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Friday, November 25, 2011

As we enter 1433 H...

Live simply...
Walk humbly...
Love genuinely...


Guide us o' Allah to earn Your pleasures...
Bless us o' Allah Your forgiveness...

Tomorrow...the last day of Zulhijjah 1432
Farewell 1432 H...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Eid Mubarak

"In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art." ~ Rumi.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Gift - A Book Review by Zeneefa Zaneer

Book Review Buzz
2011 Summer Ramadan Edition of IWA Magazine

The Gift authored by Zaipah Ibrahim – Reviewed by Zeneefa Zaneer

“The Gift” is an Islamic romance fiction about a mother whose dream was to see her eldest son settling down before she left this world. Saleeha with her best friend’s help and the trust of Allah meets Syira and tries to match make her with Imran, Saleeha’s eldest son. Both being against of match making and having less interest in marriage, fearing to keep trust on a relationship, and their memories of past stick them on ground of opinion where they stand. Because of their less interest for this marriage, Saleeha’s dreams fade day by day. Yet Saleeha not giving up, believing both are meant for each other, tries to build a pleasant relationship between the two. Finally with lost hope when she becomes seriously ill Ani, her best friend let both Imran and Syira know about Saleeha’s health condition and her dreams. To keep his mother happy in her last days Imran agrees to marry Syira. Syira having a pleasant view and respect for the strange woman agrees to this temporary marriage too. The intention behind the marriage was mere respect and love for Saleeha.

But how love and trust enters their life after the marriage was really amazing. From the beginning to the end the story unfolds smoothly and keeps the reader’s eyes and mind glued on pages. From Saleeha to Ani, Imran to Syira the way the writer has built the characters and their qualities keep the reader tied into the story. Every chapter gives hope for a beginning of another best and well written, marvelously planned chapter.

The strange but the beautiful feeling runs through a man and woman meant for each other have been written perfectly. The way writer pour her thoughts through her pen shows how talented she is and it simply explains how beautiful it can be, romance in Islamic perspective.

In today’s era it’s difficult to find a romance fiction without unnecessary involvement between the main characters, man and woman. Yet our writer of this beautiful story shows that it’s not necessary to write haram stuff to attract the reader. Books in this kind are good and necessary for young adults and even adults who like reading romance fiction. Promoting Halal way of living through halal writing is essential and this kind of books must reach not only the Muslims but also the others in the society to realize that there’s a beautiful world behind the glamorous world they try to live in.

In a short sentence this book is a ‘Gift’ for the society and the readers.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Just write...

"If you're going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow."

~ Louis L'Amour

Monday, April 4, 2011

Timeless Gift (chapter 2)

Chapter 2

Assalamualaikum dwellers of the graves.” Shafikah whispered as she neared the graveyard and continued. Assalaamu ‘alaikum ahl al-diyaar min al-mu’mineen wa’l-muslimeen, Insha Allah bikum laahiqoon, as’al Allaaha lana wa lakum al-‘aafiyah (peace be upon you O people of the dwellings, believers and Muslims, Insha Allah we will join you, I ask Allah (s.w.t.) to keep us and you safe and sound).”

The morning was beautiful. It was not cold though a thin layer of snow covered the ground. Spring had just begun. The trees were still bare though, but soon green leaves would be crowning the trees all over Bloomingdale and other parts of southwest Indiana. The surrounding was quiet. The peaceful air seemed to envelop her to pacify what she was feeling inside.

Her heart was filled with love, sadness and longing for the person she was visiting. About seven steps before the intended spot, she stopped. She looked around. It was peaceful and quiet. She saw an old woman kneeling by a tombstone of her loved one reading verses from the Qu’ran in her hands. A question popped in her mind. “Would I still be here to visit you at that age?” She turned towards her direction and started walking.

Assalamualaikum, Ashraff.” Shafikah whispered and her eyes were fixed on the clean spot in front of her. She was calm. No tears, just, peace inside her. She was amazed at how neat and clean the place was even though she and the family rarely came to visit. She wanted to come more often but her obligations as a mother, a teacher and a writer took much of her time. Anyway he was with her anywhere she was. She just knew this always. Ashraff even prayed for that during his last days…

~

Ashraff and Shafikah had just finished Isha’ prayer together. She was amazed at his sudden strength at every prayer time. He reminded her that Rasulullah (s.a.w.), during his last days before his death, still led prayers even though he was sick.

