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Peppermint Prose
05 January 2013 @ 03:46 pm
Peppermintprose has moved!

I'm now going to be rambling anew at Peppermintprose on Wordpress!

You can comment, follow and even get email updates on the new blog and hopefully - with a little time - once I get a hang of the new place, everything will be a lot more organized.  We might even start seeing visuals ;)

See you there!
Peppermint Prose
20 September 2012 @ 10:54 am
I must have begun this post a dozen times in the past few months.  And not ended it even once.  There was so much to write and yet nothing to say.  Every time the urge to share with the world all the things that were going on in my life awoke within me, I would open up an empty page and feel a familiar rush - that need to put in words all the sounds, smells, tastes, emotions, thoughts that were clamouring for my attention - and then...nothing.  All I would want to do is be silent.

I considered continuing The Letters, felt obliged to even, but when I read them again I realised that they had reached exactly the place they were supposed to reach.  What needed to be said then had all been said and it was time to write of things bright, alive and hopeful.

But how do you describe things anew that have been described by many others a hundred, a thousand times before? How do you make it sound new and amazing and fantastic and like something that has never existed before when it is happening to millions of people every day?

The more I considered that, the more I realised that sometimes the things that mean so much to us are only for us, not for the whole world.

Some emotions and experiences need to be communal because they reach out to others and help them grow, because expressing them helps you to better understand yourself as well.  And some feelings...well, sharing them only seems to dilute them or even pollute them.  These are experiences that gain all the more depth and richness for how much closer you hold them to yourself.  You find yourself hiding them within yourself until you can find a silent moment in the late hours of the night or the early hours of the morning to secretly bring them out, wonder at them and cherish that realization that they are all yours and only yours.

So this post isn’t going to be a tale of how the past ten months have been or why I haven’t blogged.  Life happened and I was not inclined to write about it. Life is still happening, but now I am.  :)

Not surprisingly, a few things have changed at my end and surprisingly, many have remained the same.  What I am fast beginning to realise (understand?) is that Life isn’t really made of huge big adventures and events.  The things that we expect will cause the greatest waves actually simple are a gentle shift.  Life is a process, the culmination of many small shifts and ripples, and one day we wake up and are shocked at how everything around us has changed suddenly...only it was all happening slowly and we just weren’t observing.

I wake up some mornings and can’t even remember what life was like ten months ago, even though it was the life I had lived for years. The people around me seem to have been there forever even though they were unknown strangers last year.  Other mornings, all I can do is want to go back to the familiar, comfortable routines of the past.  On these mornings, the knowledge that Life has changed forever scares me.  

As it settles in that Time passes irreversibly, that what is gone is gone forever and that the only thing we ever have is our memories; as this fact sinks far, deep inside I feel a chilly wind blow through my soul. Because I can’t bring what has gone back and more important, one day I too will become a memory that no one will be able to bring back.  And when that day comes, I will be somewhere strange and the people around me will be new, the world will have shifted and if I will have passed the time preceding that without noticing the subtle changes that lead up to it, I will be afraid and shocked by that state, by that place, by that Life.
So this post is about starting afresh, about trying new things, about meeting new people.  It’s about the fact that living Life can scary, but it can also be beautiful; that by learning about others, you actually learn the most about yourself and that the best moments of existence are hidden in the smallest, simplest experiences.

We don’t need to look for adventure and live life on highly-charged emotions, adventure is in every miraculous breath that we take and emotions are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.  We don’t have to love people intensely, as long as our love for them is intense.  We don’t have to grieve over losses completely, as long as our grief is complete.  We don’t have to hope desperately, as long as our hope is constant.

We can only live life valuably after we learn to value the life we have.

Current Mood: inspired
Peppermint Prose
17 September 2012 @ 10:29 am

Dear You,

I just realised I've been doing exactly the same thing you did and while your behvaiour did start me off on a Journey of Self-discovery that has turned out to be amazing, the result doesn't and never has justified the wrongness of the cause. So...I should have said this ten months ago, but I kinda forgot.  Sorry.

You were never the missing piece in my Big Picture, you were the wrong piece for my Masterpiece. 

