Matters of the Heart

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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.

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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 

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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

Pearl of the Orient – III

Woke up feeling all energised from the night’s laughters. After a hearty breakfast, I set out to continue exploring the street in Penang.

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I alighted few stops away so I would walk a longer way to just burn my breakfast to fulfil my other food desire – Roti Bakar (toast) with half boiled eggs at the famous Roti Bakar Hutton Lane.

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Buttery toast that melts in your mouth and perfectly half boiled eggs. Yummmmm

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Pieces of art on the walls.

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My friend recommended the Camera Museum. There was no one else so I had a personal tour. Impressive collection!

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I took the bus to the beach too but didn’t alight as it was raining heavily. So no photos! But because of the HOHOwe beach route, I met 2 friends from UK and US. I spent most of the time with the British man who has been staying in various countries like Bahrain, Iran and currently, in Chiangmai.

He was looking around for a place to stay When he asked for my age, he said “Well, I’m glad I am older than you are. You have a tougher life than I did at your age. People stopped communicating. They only look down on their phones.”

Hunger kicks in again for late lunch. I was disappointed that Sup Kambing Hameed Restaurant was closed throughout my stay. I was tired of eating rice so I knew I had to have this Butter Naan with tandoori chicken served with mint sauce. This was at Hutton Lane too.

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I think like most travellers, I walked the whole of Georgetown. The next trip, I hope that I will be able to taste the Sup Kambing and explore the city at night. I heard the night market serves great food too! And I will definitely hop on their public buses instead.

The solo trip was surprisingly therapeutic. I had the me time I’ve been yearning for. Walking through Georgetown reminds me of my younger days walking from Arab Street to Mustafa Centre, discovering good food.  Though I must admit, eating is best with company.

Most importantly, thanks to a soulmate’s reminder, zikir kept me occupied and safe in His remembrance. A 10-minute walk from St Giles to HOHO bus stop is a few hundred selawat. I reflected on the countless times of just doing and thinking nothing back at home when I can gain more credits from zikir. May I make that a habit!

Pearl of the Orient – II

Started off the day with a good breakfast at the hotel for only RM30. They even serve sushi for breakfast!

20170429_083012-001There are other far cheaper options but I decided to ride on the Hop On Hop Off bus to head to Penang Hill. A touristy thing to do huh? My friend who knows me well had warned me I’ll be bored up there. Yuppppp. I was. Went up in the funicular to a foggy view of Penang.

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I had a good walk after that around Little India area and Chinatown. The highlight was Masjid Kapitan Keling. Unfortunately, no one at the counter bothered to share the history of the mosque with me. They allowed me to enter the men’s praying area, but inside I was told to leave.

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I ventured a bit to see the famous street arts. I was really impressed! A policeman asked me while I was snapping a photo of a street art “Adik, gambar ni masuk majalah ya?”  (Sis, is this for a magazine?) I laughed and replied that it’s for my own magazine. He thought I was some photographer for a magazine. Thanks Fuji XT1 you make me look like a pro! Hahaha.

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Desktop2.jpgI had to end my day earlier too as I was going to meet my friend, Sonia, whom I’ve not met for almost 10 years! We had an awesome dinner at Nurul Ikan Bakar and great catchup with her and her 2 heroes too. Skipping lunch was worth it!

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Pearl of the Orient – I

Been wanting to explore and discover the good food in Penang for the longest time. Trip to Penang with friends or families got cancelled and postponed a few times. So when I saw the air ticket was only S$60+ on Air Asia, I knew I had to grab it! Nearer to the trip, I was a bit nervous though. My ex GM assured me that I will be fine. So off I went on 26 April with just a backpack and with lots of tips from friends (including reminders – continue your zikir, don’t forget your Ayatul Kursi, etc)

I took the airport taxi to the hotel and was greeted with a Salam by the driver. “Seems like a great start to the trip, insyaAllah.” I thought to myself.

The Wembley, just across 1st Avenue Mall and Jen Hotel. I love the room and amenities. Prayer mat nicely hung at the wardrobe. Most importantly, clean and comfortable bed! Read my review on Tripadvisor.

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After a short rest, I walked to Jalan Penang which took me about 15 minutes. First thing I see was the famous Chendol, judging from its long queue.

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Next on my list is another must-go, Line Clear, for my Nasi Kandar. That was my late lunch and early dinner.

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To me, it was just alright – rice with lots of gravy and dishes for you to choose from. Reminded me of Marhaba at Geylang where I can get equally awesome Indian rice with curry and teh tarik.

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They insisted I posed for a photo with the huge fish heads!

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I was down with flu so I decided to end the day early before the long day begins tomorrow. Treated myself to a good Thai foot reflexology at 1st Avenue Mall before a good night’s sleep.

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

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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

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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 

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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.