Friday, 6 July 2018

We all suffer the same Struggles

 Welcome lovely readers!

This week has been filled with episodes, work things, holiday things and so much more! It feels as if I have been saying this since January, and now when I look back I realise it's already been 6 months, and we've entered the second half of the year! One thing I have learnt this year is that life doesn't stand still, like time, life will pass me by if I don't make the most of it. Life can only be richer if I embrace everything with enthusiasm (including the trials) because this will be the only way I can imagine living a grateful and fulfilled life.

Gratitude takes many shapes, it is the conscious "Thank you" for blessings, it is in the overwhelming feeling of love from loved ones, it is in accepting the body we have been blessed with and acknowledging it's strength; and it is in the conscious awareness of those less fortunate. Gratitude for me includes embracing my trials, as difficult as it may be, dealing with it and ultimately just taking it one step at a time to get through it. And by the time I have taken a few steps forward, trusting and with complete faith in my Creator, do I realise the blessing in the trial. I can regard it as a preparation for what still has to come, or as an experience meant to alert me to my shortcomings or a trial meant to strengthen character.

Earlier this week I attended the launch of Saffron, a book containing a collection of personal narratives by Muslim women. The conversation at the launch was inspiring, it highlighted the courage it took for these women to publish their deepest thoughts, trials and tribulations. And it also became obvious how this is frowned upon on our community, that women feel that they cannot freely express themselves for fear of judgement or retribution. Upon reflecting on the discussions of the evening, a few things became crystal clear:
1. These stories relate to any woman, Muslim or not, and yet it is necessary to reassure Muslim women that it can be done. I know that women, across cultures, would benefit from reading these stories, and when I listened to non-Muslim attendees at the launch speak, I realised that they too face the same criticism for sharing personal stories, and for sharing taboo topics.
2. Some of these stories could refer to any male. There would have been a male spouse, father, brother or son who would have been privy to the heartache, the tears and anguish of these women. And so in this way they too would have been affected by the individual's trauma and struggles.
3. As human beings we have the same make up, we are all the same and we all hurt in the same way. What makes us different is the way we react to situations, our individual disposition and our inherent character. 

It is our inherent character which determines how we choose to live, how we choose to deal with suffering, hurt and hardships. And how we manage these is determined on our own individual orientation to the world. So while these stories come from women all over the world, as humans we could all be victims of the same angst, dealing with the same issues. And while I am all for women empowerment, I will never advocate it at the expense of males. I cannot truly be an empowered woman if I fail to see the value that each human brings to the world, male and female alike. I know that empowered males exist, those who support their counterparts in marriage, as a parent, as a sibling and as friends. I believe that we should include all of the human race in empowering each other, I choose to believe that we can effect change as a unified power. The reality is that this is not always the case, even in my closest circles, as it is easier to to focus on what makes us different rather than what makes us the same. And this my dear readers, is where we find ourselves in the hot water of life... So I can only focus on my own contribution to society and trust that this is enough...

My motto in life is to live authentically as possible, to focus on what makes me tick, forgetting what the world may think of me and setting the best example I know how for my young charges. 

This outfit is the perfect representation of me, quirky, different and wholly unconcerned with what others think of it. I was comfortable, it reflected me and my mood for the day. This is important to me, to be able to just be and not to wear my clothing as armour, instead I will be uniquely me! ♥️

Outfit details:

Huemine Image tweed top (old)
Pleated skirt (old)
Stockings (old)
Vans leather sneakers
Sunglasses from Opulence
Forever New Scarf
French Connection leather bag
Scarf gifted

Caio for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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Friday, 29 June 2018

The Pinnacle of my Hajj Journey

Asalaamu Alaykum readers,

Hajj time is rapidly drawing closer, and I can feel the tangible excitement mingled with an uncertain anxiety in the air. I have been graced with several visits by prospective hujaaj in the past two weeks, and my heart overflows with joy for them, for this most wonderful journey they will be embarking on. 

My last post ended with the 5 waqts on Mina and by 2am the following day we started preparing to leave for Arafah. We performed Fajr and then gathered at the entrance to the SA camp to board the bus, which would take us to Arafah. The air was heavy with a solemn energy, as if every Hujaaj was deep in contemplation after a full day of preparation in the tents. I was in a state of heightened anticipation, notwithstanding physical discomfort and beginnings of a migraine. My physical state did not even feature in my awareness of the day other than being an insignificant detail. Moreover, I felt as if I was walking through the day on another plane, as if a magical energy was propelling me forward. It cannot be described as anything other than an immensely sacred experience. The sanctity of our journey weighed heavily on my consciousness, and my only wish was to be fully present during the waqt of Arafah and to make the most of this precious time. 

