Risky, Luring Appetite

It was frustrating how my weight kept increasing month after month. Every time, I stood on the weighing scale, an excess of 1-2 kilos stared back at me. How do I tend to put on so much weight in such little time? The same question that many of us ask ourselves – with the same answer – overeating.  

Until then, I never looked at overeating as a problem. It never occurred to me how harmful this habit is to my body. Until I realized it, I had gained an excess of 10 kilos and was still counting. So, how do I lose these 10 kilos and make sure this never happens again?

Exercising or getting a gym membership wasn’t possible. I have two kids – an infant and a toddler – and hence no time for self-care. The only option remaining was to diet, which I tried earlier and it didn’t help. I would eat all healthy meals for first few days and then once that week or month was over, I could not help but give into my cravings.

The Prophet  said: “No man fills a vessel worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back straight are sufficient for the son of Adam. If he has to [increase], he should keep a third [of his stomach] for food, one third for drink and one third for breathing.” [At-Tirmithi]

This hadeeth is the best health advise one can receive. It wasn’t easy, this whole concept of eating less. My body was used to consuming more than required and as I began to control it, I constantly felt hungry.

With patience, persistence and lot of ‘dua’ to keep me steadfast, I started following these measures:

  1. I reduced my food in-take severely: It is important to mention here that I never stopped consuming any particular type of food. Be it chocolates, fast food, fruits, salads, meat etc; I consumed it all. What I did, was to eat less than my usual quantity. For example, if I was used to eating 2 eggs for breakfast, I reduced it to one. If I ate a plate full of rice, I reduced it to half and obviously began with ‘Bismillah’ (In the name of Allah). In two months, my appetite was under my control. I noticed that I wasn’t constantly hungry anymore. My body had got used to small portions of meal and I didn’t just stop putting on weight, I actually managed to reduce 2 kilos. Alhamdulilah!

‘O ye people! Eat of what is on earth, lawful and good.’ (Surah Baqarah, Verse 168)

  • I stopped skipping meals and eating in-between meals – I started eating only during proper meal times and kept a strict diet schedule. This helped my body to expect a meal only during proper meal times. I have to mention, eating right has a lot to do with sleeping right as well. Hence, I had breakfast at 7am, lunch at 1pm, a mild snack (a beverage and two biscuits) at 4pm and finally dinner at 6.30pm. I kept dinner as my lightest meal, because I had to get in bed by 8:30pm. I never skipped any meal and I also made sure not to eat in-between these specified times.
  • Drink lots of water – I start my day with a glass of water. Having two glasses is even better. I also keep a water bottle on my desk while working and keep sipping from it. This helps me from feeling hungry all the time and also keeps me hydrated. “Then let mankind look at his food. How We poured down water in torrents,” (Surah Abasa)
  • Following the above methods while Fasting – The month of Ramadan had started and I started losing weight quicker than ever. Due to reduction in consumption of food, Ramadan worked wonders for me. ‘No wonder I never lost weight during Ramadan earlier’ I thought to myself. I was glad this Ramadan was different. With light ‘suhoor’ and an even lighter ‘iftar’, fasting does help reduce weight. But it’s important not to forget that the primary intention is to seek Allah’s pleasure.

The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “The food of a single person is sufficient for two and the food of two is sufficient for three and the food of three is sufficient for four.” 

  • I purchased a weighing scale – I checked my weight every week to make sure that I am achieving my goal. One aspect to note in this regard is to never check it before the week is over. Our weight tends to fluctuate from time to time. So, I always check during weekends and this time I was smiling, as the figures kept decreasing from the last time I stood on it.

It took me two months to control my appetite and about 8 months to shed the extra calories I had. In about a year, I had lost 10 kilos and I was no longer over weight. But more importantly, I had managed to reduce my overall in-take which will make sure that I never gain unnecessary weight again. In Sha Allah!