Good bye.

Current Mood: happyhappy
Peppermint Prose
26 November 2011 @ 05:44 pm

Dear You

When I began this series, the following passage of the Will is the one I was travelling towards; it is the climax and the core of the entire message for me.  It was with the words below in mind, that I began my road towards this current letter, willing myself to believe their message even when it was hard to.  

In a previous letter, I mused that these writings ran parallel to the daily happenings around me...how very true that has turned out to be. Despite my best intentions, these letters have been purely selfish in so many ways - I have vented, been bitter, angry and sad...and in the process, I have healed and grown and slowly been guided to the Place I was always meant to reach.

It has taken just over a year to get to here - 14 months, 14 letters - and without any planning on my part, this journey has paced itself to perfectly time with the events in my life. I had no way of knowing that my initial belief would be tried and tested and then gently led to conviction; that by the time I reached this Passage, I would understand its words in a way I never have before, because I would have finally have reached my Goal ...in more ways than one.


Realize this truth, my son, that the Lord who owns and holds the treasures of Paradise and the earth has given you permission to ask and beg for them and He has promised to grant your prayers. He has told you to pray for His Favours that they may be granted to you and to ask for His Blessings that they may be bestowed upon you. He has not appointed guards to prevent your prayers reaching Him. Nor is there any need for anybody to intercede before Him on your behalf.

There are two things that stand out for me here.  The first is the need for willingness to request.  Even when we have been given permission to do so, why do we find it so hard to ask? I often think it’s because asking is based on first accepting that you lack something.  It implies a sort of helplessness that requires you to reach out to another for what you need and thus, to humble yourself before that person.

Man was created with a sense of self-respect.  It is the foundation of dignity, morality and honour - to know and understand your own worth as a human being, as a designed creation with a purpose, a goal and a responsibility in Life.  This is why Islam discourages the habit of asking others unnecessarily.  Why reach out to another human who is your equal when there is an Authority above the both of you that can - and does - provide for all?

We may think that others possess what we need, but ownership is an illusion. As human beings we don’t really ever ‘own’ anything.  It might be better to say we ‘inherit’, ‘receive’ or are ‘entrusted’ with what already exists in the world, what has been provided by Someone.  We are all conduits who receive from somewhere else in order to pass on to others. The main thing is to understand this Flow of Resources, so to speak. Trace it back to its origin and tap the Source.

The Source - God - is Infinite in His Provision.  We can exhaust our mines and our oil wells and our bank accounts - even our kindness and service - because when dealing with this earth, we speak in terms of the finite.  We can only share and give to others based on the limits of our own external and internal resources.  But God - Who created all these things from nothing - where is the limit for Him?  How can an Infinite Creator have any sort of boundaries?

The beauty of it all is that He is not only Infinite in His Ability but also in His Attributes, thus there is no greed or selfishness or personal motivation or even mere physical exhaustion to restrict or guide His Generosity.  Rather, He is Loving and Merciful and Wants to give you all He can...as long as you are able to - and want to - receive it.  The best analogy for this is that of trying to fill a small receptacle with more than it can hold.   You can’t expect to put a jug-worth of water in a teacup... just as you can’t expect to receive Unending Blessings if you’re constraining your self to this world.

If you ask from another human being, rely on that person or base your expectations on them then you are already limiting yourself to the extents of their abilities, which can be a humiliating prison for your self-respect.  Asking and relying on God means your expectations become limitless, and that in turn frees you from the restrictions of the human dimension.  Isn't that worth being humble for?


If you go back upon your promises, if your break your vows, or start doing things that you have repented of, He will not immediately punish you nor does He refuse His Blessings in haste and if you repent once again He neither taunts you nor betrays you though you may fully deserve both, but He accepts your penitence and pardons you. He never grudges His Forgiveness nor refuses His Mercy, on the contrary He has decreed repentance as a virtue and pious deed. The Merciful Lord has ordered that every evil deed of yours will be counted as one and a good deed and pious action will be rewarded tenfold. He has left the door of repentance open.

