Day 23: Time

Guest blogger: my hubby Arif

Salma is mad at me.  She’s been asking me for a dua for two weeks and I haven’t given her one.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to or don’t feel the importance of contributing.  It’s that I feel it too much.  There is so much that I am thankful for and so much that I want to pray for.  But most of all I want to pray for time.  Time to enjoy all that God has given me.  Time to appreciate His bounty and generosity.  Time to be warmed by my daughter’s smiles and to comfort her when she’s having a “poodle.”  Time to enjoy my son’s sense of humour and participate in the constancy of his curiosity. And time to give him the much needed direction that a young man deserves.  Time to hold on to every moment with my parents and parents-in-law, cherish their every word and give them the confidence that their kids are doing well and will be alright.  Time to stop for an eternity so that I can say the million and one things that I want to say to Salma about what she means to me.  Time to be a better brother, friend and colleague.  Time to thank the Almighty.  This shouldn’t need time.  I know I should do it all the time and I beg forgiveness that I don’t.

Day 23, Dua 23: Time

(Yaar, I’m not mad any more 🙂


Day 22, Dua 22: Dues

I must have typed ‘dua’ a hundred times this month writing this blog.  Each time, the autocorrect would change it to ‘due’.  Messages come in unusual ways.

When things are not going well, or a family member is sick, or when there is something I really desire for myself or my kids, I turn to prayer; I say my duas with urgent devotion and complete sincerity.  But when things are going smoothly and life is good, my prayers are more rushed, often missed.

Each time the word ‘dua’ changes to ‘due’ I am reminded that with my long list of things that I want from God, there are certain things that I owe Him, commitments that I must keep. Prayer being fundamental among them. My duas are enormous; my dues need work.

On this night, and on this annual spiritual journey, I’ll keep trying.

Day 22, Dua 22:  Fulfilling my dues


Day 21: Parents

It’s hard to watch your parents grow old. Really hard.  I wish I could take away their aches, their pains, their worries, their fears. But I can’t.  All I can do is pray. And spend as much time with them as I can.

We’re blessed that all four parents are healthy and that they live nearby.  My parents are in NJ, just three hours by car; my in-laws are in VA, and spend most weekends with us.  It’s a huge blessing for all of us, and especially for the kids. Zayd just came back from a “GM Retreat” – GrandMama’s Retreat. It’s his special time with Babushka and Dada. He gets spoilt and fussed over. His favorite time, in the evenings when he cuddles under the blanket and watches Jeopardy and America’s Got Talent, ensconced between his grandparents and Billy the cat.

My mom’s dream has been to spend some time in London, living like a Londoner. We just made plans to go right after Eid. Her voice is already sounding different; she can hardly contain her excitement.  My dad is a bit nervous to travel, but no doubt he’ll be in his element once we get there, sharing his London memories with his grandchildren.  I can’t wait. It’s these times together that matter more than anything else.

I pray each day that all my parents stay healthy, that their spirits remain strong, that they realize what they’ve accomplished in raising their kids, and that we can do for them some of what they’ve done for us.

Day 21, Dua 21: For our parents

my in-laws on their 50th anniversary

my in-laws on their 50th anniversary

my parents, Eid 2012

my parents, Eid 2012

Day 20: Home

Guest blogger: My dearest aunt Dr. Khala (Dr. Khaleda Zaman)

Dr. Khala is my mom’s youngest sister.  She is also my confidante, my comfort, my friend.   She’s an integral part of who I am – and who I want to be.  Dr. Khala has done some amazing things in her life, but in the past few months she did the most extraordinary of all.  She made it possible for her daughter to adopt beautiful Leila (Dua 14) . And in the process taught us all what it truly means to be a Mother.  My dua is for her, may she always know what she means to all of us, how much she’s loved, and how extraordinary she really is.

This is her dua:

“Having left Pakistan as a young adult, and since then visiting just two weeks at a time, I had over the years developed a distance and disinterest in my country.
This year I had reason to stay there for a longer time for the wonderful task of bringing my beautiful grandaughter Leila home.  HOME….which home? I was torn between the two homes.
I felt the warmth and love I used to feel. The smells, the sounds of carefree and happy bygone days. During my stay in Lahore and the many trips to Karachi where I went to places I had never been before, from the Edhi Center in the heart of the old city to the court house for hearings before the judge, to Sarafa Bazaar where the Nazim wrote the birth certificate, the people were so hospitable, kind and helpful  — you just could not leave without a cup of tea or coffee in the 118 degree heat!  From the driver who drove me everywhere, giving me tips on how to navigate the busy and at times dangerous streets of Karachi, to the lawyer who sat for hours with me in airless, stuffy court rooms, to the people at the passport and visa offices who had to deal with power outages every hour, I developed respect for them and was amazed as they kept telling me, “Aap bey fikr rahein’  (don’t worry every thing will be O.K.).  And it was.
I don’t know if my mood and feelings were mellowed by the wonderful reason for my trip this time but my heart is full of love for Pakistan and for all the people that I met and my Duas are for all of them that Allah SWT keep them safe happy and may they all prosper. Aameen.”
Day 20, Dua 20:  for the beautiful people of Pakistan, and for home, wherever that may be