After waiting by the gates for about an hour and a half, we eventually boarded a bus to Arafah. The bus ride was probably more than an hour, I was so preoccupied that time was not a factor. When we eventually arrived, we were bustled into another gated area with open marquee-type tents. We followed our travel operator who directed us to our tent, carpeted with red mats- this was to be our spot for the duration of Arafah. It looked nothing like I expected, I had visions of being on open plains where I'd be able to to see Jabal Rahmah, and hopefully be close enough to catch a glimpse of Masjidul Nimrah. Instead, it looked very similar to Mina, with rows and rows and rows of tents, and if you were lucky, and in the right spot you'd be able to see Jabal Rahmah. Masjidul Nimrah, the place where the last sermon was delivered, also the mosque which only part of the building is on Arafah, was nowhere in sight. We were settled into our tents by 9:30am, with the heat already affecting hujaaj. The tents were not air-conditioned and had blowers which circulated more hot air. Despite the extreme heat and my migraine now at full blast (along with extreme cramps), I was overcome with gratitude and awe. After making duah daily throughout my trip that I be spared to arrive on Arafah, to be present and to be in good physical shape for these days; I have indeed been blessed to have arrived. I nibbled some snacks, took some painkillers and waited for the pain to pass. Some hujaaj took the time to nap and some were deep in reflection. I cannot remember when I became oblivious to the pain, oblivious to everyone else in the tent with me. But at some point I felt as if I was alone in the tent, mentally preparing for when the waqt of Arafah appeared. I was vaguely aware of hubby a few rows ahead of me with the rest of the men, but in a sense we were completely disconnected. Each one of us preparing for the most sacred dialogue of our lives. As the waqt arrived, our spiritual leaders started with a group jamm salaah (joined two prayers of Thuhr and Asr), followed by a group duah. Hubby and I had agreed that we would meet during the waqt of Arafah for some time on our own, away from the larger group. And we had both prepared something in writing for the other which we shared during our time together. A special moment shared with my soulmate on the most momentous day of our lives. Thereafter we returned to the tents and continued with our individual Arafah programmes.

Every single moment of the waqt of Arafah is indelibly imprinted in my mind, and at the time of Asr, at the height of the day's heat, a soothing breeze came up, wafting through the tents and bringing some cloud cover. It was such a welcome respite from the 50+ degree heat, and a tangible feeling of Allah (SWT) grace and mercy. At this point my senses were sharpened, I could not recall my physical discomfort, only a heightened sense of gratefulness; for my life, for my trials, for every single experience which has shaped me, and ultimately led me to this pivotal moment in my life. As I went through my Arafah programme, I was overcome with emotion, as the honoured guest of the Almighty, my place on this vast plains brought me a sense of peace, a sense of my purpose in life and essentially made me realise what my priorities are. I became acutely aware that everything I did in life was not for myself, but to serve my Creator and to live the destiny and purpose He has decreed. I became intensely aware that life as I know it had fundamentally changed forever. By Maghrieb the waqt of Arafah had passed, and we prepared to leave for Musdalifah. We waited at the gate of our camp to board the buses while those performing the walking Hajj (which was strongly discouraged due to the extreme heat and massive crowds) started the next leg of their Hajj journey. 

After a crawling bus ride of about an hour or so, we arrived at Musdalifah around 10:30. As we arrived we were provided with some water and fruit for sustenance.We found a spot close to the boundary, performed prayers and collected our pebbles. By this time it was almost midnight and we moved towards the boundary to set off on the long walk to the Jamaraats. The walk to Aqabah was a long one, and again I lost track of time. I do not remember any physical discomfort, nor do I remember feeling tired, or hot; and just moved forward, propelled by a surge of spiritual energy. The Jamaraats have a huge 3 storey structure built around which resembles a parking garage. The crowds were still manageable and we easily approached Aqabah, pelted, and without much fuss, exited on the other side. Even pelting Aqabah was a surreal experience and by this time I was floating on a high, yet still aware of every single moment. As we walked away from the Jamaraats, we realised that it was now Eid morning,  and I start the Taqbeer in my mind. As I reflect now, every single detail is etched in my memory with clarity.

We were really fortunate (Algamdulilah) to have flagged down a luxury bus for our entire Hajj group to transport us to Makkah. I could feel physical exhaustion set in as I sat on the bus, and yet I easily managed the next couple of hours. I decided to join my group going to Makkah for Tawaful Ifaldah (even though I was unable to perform my tawaaf) and decided to wait outside on the Mataaf for hubby to perform his Tawaful Ifaldah and Sa'ee. I had missed the Ka'bah in those few days in Azizziah and Mina, and when I saw the glowing green lights of the clocktower, I felt as if I was home. Shortly after Fajr, Ghaalid had completed his Tawaaf and Sa'ee and we left as quickly as possible to miss the crowds. We hailed a taxi and made our way back to Azizziah. At this point, I was still partially in ihraam, having only performed the 'klein verlossing' (ie clipping of the hair) after pelting Aqabah. This meant I could shower and remove the ihraam garb, but I would still need to perform my Tawaful Ifaldah and Sa'ee before I could exit the state of ihraam completely. 

