Month: December 2009

Welcome To Hashkalistan

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Have you ever been to a mall lately and felt like you landed on your face into Hashkalistan? Once upon a time, people used to go to a mall to shop. Now the question to be asked is, what exactly do people shop for?

It’s like the old hunting game is still the same. Young lads walk around like a pack of hunting wolves, wearing clothes two sizes too big, with the leader in the center flanked by his bodyguards, prowling the land in search for the next feast. And the girls in clothes two sizes too small walk around in their own groups, flipping their heads from side to side as though they were advertising for a new shampoo, and giggling while they fall victim, one by one.

Then you have the girls who might not fall victims, since, “um…don’t you just…like…hate it when guys stare at you like that, um,” eyelashes batting faster than a fly’s wings. But if you see the clinging clothes, the blonde hair and make-up, it might make you think, “You might wanna do some covering up first, young lady and then talk about how the guys are looking at you.”

Normally I sympathesize with guys more than the girls in this new era. But some guys do have staring problems. Even if you’re a Neqabi some guys would stare. What do they think? That just because alna6’ra al2oola is theirs, then they can extend it for that long? But then with Neqabis, the talk between guys might be different. Imagine,

B pokes A in the ribs, “Yo,is that thing in black human?”

“Must be. After all it’s moving.”

Then the genius, C-squared says, “You know I was thinking, maybe it’s a new scientific phenomenon…could it be that the black hole has come to planet earth…?”

A and B get terrified at the idea and both scream, “RUNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s coming this way.”

*CUT!*

But the common Neqabi phenomenon could more clearly be depicted in this comic strip. The Neqabi is blotted out of course.

There’s also the I’m-always-on-the-phone people. It’s like, all they do is walk around and around and around with their earpieces in place, chatting away on their mobile phones. Do they have to come to Hashkalistan to talk on the phone? Can’t they do that somewhere else? And who are they talking to? Their mother?
Imagine;
“Of course, mom, I’m studying….the noise in the background…that’s just some music my friend put on…no, no, I mean anasheed, not music….astaghfir Allah…of course I’ll be home by 10, but you know the traffic’s bad in the city…you have a headache? I think you should go to sleep, don’t wait for me….yes, yes, I’ll eat here…Okay, need to go back to calculus.”

Mental note: New term added to teen dictionary, calculus = trouble with the security guard over a harrassment case

Of course, not all of them talk to their mothers, some of them talk to their preys,
Imagine (in English peppered by Arabic accent);

“Hallo…what do you meaning, “Who are you?” It’s me, your darling, you already forgetting me….oh…you meaning HOW are you? I’m fine, sank (thank) you, and you?”

*Weish ilsalfa? Huwa dars ingleezi ya nas?*

“Of course, I only having eyes for you.” Here, he stares at a pretty lady passing by until he nearly walks into a pole. Attention back to the phone conversation. “What did you say? Bleeze rebeat. Yes, I am in za mall. No, no, not to watching uzar girls. You don’t believe that sinze I meeting you, I no looking at uzar girls? I came to puying you a gift since it’s our one week anniversary next monz (month).”

*Jee, dude, you really need to learning some math*

Then imagine he goes to buy a Fitness tape, making sure it’s a woman trainee….

Now assuming that’s really for his darling, what’s the implied message? “You need to lose weight before I marry you, girl?”

The Outfits

Did you see the new Michael Jackson moonwalk hat + kandora style? Seems to be the in-thing. So what are they trying to do? Symbolize the “East Meets West” theme or represent globalization? If you really, really, really want a symbol for globalization or the East Meets West theme, go to the desert and search for a camel with a Mcdonald’s bag in its mouth. Now that’d be a real symbol for globalization.

*And by the way, if you find one, send me a picture so I can post it here*

And the whole men-wearing-clothes-two-sizes-too-big and women-wearing-clothes-two-sizes-too-small phenomenon is quite disturbing. What’s more is you got the guys covering their heads in all sorts of headwear from caps to Hamdaniyas, while the girls’ heads are…

WHOOOSH!

Some of their hairstyles might make you wonder if they jump out of a plane, would they need a parachute or would the hair be enough?

Makes one think, “You call that bush ‘hair’, girl? You might consider covering that in a potato sack just for public safety dudette, because let me tell you something your friends might not tell you, it’s a complete eyesore!”

Accessories

In the accessories section, girls and boys seem to be competing nowadays. I thought that accessories were just for girls but then you see these boys with huge chains hanging around their necks, that one interesting addition would be to have a padlock hanging from its end and that’d make them look like walking doors.

Guys’ Haircuts

And the guys’ haircuts make one shake their head in disbelief. It’s like people deliberately wake up to a bad hair day, then use gel and all sorts of chemicals to keep their hair that way. Forget the spikes that look as though the guy touched a live wire. Also, don’t stare too much at the cornrows that make a guy’s head look like a map. The only thing missing from cornrow-ed heads are some toy cars to go between the cornrows, and the head would look like a complete bustling city. But the most recent thing is the WEIRD canvas-on-head haircut.

