent solution (ex: a putsh) for there is always a risk that violent factions motivated by hate and resentment and not by the establishment of social justice take the upper hand and hijack the protest movement. be honest it wasn’t just Syria… I’ve been angry about a few things these past two weeks…
ANGRY to see that frustration in our countries is fuelled by the media who never seem to speak about the various initiatives promoting unity and understanding.

ANGRY to see people actively busy with fitna at the work place (spreading rumors and plotting to get someone else’s position), while some people are working for a bigger fitna.

ANGRY to see people leading ostentatiously luxurious lives (even when the money is earned honestly), when so many of our brothers and sisters are poor.
ANGRY that people do not realize that we need to change in order to go back to what we were.


"Lovers of peace and unity speak up don’t let your voices be covered!Extremist voices are so loud, the peace train can no longer be heard, go out there, leave the tranquility of your lives & speak up. Spread the love but don’t forget, that true change can only start within yourself and your own household. -(thank you Muna for this precious lesson)-
Someone once told me how can one expect one’s kids to ever do Kiyam Alayl in the future(night prayers) when one sleeps all night without stirring? You need to strive to do Kiyam El Layl if you ever want to give your children the chance to do it one day just like you need to lead a life open to the others if you want your children or loved ones to be that way.
Lead by example; don’t lure yourself into thinking that your words might have even the slightest impact on anyone, unless you’ve started working on your own precious self."

I know it seems like an overly ambitious plan,” What? Changing oneself with prayer, Dhikr & a whole new set of attitudes, while in parallel trying to change the world around you? Are you mad woman?”  But as my dad says: “Who doesn’t like climbing mountains, lives forever in the pit”  (from the great Abu al Qassem Al Chabi, Allah yarhamu.)
The good news is that if you get involved, your anger will melt down because you’ll see so many like minded people out there working. There truly is “Baraka fil Jamaa3” (blessing in being a group). Of course, there will always be that one sister telling you to cover your hair because a microscopic part of it is showing… but isn’t the road to the truth paved with thorns? ;-)
In most countries there are civil society organizations that do great work on the field, try to find one that support the change you want to see and where you can share you skills. Having had a brief experience teaching, I realize that most youth need not only to acquire a new set of skills (accounting, history) they also need life coaching. You need to help them acquire the personal qualities to achieve their goals.

A few years ago when I young(er) and gullible ;-) I had the chance to attend a free session with a French work coach.
He told me something very important about myself: “YOU ARE HESITANT”.

I took what this man told me (may Allah reward him) and I starting working on being less hsitant by setting myself goals and sticking to them.
However, I believe that only coaching or healing supported by a spiritual view or vision of the world can have a lasting and profound impact for people need to be reminded of Akhira (after life) and the wonderful teachings derived from the lives of our beloved prophets.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

“O My Lord, increase me in knowledge” Quran 20:114

Yesterday was a blessed day. I had the opportunity to attend a gathering in Nouakchott where Shaykh Hamza Yusuf spoke for a few minutes.

What can I say? I had never had the opportunity of seeing him in person before; his akhlaks were simply amazing mashallah and his speech enlightening & powerful.
He began by remembering the days when he used to stop in Gueru, on his way to the village of Lemrabott Elhaaj (his Shaykh). At the time, one could hear Quran and mootoons being recited all through the night. But now in Gueru, homes are infested with television, satellite “dishes”, pouring out films made in the USA. Why don’t we take the good things from the West, why do we only take the negative ones?

He emphasized on the importance of our Ulemas and said something very striking: the Ummah has generally strong Iman (faith) but it is acquiring stronger knowledge that will ensure our continuity. He spoke about tragic killings perpetrated by muslims and gave the example of a woman who had fled the war in Syria and went to Turkey. When she was asked how she was, she said something like: “I’m fine, God is Present (mawjud) and in His Mercy He sent us Erdogan to welcome us in Turkey.” Wow what a beautiful example of iman!However, if this same woman who displays such beautiful iman (faith) had fled to the UK instead of Turkey, it is not certain that her grandchildren would still be Muslim…
The Shaykh reminded us of the Quranic verse (20:114):” And say: O my Lord, increase me in knowledge” but does not say increase me in Faith….

