Why Do We – Muslims – Fast Ramadan?

My mother had an aunt who was nearly her age and whom she considered her best friend. Whenever she felt angry she would call her aunt who would listen to her empathetically, calm her down and encourage her to be patient and strong in facing life’s adversities. They both belonged to a different world than the one we currently live in.

Scrolling the Facebook I feel puzzled with the large number of posts women share on their personal problems and conflicts with their spouses or divorcés. The hottest the problem is, the more likes and interactions. Comments vary between other women sharing more problems or encouraging the original post writer to avenge. And sadly, almost no one plays the role my mother’s aunt used to play.

Why do we Fast?

I started seriously to consider this question. Why apart from God’s many orders we still fast while neglecting other devotions? And what is fasting about from the first place? Was it meant to spend the day, while fasting, fighting with our spouses, complaining from our children and cursing our lives and circumstances? Didn’t the same God who ordered us to fast order us to have love and mercy in our marriages and to well raise our children?

‘Iqraa’ (Read) was the first order from God to his prophet Muhammed (PBUH). It was neither fast nor pray. And this order to read wasn’t for sure an order to read social media posts which go viral destroying marriages and tearing familial bonds. And though to ‘read’ was God’s first order, I learned in a recent course I attended that Arabs read an average of six minutes a year. SIX MINUTES A YEAR.

Fasting in the 21st Century

Shocked with the 6-minutes-news my mind started to wander. What if we adopted a new style of fasting. One in which we fast for a whole month from complaining from our families, from sharing our intimate problems on social media and from detoxing our minds from the poisonous posts on women’s private groups. What would happen if we start investing the same time we used to spend in such toxic activities in reading and learning about restoring marriages and raising children. And what if we go out of Ramadan with an action plan for the next year to put what we learned into practice. What if Ramadan became a month in which we fast from familial fights, conflicts and disputes and we come out of it with a peaceful home and better marriage ties. Isn’t Islam in its origin a religion of peace?

“Marriage is hard work. You cannot do it on your own. The secret is to always ask Allah to help you make it work.” 

 

Which Type of Abuse Are You Incubating?

I can’t imagine how stupid you are. What is it, don’t you have a brain?” ‘Stupid’, ‘lazy’, ‘fat’, ‘careless’, ‘dumb’, ‘ignorant’, are few examples of the insults women often embrace passively.

Insults don’t stick”, a friend once told me. “I don’t care if my husband insults me as long as he pays my checks,” laughingly she added. The same friend, a decade later, went through an aggressive divorce battle and had to give up all her possessions just to rescue herself and her children from a cheater and a domestic abuser. It’s true that words don’t stick, yet their impact does. The emotional pain of insults remains in our nervous system and our subconscious. And gradually we start to belittle ourselves and to accept what we thought we would never tolerate.

Fatma, the poor vulnerable help in Fabulous Veils, thought she was obeying God by surrendering to her husband. The greatest heaven was the reward she awaited in exchange to her husband’s verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

Gameela, the middle class wife, accepted an unhealthy marriage under the name of love. Baring verbal abuse at first and then physical abuse and infidelity.

Madiha, the high class divorced woman, protecting her reputation, remained silent towards her husband’s financial abuse and her manager’s sexual harassment.

Why do women accept abuse?

Brainwashing. Whether at schools, on traditional media channels or social media, we are subject to subliminal messages all the time. Forming, or better say deforming, our beliefs about ourselves and our capabilities. We get raised in an environment that incubate gender inequality. We don’t object that boys be treated differently than girls. We grow up thinking that men’s main role is to work and provide money and women’s main role is to raise children. We let go of our rights, and many of us so often live and die unaware of their rights.

Advertising, music, atmospheres, subliminal messages and films can have an impact on our emotional life, and we cannot control it because we are not even conscious of it.” Tariq Ramadan

Who are the worst abusers?

Parents who disempower their daughters, from my perspective, are the first and most violent abusers. And husbands who continue to disempower their wives are the most stupid of all. For how could abused women raise healthy and stable children? When we disempower women we actually corrupt the world.

If you really want to change a culture… empower women.” Greg Mortenson

 

Fate or Destiny, Which One Are You Living?

Religion. One of the concepts people aggressively use to veil our brains. ‘Ady Allah we ady hekmeto’ (that is God’s will and wisdom), was the mantra Sheikh Hassan taught Fatma, the vulnerable Help in Fabulous Veils. Brainwashed by false religious teachings, she surrendered to her violent husband. Embraced his domestic abuse. And she called it ‘fate’.

Do we truly have no control over the events of our lives? ‘Nassiby’, ‘Kadary’, ‘Esmety’, are examples of the words the society install in our brains and they become a part of our identity. Scared to be accused of not worshiping God, we consider it a taboo to discuss religion.

