Matters of the Heart

flower

Day 2 in the beautiful month of Ramadan. I pray that everyone is in good health and had a great start to this amazing month of ibadah insyaAllah.

Honestly, the last couple of weeks were challenging. The heart was sort of…in turmoil, caused by no one else but myself.

You know one (or many) of those moments when you are angry, ok another time, impatient, oversensitive, ok again and suddenly depressed and disappointed? Needless to say, I hated myself those few days (although I must admit, I do blame it on PMS sometimes. Hahaha)

BUT, I’m truly grateful it all happened. That episode made me understand why Islam emphasises on choosing your companions wisely.

NEW

WORKSHEETS

“The people around you are your worksheets. You just need to do some corrections.” Uh huh….that was exactly what my friend, D, said, to describe the people around me. Must be her teaching background. Hahaha!

D went on, “Remember what you said to me just last Friday? You said, ‘I wish I am as patient and forgiving as you are.’ There you go!”

In less than 24hrs after I made that “wish”, Allah presented me with a worksheet to test how patient and forgiving I am. Of course, I was terribly disappointed with my performance. What do I expect? To learn something without a test?

“For all you know, YOU are the answer to their prayers. To be more independent like you, perhaps?” I see it now, D. Recently, an ustazah shared that you might be praying for yourself to be more giving so Allah make you meet more people who are in need of your assistance.

“Keep doing the corrections. You’ll get the hang of it.” InsyaAllah.

I revealed that I’ve been saying the zikir “Ya Jalil” and “Ya Lateef” religiously, intending them for particular people in my life. I realise I actually need these 2 beautiful names for my own heart, probably even more than those people I intended it for.

LESSON #1: PRAY FOR YOURSELF WHEN YOU PRAY FOR OTHERS 

sky trees

THE 3 Ts

Meeting this other dear friend of mine, S, will always involve emotional conversations about life, loved ones and death. And most of the time, having her to see me crying in public.

1st T: Tests 
Her (S) sharing always reminded me that no one is spared of tests. Even things which we see as positive such as wealth is a test in itself too. Even for the most jovial, ever smiley person.

“Babe, don’t be too hard on yourself. We are not perfect. You regretting and realising it now, shows that you are learning something out of it. The knowledge you gained doesn’t go to waste. You just forget.” 

We must believe that these tests are tailored for us so we can sail through them with His divine help and support from friends and family. If we can’t get that support from others, the Ya Wakil, is sufficient for us.

2nd T: Tawakkal
For all the effort we’ve put in, heart and soul, we will be given the credits we deserve. Never give up on asking and keep on praying. You’ve done all you could, so now leave it all in His hands. Have faith in Him.

3rd T: Time
S might have passed a similar test, in a much shorter time frame than I have. But like she said, her tests after that are even more challenging. To be able to handle her tests with much patience and positivity, is truly admirable.

Everything happens in His time, not ours. You would achieve the triumph, sooner or later, but never, never. Amin insyaAllah!

LESSON #2: HAVE FAITH & UTMOST TRUST IN HIM

Allah places all sorts of people in our lives. Some hang around for a while, usually leaving a mark or a learning trail longer than their stay. Some stick around longer to remind you of what you can be and to guide you spiritually and emotionally.

Alhamdulillah for the tests, the triumphs, the wonderful people in my life, who struggle as much or even more than I do. For always consoling me and telling me it’s ok to struggle, that I am doing fine, and reminding me of Allah and His many blessings.

LESSON #3: SAY ALHAMDULILLAH

I pray that you and I are always surrounded by beautiful companions who will catch you when you fall, to console you with words of encouragement when you think you’ve failed terribly and lest you forget, will bring you back to Him.

InsyaAllah my score at the next worksheet will be better. I’ll struggle but I’ll try. Ramadan Kareem everyone. Take care of your hearts and souls.