The message conveyed was clear; we are in dire need of more knowledge

I am grateful to Allah (SW) that the Shaykh’s words found an echo in my heart. I had been waiting for this conference with trepidation, not knowing what to expect. I have been watching his lectures online since I was a teenager but now a live lecture! How would it be? The man has always been my self-chosen Shaykh and as said one of my brothers: if Shaykh Hamza Yusuf had a Zawiya , we and many other people in the world would be queuing to take bay3a with him…my sister, my brother, many of our friends and of course myself, have been coached and uplifted by his words for quite a few years now, Jazahullah Khayran.

Getting back to yesterday’s lecture, it was like the Shaykh was telling me that all my precious Islamic serenity would be threatened if I didn’t acquire more knowledge. I shivered and I looked around at all the well dressed audience and wondered how could they not seem frightened like I did? I wanted to tell them : don’t you understand that our happy peaceful Mauritanian lifestyle (based on Islam) might one day be challenged by this hemorrhage of deep Islamic knowledge our society is experiencing?
Yesterday when I came back home, my mind was swirling : I thought about knowledge as the peaceful adversary of terrorism, knowledge as the rampart against the despair that leads to social unrest and finally knowledge to combat all forms of oppression around the world…

It became clear to me that the rampart against the afflictions of this modern age was knowledge and that I, poor slave of Allah should do my outmost to acquire that knowledge asap. I did have plans, but they were for a long way down the road (when I’m done with corporate) and now that Shaykh Hamza has highlighted the urgency; sacrifices must be made. I can no longer wait for the right moment, I must use whatever spare time I have to study NOW!
Speaking to my sister, I also realized that we should stop being observers and get involved in something related to islam, no matter how much we hate debates, polemic and bold display of ignorance… it is true that we have a role model who’s gotten involved without going against his peaceful nature : Dad.

Our Dad is a historian. In his soft gentle way, he’s an academic super hero fighting against the forces of evil that strive to bring one community against another, one tribe  against the other and one country against the other. :-)

With his research, he shows how we are all brothers and sisters from another mother by reminding us of past historical alliances based on faith.

I remember one of his lectures he concluded by saying “I hope that my work has given you something that will put your heart and mind at ease for now you know that we are truly “descendants one of the other”  (transliteration : thurriyatan ba3duha min Baa3d”  Quran verse 3:34)

It was while he was preparing one of his conferences, that I had the chance to reflect on a Quranic verse that consoled me of something I’ve had in my heart for the last few years…

I sometimes dream of a homogenous world where we would all have one skin color, one language and no borders, for it seems to me that instead of seeing what a wonderful gift from God diversity is, man uses it as an excuse to declare war.

I’m now aware that dreaming of a homogeneous world is a terrible lack of Ridha and acceptance of Allah’s decree so whenever I feel saddened by the disputes arising in the Islamic world between Shia, Sunni, Maliki, Wahabi, Salafi, Sufi (for God's sake we’re all one people!) and that the longing for a homogenous humanity with brown skin (in my fantasy world we’re all metis :-) comes back to haunt me, I reflect on this verse my dad used as an introduction of one of his lectures on multiculturalism:

“If Allah willed, He would have made you one nation, but that He may test you in what He has given you; so strive as in a race in good deeds. The return of you all is to Allah; then He will inform you about that in which you used to differ.”

Quran 5:48

This aya says it all.

Finally, I cannot conclude this post without saying a word about the genial people who hosted the lecture.

The lecture was organized the Global Center for Renewal and Guidance an independent research institute focusing on contemporary muslim affairs in the west. The GCRG's board of Trustees has great names such as Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Dr. Abdullah al-Nasseef.
The logistics of the specific event held yesterday was orchestrated by Cheikhna Bin Bayyah (the son of Shaykh Abdoullah Binbayyah) and his lovely wife Habeeba.
As usual Cheikhna was a tremendous ice breaker (mashallah) making everyone laugh by sharing the story of his first encounter with Shaykh Hamza. When they met a few years ago in California, Cheikhna was invited to the Hansons' where he was presented with a gadha, a wooden Mauritanian bowl to drink from he told the Shaykh: "Don't you know I’ve come all the way to California to escape Mauritania and here you are handing me a gadha in your american home!!!” Lol
As for Habeeba, always with a sweet smile and a welcoming word for everyone, she even managed to give the women specific time to meet with the Shaykh (pic of him saying dua3 at the end of the session with the women).