‘Urwah (RA) reported: Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said: Verily, the first trial to occur in this nation after the passing of its Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was people eating to their fill. For when people fill their stomachs, their bodies are fattened, their hearts are hardened, and their desires are uncontrollable. (Al-Jū’ li-Ibn Abī Dunyā 22)

Trip to The Blessed Valley

I was spellbound by the grandeur of the shrine. I could barely speak – struggling to put my thoughts into words. As I stood infront of the Kabah (the black Stone), my mind could barely pause from thinking about all the historical events this place had witnessed and will in the future. It was intriguing how people from different communities and creeds travel to Makkah to worship Allah (swt) and gain His pleasure. Moreover, coming from different parts of the world, all of them blend together and form a perfect union of Allah’s creation which worships Him day and night. It’s always spectacular.  

Allah mentions in Surah Al Hajj:

“And proclaim that the people shall observe Hajj pilgrimage. They will come to you walking or riding on various exhausted (means of transportation). They will come from the farthest locations.”(Verse 27)

It was during the sunset hour when we reached Makkah. I was traveling for ‘Umrah’ with my family – husband and two kids. We were overwhelmed by the crowd, even though we knew what to expect. As we started the ‘tawaf’ (circumambulating around the Kabah), I could feel being part of something momentous. When I began my journey, I was advised by my mother to make as many voluntary ‘tawafs’ as possible. This advice turned out to be Allah’s guidance. Being a part of this unique form of worship, with constant ‘Zikr’ (praising Allah) and ‘duas’ was undoubtedly fruitful.   

One preparation turned out to be extremely handy – I had my ‘Zikr’ and ‘Duas’ written and recorded before leaving for this trip. It was utmost important and It helped me to make the best use of my time in ‘Masjid Al Haram’. While repeating the same during Sa’ee, one can’t help but think about what had actually happened there. A mother alone with her infant baby in a desert, ordered to be left alone – left to Allah’s mercy. How does a mother feel when her baby cries and she has nothing and no one around for help. The thought was too intense for me. I couldn’t think further. I glanced at my kids, who were happily seated in a wheelchair enjoying the ride between the two hills. Could I, as a Muslim woman ever reach that level of faith which Hajra (May Allah be pleased with her) reached? Could any of those millions of Muslim women who perform Sa’ee every year, attain that status infront of Allah? Could our walk between Safa and Marwah – with thousands of people around us, cool air blowing from above and without an ounce of doubt about what will happen next, be equal to her immense patience and trust in Allah? I think, It is only Allah’s mercy due to which He rewards and accepts this deed. Mentioned in Surah Baqarah:

The knolls of Safa and Marwah are among the rites decreed by God. Anyone who observes Hajj or `Umrah commits no error by traversing the distance between them. If one volunteers more righteous works, then God is Appreciative, Omniscient. (Verse 158)

After few days, in Makkah we left for Madina. While parting, I could feel a sense of longing which many of us experience. Maybe our souls get attached to it because it is the holiest place on Earth, and maybe the closest we feel to Allah(swt), physically.

God has fulfilled His messenger’s truthful vision: “You will enter the Sacred Masjid, God willing, perfectly secure, and you will cut your hair or shorten it (as you fulfill the pilgrimage rituals) there. You will not have any fear. Since He knew what you did not know, He has coupled this with an immediate victory.” (Surah AlFath, Verse 27)

‘I will be visiting this place soon,’ I felt as we started towards Madina – the `City of Prophet Mohammed (May Allah be pleased with him) and his companions. It was an experience in itself. Just as we landed there, I could feel the eagerness to visit the prophet’s mosque.

We even happened to meet a local who informed that he was a descendent of one of the companions of the Prophet – Huzefa (May Allah be pleased with him). ‘This is amazing,’ I thought. ‘What if we get to meet the descendants of all companions and those of Prophet Mohammed (SAWS). It would be a such a great experience.’ And though we couldn’t do that, we did what we could.