‘You test my patience!’  How many times have we heard (and used) that line?  It is often said to us by those who love us most, because love and patience go hand and hand.  When we love someone, we accept their flaws and in order to do that we have to practice a level of patience when the habits or traits we dislike show themselves.  Our ability to see the greater good in them allows us to bear with the smaller not-so-good things about them.  And they do the same for us.

However, even mothers - the epitomes of selfless love - are tried by the antics of their children and tested in their patience of them.  This is human nature...that’s why apologies, forgiveness and second chances exist.  When we begin to observe how often it is that we push those around us to their limits, how often tempers flare, how often we say things to each other that we later regret and wish we could take back...how this cycle plays out in our lives on a daily basis, we can then start to realise how unique and different our relationship with God is - and how unequal as well.

Often people think that when God sent down His Punishment on those who disobeyed Him in the past, that it was because they had tested His Patience and hit a Divine ‘limit’ of some sort. We then try to apply the same principle to explain current natural disasters as well.  We are then left in confusion and doubt because we can’t reconcile an Infinitely Merciful God with the historical stories of entire clans and cities being annihilated, of innocents suffering along with the guilty.  This only happens because we try to explain His Will and Actions with our tendencies and reactions.  We try to understand events by fitting them into our flawed interpretation of what the picture is, instead of rising up to a higher level of understanding of how the Bigger Picture works.

It is we - and our own selfish actions - that cause harm to ourselves.  Much of our suffering can be traced back to our own careless behaviour in the past.  It has nothing to do with Divine Retaliation because there in NO LIMIT to God’s Patience.  Even when we do the very things He has warned us will cause us harm, He is still always ready to forgive and give us one more chance.  

The only condition is that we should be sincere in our turning back.  Just like any true loving relationship, there is place for correction and improvement, but not for manipulation and games.


He hears you whenever you call Him. He accepts your prayer whenever you pray to Him. Invoke Him to grant you your heart's desire, lay before Him the secrets of your heart, tell Him about all the calamities that have befallen you and misfortunes which face you, and beseech His help to overcome them. You may invoke His Help and Support in difficulties and distresses.

You may implore Him to grant you long life and sound health, you may pray to Him for prosperity and you may request Him for such favours and grants that none but He can bestow and award.

Think over it that by simply granting you the privilege of praying for His Favours and Mercies, He has handed over the keys of His treasures to you. Whenever you are in need you should pray and He will confer His Bounties and Blessings. But sometimes you will find that your requests are not immediately granted, then you need not be disappointed because the grant of prayers often rests with the true purpose and intention of the implorer. Sometimes the prayers are delayed because the Merciful Lord wants you to receive further rewards for patiently bearing calamities and sufferings and still believing sincerely in His Help. Thus you may be awarded better favours than you requested for.

What more can I add to this perfect passage?  Nothing.  I can only emphasize how true every single word in it is.  He does indeed hear you when you call, and He accepts your prayers.  You only need to believe this with all your heart until you can hear beyond what initially may seem like silence.

When I first began these letters, I kept my requests to Him simple.  I wanted you to read these letters.  That would be enough.  And if possible to gain something from them, to change in some way for the better.  I always believed that you would and I still do; oddly more so now than before.  Perhaps, because He has given me Proof of His Inevitable Response.

Many a time, Lovers will test each other...just to see how much the claim of the other is true.  Even God tests us in our claims of faith and belief in Him although He Already Knows how genuine we are.  Does He ask us for blind faith in return?  Does He not provide us with proof of His Existence even before we know to ask for it?  So who says then that we cannot test His Promises?  If He says He Will Respond when we ask, who has prevented us from testing that out?

It was keeping this in mind that I began to change my demands a few letters ago.  I laid out the secrets of my heart to Him just as the Will says, and invoked Him (dare I say, challenged Him?) to fulfill them to the letter.  I described and listed out and refined my ‘desire’ to my heart’s content.  I will admit that I felt extremely silly doing so.  It became almost a joke between me and Him...the more I elaborated on my Plan for Myself, the more I was making it impossible and the more I was laying out an open challenge for Him to prove me wrong.  After all, nothing was supposed to be too great for Him, right?