Jazahumullah 3ana Khayr Eljaza


Monday, April 1, 2013

Fulfilling your dreams and transcending this material world

Lately I haven’t been able to write…
Although I have been asked repeatedly by a reader to get back to writing asap ;-) I just couldn’t because I was overcome by emotions which if expressed, would tell a lot more about my private life than I was willing to say.

However, I am no longer concerned about saying a little bit more than I had originally intended to… I realize that this blog allows a much needed catharsis to take place. It  helps me organize the happy turmoil in my soul. When I write, I am never detached, I’m either deeply troubled, giggling or laughing out loud when I'm about to crack up a joke!
For this specific post, let’s say that the words were gushing from a feeling of overwhelming, tear-jerking, gratitude! You know how you can have a dream very unlikely to happen and that you kind of got used to the idea that it never would happen. Well, guess what my friends? I had such a dream,  and it’s just about to be fulfilled, praise be to God Almighty.

Don’t try to guess what it is for you will exhaust yourself without finding out what it is ... “No, my hubby and I aren’t reproductively challenged (God forbid) and about to have a baby...”, “No, no it’s not that we’re going to Mecca either… that Alhamdulillah, has already been planned”. If you really want to know, you’ll have to start working harder to become my BFF, best friend forever ;-)
More seriously, when I add the imminent (insh.) fulfillment of my dream to various other strong positive changes in my life, I cannot but come to the conclusion that it’s all related to the fact that I joined the path of Istighfar and Salat ala Nabi. For me, no need to do the math here, all these positive changes originate from this. Since the Burda, and Qasidah Muhammadiya have been read several times in my house things have happened…. I don’t believe in the Qasidah Burda per se (it’s not magic!) but I believe that if you put in motion a process of expressing the love you have for the Prophet, through outward manifestations such as qasida recitation and salawats, if you are blessed with the chance to organize a Mawlid in your home, if you start focusing on the love so much that the longing would make you gladly welcome death…Nur, Light, will undoubtedly come.

I won’t lie to you and tell you that the struggle to keep the spirit of this Love strong and alive every day is easy, for most of the time I’m alone. Some days are easier than others but sometimes Dunya gets the upper hand and so I get frantic because I feel heedless, I feel WE are heedless. But regularly, God in his Mercy sends me sisters and brothers to help me feel I am not alone in my quest for Truth and so I pick up my weakened resolve and hit for the top of the mountain... once again :-)
I cannot fathom going back...How could I ever stand to go back, when now the reality of angels has become palpable and that I feel connected to those people for whom the Prophet is still alive?
I also cannot go back because I have had this strong, growing feeling that there are no limits to the Horizon, that the Faqir standing in front of his Lord can achieve anything and anything can happen to him, if it be God's will. Discovering this was incredibly liberating, I feel like I’ve been set free. I know I have already spoken about this, in one of my older posts but kindly indulge me for I would like to expand on this.
Take the time to reflect on this. Take a step back and think for your whole world can change the day you realize (profoundly) that : God willing there is nothing you cannot achieve with the power of your soul.Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in his lecture “BE GREAT PEOPLE” quotes “Take care of your soul, perfect it, give it virtuous qualities because it is by the soul that you are a human being, not by your body.” You can therefore, rise above that body, reach out for your dreams and for that glorious future of yours. It can be either that of a person of great patience, that of a nurturer, that of  leader of a nation, that of a scholar, that of a student of sacred knowledge, that of a loving parent, the possibilities are endless.

Here is a very short extract of a lecture of Hamza Yusuf that has been very important to me in this regards. I must say that I will never look at Shaykh Umar Farruq Abdallah in the same way anymore... Here is a man who applies what he believes in... May God increase him and give him Jennat El Firdows.


