Guest blogger: Arif
Every time I open it, I find something new and enlightening. Every time I hear it, I find solace. Every time I hold our blessed book in my hands, I feel strength and God’s guidance. I thank the Almighty for our Revelation through the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), the Holy Koran.
Day 30; Gratitude 30: the Holy Koran
I wouldn’t say we were the best of friends growing up. We were just so different: he was social, I was shy; he was an athlete, I was a nerd; everybody in school loved him, nobody ever knew me; he was outgoing, I preferred staying home.
But our relationship changed the day I got married. All our family and friends had gathered at my aunt’s house in Syracuse, where the multi-day wedding was taking place. The night of my nikkah (religious ceremony), I was escorted into the small laundry room adjacent to the family room, where the religious elder would ask me if I accepted Arif’s proposal of marriage. I said “yes” three times, as is the custom. And then I broke down in uncontrollable tears. The emotion of the day, and the days leading up to the wedding, had simply overwhelmed me. There was just one person in the world that I wanted to see at that moment.
My brother came in. Everyone else left. I sat on his lap and cried, the drone of the dryer masking my sobs. He hugged me gently, and reassured me that he would always be there.
And he has been. Through every dilemma, every crisis, every heartache, and of course all the joys. There’s no one more grounded, more solid, more dependable, or more loving than Bubs.
Day 29; Gratitude 29: my brother
Guest bloggers: Dominique and Mike Rychlik
Our family is profoundly grateful to have found an interfaith community and volunteer work that makes our hearts expand. It is so true that in giving, we receive. And we are so grateful to and for our friend Salma (our 30 Days, 30 Deeds blogger) and her family, for helping us find our calling in this work.
We were feeling profoundly discouraged by the tone after 9/11. In 2009, Salma invited us to an interfaith iftar at the beautiful Historic 6th and I Synagogue in DC. It was sponsored by 9/11 Unity Walk. We had never been to an iftar before, let alone one in a synagogue, and it was a profoundly moving experience. We attended our first Unity Walk that year, and were bowled over by the examples of interfaith hospitality we saw there — a Muslim call to prayer in a synagogue, a Jewish cantor and gospel choir singing on the mosque steps, the hospitality of the Sikh community who served a delicious meal to all who came, people of all faiths learning about the symbolism of the Orthodox mosaics and paintings. It was a reality we had never dreamed of and we were hooked!
Our family decided that there is no more important work than interfaith work and we have put our volunteer energies there, now co-chairing the 9/11 Unity Walk Steering Committee. We were also moved to hear Eboo Patel speak about his vision for interfaith service — that service and caring for those in need is at the heart of ALL faith traditions and a natural way to connect and learn about one another. As a result of our experience on the Walk, and hearing Eboo Patel speak, our kids have organized an interfaith youth service group along with Salma’s family and about 15 other families, called Capital Area Interfaith Friends.
Those of all faiths involved in this work who we have been privileged to know, are some of the most devoted, faithful, service oriented, loving, gentle people we know. We are so grateful for their presence in our lives. Interfaith work has deepened our own faith, bringing us closer to God. Gratitude almost feels too small a word for that joy. Thank you to the Ali family and to all who have made this journey possible.
Day 28; Gratitude 28: Interfaith work and friends
What do you call your best friend, first love, life partner and rock all in one? I call him my yaar.
We met more than 25 years ago. He was cooking in a dorm room at Columbia. I was dropping off a dish I had prepared for the potluck dinner hosted by the Organization of Pakistani Students. As he likes to tell the story – I walked into the suite, he turned around and saw me, and poured the whole bottle of red pepper in his curry! That evening, he tried to impress me – with his knowledge of world politics, his worldliness, his travels across the globe. I wasn’t the least bit interested. You have to imagine, here’s a guy wearing a blazer, bow tie and suspenders, speaking in a thick English accent, looking and sounding a bit too full of himself; and there I was, shy and reserved, hardly haven spoken to a boy in high school, feeling way too self conscious and nervous, just waiting for an excuse to leave. For the next two years, he persisted – changing his major so he could enroll in the same classes as me, tucking poems and roses in my library locker, being his incredibly charming self with my parents, and convincing me that I could be anything I wanted to be. It was irresistible.
We celebrated 23 years this summer – a life full of travel, fun, adventure, unforgettable experiences, two amazing kids, and yes, some pain and heartache along the way. He still makes me laugh, holds me up when I’d rather fall, polishes off my sensitivities, and lets me believe that I can do anything.