This the one where you got a star or some other indescribable shapes drawn out of hair. It’s like the guys entrust a blinded-by-sleeping-eye-patches barber with their heads. Parts of the head 3alzero, parts 3al one, and the resulting piece of art….

*AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! SCARY!*

*CUT!*

Okay, so maybe I’m making fun, but it’s really not that funny.

إن القلب ليحزن وإن العين لتدمع على حال الأمة

Guess, all we can say is;

اللهم أصلح بنات و شباب المسلمين
الحمد لله الذي هدانا وما كنا لنهتدي لولا أن هدانا الله

************

Hashkal: slang for loser

Alna6’ra al2oola: The first look

Hamdaniya: Emirati headwear

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Raise Your Standard Bar To The Next Level

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This note is dedicated to Noor Il Fehm

Noor Il Fehm is the nickname of one of my university friends. Whenever I think of this girl, I think of a girl who used to “pass by my life” at just the right moments. In the TV room when I was saturated with what I was studying, in the corridor when I needed help, and in her room when I needed human company. She was my neighbour, and I’ve always been grateful for this neighbour, because we used to share deep intellectual, social, religious conversations, and the best part of our relationship is how different our majors were. She was in SA&D and I was in CEN. Despite that, we never ran out of things to talk about.

After graduation Noor Il Fehm went to teach children in school, simply because she didn’t believe in using her degree for commercialization purposes, like advertising and running Marketing campaigns, considering how unclean this industry has become nowadays. And since she was a design student, she thought that maybe her role in society was to be a different role model, and teach children creativity from a young age. Yet at some time she began to get frustrated because the children shocked her, and you could read all about it in her blog.

And what’s funny is that I’ve gone through a similar experience before. Once upon a time, I found myself a bunch of female victims to teach Mathematics in a  High School in Kenya just because I had nothing better to do with my life = I was on vacation. The experience was not so bad as I felt like I learnt more from the girls than I taught them. And if someone had asked me just before graduation what I wanted to do, I would have settled for that….

But then again, that was the AUS stress talking.

However, now, 1.5 years post graduation my point of view rotated 180 degrees, and my message to Noor Il Fehm is as follows:

Our problem is that we meld into society too soon, and we get into that heated mood of “wanting to make a difference in the world,” and “wanting to go out to the real world and change it”. However, what we really need is time to change ourselves, develop ourselves and grow ourselves. What we really need is to shift our focus inward instead of outward. Instead of criticizing society and the apparent moral corruption taking place, the question is, “What are we doing with our lives? What is our next goal? Not our next “social” goal, but our next “personal” goal? How are we growing? How are we developing? How are we challenging ourselves?”

We need to set the standard bar higher for ourselves. We need to force ourselves out of the comfort zone, define our next challenge, raise our standards higher. Otherwise we won’t be satisfied, and we’ll always feel like we didn’t give things our all, like we wasted our efforts, simply because we didn’t concentrate, simply because we didn’t define our next goal. And this dissatisfaction will lead to frustration, simply because it’s like we aimed too low, and by aiming too low, we’d naturally settle too low. There’s a saying by Clement Stone that says, “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.”

And that might explain your current frustration, Noor il Fehm. You settled too low. You went back to society too soon. You need some incubation period – a time out – to grow yourself, to gain more knowledge in your field, and return to society in a different form, not as a teacher, but something better.

And the more knowledge you gain, whether in religion, or in your field, the more you’ll realize how little you know. Because no matter how much you’ve achieved, the real great minds always strive for more. They don’t waste their time patting themselves on the back for what they’ve learned, for what they’ve achieved, but keep the process going and going and going like the bunnies that run on Duracell’s batteries.

Because at this stage, you think that the best way to change those girls was by gaining authority and enforce discipline, but a better way to change people is to inspire them through the story of your life.

Remember this quote for Imam Ahmad;

قيل للإمام أحمد: متى الراحة؟ 
قال: مع أول قدم في الجنة

Or the Arabic poem for Al Mutanaby:

على قدر أهل العزم تأتي العزائم ... و تأتي على قدر الكرام المكارم
 و تعظم في عين الصغير صغارها ... و تصغر في عين العظيم العظائم

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Musings Upon The Return

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Have you ever been to AUS campus after graduation, and mused about how students seem to be the same like the ones you’ve known before, only with different names?

The abayas are the same, yet the styles have changed. The way the purse was held is the same, yet the brand name across it has changed. The way that scarf is wrapped is the same, yet the face it’s wrapped around has changed.

A knot of students still stand smoking at the door of each building. The complaints are still the same. Professors complain about the students. Students complain about the professors.

Maybe you’ll still find the groups that aggregate according to nationalities, majors, financial status, religious commitment. A cultural group sits on one table in the student center. Maybe they’re Palestinian or Egyptian or Nigerian. The engineering gang sit together in the computer labs; laptops, scattered papers and pens. The rich in their luxury cars driving around with one arm hanging out of the window, cigarette in hand. The women clad in black, and men in white kandoras and beards walking between the masjedand the library.