We visited the mountain of Uhud, and the area where the ‘battle of khandak’ took place. These places are majestic and extra ordinary, especially when you know the story of what happened there. Surprisingly, I had my own story written here. We happened to miss our bus twice while visiting these sites – once while in Uhud and another in Khandak. The time was such that no other vehicle was available to take us back to our hotel. I got worried as both my kids started acting up and I knew they would get cranky soon. This worry made me wonder about those who participated in these battles. How did they face the uncertainty? It was easier to understand why the reward was immeasurable for them. May Allah unite us with them and give each one of us a chance to perform Hajj and Umrah. Ameen

رَبَّنا وَاجعَلنا مُسلِمَينِ لَكَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِنا أُمَّةً مُسلِمَةً لَكَ وَأَرِنا مَناسِكَنا وَتُب عَلَينا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوّابُ الرَّحيمُ

‘Our Lord, make us submissive to You, and [raise] from our progeny a nation submissive to You, and show us our rites [of worship], and turn to us clemently. Indeed, You are the All-clement, the All-merciful.’ (Surah Baqarah, verse 128)

UNCERTAINTY – Allah’s Perfect Plan

‘Check your bag. It has to be there’, I exclaimed. ‘Or maybe it fell at the entrance, while shifting luggage.’ Our excitement had faded. We were searching for my lost wallet which had our identity cards required to exit our home country. We had set out on our ‘Umrah’ (pilgrimage to Makkah) trip which was interrupted due to this unforeseen circumstance.

‘It was in your hand when we arrived at the airport, right? Maybe it fell while shifting luggage?’, I inquired with my husband. ‘We walked directly to the check-in counter from the parking lot. So, it has to be somewhere between these two points.’ It was surprising how the wallet went missing in just 5 minutes!

If it fell from his hand, it was bound to make some noise, as it fell on marble tiles or atleast I would have seen it fall. I was walking right behind him, so if he missed it, I should have been able to detect it. We spent an hour searching for it, enquiring with the airport authorities and also with those in the vicinity.

The more we thought about it, the more it felt like the wallet had disappeared – in thin air. After about an hour at the airport, when we still couldn’t find it, I knew it was Allah’s plan in practice. He made this happen because He didn’t want us to go ahead with this trip. ‘Let’s leave the airport and head home,’ I advised my husband with deep sorrow and despair. Yet another endeavour left incomplete.

‘Never lose hope in the Mercy of Allah.’ (Surah Zumar, Verse 53)

For few years now, everything I planned ended in complete disaster. It was either taken away from me or I was unable to pursue it altogether. It was a test, I was well aware, but still had a long way towards developing the patience required to deal with Allah’s plan. And here I was again – stuck and uncertain. After all that planning – not just the hotel bookings or the flight tickets – but also the preparations to perform all acts of worship at the ‘Masjid Al Haram’, all brought to a halt.  

Once we got home, we decided to re-apply for the lost identity cards and all other important belongings that were misplaced. ‘I will re-schedule our hotel booking. Let’s postpone it to the day we were supposed to check-out,’ my husband said. ‘Sure, but it will only happen if Allah wants it to happen,’ I was disheartened. We were in a mess, I thought. I was behaving like I knew what Allah had planned. As if that was possible.

“We have given you good tidings in truth, so do not be of the despairing [Surah Hijr, Verse 55]

I was still speculating Allah’s plan, when my infant – one year old – started developing fever. She fell sick due to a fungal infection and had to be taken to a paediatrician. This was on the second day, after our trip was cancelled.

That entire week, I was busy taking care of her. I kept wondering what would I have done, had I been on the trip right now. Surely, I wouldn’t be able to perform any acts of worship and we would be visiting the doctor and getting stressed.

‘But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.’ (Surah Baqarah, Verse 216)

By the end of one week, she was all well, healthy and running around the house with her sister. Surprisingly, in the same duration, all the documents we had lost, which included my identity card, bank card, etc., were remade. Even more surprisingly, the department which issued identity cards wasn’t issuing new ones to anyone due to a technical error. So, we were among the few who got our cards and now we were ready to resume our trip. In just 10 days, we were re-booked, healthy and dragging our bags towards the check-in counter, again.  