Would we ever give ourselves permission to discuss this taboo? Identifying what’s sacred and holy from what’s evil and ugly? Not allowed to think, Fatma accepted the Sheikh’s words and took them for granted. She was an illiterate poor maid. She lacked the ability to think logically, analyse and reflect. What about us the ‘educated’? Do we allow ourselves to think or evaluate what we were taught about religion? Or are we acting like Fatma, creating more misery on Earth; accepting to be victims of fate?

Year after year we keep worshiping Allah during Ramadan through fasting, praying, donating and serving. Why not adding to these practices the habit of thinking? To reflect and evaluate our contributions in God’s kingdom. To study the concepts we were taught about religion and their frames of references. Why not shaping our destinies through selected positive actions that we choose instead of submitting to a fate that we believe it’s ours?

Fate is the preordained course of your life that will occur because of or in spite of your actions. Destiny is a set of predetermined events within your life that you take an active course in shaping.”

Which Role Are You Playing, the Martyr or the Victim?

Governments in less developed countries create constant crises to keep their citizens busy with the struggle of everyday life’. This is one of the concepts I had studied in the 20th century. Whether it’s the traffic, the economic inflation, the terrorism, it doesn’t matter. All what matters is to keep people struggling with their safety and physiological needs so that they stay distracted and claim no rights.

Madiha and Mony, two of my female characters in Fabulous Veils, weren’t struggling like the majority of the Egyptian population. They belonged to the Elite. Their family had power and their basic human needs were fulfilled. They both had awareness. However, their lives took different detours. Madiha, the mother, was aware that she didn’t want to get married that young. She was aware she wanted to postpone her marriage. She was aware that her groom was cold. And though she had awareness, she stood still doing nothing. She took the seat of the audience and allowed her mother to direct her life like a marionette.  She played the role of the victim and wrongly believed she was a martyr.

Mony, the daughter, was aware too that she didn’t want to get married. She was aware that she wanted to study abroad. And she was aware that she won’t accept to be treated as a marionette. She found in her mother no martyrs and she refused to become another copy of her mother, grandmother and great ancestors. She communicated her needs, her wants, her dreams. And though she communicated them clearly, she was neither heard nor understood.

Awareness and communication weren’t enough. To live her own life and create her own fate she needed to take the whole responsibility on her shoulders. She needed to stand up for her choices. She needed to be bold and to be strong.

Love, the purest and most holy power on Earth, should never become our curse. Our beloved ones don’t have the right to control our lives or slaughter our dreams. True love, whether it’s from a parent or a lover, should empower us and turn us into heroes and role models. Love wasn’t meant to create neither victims nor martyrs.

You don’t get good karma by making yourself into a martyr. Learn how to stand up for yourself and your good karma will be delivered in that instant.” Bryant MCGILL

That’s Why Awareness Turns Into A Curse

Is your heart aching? William Shakespeare claimed that: “Expectation is the root of all heartache”. And I wonder; had he been mistaken?

A couple of months ago I got certified as a Meta-Coach. On the same day of receiving my certificate, my mother and sisters surprised me with a cake and a beautiful bunch of flowers and celebrated my achievement.

Later on the same day my partner congratulated me verbally, warmly, and did nothing more. He didn’t arrange for me a surprise or get me a special gift on such a meaningful event for me. I remembered Gameela, one of my main characters in Fabulous Veils. How her partner failed to meet her expectations and how this was one of the main causes that bombarded their love story. Expectations from both sides.

I took a little pause to think of what I really wanted. I wished to celebrate with my husband my accomplishment. It didn’t matter for me that it would be a surprise. What mattered was that we celebrate together this milestone. I remembered John Gray’s teachings. I recalled how my partner comes from Mars and how I come from a different planet; planet Venus. I was aware that he loved me not less than my mother and sisters who all came from Venus. I remembered how he surprises me from time to time. And how his work was overwhelming him in this period. And though I was aware of what I wanted, I knew that awareness wouldn’t take me anywhere. I knew I had to communicate what I wanted. And most importantly, to communicate it in the language that my partner understands; the language of planet Mars.

Attending a Jazz concert at the Cairo Opera House was my choice for celebration. We spent a night-to-remember enjoying the melodies and each other. My heart was filled with gratitude to both my partner and Shakespeare. I refused to live my life as a victim like Gameela. I learned from her that awareness without communication is a curse that fires people’s lives and it starts by destroying them from within.

Men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed. Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished.” John Gray

What Do You Want?