Let me share another inspiring story on how having certainty can change the course of things. This story happened to one of my sister's closest friends.
Mona and her  younger brother were studying abroad, the least we can say is that they had a hard time, their life wasn't easy. Muna was a med'school student and her younger brother was studying to become an engineer. One day, the boy had what seemed to be a sore throat and was asked by the doctors to run some tests. He complied and his older sister went to the lab the next day, to pick up the results. When she opened the envelope, she saw:  "Malignant..." We all know what "malignant" refers to :   The cancer, The C word,  etc…
When Mona read the results, instead of falling apart and despairing, the chronically stressed & overwhelmed med'school student said "And I know from Allah which ye know not" (which is what the prophet Jacob (RA) the very resilient, used to say, verse 86 of Sura 12, Quran) and prayed to God that these results be false, with the certainty that even though this diagnosis was from the most preeminent lab in the country, Allah's decree could make it all come to nothing.
She announced the news to her parents who flew with their son to France, where they were asked to run more tests..... The end of the story is that after undergoing various tests, the boy turned out not to have cancer! Alhamdulillah.
I ask all the people who read this, to raise their hands, now, in this moment to make Dua3 for this sister and her family and that they be blessed with good health and even stronger Iman.

Being certain that with Allah’s Mercy there is nothing you cannot achieve & relying only on Almighty Allah  is what will actually make you achieve your dreams.
If you arm yourself with certainty and reliance on God the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate, and quit relying on your spouse, your network, the community or even your own strength and skills (because these are all things by nature limited), you will gradually see your mental barriers falling down, crumbling down.
One day, you will realize that you have left behind you a lot of the petty things of human life that were the foundation of your self-imposed servitude & that you are now reaching out for something that has no limit:  Allah’s Mercy.
And when he sets his Mercy on you… that day, if the odds were against you, if the Djins & the people of this world united to stand in your way, you would get what you had aimed for, because He has decreed it!
So rejoice my friend, you can be the dirtiest, ugliest, poorest forsaken soul on this earth if God blesses you with certainty and tawfiq the limit is the sky! J or more accurately there is no limit!
However, the problem is that if you don’t achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself, you can no longer blame it on the context (your age, your wild progeny, your parents, your neighbor, the heat, the President, the opposition…) if it doesn’t happen it’s just that you didn’t want it hard enough so you didn’t try enough or simply…. that you did try hard but that Allah Subhanahou Wataala hasn’t allowed it because he has something so much better in store for you J
For instance, I know that if I set my mind to it, I can be a Hafiza, a Fikiha, regardless of my age and my french secular educational background...but do I really want it? Of course, I love the idea but do I want it enough to put up with a little bit of hard work?
I have no doubt at all that God willing, if I put a good intention in it and work, one day there will be an opening (see what Hamza Yusuf says about this in the "Be great people" lecture)
Finally guys, after experiencing what I just told you about,  do you know what the real mind boggling discovery was? Now that I'm achieving plenty of my earthly projects,  surprisingly they don’t seem that important anymore in comparison to the bliss I felt when I was still out there, working hard on my projects and hoping for God’s Mercy.. I'm more and more aware that : the true bliss or blessing lies not in the achievement but in the prayer and longing that preceed it..
Wassalamu Aleykum


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

“Ask your heart, righteousness is what the heart feels tranquil with {…} “ Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

I have never been as concerned about the state of my heart as since I’ve been listening to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s lectures.
Sometimes I joke about it, saying that now I try to go through life with a stethoscope on my chest to follow all the moves of my heart ;-) Indeed, Hamza Yusuf has highlighted the importance of putting oneself to work on one’s heart before comes the Day:
“In which neither wealth nor children shall be of any benefit [to anyone], except one who comes to God with a sound heart “(Quran, 26:88-89)
But before that day comes, purification of the heart is really the way to make the world a better place, for every act of cruelty, hate, racism, violence, pollution, stems from a disease in the heart and will disappear when it is cured. The disease can be either envy, cruelty, arrogance, rancor, ostentation, fear of poverty ...
The million dollar question is therefore, how to cure these diseases?
Fortunately, there exists a self-purification book (poem) known as Matharat al-Qulub (literally, Purification of the Hearts), which offers a means by which purification can be achieved. It is a treatise on the alchemy of the hearts, a manual on how to transform the heart. It was written by a great scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Mawlud al-Yaqubi al-Musawi al-Mauritani (Yuppie! He’s a compatriot of mine) and commented on by Hamza Yusuf.