‘And, behold, with every hardship comes ease’ – (Surah Al-Inshirah, Verse 5) 

‘All important documents stay with me. Won’t trust you with them again.’ I joked to my husband. ‘It was Allah’s plan and you know that. He wanted to bless us with a safe and fruitful trip,’ he stated confidently. It was true! Allah surely wanted to accept a ‘dua’ I was making for months. ‘Ya Allah! Make this Umrah trip better than what we have planned. Ameen’.

Our Lord, pour upon us patience and let us die as Muslims [in submission to You]’. (Surah Al Araf, Verse 126)

The Failed Test

It was my first attempt at organizing a college-fest, and I couldn’t hold in the excitement. I kept expressing my happiness infront of my bestfriend. Her reaction to my excitement was unexpected and heartbreaking. She frowned, sulked and I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t happy for me.

How much do we understand jealousy or hypocrisy in friendship at young age? Can we see through such friends, especially when we are madly in love with them? When we start loving someone more than anyone else and eventually, more than Allah (swt) we start living to make them happy. It starts without realization and ends in complete disaster.

Narrated Abu Musa: Allah’s Messenger () said, “The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith’s bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof. ” (Sahih al-Bukhari 2101)

Two years of friendship and I couldn’t understand what was happening. I had become this ball of negativity. Being friends with someone who doesn’t pray made me give up my salah. As my connection with Allah (swt) weakened, I became easy prey into the hands of shaytan (Devil). It wasn’t before long that I found myself gossiping, hurting others with mean words, etc. I spoke with pride and also left hijab (Islamic way of dressing). Chatting and getting friendly with men was casual for her and so it became for me. All my good deeds diminished and I was in a constant state of conflict. It felt like a tornado had swirled up inside me, creating unrest within my soul, harboring anxiety and worry.

This turmoil continued, until one day truth struck and I found that this ‘bestfriend’ of mine, was a kleptomaniac. Her charming nature, innocent behavior was just a cover to hide this horrific reality. She was pretending to be a good friend because of the benefits she was getting from me – my loyalty, time, financial help, and undoubted dedication. ‘You are one among them, those people who she stole from and lied to,’ I was informed. I tried to absorb and understand the situation.  

What I couldn’t understand is how I got myself into this mess. How did I end up so far away from Allah’s mercy and His guidance. The most difficult part was to understand and accept my fault in this – my fault – trusting her too much. After that I had to plan my detour, my way back into faith – a way back into Allah’s love and His true friendship. It was during those times that one very powerful verse from Surah Nisa stood out and made this path easier than I anticipated it to be:

‘Repentance with Allah is only for those who do evil in ignorance, then turn (to Allah) soon, so these it is to whom Allah turns (mercifully), and Allah is ever Knowing, Wise.’ (verse 17)

Taking inspiration from it, I continued with my life. I realized in just few months after the incident, that all this was a test from Allah – the one which I failed. It hurt to think about failure but Allah’s mercy is immeasurable and it gave me strength to never repeat my mistake, to never leave Allah’s path for anyone.

Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Surah Zumar, verse 53)

I would never trust anyone more than Him, nor change myself to please anyone but Him. Since then, I got used to repeating this ‘Dua’ (supplication) from Surah Imran:

‘Our Lord, so forgive us our sins and remove from us our misdeeds and cause us to die with the righteous.’ (verse 193)

I was happy again. I began improving my salah and reviving my heart by reading the Quran. It felt like being born again. I made more friends than I ever had, those who made me feel closer to Allah, and if I did meet someone who wasn’t close to Him, I tried to show them how His light brightens our path.

“Verily, Allāh Almighty has caravans of angels who have no other job but to follow gatherings of remembrance. When they disperse, Allāh Almighty asks them, ‘From where have you come?’ They say: ‘We came from Your servants on earth who were glorifying You, declaring Your Greatness and Oneness, praising You and asking from You. They ask for Your Forgiveness.’ Allāh says: ‘I will pardon them, give them what they request, and grant them protection.’ They say: ‘Our Lord, there is one among them, a simple servant who happened to pass by and sit alongside them.’ Allāh says: ‘I will also grant him pardon, for whoever sits with these fellows will not suffer misery.’ (Al Bukhari)

The First Deed Accounted For!