Still sitting on his praying mat, Ashraff turned around. As always, Shafikah approached him to kiss his hands. When she looked up to him, he held her hands in his. Looking deep into her eyes, he smiled and spoke to her.

"I love you and that little guy in the next room. Don’t ever forget that.”

Shafikah looked into his eyes and smiled. “I won’t, insha Allah.

Still holding her hands in his, he gently placed them on their touching knees. He seemed calm and peaceful.

Insha Allah, you are not going to be alone, Shafikah.” Ashraff paused and smiled lovingly at his wife. Insha Allah, one day, you’ll meet a good man…perhaps a much better Muslim man than I am…and insha Allah, Affif too will have a brother or a sister…or more.”

“Ashraff, no… don’t say…” Her eyes were full with tears. Ashraff put his finger to her mouth to interrupt her. She did not expect him to talk about this. Not that soon anyway.

Ashraff continued. “You will love them and tell them about how much we helped each other grow as Muslims…and how much we loved each other in Allah Ta’ala.” He paused. His eyes were glistening with tears as he continued in a whisper, “…and how I hurt you…but Allah the Almighty has kept us together even after all these…alhamdulillah.

Shafikah was looking into his eyes trying to capture the way he looked at her and never wanting to lose it. “I pray that every time you miss me or think of me, Allah Ta’ala will make you feel my presence. After all, as long as you both love Him, He won’t let you both feel alone. Be close to Allah Ta’ala always… that way you will have peace…’real’ happiness in Him. Remember always… HasbunAllah wa ni’mal wakil (Allah (s.w.t.) (Alone) is Sufficient for us and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us))."

Shafikah fell into his arms sobbing. Ashraff held back the tears as much as he could and a painful smile appeared on his face. It was not the pain from his sickness. It was the pain from thinking about Shafikah and their son living without him.

~

She gently ran her fingers over the stone engraved with Ashraff’s name, dates of birth and death while kneeling close to it. She took a small book from her bag. Settling herself comfortably beside him, she began reading the small book in her hand. The late morning breeze touched her cheeks while she was softly reciting the beautiful Qur’anic verses.

Later, as she was placing the little book back into her bag, she saw the old woman leaving the cemetery. They glanced at each another and exchanged smile. Then, Shafikah was alone with him.

“Our little guy is bigger now, alhamdulillah. I didn’t tell him I was coming here. Or else, he would make me bring him here too.” She weakly smiled and paused. She could picture Ashraff smiling at her words. Taking a deep breath, Shafikah continued.

“He’s a very bright and smart kid. SubhanAllah! You would be proud of him… I know you do see him some how, sometimes.”

Shafikah looked intently at his name on the white stone of his grave.

“I’m not sure why I came. Last year, I thought I would skip it this year since Affif needs me but…here I am...again.” Shafikah let go a small sigh.

“I know that I can be strong and live without you, Ashraff. Insha Allah, I can. Abang Yusuff and Kak Fatima have been so great to me…and Affif…he’s just so wonderful, subhanAllah…” She paused and, with a longing expression on her face, continued in a whisper, “…but I’ll miss you forever.”

Shafikah felt a sudden surge of emotion. She quickly took another deep breath. She tried her best to stay composed as she had promised herself. She did not want to drop a tear there.

“It seems like only days ago you were entrusted to me by Allah Ta’ala. Then, the ‘amanah’ was lifted from me when you returned to Him…but, there will always be a part of me that just won’t leave you. A part of who I am now… is you Ashraff.”

Shafikah didn’t say much after that, but looked at the grave intently. Sitting next to his grave, she felt their closeness at that moment. But, she could not trespass the barrier set between his and her worlds. Only the Almighty Allah (s.w.t.) knew when they would be together again in one world. Until that time came, she could only pray that he was “treated” well in the other world. She remembered the lecture given at the mosque:

“One’s good or bad deeds are his/her companion in the grave…your salat, your fast, your dhikr…”

She just wanted to be near him for a while before facing another day without him. Her past when she first came to the town and their past together flooded her mind as she recalled her life for the past twelve years. It was all coming back to her…her life before him, the life they shared, and her life without him.