Day 19: Our own paths to God

Three years ago, I got a Facebook message from someone I didn’t know, but who had read a piece I had written in MORE magazine about a day in the life of our family during Ramadan.*

The reader wrote, “
Please accept my intrusion on your privacy, but I read about you online and I read your article ‘Not My Mother’s Ramadan’. 
I am a Catholic woman with a 19 year old daughter who told me two weeks ago that she is in the process of converting to become a Muslim. 
With that sentence, I will tell you that I am afraid, concerned, confused, cautious, curious and searching for answers and direction.”

She wrote that she is a devout Christian and head of religious education at her Church. Her family life centered around the Church. Her daughter sang in the choir, was a teen leader in the youth group, and taught religious classes to the younger children.  She said that all she knew about Islam was what she heard on TV or read in the newspapers. That she was scared.

We started an online conversation, which continues today, although we’ve never met. I tried to answer her questions, provide some resources and contacts. We journeyed together as her daughter converted to Islam; met a Muslim man; got married.

Recently I got this message from her:  “My recent trip to Turkey for my daughter’s Nikkah was an amazing experience. Every day there was something new to learn and to experience about Islam. I can honestly say I am at peace with my daughter’s decision. She will no longer be my Catholic daughter.  Yet somehow I realize and accept that we can follow our own paths to God.”

My dua, that we try and understand one another, respect one another, make space for one another.  And in the words of a wise, devout, loving mother, “realize and accept that we can follow our own paths to God.”

Day 19, Dua 19:  Respect one another

PS: The reader now shares her experience with the Islam she has come to understand with her Church group, the media and others. She wrote, “I think that in a very small way I too have been working at dispelling misperceptions.”  Ameen.



Day 18: Letting Go

Guest Blogger:  My dear cousin Yasmeen

“Have you ever gone to a place and felt enveloped by peace and serenity — perhaps a mosque, church, synagogue, temple, mountain top or even someone’s home?  Or have you ever met someone whose mere presence makes you feel calmer?  Essentially we are creatures of light and energy who absorb and reflect the light and energy around us.

My happiest times in life so far have been before I left home for college.  Our home was filled with the Noor (light) of the Quran and prayers of my parents but most of all – open and sincere hearts that put God first.  No wonder our home was filled with peace and love.  No wonder I never stressed about anything, and no wonder I was secure that everything would always be well.  The peaceful energy in my home environment sustained a solid internal peace within me which reflected in success of my worldly pursuits.

I left home for college and suddenly the energy around me (my new “home energy”) shifted dramatically.  I absorbed the energy of my new home and started getting attached to things which created internal stress.  We all have attachments and they start early — toys, people (family/ friends/teacher/ spouse, etc.), pets, grades, order, money, status, houses, cars, degrees, job titles, accolades, a certain reputation, pretty clothes, jewelry, being perceived a certain way, being right, being in control, being the center of attention, being perfect, etc.  These attachments deceive us in making us think that obtaining that thing will make us happy, but these attachments never quite take us to sustained happiness and so we form more attachments in the pursuit of that moving target.

There are many paths but only one destination.  If you’re at the bottom of a mountain, you can take many routes to reach the top.  You can take the paths created by previous travelers or forge your own.  There are endless possibilities to getting to the top of the mountain.  The most effective path for me to climb my mountain and reach my destination of happiness is letting go of my attachments.  My internal GPS shows me that it is from true submission to God.  La illaha illallah (“There is no God but God”) meaning “There is nothing worthy of my worship than God”.  Putting God first, instead of making our attachments into our God.  Our attachments or the things that consume our waking moments and subconscious inadvertently become our God.   La illaha illallah  (“There is nothing worthy of my worship than God”).

If we truly depended on God, we would not worry about a particular situation; we’d just put our best foot forward and keep moving.  We never worry about there being enough air for us to breathe so why worry about there not being enough money or love or whatever else that we constantly seek.  Let us focus on centering ourselves and letting go of some of these attachments.