Is it possible to reach a certain destination without identifying it clearly from the first place? It’s true that Hanan, the help’s daughter in Fabulous Veils was completely aware of what she didn’t want. However, her life didn’t turn out to be a terrific one. She refused to work like her mother and she ended up doing nothing. Nothing.

Are We Aware of What We Want?

“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.” Stephen R. Covey. 

This quote reveals a big secret behind our constant dissatisfaction. Do we have a clear vision of what we want? It’s true that it’s important to identify what we don’t want, yet this is only the beginning. The next step is to figure out clearly and specifically what do we want.

Begin with the End in Mind

This is the title of the second habit of highly effective people in Covey’s best selling book. In simple words he invited the reader to imagine his 80th birthday. Then to think of the people he wishes they would be there and what they would say about the life he had carried on. If you were celebrating your 80th birthday now would you be surrounded with the people who matter to you the most? Are you aware of who they are? And are you currently putting deposits in their accounts and communicating to them genuinely what they mean to you? What about your values and what you’re standing for in your life. Would people succeed in speaking about the principles you demonstrated and your contributions. Would their speeches be aligned with what you devoted your life to.

Less is More

In order to become aware of what we want we need to have less. Less possessions, less noise, less business, less waste of time. We need to have more time for reflection, for meditation, for silence and for stillness. More time away from the materialistic life. More time in nature. More time walking barefoot and connecting to earth and its elements. More time to journal our thoughts and our dreams. More time to imagine and envision the life that would make us stay immortal in the hearts of our beloved ones. More time to think of our strengths and uniqueness and how to use them for the best of mankind.

“Less is always more. The best language is silence. We live in a time of a terrible inflation of words, and it is worse than the inflation of money.” Eduardo Galeano

Watch Covey’s video of the 80th birthday at:

 

To Which Extent Do Your Thinking Equations Limit You?

“If…then” is a mindset that dominates many people’s lives. “If I disagree with my friends then I will lose them. If I negotiate my salary then my boss will think I’m materialistic and impolite. If I quit my job for a career shift then I will be considered a traitor to my organisation.” These are just three examples for several mindsets that were operating my mind and hence running and ruining my life. They reminded me with one of the equations we learned in Algebra; having the value of X and some givings at the beginning enabled us to predict the exact value of Y. All people would get the same answer despite their differences and individualities.

I love Algebra. Mathematics is my favourite discipline and Algebra is my favourable branch. However, life isn’t a Mathematical course. It includes limitless variables that we should guarantee nothing. “If… then” is one of the mindsets we ought to be attentive to and cautious to its effects.

“If I hadn’t studied literature then I can’t write a novel.” This was one of the thinking patterns I updated during the past year. I turned it into: “If I hadn’t studied literature then I need to learn and develop certain skills to write a novel.” I allowed myself to give it a try and the results were fantastic. Changing my thinking equation enabled me to write my first novel which became a bestseller at Virgin mega stores. It enabled me to make my career shift from Education to Coaching and Training. It allowed me to experience my life from a meta-level; a level beyond. Whenever I catch myself struggling I start analysing my mindset, evaluating and correcting it in order to live my life up to my highest dreams.

Changing my mindset allowed me to adopt a new life style, to unleash new potentials and mostly to become happier and more confident. One of my updated equations became: ’If I hadn’t studied…. then I need to learn and develop certain skills.’

Are you living up to your highest best? If not, is it your mindset what’s limiting you? Why wasting your time and settling for an average life? Help yourself or seek help. Just refuse to live and die without leaving a legacy that would prove that you existed one day on planet earth.

Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it.” — Steve Maraboli

The Greatest Agent of Change

“I’m not working as a khadama!” yelled Hanan. The vulnerable poor girl who was oppressed since she was born insisted, opposing her mother who was trying to convince her to work as a help, just like her.

Many people feel lost, unaware of what to do with their lives. Uncertain about their passion, their mission and their life purpose. When asked for an advice, I encourage my students and friends to start by doing what Hanan, my side character in Fabulous Veils, had done. Identifying what we don’t want is a great progress on the path of personal fulfilment . Becoming aware of what we don’t want our life to turn to brings us clarity and motivates us to move away from it.

My father was a Surgeon. His vocation was very demanding. He spent his early mornings writing papers and books. In his mornings and noons he was a Professor and he deliberately spent his evenings in his clinic. This left us, his family, only with one meal with him over the course of the day. We understood he was busy for a holy mission, hence, my mother was the one in charge of raising me and my three sisters.

Turning into an adult, I was aware I didn’t want to marry a doctor. I didn’t want to raise my children on my own. I didn’t want them to feel the void I felt. And I didn’t want to live as a single mother while being married. My next step was thinking of the traits I won’t tolerate to live with. I knew I wouldn’t stand stinginess, poor hygiene and dishonesty. Being aware of what I don’t want gave me clarity of what to turn down.

