Why Sufism? 

Whether you prefer to crawl, sprint, swim, or walk from one place to another, you can enjoy closeup views of Earth’s inexhaustible supply of things to notice. You might see a vein of pink limestone on the wall of a canyon, a ladybug eating an aphid on the stem of a rose, a clamshell poking out of the sand. All you have to do is look. 

– Space Chronicles, Neil degrasse Tyso 

All you have to do is feel.

A hundred thousand years ago and a hundred thousand years later, the human race has, and will struggle with the same fear – the fear of vulnerability, the fear of losing, the fear of betrayal. Hand in hand with that fear, they will protect those close to their heart with a protectiveness that hurts. Like holding a child’s hand while crossing the road, but holding it too tightly.

As flawed humans, as flawed mortals, we are scared of the concept of vulnerability. Because it reminds us of the fact that what we like – what gives us that feeling of security, of being loved, of being…accepted – can be lost. And we don’t want to let go of that, do we? So we build these huge walls around us, these majestic structures that are meant to keep our egos and self-esteems safer, our hearts unscathed.

But know this, let your heart know this: pain, heartbreak – especially in the way of God – is utterly gorgeous. It’s raw beauty! Like after hours of labour, the baby takes its first breath in our world with a shriek that the mother remembers till her last breath.

You know what happens. You feel this huge, gaping hole in your heart, and it feels like your gushing tears won’t stop. Your throat hurts with the effort of holding back those tears, and your eyes are tired. You want to close them for a long, long time. You hide under the blankets, hoping you’d disappear, hoping that those voices, those ugly voices would stop. But this too, shall pass, my dear. And it is this pain that will bring you closer to He Who Created you. Because Who else will you turn to? Another human? Another mortal? A mortal as flawed, as helpless as you? Someone you depended on to take care of your heart? That was your mistake. You’re lucky, He loves you so much, that He wants to give you THE best. And He wants YOU. What a grand, grand honour! This pain that you think is breaking you – this pain because you are trying to not cheat on your Lord and to do what He wishes you to do because that really is your armour – is worth it then, isn’t it? Isn’t it? This pain will make you turn to Him and Him alone and then, finally, slowly, the chaos will end. Peace will descend within you, around you. But peace will descend. That is not my promise, that is HIS promise.

Everything is a manifestation of this Greater Force that has the remote control of our lives – running into an old friend in a park, the funny video you come across when you are in a bad mood, the apple pie that you ate today, you not getting that nondescript little vial of ‘Heart Note’ a lifetime ago, me writing this and you reading this. It’s always a lesson, always a win-win. If not this, then what? Then something even better, because my knowledge is limited, my intellect is incomplete, my wisdom is questionable, my judgement is flawed, but not His; not of the mystery that is God, not of the One who created us so we could discover His beauty and then fall hopelessly in Love with Him.

Someone (may you stay blessed and in peace, always) once told me – and that won me, the beauty and the innocence and spirituality of those words – that “Sufism is being bros with God”. It’s really that, isn’t it? Being best friends with your Creator, sharing your joys and sorrows with Him, turning to Him when in need, making His people smile and helping ease their distress and never hurting them because after all, when you love someone, that’s what you do – you take care of everyone who is theirs – and discovering His world,  and contemplating over the mysteries of the Universe, and wondering how many galaxies are yet to be named,  and how many biological discoveries are yet to be made,  and how many Renaissance men and women are yet to be born, and believing in “Recite in the name of your Lord who created – Created man from a clinging substance. Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous – Who taught by the pen – Taught man that which he knew not.” (Surah Al – Alaq, The Clot)

Why do certain things happen? Why do hurricanes come and go, taking away the memories that were desires? Because they were meant to end our era of blindfolded trust and adjust our lenses so that we can see the real beauty – the rose that seems so beautiful to the world will prick my fingers if I try to hold it and keep it with me, but the water lily will float gracefully in my pond, peacefully.