By the way guys, if you ever have the chance of having this book in your hands, you must absolutely read the dedication written by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. He says something like: “I dedicate this book to my wife, who has a heart so pure she doesn’t need it”. WOW!
Mashallah, what a beautiful thing to say about one’s spouse… it really makes you want to meet the woman! And it also taught me to try look at my own “better half ;-) with as much indulgence as Shaykh Hamza views his wife! Lol, Thank God my hubby is still learning English and can’t read my blog!
The book helped me identify some of my own diseases (of the heart) I wasn’t even aware of! Honestly, when I read the book I felt discouraged (I had a heart ache throughout it) but now that I know a tiny winy bit more than I used to at the time, I am super happy because now I know that :
-          Diseases can be cured (I have experienced it!)
-          Aching when you read about a disease is actually a good sign, it means that contrary to some hearts, your heart is still alive. For instance, if you read about miserliness and that your heart aches it certainly means you’re stingy ;-) but the good news is that your disease can be treated and eventually cured!
Once you’ve identified most of your diseases of the heart  this is how I have nearly cured some of mine:
1. Treat the heart with the things you KNOW deep down inside of you, are good for you.
For me, two simples changes were : reading Quran regularly and quitting listening to that depressing band that invariably made me want to throw myself from the top of a cliff! (pessimism is a disease of the heart).
2.Purify your life with Takwa, get away from those acts and people that drag you down.
As derived from the teachings of the Prophet (SAW), an act can take the appearance of good, or be banalized by society but if, even a tiny voice in your heart expresses unease because of it, quit it.  Don't shun that voice and silence it like Dorian Gray did, until you're so deep down into corruption, that you can no longer be guided by your heart.
In that regards, something happened to me that was pretty eloquent…
Living in the west, I have never had a problem with people who drink, if you don’t believe me just ask my friends down at the pub ;-)

Jokes aside, my reasoning was the following : I shouldn't have an issue about entering in non-alcohol free places (in the West) because I know who I am, a practicing muslim who would order a coke with her my meal.
After embarking on the purification of the heart journey, I no longer could enter places selling alcohol; the mere idea of entering a restaurant/cafĂ© selling alcohol made me physically sick (I wanted to throw up).
In French the expression for having nausea “avoir mal au coeur” means literally “to have a heart ache”! It's clearly what happened to me : my heart ached so badly I was sick.
No matter what people told me, no matter how my brain tried to dismiss it with rational arguments, I decided to follow my heart.
3. Salawats on the prophet Muhammad (SAW)
I have not doubt  this is the practice that has helped me the most.
Prayers on me are light in the heart, light in the grave and light on the Sirat " (sirat is the bridge every soul will have to cross to enter the heavens) 
While I am saying Salawats on the prophet SAW I always try to remember how much he loved us; the women, the children, the poor and all of God’s creation.  Until his last breath, he prayed that God have mercy on his Ummah. He died saying : Ummati… Ummati… Ummati… (my followers).
When I think of how he much he loved us, I can’t but strive harder to follow his way.
I noticed that as my love for the greatest of creation increased, I started to change, my heart softened, I couldn’t curse as much as I used to, even jokingly.  I have also never been a cry baby; each time I used to cry it was mostly out of anger and frustration! Gosh,I’ve changed so much; the hard headed woman has slowly given place to a meek person who weeps at spiritual stories... Lol
If some cleansing of the heart hasn’t taken place there, God only knows what happened!
Even my better half ;-) has noticed the changes in me, I have become nicer with him, actually when I laze about doing Dhikr after Maghrib, he urges me to do it even though he seldom does! lol
As a friend says, lectures are great, they serve as a reminder but “it is in Dhikr that our real growth lies”. I cannot but totally agree J
4. Remembering death
Reading about death, helps you have more detachment towards material things and accept that this life is imperfect and that the true success lies in being a good person. For it is that sound heart of yours, that will get (with God’s Mercy) you through the gates of Heaven and not your career as CEO of some big corporation.
5. Hang out with good people who try to better themselves and not the people who have given up the fight
Shaykh Hamza says that a sick heart needs good company in order to "inhale the fragrances of sincerity".