Timeless Gift (chapter 1)

Chapter 1

Ummi, where’s my mujaahid’s beret?” Affif finally asked his mother after searching everywhere for Ashraff’s beret. He called it a mujaahid’s beret after watching a mujaahid wearing it in a documentary program about the tragedy of the Bosnians. It was big for him but he liked to wear his father’s beret whenever they wanted to eat together. He told his mother that it made him “a big man” like one of those mujaahideen.

“Didn’t you leave it on the bookshelf last night, honey?” Shafikah saw her son entering his room to look for it at the place she had just mentioned.

Shafikah waited but her son still did not show up in the kitchen. “Affif, have you found it? Dinner’s getting cold now.”

“In a minute, Ummi.”

“What’s keeping him now?” Shafikah murmured to herself. She decided to find out what was going on.

There he was on his bed holding Ashraff’s photo. Their eyes met when she reached his bed.

“Today’s the day, right, Ummi?”

Shafikah looked sadly into her son’s eyes. She nodded and whispered, “Yes.” The day was April 10th 2001.

“You were in my room today, Ummi?” His voice was soft.

Shafikah was there earlier and she was looking at the photo herself, but she forgot to put it back on the night table near Affif’s bed. Instead, she had misplaced it on the bookshelf, next to his father’s beret.

“Do you miss Daddy, Ummi?” Affif inquired when Shafikah did not answer his previous question.

Sitting on his bed, she looked at her son lovingly. “I have you, honey.” Her eyes glistened with tears.

“But do you, Ummi? Do you miss Daddy?” Affif’s face was sad.

“I do and you know that, sweetie.” Affif placed the photo back on the table and hugged his mother. Shafikah wiped away a silent tear.

Pulling himself apart from the warmth of her embrace, Affif sat cross-legged on the bed facing his mother.

“Today’s Daddy’s birthday…” He paused. His voice was soft. “…and his death day.” He remembered this date very well. As young as he was, he was very attentive to people’s feelings and what happened around him, especially anything having to do with the two of them.

They looked into each other’s eyes trying to soothe the sad feeling that suddenly engulfed them. Noticing the calmness in his mother’s face, Affif said, “We must not be unhappy, right, Ummi? Daddy was a good man and he was lucky because Allah Ta’ala loved him. He chose to meet Daddy before meeting us.”

With a heavy sigh, Shafikah spoke, “Oh…Affif! Allah Ta’ala gave Ummi and Daddy a special gift when He gave us you. Alhamdulillah!” Small beads of tears rolled down her cheeks.

Affif wiped away the tears and smiled to cheer her up. Shafikah took his small hands, kissed them and gently placed them on his lap. She held his face in her hands, kissed his forehead and the tip of his nose.

“I love you, Ummi! Dinner’s getting cold now!” Affif told her with a smile and got off the bed.

Affif headed for the door.

“I love you too Muhammad Affif bin Muhammad Ashraff.”

Affif turned around and smiled widely. It was Ashraff’s smile on his small face.

Ashraff had wanted to name their son Muhammad Qutb after the name of a great Muslim thinker, Sayyid Qutb, whom he admired so much. However, Shafikah thought it was too classical for a boy in the nineties. They finally agreed to name him Muhammad Affif. It was the name of a brother whom Ashraff had adored and respected just like his real brother. He was an Imam who died a few months before Affif was born.

~

They had been reading the story of Caliph Umar and Affif drifted off to sleep when the story ended. He was now fast asleep on the couch with his head on his mother’s lap. Shafikah smiled at her sleeping son. How small and young he was, yet how alike the two of them were. Masha Allah! Seeing him in her life was like having him back all over again. Subhan Allah! He was right in saying that she would never feel alone in her life without him. Because she never had been alone ever since he left her and their son. A three-year-old Affif was sleeping next to Ashraff when he finally left them forever. Today would be exactly six years that he was no longer in her life.

Shafikah was gently pulling Affif into her arms to settle him in his bed when the phone rang. She looked at the clock. It was ten o’clock. Only one person would be calling her this late on this special day. She picked up the phone and greeted the caller.