How often do the tangible invisible chains of class and responsibility suffocate you, you who is reading this at this very moment? How often do you feel like a stranger amongst the crowd of people you love? How often does the crippling loneliness overwhelm you? How often do you wish to let go of everything and do nothing but lose yourself in the oceans of ilm and tasawaff and dreams yet to be dreams? How often? Very often. Frequently. Because you are indeed, a traveller in this world. Because this world really is just a resting place for the Curious Souls seeking knowledge – seeking Him – seeking the secret to immortality, without ever realising that this immortality will come after the end of our journey in this world. That is why, O’ mortal, you feel lost in your own body. And that is tremendously good because it means you really are His beloved and your real home is There.

This present cacophony that you hear, maybe you hear it, but you can’t seem to discern the notes behind it. Maybe this is the way out? Maybe you are not paying attention to your rubatosis – the awareness of your heartbeat – the way you are meant to.

The way out is right in front of you. It’s very practical, mind you. And hidden beneath that practicality, is a spirituality waiting only for you.

Once in your lifetime, you will meet this one person who will teach you everything that you need to know about life. And you will then know the meaning of life. And then, when you have trustingly let down those majestic structures that we earlier spoke of, you will discover, neigh, you will see how those who resent loneliness, will gift you the same. You will know then how easy it is to leave your mark everywhere – in the folded pages of your favourite book, in the words of your favourite poetry, even in a stranger’s kindness – and you will also know that unknown to thyself, you may have done the same. What then, what now, you will ask yourself.
Nothing.
That’s it, nothing, except that you try to pass the test.
Because “Kis qadr purkayf hai Teri mohabbat , Yaa Rabb!
(Your love is so delightful, My Lord!)
Naa bewafai ka khadsha, naa judai ka khof!
(There is no danger of unfaithfulness, nor any fear of separation.)”

And that, dear reader, is why Sufism.


Guest blog: fatimah.creates

Fatimah Nadeem is a seventeen-year-old artist from Karachi, Pakistan. Quickly achieving a celebrity status on Instagram, her paintings and art are bound to leave you mesmerised. She is currently doing her A’ Levels. 

In this short guest blog, Fatimah talks about her inspirations and future goals.

 

Art is like that safe haven, a spot for solace which I can resort to at any time.

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My passion for art started as a very young child and from drawing fishes on walls, I am now able to paint sceneries, galaxies and abstract pieces.

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I entered the Instagram art community two years ago and it has given a lot back to me. The encouragement and support that I get every day from people all over the world have made me confident about myself and about my identity as an artist, and as a Pakistani.

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If three years ago, you had told me that people would be posting art pieces inspired by my creations, or would be coming to events to meet me or that I would be hearing the phrase, “You are my inspiration”, I would have laughed in your face. This is truly incredible!

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To become a better human being, and to show the world that Pakistan also has mind-blowing talent, is my goal in life. For the purpose of promoting Pakistani art, I have created the Instagram hashtag #pakistancreates to represent the artist community of Pakistan.

My inspiration is not different from that of any other artist’s – emotions. It is very intriguing to see how colours and objects can make one feel. My colour palette is based on feelings attached to a certain colour. I associate blue with happiness and boldness, black with mystique, green with peace, and so on. 

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My advice to all young artists out there is this: believe in yourselves. I have received many messages where budding artists tell me how they feel that their art is not as good as mine, that their art is not as amazing as it should be. You should never compare your art to someone else’s because each one of us has a different and unique style of painting to express ourselves. Not only believe in yourself but be open advise and criticism, for that is how you will grow. All great people start out as nothing; the more you trust yourself and the Grand Plan, the easier you will be able to achieve your goals and dreams. 

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You can check out my work at the following links:

Youtube: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCWtjUMWBoB-Ob5VFZ0cRXew

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fatimah.creates/?hl=en

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The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the blog owner.

My soft flower 

When I was a kid, ‘Nani ka ghar’ signified days of endless games and fun and delicious food made with grandmother-love, sprinkling exciting joy over the time we cousins would spend together.

Nani Jan’s house is big, her heart bigger.

Her love for animals fascinated all of us. Her parrots knew our names – even the nursery rhymes that I taught my younger cousins – and her little chicks came in all colours – pink, yellow, green.

Time flew by like it always does; like it has to. And now years later, when the family is none less than a small army that she proudly looks at, the roles have reversed.