My dua for today is: “Ya Allah (Oh God), Ya Rahman (Oh Most Compasionate), Ya Raheem (Oh Most Merciful).  Please empty my heart of all of my attachments so that I can fill it with only You, the source of peace and all that is good.   Let my waking and sleeping moments only focus on You, my Guardian, the Maker of Order.  Ameen.”

Day 18, Dua 18: Letting go


Day 17: Sisters

Guest blogger: My dear niece Mariya

Three years ago, my father and I traveled to Calcutta to visit my Phoppi and family after too many years.  My father’s stories that I’ve grown up with — where he was born, the green tram he would ride on Eid, his family’s auction house where he would spend hours admiring all the beautiful curios — played out in front of my eyes, like one of those old motion picture films.  Magic, captured.  One of the most wonderful parts of that trip was meeting for the first time my three nieces, Mariya, Lubna and Sana. Three of the strongest, most wonderful young women I have come to know. We caught up on a lifetime in just a couple of days.  Confirmation that family bonds trump time, distance, even meeting. We talked until late as they asked me so many questions, like how I met Arif; we walked to every tailor to get my sari blouses stitched in a day; we promised we wouldn’t let another moment pass to stay connected in each other’s lives.  That’s why it was such a treat to get this dua from Mariya.  She added, “I may not have met Saanya and Zayd and Arif bhai, but through this blog I have somehow met them, had conversations and will not be a stranger to them when I meet them for real!:)” 

“I was only 23 when I left home to travel to Bangkok for a wonderful work opportunity that came my way right after my Masters. When I was leaving I had never thought that the distance would make me closer to my two lovely sisters in Calcutta.  We started being more expressive of our love towards each other and our bond has only gotten stronger with distance. My Dua today is for them.

Lubna, my elder sister and Sana or ‘Sandy’ (as I fondly call her much to her dislike ;)) my younger sibling, are the two lovely lights in my life. We have gone through some very very tough times, but what made those times pass by was the fact that we three were ‘Together’.   I hope and pray that God fills their life with love , happiness and success and that they always have a reason to smile.  Love you both tonnes!:) “

Day 17, Dua 17: for my Sisters


Day 16: Focus

Not all duas are worldly, nor deeply personal; some are just mundane, but necessary. Like this one.

Dear God, please make me more efficient; please help me stop wasting time clicking on random articles online before I get down to work; please help me focus and stay on task and be more disciplined and not procrastinate.  (And not constantly check the 30days admin page to see if anyone is in fact reading my blog!)

I guess now you know why I’m four days behind on my duas.

Day 16, Dua 16: FOCUS


Day 15: Caring for Relatives

Guest blogger: Neelo Shah-Durrani

It’s wonderful to hear from a friend who you haven’t heard from in a while and learn that they’re enjoying your blog; “it makes my day every single time,” writes dear Neelo from Houston.   “So much has happened since we last spoke. But I do believe that everything happens for a purpose. We may not understand the purpose at the time … but give it time and one does start to comprehend it all.”  Ameen. Thank you for your friendship, and wisdom, Neelo.

Here’s what Neelo would like to share:


Silah Rehmi: Being kind to your family, relatives (kin and kith). Allah has given great emphasis on being good to our relatives. Rasulallah has said, “a Sadaqaah given to a poor man is merely a Sadaqaah, but when it is given to a relative, it serves two purposes: it is a Sadaqaah and an act of kindness for kinship.”

Day 15, Dua 15: Caring for our own


Day 14: Leila

As the world gushes over the royal baby, our family has been blessed with a princess all our own.   Sweet Leila.  The adorable baby daughter of my cousin Shireen and Zafar; baby sister to Zaynu.  And the truest reminder of how God answers our prayers.

Dear Leila, you are loved beyond words, not only by your parents, for whom you are God’s gift, and your big brother, who can’t stop kissing your cheeks and playing with your toes; and your Nani, who loved you night and day until she could place you in your mama’s arms; and your Nana, who couldn’t wait to see you and hold you; and your Dadi and Dada who prayed and waited for your arrival; and your Phoppis and Phoppas and Khalas and Khaloos and Mammoos and Mamis and cousins and our entire family.

My dua for you sweet Leila: may God always watch over you; may He keep your family as happy as they are this moment; may you always know how much you’re loved and how you have always been a part of our family before we even saw your smile.

Day 14, Dua 14:  for our Leila

Zayn and LeilafamilyportraitLeilaIMG_2584