The colours of emotion range from red to violet. On one end, you might see the tears over the printer because the deadline is too soon. On the other end, you might feel the overwhelming joy when the highest grade is a 60, so some students have hope that they might pass after all.

Maybe you wonder how many of them will return for their Master’s, how many of them will find jobs, how many of them will stay at home, and how many of them will stay alive…

Maybe you wonder how many of them will paint new dreams, how many of them will give up on their dreams, how many of them will forward their dreams to their children, and how many of them will find out too late that their dreams have been wrong all along.

Maybe you wonder how many best friends will stay best friends, how many best friends will separate with every one going their own way, how many friends will stay in touch, how many will turn their back on this phase, and move on without looking back.

Graduation could be likened to a single moment when a glass vase dropped from a height strikes the floor so that glass pieces disperse in every direction. And just like a piece of glass, when we rejoin the real world and meld into society, we might find ourselves hurting others more than we know, and maybe we might end up hurting ourselves.

So maybe you wish you could tell them now what you didn’t know back then,

That just because you’re best friends on campus,

Doesn’t mean they’ll remember you when you graduate,

When you leave this place

People change

Relationships change

Systems change

Life turns into a competition

Systems don’t necessarily accept you immediately

They’ll ask you about your passport

They’ll deem you weird because you’re different

Other people will try to hold you back

Because they don’t want you to reach their position

Just in case you surpassed them

When you leave this place,

Some people forget who you are,

And the favours you’ve done them,

And you might ask one question

Just one question

That is answered by silence,

And you read more into the silence

Than if they had answered with words

When you leave this place,

You might taste the disappointment

Over and over and over again

And you might ask yourself,

“Ya ma sa3adna ba3a9’ lamma kunna bel jam3a 6ab shu 9ar?”*

Shu 9ar?

Life happened

And you wish you could tell them now what you didn’t know back then, but maybe they’ll figure it out on their own…

With time

*Translation: We always used to help each other when we were in university, what happened?

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Monumental Life Shift

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As we grow older and more responsibilities get heaped onto our shoulders, we go through moments when we wish we could escape it all…take a break from all our life responsibilities…switch off the phone, disconnect the internet, switch off the television, walk away from the people in our lives, and lock ourselves in our room for a moment of solitary reflection.

We wish we could just close our eyes, take a deep breath, and let our imagination take us to another place, another time…a place where the sun looks like a reddish gold coin that melts into the sea during sunset, a place where the sea breeze could pass by and carry every worry we ever had away, a time when a laugh was just a call away, and all the fun activities we could do without feeling guilty about how they could be misinterpreted by others.

I guess when we pause our current lives and return to images from the past, it may help soothe us for a while, but indulging in the past is not entirely healthy. Living in the past for prolonged periods of time might actually be an indication that there’s something wrong with our lives right now.

Something totally wrong.

So maybe we need to make serious life changes. After all, how can we drive with our eyes continuously on the rearview mirror? And serious life changes might mean making risky decisions, like letting go of some of what we already have once and for all, setting new goals and throwing ourselves onto a dark road not knowing what kind of obstacles would lie ahead. A road where we don’t know whether we’d succeed or fail. A road where if we fail, we fall back really hard with nothing in our hands. A road where we might find ourselves wishing we had never made that monumental life shift.

And the more risks and challenges this new road has, the more likely it would dawn on us clearer than the sun in a cloudless sky, that maybe we must take the leap of faith into the unknown.

An example is of that youth whose clique forces him into things that go against his religious values, and he tries to advice them only to be ridiculed and bullied. Then one day, he wakes up and decides to stay away from their gatherings and focus on his studies, not knowing if the void in his life will ever be replaced, and the dark road here is his newly acquired state of loneliness. Yet such  loneliness can be a real gift, because all he has to do is turn to Allah in sincere prayers, for He is Al-Samee3 Al-3aleem, and the loneliness disappears like mist in a spring morning.

Remember the hadeeth;

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم ” من خاف أدلج و من أدلج بلغ المنزل ألا إن سلعة الله غالية ،ألا إن سلعة الله الجنة ” صححه الألباني

English Translation: “The one who fears will walk in darkness, and if he walked in the darkness (meaning he took all reasons to reach his goal), he will reach his final destination. Allaah’s commodity is expensive; Allaah’s commodity is al Jannah.”

The thing is, we can never predict the future or anything about the future, but what we have is our time now. There’s a quote by Meredith G. that says, “We spend our whole lives worrying about the future, planning for the future, trying to predict the future, as if figuring it out will cushion the blow. But the future is always changing. The future is the home of our deepest fears and wildest hopes. But one thing is certain when it finally reveals itself. The future is never the way we imagined it.”

So the question is, are we ready to take the leap of faith and make necessary life changes now?

Because what is seen as a short-term “loss” (in terms of materialism and comfort) could be a long-term gain in this life and the Hereafter, so rename your life shift, and call it an “investment”. Afterall, nobody said that being a practising Muslim at our age and time will ever be easy, so who’s ready for the challenge?