Who knew that a couple of roosters and their morning ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ would blow into her a new spirit – her old spirit – and she would lovingly resume her role as the Lady of the Family.

 

A soft flower 

Fighting the dusty wind, 

She stands strong,

Living, loving.

 

Lily and Rose

“Lean on me. Really,” said Lily to Rose.
“Whenever it rains or the wild wind blows.”
So Rose leant on Lily or Lily on Rose, depending.
And practically everyone knows,
that’s how a friendship grows.

– Anonymous

 

In this haze of life, when you are battling at many fonts, fighting so many small wars, you forget that you exist, too. You think of lost friendships, read lost emotions, and finally click on the ‘DELETE’ tab, because you don’t want to look back. You don’t have any regrets. Because friends lost along the way were, perhaps, the reason you have a Rose, and you are a Lily.

Living a Renaissance of its own, finding answers to questions that are said and unsaid, dealing with responsibilities – it seems quite otherworldly when you are also trying to discern the existential angst that is thrown your way, and when you finally, finally realise that your heart can beat too, it can beat very powerfully, and it can do things that may baffle the other hearts. And in the middle of all this, you forget yourself.

Until someone very, very special reminds you that you matter, too.

To that dear friend (you know who you are),

Thank you for remembering me, for that unshakeable faith that you have in me.  Thank you for those little gestures of joy – my cherished ‘chhoti chhoti khushyaan’ – that you surprise me with when I least expect them.
Thank you for the surprise note that you sent my way today, packaged rather beautifully with our rather cumbersome research project.
I had forgotten this could happen, Rose.
“There’s poetry to be read and poetry to be watched and oh, so many words yet to be understood.”
And poetry to be written, too, my friend. And sunsets to be watched. And the love to be felt. And secrets to be shared. And tears to be wiped away. And smiles to be gifted.

So, yes, one day…one, happy day, when I am running along the warm beach, and the water tickles my feet, I will think of you. When I make someone smile, I will think of you. When I go scuba diving, I will think of you. Yes, when my food experiments fail, I will definitely think of you. When I fly to the mountains, I will think of you. When I sit around that bonfire with my favourite song, I will think of you. When I row that boat in the crystal waters, I will think of you. When I dance in the rain, I will think of you.
I will think of you, my friend, in every joy and sorrow. I will think of you, always.

 

 
For you, my friend –

between everything and something,
time was fought,
affection conquered.

between something and everything,
you loved the orange, fallen leaves
with me, for me.

between everything and something,
numbers were outnumbered,
nothing denied.

between something and everything,
we sang Rumi’s songs,
and you hummed my favourite tune.

between everything and something,
the crispy air turned gentle,
and then you smiled.

 

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Rubatosis

An update to the ABOUT section of this blog.

Medicine is my lawful wife and literature, my mistress.

– Anton Chekhov

Rubatosis – the unfamiliar awareness of your own heartbeat, the unsettling lub-dub thumping away within you, telling you everything and something and also, nothing.

Everyone – at some point of their mortality – lies awake at night, committing to memory the faint patterns on the ceiling, humming long, forgotten tunes of songs that work like the scent of a perfume best forgotten; best friends with only their thoughts.

Everyone – at some point of the Planck Time – nurses a constricting heart that is suddenly too big, and yet, too small, to be held gently within themselves.

And when something nice happens, something that makes you smile that warm smile, you have no one to embrace in the crowd of strangers and the not-so-strangers who claim to know you without really knowing to what rhythm you are beating.

We all – we all – think, “This is it. Now what? What’s more to this?”

You’ll always be lonely until you find your kind of lonely. And then, you can share the fascination of being lonely together. What can be better than rowing a boat towards the Unknown, the Unseen, with someone as lost as you? Nothing, right? Right? Right.

And hence, this blog – in joy, in everything.

And so, what began as a teenager’s digital writing pad turned into a more cognitive notepad inking the bitter sweet ramblings of a medical student stuck in the labyrinth of the infinity of life, before finally evolving into something that I could proudly call rubatosis – the unsettling awareness of my own heartbeat.

In the words of Meg Rosoff, “Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.”