To which extent are we aware of what we don’t want? Whether in our personal lives, our professions, our style of living and our relationships. If you don’t feel satisfied with your current life, slow down and start paying attention of what you don’t want.

Awareness is the greatest agent of change.” — Eckhart Tolle

Are You Aware of the Evil You Are Infusing? 

My experience was tough. It was very hard at first. Teaching teenagers wasn’t an easy job. Until I started to love them unconditionally, accepting their flows and focusing on what they do right instead of catching them doing mistakes. One of the tools I held on to was Goethe’s quote: “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.

I started creating for them experiences in which they show their talents and demonstrate their potentials. I encouraged them to be real and genuine. I did it for years while feeling satisfied with what I did between the walls of my classroom as an Educator.

What I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t aware of was what I was doing behind the walls of my home. With my daughter, who was a teenager too. ‘Maa’ndish banat’ was one of the statements I used with her to express my rejection towards some of her requests. Ignoring Goethe’s words and instilling in my daughter’s head that she is a girl, and hence she doesn’t have same rights like her brother. “Why?” My answer to her question was limited to: “Because you’re a girl”. It was a complete sentence for me back then. It included the meaning between the lines. It held the misconceptions my community transmitted from generation to another. And currently I no wonder why many women play the victim. We treat them as they are as ‘vulnerable creatures’ and they remain as they are, ‘victims’.

My Fabulous Veils readers were angry at Gameela, my main character. For her submission. For her victimhood mode. For not standing for her rights. For not confronting her husband Sherif. On my turn I don’t feel angry at Gameela. I feel angry at the brainwash I was subject to. I feel angry at myself for living for years with rotten beliefs, accepting them and not taking a single action except for raising my children to believe in them too.

My daughter once told me a story of a carpenter who used to craft beautiful handmade pieces every time he felt angry. He did it to channel his anger, believing that anger is energy that he needed to get it out. I loved the story and adopted it. Channeling my anger at the misconceptions, wrong beliefs and brainwash I, and my community members,  experience in Egypt, I write, I speak and I invite people to think.

A movement is what Fabulous Veils is. It isn’t a novel for people to read on a summer day while drinking a florida cocktail. It’s a call for action and reflection. It’s an appeal for a pause for evaluation. Our words and actions are powerful and they shape our fate and the fate of our children. We ought to slow down and think of how to treat them so that they become what they ought to be and could be.

Ignorance cannot lead to evil, misconceptions lead to evil.” – Leo Tolstoy

 

Are You Aware that You Aren’t Aware?

Labelling. How many labels were attached to you during the course of your living? Fat, stupid, shy, unorganised, mean..the examples are limitless. And sadly, most of us start getting labelled from our childhood.

After my latest service visit with a group of my students I went home with a ghosted mind. It wasn’t the poverty, the sicknesses or the horrible living conditions that shacked me this time. It was the frames.

My son was just telling me that he doesn’t care about the trip, all he wished for was to have his father alive,” the widow declared. Suppressing my tears and trying to balance between sounding strong and empathetic I asked: “What’s the relation between the trip and his father who passed away five years ago?” “The trip was organised to celebrate the ‘Orphans’ Day’. And he no longer wants to hear this word,” she explained. It was my first time to see it that way. I thought that labelling was limited to negative attributes people associate to us and we grow believing it’s our reality. What I never considered was that the reality itself might become a label which hurts, frustrates and angers us.

The nine-years-old boy’s story occupied the back of my mind for days. I caught myself many times thinking of him and his future. Growing up in a place where people would care for him because he’s an orphan and while he feels stabbed because of this reality, would he ever be able to find peace?

I started to think of Fatma, one of my main characters in Fabulous Veils. ‘The pirate’, her husband called her after she lost an eye due to his domestic violence. How did this label affect her? She never shared this part of her true story. Was she experiencing similar emotions like the orphan we visited? Would this word be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

My action-oriented-mind started to wander. Sending letters to people in powerful positions was one of the ideas I got. Begging them to change the titles of the Orphans’ Day, the Mother’s Day, the Cancer Patients Day, the People with Disabilities Day and any title that would frame people’s minds and entrap their souls. “Labels distort people’s reality and create deformed versions of the beautiful human beings they were meant to become,” my inner voice shouted.

Are we aware of the impact of our words on others? Words, not labels, not insults, just words which we consider neutral while they aren’t? ‘Human’ would be the one label I would assign to a child, an adult, a day.. this is the way I choose to see others, my Fabulous Veils characters and my days on planet Earth.

Every human has something to offer this world; the question is will we create a society that can see everyone’s worth?” – Michael T. Coe