By trying to cure your own diseases of the heart, you’re embodying the change you want to see in the world! You might not think that you're doing anything grand, because you’re not a world renown peace activist and you’re far from having Mother Teresa’s dedication but you never know…
One day after working hard on your heart you might wake up to find that you have become a clone of Mother Theresa without your knowledge!
Or, you might never become the next  Mother Teresa, but you will certainly bring up your children to be non racist, open-minded loving, compassionate people (sound hearts!) who will greatly contribute to making the world a better and safer place to be! And that my friend, will undoubtedly be a major achievement.

Please pray for me so I can have both blessings!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mauritania: beyond the dirt and the takhaluf Heaven- Haven

When I was young, I dreamed of being a student of mahdara and my dear friend Roisin admitted to me that she had once dreams of becoming a nun.
These fantasies, these dreams are very common in young people around the world and leave as they grow older (even though seldom entirely). I think it’s because the younger we are, the closer we are to the original state of Fitra so we tend to long for something pure and perfect and what can be purer than wayfaring to God?

In my opinion, Mauritania is a good place to embark on such a journey.

“Withdraw the heart into the arena of reflection
Nothing helps the heart more than that!”
From Hikam Ibn Ata Illah

A french brother, some of you might know, called Ian Mansour, told me that when he was seventeen he decided to leave Britany for good for he had come to the conclusion that Europe because of rampant materialism was no longer a  favorable  context  for soul-searching, introspection. His exact words were that it no longer allowed “retour sur soi” which literally means “to return on oneself”.

But why is introspection, soul-searching, “retour sur soi” or whatever one calls it so necessary?

Introspection is the prerequisite for any conscious decision, spiritual improvement and great achievement.
Hamza Yusuf had to live in the Tagant desert to become Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.
                                                                                Hamza, the student of knowledge in Tagant, Mauritania (Peter Sanders)

And most of you know better than me the story of the withdrawal of the great Ghazali from the world.  El Ghazali recommended that seekers of knowledge travel to a place where they know no one.
Is it the proximity of the desert? Is it the feet of so many God-fearing, God-loving Ulama and Awliyas that tread upon its ground that makes Mauritania a blessed place for introspection and reflection?

Or is it the frugality one finds in Mauritanian villages, the heat, the mosquitoes for they are a school in themselves...They teach Sabr (patience) and we well know the special place that's reserved for the patient.
But give good tidings to the patient who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allaah, and indeed to Him we will return.” [Quran 2:155-156]
To give you an idea of the place (at least its capital city), here is what a brother seeker of knowledge says about his return from Syria to Mauritania, it’s pretty eloquent:

“It was almost mid-night but it looked like morning to me. I was feeling like being home again […] I prayed and had a good sleep with wonderful, sweet mosquito bites. In the morning, I looked at the mosquitoes in my net, singing their irritating music in their pregnant state, moving around with my sucked blood.

I took to the city to use the internet and pray in the saudi masjid. How nice it feels like to be back! Looking the streets, you see men and women urinating openly by the sides of cars, walls, etc, dirty streets, and in the mosques, hearing the Mauritanian style of loud Shouting of TAKBIR at the opening of Solah(not Maalilki style to shout too loud). From all of these, I said to myself, welcome back to Mauritania!” (This is quote from the blog Back to the Root

 So if you can go beyond the dirt, the pissing on the streets, the spitting, the burping arghhh  -I am voluntarily crude- you will find a hidden gem. If you open your heart to people, you will notice the imperceptible things that make them special ; some are always doing dhikr, some do incredible sadakats (charity), some spend their nights in prayer, some just have incredible smiles in weather beaten, sunburnt faces.

Mauritania is a country where foreigners weep twice: First from dismay that they are sent to such a forsaken land and when they leave, because it has become a place they love.

If you wish to have any practical information about Mauritania, I'm far from being a tourist guide but I'd be glad to help. You can send any requests for information to :

PS. My e-mail address goes back to my teen years when I was an unconditional REM fan ;-)


Shaykh Hamza Yusuf encourages the love of poetry so here is just for you, my friends, one the English poems I love the most :

A nun takes the veil

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
Gerald Manley Hopkins