Meant to be

This appeared on my FB memories, posted by Yasmin Mogahed: 

“When Allah (swt) decrees that a door in your life is to be opened, no matter how hard you try to close it, no matter how far you run away from it, it will remain open until you walk through it.

When Allah (swt) decrees that a door is to be closed, no matter how many times you knock on that door, try to break it down, or cry on your knees in front of it, begging it to open again, it will never be opened.

Grieve in front of the closed door if you must. Stand there for a time and look at it. Memorize its shapes, its lines, and its indentations. Hold your hands over your heart and press down to calm its quickened, pained rhythm. Then know—know beyond the shadow of a doubt, know in your heart of hearts—that when you trust Allah and walk forward, He will open a more beautiful door for you. You will walk through it and perhaps you will even praise Him for having closed the past door you loved so much.

He is al-Fattah, the Opener. May the doors He opens for us always lead us back to Him.” By Asmaa Hussein

KL to Putrajaya

An overdue post on the RIS Convention in Putrajaya. Of many firsts – first time in Putrajaya, not staying in KL City and seeking knowledge in Malaysia and not taking photos in the hotel. Hehe. No regrets Alhamdulillah.

From KLIA2 to KL Sentral (RM55 for the KLIA Ekspress) onward to Tarbush, my favourite restaurant. I brought Dawn around Bukit Bintang before we left for Putrajaya by cab (RM70). A Hindu driver, a history buff who believes in goodness in all religions and the hereafter. We had an interesting conversation throughout the ride. He was patient despite being lost, stopping and approaching strangers along the way for directions.

Check in at The Everly Hotel barely took 5 minutes. Alhamdulillah it was a comfortable sized room, with heavenly bed and good shower. After Maghrib, we went to Allamanda Shopping Centre which is just 3 minutes away, for dinner. How convenient!  But that was the only time we had at the mall. Didn’t even have time for my Starbucks and that yummy looking Roti John I eyed on the first night. Boohoo.

See my hotel review on Tripadvisor here!

The next day, we took a cab from the hotel to Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) (RM25-RM30) after the scrumptious breakfast. There was a long queue for the security and ticketing. But amazed by the operations and the friendly volunteers and staff.

And so our two-full day convention (10am to 10pm) begins!

Ummu

gardens

I recognised the black dress with fuchsia floral prints. She wore it at the last outing with her beloved daughter and family just 2 to 3 days ago. The woman in charge, cut her dress. Tears rolled down my cheeks. A reminder of how lavishly your adornment is, it is worthless when you leave this world.

I looked across. There she was with much love and pain. My sister-in-law lovingly stroking her mum’s hair. Reminiscing times with her I am sure. I looked up trying hard not to let my tears fall yet again.

I turned to my left. There they were, my 2 teenage nieces. I am a proud aunt. Anggun occasionally wiping her tears like me. Trying her very best to put up a strong front. Probably thinking of the nights they slept together. Who would have guessed she left just a few days after she slept over.

Cinta, the younger one but calmer one. Though she did say before we entered “Aunty Nani, I want. But I don’t know what to do.” “Just follow what the makcik says. She will tell us what to do. Just be gentle like how you would be gentle with yourself while showering?  Don’t worry. It’s my first time too.”

May you both be in His guidance always.

She was hospitalised on Friday night, if not mistaken. Mum and I had decided to visit her on Saturday after zohor. We were ready. Immediately after the call to prayer was heard, my brother called to inform us of her passing. Mum was heartbroken. Not being able to see her for the last time.

This was the least I could do. The usually weak me. I had to.

When it came to Anggun’s turn to cleanse her grandma,  she took 2 minutes and whispered to her cousin next to me that she can’t do it. She felt faint. I could see the heart brokenness on her face. Her cousin helped her to sit down whilst we continued.

Seeing Cik Kamesah being covered for the last time, I couldn’t help but tear. We will each go through this. One that I am grateful for is, the ritual and burial was done within 4 hours. Alhamdulillah.