There are many actions in our lives which we rarely pause to ponder over. Generally, they are, the routine acts – always repeated ones, seldom analysed. However, this act, though repeated on daily basis, wasn’t one to be taken lightly and this realization had to come with a bang.

Everything related to ‘Salah’ (5 daily prayers) was very routine to me. I did it out of habit. And Never because of the significance it holds. Over the years, I never gave this routine act and the verses repeated during it a thought, until I didn’t even know what I was saying anymore. It never occurred to me to ponder over what I was repeating – every day. If the postures were accurate or not, if my ‘Salah’ was on time or not. All praise to Allah (swt), this was about to change, and it started when I came across the below verse of Surah Al Ankaboot(29):

‘Recite, what has been revealed to you of the Book (Quran) and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.’ (Verse 45)

‘Wa aqeemus salaata’ which means – ‘Establish Prayer’, were words that stuck with me. Allah(swt) could have just asked us to pray, but instead He emphasized on establishing it. Making it firm and flawless and expects us to be persistent in it.

While still pondering over the above verse, I happened to come across yet another one, Surah Maun (107):

‘Fawaylun lilmusalleen – Allazeena hum an salaatihim saahoon’ Which means – ‘So woe to those who pray, But are heedless in their prayer.’ (verse 4-5)

Needless to say, I had a lot to improve in terms of my act of worship, which was flawed. For all those years, when I thought I was connecting to Allah (swt) on daily basis, I wasn’t connecting to Him at all. And how does someone have a peaceful heart, a satisfied soul and a successful life if their connection with the Almighty was ineffective.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.”

1. As soon as I began praying on time, Allah swt created ease in all matters of my life – personal, professional, social, spiritual etc. He sent so many blessings my way, that I can’t put them into one single article. Everything around me fit into this perfect sequence, which earlier was chaotic. My entire day was filled with positivity, and I found myself smiling often. No worry or doubt passed my mind. And this was just the beginning of miracles. I was also working on my ‘Fajr’ (before sunrise) prayer, during this time. It was a unique experience in itself. But this story we will leave for another day.

2. This aura of optimism wasn’t limited to me, but I felt it being emitted by those around me. Be it my family, colleagues, friends or any person I came across, they were always cheerful and pleasant. Even the ones, who didn’t always approve of me, were delightful. It was nothing other than Allah’s mercy and love pouring on me through His creation.

3. Looking further to improve my Salah, I decided to add the 12 optional ‘rakats’ (optional prayers) to them. And this time all my Duas (supplications) were being answered, immediately. This is where I could feel my relationship with Allah (swt) getting stronger.

I did not create jinn and humans except to worship Me (Surah Adh-Dhariyat – 56)

4. Now that I was fulfilling the real purpose, the one I was sent to this world for, all my problems either diminished or completely vanished. With appropriate ‘tilawah’ (recitation) during Salah and re-learnt Duas, I felt protected, confident and relieved from all forms of anxiety and worries. The shield of Allah’s guidance was always with me, preventing any kind of harm (from a person or anything else) from touching me.

I hope and pray to be forgiven for all my flawed ‘Salah’ and I wish that everyone realises the beauty of it and that the solution to any problem, starts with improving ‘Salah’ – a person’s personal connection with Allah (swt).

All this while, I thought the reward of offering ‘Salah’ would be received only after we move to the next life and enter Jannah (Heaven). But now, I have experienced that Allah’s blessings start as soon as we seek forgiveness from Him and start praying in the manner He expects us to.

رَبِّ ٱجۡعَلۡنِى مُقِيمَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةِ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِى‌ۚ رَبَّنَا وَتَقَبَّلۡ دُعَآءِ

“Rabbi-Ajal’ni muqeema salaati, wa min zurriyyati, rabbana wataqabbal duaa”

O my Lord! make me one who establishes Prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring O our Lord! and accept Thou my Prayer.

(Surah Ibrahim: 40)