Friday, June 19, 2015

19 Hours of Devotion

"So you're going to fast all day? It's crazy! It's summer now so the day is very long! And you're not even allowed to drink, are you?" Said a friend of mine a few days ago.

To be frank, those questions creeped me out a little, made me feel even more anxious to enter this holy month that I had always felt excited about to welcome.

Yes, it's finally Ramadhan again. A special month for us Muslims. A month where we have to fast all day and perform more prayers. A month of forgiveness and second chances. A month full of promises.

The problem is, it will be different this time. I have never spent a whole Ramadhan far away from home. And it's 19 hours. 19. Freaking. Hours. How could I possibly get through that? It does not make sense, right? 

So why, why would we want to fast all day for 30 consecutive days? Why would we want to starve ourselves and resist all the worldly temptations? Why would we want to wake up so early to eat suhoor, while wrapping ourselves in a duvet feel so utterly comfortable? 

Because it's more than just hunger and thirst. It's about devotion. It's about proving that we're willing to prioritize Him over ourselves. It's about cleansing our soul, and starting over, starting anew.

And after experiencing my first day of Ramadhan in the UK, I can tell that Allah will grant us extra strength to do good deeds if we're willing to. I never knew I could fast for more than 19 hours. But I did! And I'm fine! I didn't even feel hungry until about 16 hours of fasting - and that had never happened before.

"So when you're about to fast this time, remember the various bounties that Allah has bestowed you with.  Remember the variety of food you have and the availability of cold water.  Remember the roof over your head and the decent job you've got.  Remember all the special bounties that are unique to your and your surroundings.  Then say, I'm fasting out of gratitude to this Lord who has given me all this.  Every time you feel the pain of fasting, remind yourself that you're doing it out of love for the Creator, who is the reason for everything you enjoy in this life." - Anas Hlayhel

So, yes, every time I feel thirsty or my stomach starts rumbling, I will just remember that I'm doing this for the Most Amazing, Gracious, Merciful God that always blesses no matter what. I will remember that sacrificing only 30 days a year is not even enough to pay all the blessings I have showered with.

I will also remember delightedly that during Suhoor and Iftar, all prayers that I ask will be granted. It's true, as what He has promised us, everything that I had asked for during Ramadhan has always been answered.

And when I remember all of that, I believe I will get extra power to get through the day. And I do not need to worry, as He has promised not to let me be tempted beyond what I can bear.

Ramadhan Kareem!

Friday, June 12, 2015

To Live A Meaningful Life

Dear Future Ayas,

Please remember that a few days ago (current time, not future time) you shared a conversation with an Indonesian friend that is also studying at York. He has worked for Indonesian government for several years now, and he told you stories about Indonesia.

It's a similar story that you have heard several times, actually. He's been to many remote areas in Indonesia and witnessed a lot of issues. Poverty, corruption, poor quality of education, you name it.

He told you about a small village which has only a school where the teachers had not been paid for 3 months, yet there was a band invited to the amuse the people in the village and they got paid for 500 million rupiahs.

He also told you about the way his friends who work in Customs & Excise, who has corrupted hundreds of millions and don't even feel guilty about it anymore.

He opened your eyes and lit it up at the same time - because you did realize that you want to do something. You didn't know what you could do exactly, but you knew you can't just ignore those facts.

Dear Ayas,

Whatever happen in the future, please remember that you once had a dream that you could do something for your country. That you could do something to make every child in your country to receive the same quality of education and have a happy life at home. That you believed that it could then alleviate the problems of Indonesia, as the lack of education seems to be the root of all the problems.

Whatever you do in the future, please remember that your dream was to make a change and help people, not to gain a lot of money.

Please remember that money and possessions are not the only criteria to measure success. So you'll also remember that it's okay if you couldn't make more money than most of your friends. It's okay if you choose not to buy designer bags and pricey shoes, or eat at fancy restaurants. It's okay.

Dear Ayas,

I do hope that you won't see this post as something silly and naive. I hope you will keep the idealism and find a way to make a change. I hope you still remember that it's a meaningful and content life that you're after, not a glamorous one. 

You just have to figure it out. Or maybe by now you have?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Second Chance

I am currently on a mission to spend more time reading. TV series, movies, and all the gadgets I have make it so hard to get lost in a book, no matter how good it is. I read less than 10 books last year, and I think less than 5 a year beforehand. I have promised myself to read, and got even more enthusiastic after reading this article.

So I decided to give reading a second chance. I want to feel the same way about books like I did ten years ago. Now I have read more than 15 books this year, and even though it's not that much, I am proud of myself because I show progress.

If you also do want to be an avid reader again, the first thing that you need to do to start reading is deciding what genre would be most suitable for you. Just think about the kind of movie you'd usually go to, or the topic that intrigues you. Mine would be fiction (the adult one), parenting, religion, and psychology. You should also decide what are you reading for: Is it solely for amusement? Or do you also want to deepen your understanding about something?

The next step that should be done is signing up for a Goodreads account. If you want to start reading again, you have to make sure that you are not going to spend hours reading a book that's not even worth your time. I started by looking at books from Goodreads Choice Awards. I know that everybody have a different taste and you might not like the book that another hundred thousands of people do, but reading a best-seller is a safe bet. Also, listing the book that you have read and want to read is a good idea to make you focused and feel more excited. The community is also important, as you'll find thousands of people who are profoundly passionate about reading.

You want to see book recommendations in a video form because that's just something that you enjoy? Then the so-called BookTube is the right place. Just search a book's title in YouTube, and watch the review. The only BookTube-r I subscribe is Booksandquills, just because she can make a book sounds very interesting and make me want to read it (even though I might not really like the book after all). I'm still looking for one that suit my reading preference the most, though.

Besides Goodreads and YouTube, of course you can ask your friends for recommendations, although it's not easy to find someone who reads lately - especially someone who reads the kind of book that you like to read. So whenever a close friend of mine posted a book on Path, I try to read the review on Goodreads to decide if the book is worth reading, and start enjoying it if it is.

If you're starting to get comfortable with a particular genre (and that includes bestseller), get out of your comfort zone and start reading a different book. I put some classics into my to-read lists, because I know there must be a reason why those book are still relished after all these years.

If there is a movie or TV series based on a bestseller book, which one would you prefer? I do enjoy watching it (especially if it's an action or sci-fi) as it would help visualise the book and make me got into it better with all the sound effect, but I learned lately that the latter would give you so much more.

First and foremost, reading a book will give you perspective. It gives you a chance to really understand what's going on in the character's minds. It will be easier to walk in their shoes if we do know what they feel about something. And it will feel more personal and emotional, I think.

Reading can also give you more chance to imagine. The characters could be anyone you want to picture. The setting could even look more personal. You choose. It's your own adventure.

Besides, I think reading is better for your brain. It will help you develop a good sense of language and give you exposures of new, fancy vocabularies. Most friends I know who reads has a more unique way to put up sentences. It's also good to improve our memory and concentration, I reckon, as those are essential to keep up with the story.

So if you loved reading growing up, but got so busy or lazy due to the technology, gave it another chance. Go to a bookstore or get yourself an e-reader, and start over. It has been a great experience for me so far and now I can't wait to tick every book that's on my to-read list.

Too much to read! (Source)

And be easy on yourself. You don't have to like a book that everybody else does. You don't have a to read a book that sounds smart. Well, in a book store at York, I saw a sign that said, "Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it", so at least find a book that won't make you look terribly embarrassing. Just start with something you are fascinated about, then explore new things.

Happy reading!


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