If I may say so, I think God also has a Perfect Sense of Humour...which is why He blind sided me so well.  My own personal definition of my Question seems like a mere outline compared to the fleshed out version of the Answer He Gave.  I often find myself thinking...”OMG! I’d forgotten to add ‘x‘ to my list!” only to discover He’s covered it already for me and then added a few bonuses I hadn’t even considered.

Looking at where I am now, everything make sense, as they always say it does in hindsight.  Not just last week, or last month or even last year when I began these letters but going back years and years...every experience I have lived through, every lesson I have ever learnt, every habit I have changed...every moment had a purpose in bringing me to Now.

The delays we go through before our prayers are accepted are often the time God uses to shape and mould us into receptacles who will be able to receive the Answer that He has already given us from the moment we first made our request.  The greater our demands, the more we have to prepare to get them.  Which is why the more you want. the more you have to be willing to wait.

But you will get, of this there is no doubt.  


Sometimes your prayers are turned down, and this is also in your interest; because you often, unknowingly, ask for things that are really harmful to you. If your requests are granted they will do you more harm than good and many of your requests may be such that if they are granted they will result in your eternal damnation. Thus the refusal to accede to your solicitations is a blessing in disguise to you. But very often your requests, if they are not really harmful to you in this life or in the Hereafter, may be delayed but they are granted in quantities much more than you had asked for, bringing in more blessings in their wake than you could ever imagine. So you should be very careful in asking Allah for His Favour. Only pray for such things as are really beneficial to you, and are lasting and in the long run do not end in harm. Remember, my dear son, that wealth and power (if you pray for them) are such things that they will not always be with you and may bring harm to you in the life in the Hereafter.

Much as I am ready to declare, announce from the rooftops, publicize and support my claim that every prayer is answered, and the really important ones are answered in this life, I also know that the unimportant ones are not.  And the ones dangerous to your well-being?  Forget it.  You can beg and beg and beg, but as long as you have the presence of heart to remember that He Knows Best at the end, rest assured He will NOT give you something that will harm you.

And you will be eternally grateful for it when you realise why.  You will eat humble pie with thankfulness and not know how to express your relief that He did not give in to your persistent demands. You will feel loved like you never have before.  

This is the Real Secret to Happiness, Contentment and Ultimate Success...the very things that seem to evade you so much.  In fact, it’s not really a Secret at all...it’s always been there in the open, but sadly, too many of us choose to ignore it and live in our own hand-made hells instead. The Not-Secret is to always be confident in knowing that no matter what happens in your life - whether it brings grief or joy, pain or release - Someone is looking out for you and you are safe, as long as you have placed your Faith in Him.

So today, on the last day of the Islamic Calendar as we are on the brink of a new Season of Sorrow, of Spiritual Revival and of Re-Birth, I pray that you make just one New Year Resolution: to find your faith again, tell Him where you want to go, trust that He Will Take you there...and then sit back and enjoy the ride of a Lifetime!


*All italicized blocks of quotes are from the Will of Ali bin Abi Talib (a) to his son.

Current Location: At The Beginning
Current Mood: calmcalm
Peppermint Prose
08 September 2011 @ 03:02 am
Dear You

I’ll bet you thought I wouldn’t be writing you another one of these, eh?  Guess what?  You were wrong.  I would gloat over that tiny victory...if only I hadn’t spent the last two months realising how wrong I have been about so many things, for so long.

Twelve letters so far, and this is the thirteenth.  Superstitious folk would say this was an unlucky letter or that I should skip it and just call it the fourteenth.  But I have something special saved for the fourteenth letter and anyway, this is proving to be the ‘turning-point’ of this who-knows-how-many-more series of communications, so ‘Letter 13’ it stays.

In many ways, these letters are proving to be a journey in themselves, something parallel to my daily life.  The lessons I learn, the realisations I have, the emotions I feel - all these simmer within me until finally they produce a missive, something I have to say to you. And then I sit down and start typing “Dear You...”

