Ode to the Oppressed

Every Muslim around this world is thinking something along this line…

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A Heart Serene

Thanks to the long weekend this week was a short work week. But the past four days have bueen extremely long, with 8:30 AM meetings and reaching home around 9-10. Today was the first day for the Al Maghrib course, A Heart Serene. This is a two weekend tazkiya course on how to achieve Ihsaan (worshipping Allah as he was right in front of you). On Fridays the class goes from 7-10pm. I never miss the Fridays but today I initially had to pick up my mom from work so I was planning to skip it. I was somewhat relieved that I can go home and recharge from the long week that had drained me completely. However, Allah had a better plan to recharge me instead of my original plan of curling up on the couch and staring at the t.v. screen like a zombie. My dad called in the morning to tell me I won’t have to pick up mom, which freed up my Friday night. So now with no valid excuse to miss the class I stuck around at work until it was time to head over to U of T.

So far I’ve probably been to about 9-10 Al Maghrib courses and never has a course made so much impact on me on the Friday night itself! Usually the sheikh is at the front before the class starts or sometimes walks in a few minutes later. But this time, the Amir (male leader) went up and started playing some YouTube videos in relation to the course. A hilarious side note, as the trailer of the course was playing the ads YouTube attached to the clip was from SingleMuslims.com. The Amir had to forcefully close the ads resulting in muffled giggles from the audience.

In the back of my mind I was thinking the sheikh is probably late and we are watching the videos to kill time. But I was proven wrong as I heard someone walking down the steps and approaching random brothers and asking them, ‘what would you do tonight if you knew you were gonna die tomorrow?’  The first guy was completely taken aback. The ones after were also startled, first at the sheikh making a sneaky entrance from the back and second at the question that most of us never think about.

Sheikh. Riad Ouarzazi’s intro to the course itself was a tell tale that this is going to be none like any other. Everything I heard for the next two hours made me even more convinced that the up coming two weekends are going to be phenomenal. Here are some of his quotes that convinced me:

‘You may have come here with high expectations, I will Inshallah go above and beyond those expectations and this is my promise to you. ‘ – This course first came to Toronto in August 2008 when ~800 students took it. Some of  my friends have taken it and they have had nothing but praise and positive response. So I did go with high expectations and so far they have been exceeded.

‘Another name for this course is’ rollercoaster’, you will laugh like crazy and then cry like a baby.’ – Oh man, he wasn’t kidding about this one. He is hilarious, especially his poking fun at all the Pakistanis. He later clarified that to him Pakistani is all of Indian subcontinent including India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Meaning he is poking fun at me too! One second he would be joking and the next he would become dead serious/emotional. By the end of the first 2 hours the one tissue I had was in shreds soaked in tears. Must make sure to take a tissue box tomorrow! Yes, I am a softie okay?!

He also shared a story/hadith (unsure) about a student of Ilm (knowledge). His name was Hisham Ibn al-Ammar. His father spent all his life savings so he could send his son to Madinah to study from Imam Malik. In class one day Hisham was disruptive and as punishment he was hit with a stick. He was sitting outside the class crying as the Imam walked out.

‘Hisham why are you crying? ‘

‘My father sold all his properties so that I can learn hadiths from you, and this is what I get? ‘

‘Okay, how can I make up for hitting you? ‘

‘You hit me ten times so teach me ten hadiths. ‘ … so the Imam taught him ten hadiths and asked if he was feeling better, to which Hisham replied: ‘hit me again and teach me more hadiths. ‘

That is the mark of a true student of knowledge! The sheikh has promised to hit us with hugs, kisses and candies. I am super hyped for this course. I’ve totally forgot about my tiring week and I am fully rejuvenated for the weekend ahead. I have officially boarded the’ soul train to Ihsaan’ …

A Real Wedding

These days weddings (Hindus/Muslims from South Asia) in North America have become an emulation of those seen on bollywood movies. Its true essence is lost amongst the glamour, glitz, and fake galore. It often has the same formula, which is a series of functions (usually 3-5 separate events). Depending on the culture/couple’s preference the wedding events take place over a year starting with the engagement, sangeet, mehendi, bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette party and finally the wedding ritual. The bridal shower and the bachelor/ette parties are a western influence. By the end of it all, the parents are broke, bride transforms into bridezilla, groom starts to have regrets, friendships are strained and add to that a whole bunch of family drama.

The main wedding event itself has the same overplayed program…bride & groom walk into the hall with a cheesy song playing in the background, touchy speeches are said, cake cutting ceremony, food is indulged, pictures taken, friends perform to bollywood songs, and finally the floor is open for dancing with random aunties and uncles.

It’s the same thing over and over again and no one has the gall to break from the norm. What irritates me the most is the fact that it’s all just a show put on to impress people. ‘Look at how much money we borrowed to entertain you guys for one night, now you better come dressed fancily with fat envelopes to bless us!’ Such hypocrisy I tell you! Now, I’m not trying to insult anyone that are happy to hold such ceremonies. To each their own, live and let live are policies I lead my life by. The above rant is merely based on my observations of all the wedding events I’ve been to in my adult life. I just can’t fathom the amount of money that is spent to put on a charade for two faced people that will always find something to complain about.

I know what you all are thinking. ‘Look at her saying all such criticisms, she thinks she’s better than us haan? Let’s see how she holds her wedding, then we’ll have the last laugh! ‘

I actually didn’t have to wait until my wedding to show how it should be done. I recently went to one of my uni friend’s wedding reception and they were the first ones that had the guts to break free from the bollywood type fake fiestas.

Their actual wedding ritual took place in India three months ago. This was a small reception for friends and co-workers. At max there was about 100 people in attendance, it was a cozy event. Yes there were the usual things you’d find in fake fiestas I mentioned above: DJ, photographer, an Emcee, FOOD, cake, speeches, dancing. However, the entire atmosphere was none like I’ve experienced before. There was no pretentiousness! No one cared how much the bride’s outfit cost, how much gold she’s wearing, what designer suit the groom was wearing, how many tiers the cake had, no lavish $10k backdrops, useless $30/table centre pieces. The attendees did not care for such details. As a group, we were genuinely happy for the couple. We were happy to see that they truly loved one another and wished them whole heartedly on this wonderful journey they were embarking on as husband and wife.

Along with the newlyweds, the guests had a blast. They all left that night with reinstated hope that true love does indeed exist. I, for the first time ever left a wedding event thinking ‘This is exactly how I want my wedding to be! ‘