Once we'd showered and freshened up, we ate and slept; we only needed to return to Mina by Maghrieb. We returned to Mina after Asr, refreshed, fed and with a change of clothes for the next 2/3 days of Tashreeq. We spent the night performing Thikr on Mina, and our spiritual leader informed us of arrangements to pelt the Jamaraats the following day. Each group is allocated a time, and a Saudi guide, along with a SAHUC representative, leads each group to pelt. The crowds were massive, the heat of the day was intense and we approached the crowded Jamaraats with guidance from our spiritual leader. Algamdulilah, I managed to pelt the Jamaraats with ease, and as I cast each stone I pictured the casting out of my own personal nafs, and my demons- this too was a poignant experience for me. On our way back to Mina we passed by our Azizziah accommodation and popped into the room to freshen up before returning for the 2nd day of Tashreeq. The second day, the crowds were larger, and more menacing, but Algamdulilah we once again managed to pelt with ease. We joined the enormous crowds making their way back to Azizziah, stopped for a bite to eat and returned to our room. We didn't return for the 3rd day of Tashreeq, so our journey was now complete. However, I still needed to return to the Haram to perform my Ifaldah and Sa'ee, so the extra week we'd be staying would be enough time to comfortably complete all my obligations. 

I make duah for a Hajj Maqboel and Hajj Mabroer! ♥️

Mina is a city of tents

The Arafah camps are set up along the road, and beyond...

Jabal Rahmah

Sign directing Hujaaj to the Jamaraats

Mina camps

This sight was like heaven for my soul

The Sa'ee

Entering the Jamaraats, you can see the 3-story building in the top right

Aqabah is this paved pillar, and we pelt over the yellow fence

The crowds exiting the Jamaraats after pelting Aqabah

My view as I waited for hubby to complete his Tawaaf & Sa'ee

Walking to pelt on day two, the Jamaraats ahead looking like a parking garage

Algamdulilah! After pelting on day 2 with our SAHUC representative

Crowds departing after pelting Jamaraats on Day 2

Caio for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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Thursday, 14 June 2018

Wrapping up Ramadaan with a Repurposed outfit

Hi Readers,
Eid is literally on our doorstep and while everyone is rushing about getting Eid outfits ready, ordering food, cake and preparing Eid gifts, let's remember the underprivileged in our haze of preparation. Some are unable to spend on new clothes for Eid and just a clean, decent outfit will do. Some are unable to go to the shops and buy a vast leg of lamb, or bake endless amounts of biscuits or order pretty desserts. This month is one in which we do more (than usual) in the way of charity, and in our abstinence comes compassion and empathy for those less privileged.

This is a message which I frequently highlight with my kids, more so during Ramadaan. Along with my introspection and focus on self growth, I consciously keep the underprivileged in my thoughts and deeds. The beauty of fasting heightens the senses, clears the mind and I become very aware of what is priority. The last ten days of Ramadaan very quickly becomes a frenzied rush to the end, when all I want to do is slowly approach the culmination, revelling in this time. The month flashes by so quickly, that I am always acutely aware of making the most of my time. 

As I reflect on my intentions for this month, I am happy to say that despite the limited time and a crazy work schedule, I managed to complete most of my planned ibadah. I also feel as if my inner work has been fruitful... so for me an overall successful and wonderful Ramadaan. Algamdulilah ♥️
I spent minimal time shopping this month, except for one day with my firstborn for two hours, and when I wasn't working, the time was spent at home with my family. It was with this in mind that I started posting all my previous Eid outfits as inspiration to repurpose pre-loved outfits. 

Repurposing an outfit, with new accessories, or wearing it in a different way, saves time, money and a whole lot of stressing! Change it up with a different scarf, add some texture with faux fur stole or neck wrap or throw a kimono over it! The trick is when buying anything, consider all the options of wearing them, even changing them up for a different season is a great idea, if layered correctly. 

A fellow blogger and friend, Namreen, and I decided to shoot an Eid look where I've shopped my closet. I'm hoping that it would demonstrate how easy it is to put together an outfit with existing classic pieces from the closet. I've worn this kimono before, but with a long lace dress resulting in a different look. It's been a few months since I bought it and brings in the trendy feel with the dramatic embellished sleeve. All other pieces have been in my wardrobe for some time, this time a silk dress and gold pants make the outfit a bit more dressed up for a simple, elegant ensemble.

Outfit Details:

Bodhisattva silk dress
Huemine Image gold pants
Gold belt old (can't remember)
Haya Collective Kimono
Guess heels
Forever New Pearl embellished bag
Scarf LV Old
Earrings (Old)
Stocking (Old)

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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