My sister in law is a woman full of patience and shows much love and endearment towards her mother. I have a lot of respect for her and a lot to learn from. Allah will rejoin you with your beloved parents when the time comes. He will ease your affairs for you do not need live with regrets for taking such good care of your mother.

You have lost a baraqah which is a mother’s blessing and du’a but she has your du’a. I am sure for all the du’a she had for you will last you a lifetime. Ameen inshaAllah. Keep the late Cik (Aunt) Kamesah and those whom she left behind in your du’a.

Al Fatihah.

Journey to Him

scenery

Tears welled up. I didn’t expect that to happen. At all. A familiar name I’ve called out so often in times of joy, sadness, fear and disappointment.

ALLAH.

I tried to recall the last time I felt that way.. I’ve probably cried for something I didn’t get or cos of guilt. But crying solely just mentioning His name and praising Him? Sadly, I can’t remember. What happened that Thursday night, I will remember for life.

When I was told to close my eyes and to softly say Ya Allah a hundred times, feeling it with my heart, I thought “Well, I’ve always said it with my heart.” Gosh, the arrogance.

It took probably more than 10 times of His name till heart to started beating fast. Just as I wondered of what I did not do right in that zikr, my heart suddenly swelled with emotions and my mind flooded with flashbacks and faces of people I love.

I felt like an opened book, disclosing too many inner emotions that just kept flowing, refusing to stop.

YA ALLAH.

After the 100th mention, we were told to open our eyes. Feeling embarrassed, I quickly grabbed a tissue to wipe my tears. I was comforted that I wasn’t alone. The whole class was quiet. Even our teacher was trying to find her voice to continue the lesson.

Ustazah Suaidah. I’ve heard about this young religious teacher from my friends who are mothers. She could relate to their experience as working mothers they said. And she writes beautifully, I heard.

The workshop “Women and Journey to Allah” would be interesting as usually religious lectures and workshops are pretty general and not gender-specific.

In the first lesson, she said it’s difficult to find classes where they talked only about Allah. So true! It’s usually about Fardhu Ain, Tajweed, etc. Not that those lessons aren’t important but it’s as important for us to know our Creator too. How to love someone when you don’t know that person well, right?

I was excited when she told us she will focus on Asma ul Husna.  My weakness is in remembering His names 😦 As though she could read my mind, she shared that applying His names in different situations would make it easier for us to remember. Of course, it is best for us to zikir all His names anytime and all the time.

For a start, we were told to choose 5 of Allah’s names and say them 10 times after Subuh prayers and before we go to sleep. I chose these (including Ya Allah)

– Ya Afuw (The Forgiver – we want Allah to forgive us for our sins and delete them all)
– Ya Bari’ (The Best Planner – to start off your day)
– Ya Jalil (The Holiness – to purify our hearts)
– Ya Wakil  (The Trustee – to seek His help)

Last week, she also shared (based on her teacher’s recommendations) to recite specific surah after the following prayer times (to include zikir as well):

– Subuh: Surah Yasin (For ease)
– Zohor: Surah Nuh (To ask for cure, to renew our syahadah and to remind us of patience and perseverance of Prophet Noah)
– Asar: Surah An Naba’ (To ask for love and remind us about Qiyamah)
– Maghrib: Surah Al Waqiah (For rizq)
– Isyak: Surah Al Mulk (To ask for forgiveness and protection from punishment in grave)
– Dhuha & Tahajjud: to recite Ya Allah x 100 and Asma ul Husna

May He guide us always on the straight path and ends our time here beautifully. Please keep me in your du’a 🙂

Food Odyssey 

14352210_554039824797998_3511360422345165795_o

With the RM rate going at RM3 against S$1, Johor Bahru (JB), the nearest Malaysian city, has been crowded with Singaporeans.