Assalamualaikum, Abang Yusuff.”

Waalaikumussalam. How did you know it was me, Sis?” He was a little surprised.

Not wanting to tell him that she had guessed why her brother had called, Shafikah replied, “I just knew.”

Shafikah’s older brother, Yusuff, had been her sole protector since she came to Bloomingdale about twelve years ago to pursue her degree in Journalism. They had been very close since they were small. She was the only daughter in the family. Their eldest and youngest brothers nicknamed them “the twins”. Yusuff resided in the city after completing his business studies at Southern Illinois University. He now owned a wellknown food store in Bloomingdale, the only kind that supplied a variety of Asian and other halal food products. Yusuff’s wife, Fatima, was a graduate in Education. She had been a teacher at Bloomingdale Islamic School since its establishment the previous year – Fall 2000. Before that she had homeschooled her two children after quitting her teaching job at the Islamic Center in Bloomingdale.

Yusuff sensed a little sadness in his sister’s voice. He had called for the reason that Shafikah might have guessed. He wanted to see if she was all right. He felt bad for not calling sooner, but he was out of town for the last two days. Nevertheless, he did not forget what the day was.

“My little mujaahid is fast asleep?” Yusuff made an effort to sound cheery.

“Miles away in a sweet dream, insha Allah.” Shafikah laughed a little. However, there was a crack in her voice when she continued,”He remembered today too…as young as he is.”

“And you, my dear one?” Yusuff’s voice was gentle. “How are you?” He realized he did not have to bring up the subject. His sister had just brought it up. He knew his sister was a strong person emotionally, but even he himself was missing his late brother-in-law, especially on this day.

Alhamdulillah, I think I’m fine…I have to keep it all together for Afiff,

insha Allah. Kak Fatima called and we talked.”

“I know. She told me.”

“Papa and Mama called too this morning. They sent their salams to you, Abang Yusuff.”

Waalaikumsalam.”

Shafikah knew her brother wanted to know if she was feeling fine. He had been the one accompanying her to the cemetery for the last five years.

“You went to visit him today?”

“Tomorrow, insha Allah. Kak Fatima will take care of my morning class.”

“Want me to come?”

“It’s okay. I need to see him alone. You are not hurt that I turned down your offer, are you?” A flicker of a smile appeared on Shafikah’s face.

“I understand. Just give me a call tomorrow if you changed your mind.”

“Okay, insha Allah. Sorry I didn’t ask about your trip. How was it?”

“The trip was slow. Still snowing up north, but all went great, alhamdulillah.

~

So much had happened during the last six years of Shafikah’s life with her son. After ‘losing’ Ashraff, she kept herself occupied with working and raising Affif, as well as learning more about Islam. She wanted to make sure she had deep Islamic knowledge to fulfill Ashraff’s wish for their son to be a well-brought up Muslim. She also never stopped writing and was an active freelance writer. It was something she loved and would always do in her life. Journalism was the catalyst that had brought her and Ashraff together. Then, more than a year ago, she completed her second degree in Islamic studies through a distance learning education program. It took her about three years to complete it. She had to do it - for herself, Ashraff, Affif and the Muslims in Bloomingdale.

Shafikah felt blessed to have this family by her side through the years. They had been a great support in her life, especially after Ashraff was gone.

He may not be in her life anymore, physically, but a big part of who she was now, was in fact Ashraff. Although the time they spent together was short, her life with him had taught her much about this life and eventually the journey to the next life. She knew that it was something that all Muslims would have to endure to prepare them for the precious and invaluable reward – a meeting with Allah (s.w.t.) in Jannah!

Timeless Gift

After 3 months m.i.a, here's my first entry for this year. InshaAllah, I will be posting some chapters from 'Timeless Gift'. I'm hoping to get some comments from readers at Polaris Blog.

Indeed in their stories, there is a lesson for men of understanding. It (the Quran) is not forged statement but a confirmation of Allah’s existing Book ( the Torah, the Gospel and other Scriptures of Allah) and a detailed explanation of everything and a guide and a Mercy for the people who believe.

(Chapter Yusuf: Verse 111)