I remember having to bear with the scorch of having a ‘bad handwriting’. Looking back, it gives me a good laugh. The journey from having illegible school journals to an obsession with black coupe de plumes set obstinately between the two margins of a sheet of paper has been worth it.
It was, perhaps, the exercise of filling in a ‘Dear Diary’ that makes me relish the act of inscribing – be it colourful flow charts summarising Rheumatoid Arthritis and the biological synthesis of melanin, or the words of Khalil Gibran adorning the refrigerator, or even my own ramblings.

Carving your thoughts on the innocence of the papyrus as you leave behind a scent of your identity while spilling the lyrics of your mind and the logic of your heart using the digitalis muscles of your hand – writing. This simple act is both a luxury and a basic necessity; a luxury because this act that I infuse great pride and joy is nothing but a dream for many. And a necessity because it is the oxygen that makes me breathe life and love, and defines my identity.

Penmanship. Chirography. Literae scriptae.

Sadly, the tradition of handwritten letters has been overtaken by the speed of e-mails, and the joy of receiving greeting cards has been overshadowed by Facebook posts.
And amidst this dying romanticism, the mysticism enveloping the simple act of writing has granted it an astral status that will quench the thirst of many a thirsty like myself.
But in keeping up with the advancements of this century, I turned to this – this blog that you, dear reader, have chosen to visit.

Back in grade tenth – along with my very dear friend, Khushboo – a younger me had dreamt of founding a literary magazine that would catalyse a literary revolution here. Little did I know that a few years down the lane, a part of that dream would come true in the form of The Ziauddin University AtlasA student-run publication with a blog and a very well-maintained Facebook page, the ZU Atlas was the beginning of a lovely, exciting journey of friendship, arts, poetry, prose, my very dear Docs’ Diaries, music, and even anime – life. It was enchanting to see how, through the Atlas, we spread smiles. Every artist breathes into their work a small part of themselves, and first as the editor and now as the Editor-in-Chief of the ZU Atlas, to see that being appreciated, and nourished, is what we are all about. Taking it a step forward, wanting to spread these smiles, was Dead Poets – my humble little page that began with featuring my posts and is now home to the individual blogging efforts of quite a few aspiring writers, poets, artists, and photographers. Hopefully, one day, Dead Poets will be the publication that I had dreamt of.

To quote Amy Tan, “Writing is an extreme privilege but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.”
As a future health physician, I will have the fortunate opportunity to come across living miracles, to feel their stories, to share their stories, and to give a story to someone. Maybe, that will make this life a little more meaningful for that life, and maybe then, I will have all the answers.

So I’ll be myself, and write everything, and smile with everyone.
My dear, loyal readers, I hope that you have had an enjoyable read so far and that you will keep coming back for more.

Happy Reading!

Regards,

Arfa Masihuddin.
Facebook page: Dead Poets
Mirakee handle: Arfa Masihuddin
Instagram: dead_poets_arfamasihuddin

Planck

نانی 

You lay there, oblivious of those around you. Your eyes seek your favourite son and your lips recite the names of all those you bore. Your hands caress the heads of your grandchildren and your heart misses the man you loved. Your entire being – your mind and your soul – bows down to your Lord. 

Love and strength, generosity,  and kindness. You are such a sweet, sweet picture of all that we want to be and I want to hold on to you forever. I want to whisper my secrets in your ears because I know you won’t tell anyone…because you won’t remember. And that’s when I stop, not wanting to think ahead. Is that even possible? Maybe. Love makes everything possible, doesn’t it? 

“I like the idea of you…”

It was cold out there, and the unsettling feeling of missing someone, something, disgruntled him.

 
He sought the warmth of the coffee shop because the aroma of coffee beans had a magical effect on him; like sending him to sleep. It was like living a reality too..dreamy. You just want to live it forever, don’t you? Sit there, beside the window, looking out, far away – into the past and the future – wishing, hoping that someone as crazy as you would turn up and join you in living the silence of being understood.

 
He walked in, wistfully, and chose his favourite spot. Closing his eyes, he leaned back against the seat of the chair and wished and missed. Looking around, he sensed his lonely presence.