The record breaking journey I took via bus to JB including immigration clearance was 4 hours. In the past, it usually takes an hour or 1.5hours even on a weekend. I knew I had to take the train for the next trip instead of the bus. It’s only 5 minutes and immigration counters are only for the train commuters.  Plus point, the officers are more friendly 🙂

And so I did. I took leave on a weekday and bought return train tickets weeks in advance via http://www.easybook.com . For weekend tickets, you probably need to book more than a month. We had to however change our e-ticket printout to the KTM stub. I didn’t quite understand but well, better than queuing up for hours.

10.05am arrived in JB. First foodie stop – Salahuddin Bakery, for cream horns! This bakery is located at Jalan Dhoby, the little India in JB.

When we arrived, there was already a queue for their curry puffs and buns, and other assorted breads! Even my cream horns were depleting fast.

 

We wanted to fill our empty tummies with chicken chop at IT Roo but it opens at noon on weekdays. So we walked back to Komtar for Thai food at the recently opened Boat Noodles. I’ve been to the one about half hour drive from immigration (see pic).

Thai Ice Tea was refreshing. The noodles, priced at RM1.90, was only 3 spoonfuls of course. Not a fan of their noodles. But their Basil Chicken with Rice is yum!

We went back to IT Roo…curious about this famous chicken chop. Service was pretty fast. Besides chicken cutlet and chicken chop, they serve local food fare like kaya toast, hor fun and fried rice. Hmmm the chicken cutlet was alright for me.

We had an awesome tea break and chat at Chaiwalla & Co.

The staff are friendly and helpful to this first timer. They have quite a good range of drinks and you can create your own concoction with preferred sugar level too. I enjoyed every sip of the hot Thai Tea.I’m in love with their simple clean logo and packaging!

 

 

We “tapau” (takeaway) Fat Boy Burger. Spent RM71 at this burger joint for 2 double beef burgers with beef strips and eggs. It’s worth paying that much cos it’s really one juicy beef patty. You can tell from the weight!

We are already planning to bring the nieces and nephews here to JB during the school holidays!

Took the 7pm train and arrive home at 7.30pm. 🙂 now I really hope flight to KL is cheap cos I’m yearning for some Tarbush!

*too lazy to add seekers odyssey trademark on JB photos.    

Windmills. Park. Mosque.

There was no direct train from Strasbourg to Amsterdam so we had to take a train back to Frankfurt, where our luggages are safely stored at the train station.

Thankful there are Muslim communities in Europe, so we can do our prayers conveniently. We dropped by Taqwa Mosque, which is just a 20-minute walk from Frankfurt central train station. It’s geometric tiles are definitely inspired from Morocco and Spain.

amsterdamst

I was excited to be in Amsterdam. It got into my wishlist pretty recently actually, late last year, loking at the pretty photos my friends uploaded. I’ve been watching flight prices to Amsterdam, hoping for just a short visit.

We arrived in a freezing cold Amsterdam near midnight. Took the tram to Bicycle Hotel our home for 3 nights. The owner emailed instructions to Nurul to get our room key. We couldn’t find it somehow but the owner who we assumed lived across the street, came to our rescue. The hotel had high steep steps, no elevator! Nurul and I giggled thinking what the owner would have thought of us asking for high floor. Nurul did that for our previous hotels. Thank God, we were on the 2nd floor.

central

Within a short time, I had to get used to 3 different languages – German, French, Arabic, Dutch! 

The next day, we had to find the iconic IAMSTERDAM near the museum. It was the peak season in Europe – one can tell from the crowd, the long queue at the museums and the expensive hotel rates.

iam

I enjoyed the leisure walk in the lovely weather to Vondelpark

vondelpark

and the Bloemenmarkt (flower market). Wish I could bring some tulips home!

flowermarket

Caught in action. Still struggling with my XT1.

img_0523

I’ve been hearing raving reviews on the halal ribs served at Crystal. So we just had to…and it’s definitely worth it! For a person who rarely orders ribs, this is heavenly. Huge restaurant with clean toilets.

crystal

The following day was windmill watching and fresh air at Zaanse Schans! Perfect view with a cup of latte macchiato.