Day 27; Gratitude 27: My Yaar
Arif and I debated about going away for a few days during Ramadan. I had preferred to stay home during this month, but it was also our only chance for some family time all summer, and that was important too. We compromised and decided to go some place that would be conducive to fasting and spirituality. In the end, the intended break didn’t quite turn out as we had planned.
But in many ways, things turned out even better. We were able to spend more time with my cousins and their adorable boys who we don’t get to see as often as we’d like — celebrating Sulayman’s third birthday, engaging in conversations that otherwise seem too rushed, sharing a few fasts, and being together during Laylatul Qadr, which felt even more powerful shared than alone.
Sometimes life doesn’t go according to your plan. Allah always knows best.
Day 26; Gratitude 26: silver linings
I love the fact, that of all the gadgets and gizmos that you could have wanted for Eid, you chose … a turtle. It reveals so much about the amazing little guy that you are. Curious about the world, and all its inhabitants; in love with nature, and all its wonders; compassionate for life, in all its varieties. For weeks you researched turtles and tortoises – what they ate, where they like to live, what makes them happy. You couldn’t talk about anything else (even cars took a back seat!)
Yesterday you chose Georgie, your tortoise. While I’m thinking, with our ever growing number of pets, how in the world did I end up on the set of “We Bought a Zoo”, you’re beaming from ear to ear imagining that heaven must have lots and lots of creatures. This morning you woke up and asked, “Was I dreaming mama, or do I really have a tortoise.”
You melt me, Zaydubean. With your smile. Your laugh. Your wit. Your gentleness. Your love.
Day 25; Gratitude 25: My Zayd
The minute you were born, in Geneva, Papa held you and you looked at the world around you so intensely with the most luminous eyes, we started calling you ‘luminosity’. When you were about four, in our apartment in Paris, I would have to print long documents and the printer would make this loud monotonous sound, you would start to dance. When you were about nine, in Houston, and you learned that kids in many countries couldn’t go to school, you decided to change the world.
This past year, when the stresses of being a high school teenager in a ridiculously competitive, consumption obsessed, cookie-cutter fostering environment became too much, you showed your true mettle. You suffered, but you held on. You questioned, but you never gave up. You are my strong, brave, spirited, compassionate, courageous girl. I will never leave your side. You will never leave my duas. We will always persevere. InshAllah.
Day 24; Gratitude 24: Saanya
Guest blogger: Dad
I am a very humble person, and find it very hard to find the words to thank God for everything I have been blessed with. My mom passed away when I was very young. I could not imagine what I would go through without my mom. My father could have married again but he did not, because of us (my brother, sister and me).
When I was getting ready to leave for England for further studies in Mechanical Engineering, my father assured me that things would continue as is, that he would not remarry, and that I should prepare myself for the long journey ahead. I was 20 years old. I remember so clearly the day when I said khudhafiz to my “Bapu” (father) – September 17, 1955, 7:30 pm. I was so surprised that he came to the platform to say good bye, even though he was in a wheelchair.
I don’t have enough words to pay gratitude to God that he made me strong enough and brave enough to face the world all by myself. Now I am well settled, and my children are well educated and settled. I have a wonderful, God-fearing, very helpful wife. I thank God again and again, and leave my most valuable personal possessions in His hands.
Day 23; Gratitude 23: Strength
So why is it that I’ve left for the end the things that I am most grateful for. My husband, my children, my parents, my brother. Because I’m afraid. That I don’t have the words to convey my sentiments adequately.
I’ll start with my parents. They arrived yesterday, and it’s feeling more like Ramadan. Just their presence in the house is so comforting. A balm. No problem seems as difficult. No stress as onerous. Dad’s laugh makes us happy. Mom’s prayers make us feel safe.
My dad is the gentlest soul you’ll ever meet. He’ll sacrifice his comfort for yours; find beauty in things we wouldn’t ever notice; entrance you with stories of his younger years; and always leave you smiling. There’s no way you won’t feel good in his presence. Growing up, he could never get upset with my brother and me. When he tried, he’d put his own hand on top of ours, and tap it. Now, he just needs to know that we’re happy and content; if we’re not, there’s nothing he won’t do to make it so.
I probably call my mom three or four times a day – to share a quick thought, find out for the umpteenth time what spice to put in what, ask a mundane question about what to wear or what to gift or what to do – things no one else in the world would find the least bit interesting, she’s always there at the other end of the phone, seems like almost waiting for my call. Of course there are the big things too – the problems and struggles and major life decisions, that I would never get through without mom by my side.
My parents are my anchor; my compass; my guiding star.
Day 22; Gratitude 22: Parents