 
Coffee shops were strange places, he mused. You could sit in solitude and listen to people cry over their sorrows and pretend to look away because you don’t want to embarrass them. You could listen to people singing over good grades, job promotions, babies, marriages, and you pretend to hide the envy tugging at your heart because they remind you that you have been waiting for too long. You could eavesdrop over unshared troubles, and intelligent political debates and judge while not judging, he chuckled.

 
He looked around again, hoping to catch a similar soul, troubled by the volatility of its own thoughts and feelings. Disappointed, he sighed, wrapped his hands around the cylindrical plastic cup steaming with his favourite beverage.

 
Many a time, our imagination can be the biggest dragon in our life, he traced his thoughts on the edge of the cup.

 
And little did he know, that a few years later, a similar soul troubled by the intensity of her thoughts and feelings would sit right there, sipping on the same, nostalgic aroma of freshly brewed coffee and chocolate chip biscuits, thinking the same things, missing the same.
And that is called the Game of Destiny.

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The possibility of all, and the existence of none 

Sometimes, I wish I didn’t write, or I couldn’t write. These words on lifeless paper spell out sadness for me; they are a living proof of the dead hopes and bitter almonds that haunt you when the ghosts don’t. And when don’t they? They just don’t when you are so overwhelmed by what you are not, that you have no choice. You are scarred by blisters and you don’t even know why. Or maybe, you do. Because you are afraid of not being the first and the most powerful breath of fresh air that hits a warm, dry desert and helps you mount the Everest of Bliss.

 
Sometimes, you wish you didn’t feel so much. It’s a curse when it brings you to the dry autumn of melancholy and you realize with a sinking heart that you have missed the train – the train that was taking you towards a destination unknown, unheard, unseen, but a destination nevertheless. It shakes you down to your very bones and you hear your joints rattling with the disdain of bittersweet, the kind that leaves you all hopeless and vulnerable and seeking the kind of joy that only the heavens can fetch you.
Sometimes, I wish I had realised sooner that only the Divine is true and Everlasting and Omniscient and all the rest is just a figment, an illusion to give you a taste of ‘happy’ and of ‘joy’. Only He and He alone is yours truly and eternally. He is not yours alone, but He is still yours, all yours, forever and now, , because He created you with more complexity than the simplicity of your thoughts, and more simplicity than the complexity of your composition. Atoms, elements, compounds – these are but you. And while He created billions of galaxies, He also created you to be its rust, to be its stardust. How could you defy Him? His is the only Love that is yours alone despite being everyone’s.

 

‘And which of the favours  of your Lord will you deny?’

 
Sometimes, it’s the possibility of all and the existence of none that brings you to the shadow of light. Sometimes…sometimes, it’s the sun shining after the night and the Black before the Yellow and Orange that brings you to the coolness of the warmth of home. Sometimes…

 

you

 

 

Faith

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“You know how you pray for the happiness that you ‘deserve’? Doesn’t that scare you? I think it’s quite brave of you to pray for that!”

“No. Why should it? Jab Allah pe bharosa kiya hii hai, tou phr poora bharosa hii karyn naa.(When I’ve trusted God, then might as well trust Him completely!)”

Woh tou sahi hai. (That’s fine.) But how are you confident that you deserve the happiness that will satisfy you? What if the happiness you experience right now is much more than what you actually deserve? Whatever I have in life right now isn’t because I deserve it, it’s because God has been pouring his infinite mercy on me. I am absolutely nothing and I deserve none of it. Having confidence in Him is one thing, and having confidence in your own heart is a completely different story. It’s very brave of you… I could pray to Him to make me such that I deserve happiness, but I don’t know if I’d be able to ask Him to give me what I deserve.
And that reminds me of one of my all time favorite verses in the praise of God:

Shukar hai tera khudaya main tou iss qabil na tha 
Tu ne apnay ghar bulaya main tou iss qaabil naa tha 
Daal ki thandak meray seenay mein tu ne saaqiya
Tu ne seenay se lagaya main tou iss qabil na tha 
Muddaton ki pyaas ko sairab tu ne kar diya
Jaam zamzam ka pilya main tou iss qabil na tha 
Meri kotaahi ke teri yaad se ghaafil raha 
Phir bhi tu ne na bhulaya, main tou iss qabil na tha.