windmills2

We were in awe of the bridge lifting itself to allow passage for yachts. Come on, we don’t have such things in Singapore!

windmills4

One of my favourite spots.

windmills

Another place that my friend recommended us to visit: Fatih Moskee

mosque1

It was a catholic church. Hence the unique interior. It is how it looks like in the picture. Serenity. Peace at heart. I can’t remember exactly what I asked for, but I remembered saying too many prayers till I said “nothing is too much for you, Ya Rabb.”

mosque

I love this Turkish bakery we found next to the mosque. We were still full but had to just grabbed a chocolate pastry and a gigantic bread for breakfast.

turkishbakery

We continued venturing in the central area, but it was too crowded and tickets museums like Madame Tussauds were too expensive. So we moved away from the central area and had lunch at an Indonesian restaurant. Barely a week, and we miss our spicy cuisine!

central1

The grey skies:

canal

On our last day, we had an early morning walk to the nearby Albert Cuypstraat which was just 10 minutes away from our hotel.

mkt.jpg

I would come back for the windmills, tulips, people and food. They are one of the friendliest and genuinely helpful people I’ve met.  They would greet you and take time to have a conversation with you.

When we just left our hotel, a man greeted us with a chirpy Good Morning like how an old friend would. When we were indulging in the spicy chicken wings (of course, it’s halal!) in the market, a guy told us we should eat with the hot sauce and went on talking to us.

The airport staff were helpful and friendly too. The Schipol Airport has such a well maintained meditation room:

schipol

I was looking forward to see my loved ones and a spa session in Batam on Saturday. However, flight was delayed for 3+ hours at Doha. We arrived at almost 7pm instead of the scheduled 3.15pm.

This trip was a backup plan, but He knows best and we were exactly where we were supposed to be. Both of us didn’t feel rushed or overdid anything, except when we walked too much but that was compensated with a good meal. It was a great opportunity for Nurul and I to bond and realise how much similarities we have.

This must be ironically, the easiest trip I had. Being the well-travelled person, Nurul did most of the booking and I sure felt handicapped not doing my usual Excel and Powerpoint for a trip. Hahaha. It was an adventure diving into the world of unknown.

Guess God is telling me, “you just have to let go and let it flow!” I’m such a control and planner freak. I realise I need to have some breathing space…this was surprisingly good for this old heart. LOL. 

I love that we went mosques hopping in the 3 different cities. Something that I’ve wanted to do ever since I caught the travel bug. That is the major highlight. 

Alhamdulillah, everything was within budget and fell into place. The last minute air ticket was a steal at $973.80 via Qatar (SG-FRA, AMS-SG). I have my Euros stash, so I didn’t need to rush to the money changer. I’ve always wanted to go for a short trip to Amsterdam. I’ve been saying that since late last year and He granted it.

I didn’t suffer a terrible jetlag like my previous trip, cos the next morning, I had to go for a company retreat in Batam!

I can do this again. A week trip to a distant somewhere, sometime. 

Uzbek, we are still praying for an opportunity to be there.

Strasbourg

 

It’s our final night here, on our short visit to Strasbourg. A quaint city where we met charming and friendly people.

Strasbourg Grand Mosque

strasbourg-mosque1From our hotel, we took a stroll to Strasbourg’s grand mosque. There we met a fellow tourist from Belgium. During the short conversation, we found out that he parents are from Chefchahouen.  It’s weird how I always meet people from either places I missed dearly (like Morocco) or places I wish to visit.strasbourg-mosque2

We chanced upon a Tunisian patisserie “Al Saladin”.  We changed our minds to instead enjoy our Tunisian sweets and mint tea at the cafe. So thankful we did.

A little Tunisia in Francesaladin

Behind me were a few men, speaking in Arabic.  They were speaking in the most authentic beautiful Arabic which I truly miss. I was listening in, trying to figure out certain words and phrases. Heartwarming to hear them talking about Islam, Quran.

saladin2

One of them initiated a conversation – Yasin, an Algerian. He asked for our names and he misheard my name as Sumayyah. I smiled, thinking about the Egyptians who prefer to call me by that name. I told him I didn’t mind.

He was pleasantly delighted to know we are Singaporeans as he had a good experience in Singapore.  He works in the EU Parliament and has visited many parts of Asia including Singapore.  Yasin mentioned a good friend of his is Mahathir. I’m not sure if he’s referring to THE Mahathir.  He shared with us his favourite mosques such as the Strasbourg Grand Mosque and for solitude, the mosque Kehl in Germany (near to the France-Germany border).  “No need to be grand. Those are distractions for the worshipper. It’s a moment between you and God.”

After a long conversation, he then stood up and walked into the cafe. I was just joking around with Nurul that probably he’s paying for our tea. He went back to the table and said “Ladies, your tea is on me. You are my guests in my home.” My heart melts.

One takeaway I will never forget. Yasin asked if we could speak and understand Arabic. I said a little. He consoled me as if knowing what’s in my heart “it’s OK, you try. But what’s important is you read the Quran with your heart. Even though you don’t understand, it will move your heart.”

Sidi Bou Said

sidi.jpgFamished, tired, sore feet, freezing in the rain. Seeing Sidi Bou Said Restaurant was like seeing a light at the end of a tunnel. I didn’t think too much of the price of our food though it looked rather a formal, proper sit-in restaurant. What the heck. We were hungry and freezing cold.

The man who served us was so jovial, like he had the best day ever today. We requested for cous cous and lamb with prune tagine (my fav!) and of course, mint tea. Check out this video…how cheerful this Tunisian is.

His colleague, a Moroccan, kept correcting him “No it should be this phrase. That phrase is not fushah Arabic.” We giggled looking at their antics. He was surprised to know we are Muslim Singaporeans. His friend had visited Singapore and told him that he should visit the clean modern city at least once in his lifetime. Too bad I didn’t have photos to show him. #proudtobesingaporean

We were served desserts as well. But he only charged us for the tagine! Things can really get better.

A memorable stay.  Deep inside we wished we had stayed at least another night.  I wondered about the gracious and friendly people we met, especially Muslims who portray such beautiful character to us, foreign visitors, fellow Muslims. I reflected on myself “when was the last time I helped a traveller (or anyone) back in Singapore?” It was definitely all His greatest plan.

Frankfurt

Finally I could find time to write about our arrival here in Frankfurt.

A bumpy plane ride from Doha to Frankfurt, but thankful to have arrived safely. A convenient train from Frankfurt airport to Frankfurt (Main) Hbf at past 7am. Clean and quiet. Took me a while to realise it was a weekday and people were probably dreading to head to work.

Hotel Concorde is 5 minutes away from the main train station. (Some exits in the train station smells of urine!) We took the exit nearest to the hotel, but there wasn’t any escalator.  Thankfully, a kind man asked if he could help with the luggages. I replied that I was good “but perhaps you could help my friend there?” Pointing to Nurul who was behind me. He willingly walked down the steps and helped Nurul with the luggage. We thanked him and he unexpectedly said “Assalamuaikum”.

HE answered our prayers.  Let us find Islam wherever we will be.

The frontline staff at the hotel cheerfully greeted us and offered complimentary breakfast “Anything you need, coffee, toast, while we get your room ready.  Leave the luggages with us. We will carry them for you.” Coffee – that’s all I need! It didn’t take too long till we got our room.

Nurul was glad to show me around the town she’s so familiar with.  A quick tour here:

Alte Oper, a concert hall. This was my first time using my XT1. Took too many shots the first time!

 opera

Römerberg, Frankfurt’s Old Town Centre

Römerberg

Hauptwache

Hauptwache

Yearning for spicy food, we had authentic Halal Thai food at Thai Fun.

thaifun

And the halal steak at Halal Steakhouse is just to die for:

frankfurt-steak