(Thank you, my Lord; I am not worthy of this.
You called me to Your house; I was not worthy of this.
You gave me the peace of my heart
You hugged me as Yours; I was not worthy of this.
You quenched my centuries-old thirts,
You gave me the Holy Water; I was not worthy of this.
It is my fault that I am careless in Your remembrance.
Yet, You still called me; I was not worthy of this.)” 

 
“You could be absolutely right. But then think about it this way: I could deserve less, I could deserve more. Both instances will bring me closer to my Rabb through His dhikr. I’ll thank Him, and Him alone, for giving me more than what I think I deserve. And if I want more – and there’s no harm in wanting more, as long as it’s legitimate and not at the cost of another’s happiness – I’ll ask my Rabb again. It’s a win-win.
Allah Ta’ala is Merciful.
You remember I told you about that dream I had? The one where I’m standing in the Court of Justice, and I’m questioned that if I can use the streaks of determination that is a little too engraved on my soul to achieve worldly goals, then why not use it to get closer to my Creator? Why not? So it’s just…that. Even in that dream, I just knew it. I knew I don’t deserve His mercy if I don’t listen to Him. And that, my friend, is why I ask Him for the happiness that He thinks I deserve. I don’t want more than what I deserve. I only want what I deserve.
Don’t you sometimes wonder why you weren’t born during the time of the prophets? Learned from them? Like their companions? Probably because that era – that huge, huge drop in this ocean of Time – had the hardships and rewards that they deserved and this era has the hardships and rewards that we deserve. Yes…
And because He created me because He is my Lord, I know that whatever joys and sorrows will come my way, it will be because I deserve it – I deserve to know how great Allah Ta’ala is and how Everything is in His power, He is Omnipresent and Omnipotent. I deserve the hardships that He puts me through, the sorrows that my heart bleeds over, the mistakes I repent over; because all of it is part of His grand, grand plan to make me a better person, a better Believer so I can hear the tearing apart of souls when I’m meant to, so I can sing a lullaby when I have to. So that when the pieces are put together, they are put together beautifully! So that I look to Him, and Him alone. And why do I deserve this? Because I am His. I deserve it because I am His, and to Him, I’ll return so He can do whatever He thinks is best for me. Who am I to complain? I am honored to be important enough to have been born! Think. How many atoms and molecules came together to string my arteries and veins and capillaries? How was the soul blown into me? How? Why? Does that not amaze you into complete Submission?
We must accept the Light of God before we become the Light of God because there was a reason why Rumi believed that “the wound is where the light enters us”!
He is Ar-Rehman and Ar-Raheem. He is Al-Malik and Al-Muhaymin. Our Protector and Guardian. He is Al-Jabbar; He gets His Creatures to do what He wills. He is Al-Ghaffar; He Forgives. He is Al-Wahhab; He gives freely, without wanting anything in return. He is Al-Fattah; He opens All Things. He is Al-Adl. He is Ash-Shakur; He rewards well. He is Al-Karim. He is Al-Wadud; He loves us so much! He is Al-Muqaddim and Al-Muakhkhir; He causes us to be both near Him and away from Him. He is At-Tawab; He turns us sinners to repentance. He is Al-Hadi, An-Nur. He is As-Sabur; He times All Things perfectly. He is Allah.
So, no. I’m not brave. I am just struggling to be His. And I don’t want to get tired so easily!
And this why waiting for the angel Azrael is rather fascinating, for then, I can finally meet my Lord and ask him what the Grand Plan was – why humans were made so that they could not reach the centre of the earth but have walked on the moon, and how many earths are there, how many Milky Ways exist, do stars really have a soul, why we don’t understand ourselves – and, so many little things like why we dream, why silence speaks to the heart, why you and I are miracles! It’ll be exciting to get all the answers, I think. But that too will be earned. Before we get answers, we will  get questions, let’s not forget that!
So, this is why I ask Allah Ta’ala for the happiness that I ‘deserve’. Because it makes me feel my Rabb. It’s like daring to live a special bond with Him. Allah is our Best Friend. I trust Him.Allah is our friend.He really is the best! And I am His. You, my beautiful friend, are His!”