Sometimes I wonder how Life is treating you.  Are you a better person than when I last saw you?  Have you learnt anything new?  Have you added any value to the quality of your Life?  Have you enjoyed moments of enlightenment and epiphanies?  Discovered any surprises hiding on the path you are treading that make you smile in the knowledge of being Loved by a One Who Cherishes you?  I’d like to think so.

But then I pause and I remember the way you’d tell me that for you Life was about just taking things as they come and reacting to them as you felt like in that moment.  At the time, I sort of admired that philosophy because it seemed so easy-going and stress-free.  But after everything you have done, I have realised that your definition of ‘taking things as they come’ is passive and resigned.  It includes not taking responsibility for anything you do and not stopping to think about the repercussions of your actions - except in how they affect you personally.

That’s not Life.  It’s not even living. It’s merely existing, and selfishly at that.

So what then, is Life...?


Remember, my son, that a long and arduous journey is before you. Life’s journey is not only very long, exhausting, laborious and onerous, but the route is mostly through dismal, dreary and deserted regions where you will be sadly in need of refreshing and enlivening aids, and you cannot dispense with such provisions that will keep you going and maintain you to the end of your journey - the Day of Judgement.

Doesn’t sound very appealing at first read, does it?  Who wants to go through something of that description?  Except on a second read, you will realise that it is exactly this that makes life so Beautiful.  When you walk through a pretty garden, you admire the view and derive a sense of pleasure from it, but this can in no way compare to what you would feel if you climbed a mountain and then watched a sunrise from its peak.  In the former, you simply react to your surroundings, in the latter you have taken a pro-active step and worked to ‘earn’ that view.

So yes, you can spend an entire day lazing around, watching movies, hanging out with friends and doing all kinds of random things and then go to bed tired, and perhaps happy.  But if you spend that same day working hard to accomplish a task or helping someone in need, if at the end of the day you have changed in some way to become a better, more complete person in yourself, the exhaustion you will feel won’t just make you happy, it will satisfy you. Happiness is a fleeting emotion - now you have it, the next minute you’re don’t, but satisfaction lasts a lifetime.

So there is Life which technically is the act of breathing, eating, sleeping and surviving for a number of years through times, environments and circumstances mostly not of your own choosing.  And then there is living.

Living is being filled with energy and purpose where you wake up every morning and when you realise you’re breathing and conscious while many others are not, you understand that you have been given the chance to add just that much more worth to your self.  Living is to be motivated and full of incentives to try out something different even if it’s as simple as tasting a new flavour.  But mostly living is to be challenged and adventurous so that you are looking for a fresh experience every day that allows you to explore the vast depths of your own complex nature.  Because the more you understand yourself, the more you will understand and be in awe of how amazing the God Who created you is.

Purpose, motivation and challenges don’t come with ease.  These are not things that will just ‘happen’ or fall across your path.  You have to seek them within and hunt them down without.  These are the provisions and aids that help you navigate through the harsh terrains that Life will definitely walk you through.

We are all born equipped with all the instincts and skills we need to survive. We need only learn how to apply them.  Take for example, a child learning how to walk.  It finds balancing on two feet the most awkward thing to do and often falls in the process of learning, and yet if it was not motivated to stand in the first place, if we didn’t play ‘come here’ games with it to encourage it to keep on trying after every fall, would it ever master the art of walking?

And once it does learn to walk, the ability literally becomes second-nature and so easy that as adults we don’t even pause to think about how we move from one place to another.  Instead, we try and push the limits of that ability by running and jumping at the greatest speeds we can manage.

In the same way, the art of Living involves recognizing your inner instinct that always pushes you to what is Right and True. God  is always there calling out to us to ‘come here’ to Him, and always encouraging us to keep on reaching out to Him no matter how hard or far back we fall.  All we need to do is respond.


But remember not to overload yourself; do not entrust yourself with so many obligations and duties that you cannot honourably fulfill them or burden yourself with a life so luxurious as to be wicked and vicious.  Because if this load is more than what you can conveniently bear, then your journey will be painful and tiresome to you.

Our times are filled with stress and worries - a lot of them imagined or self-imposed.  Yet in essence, why should our lives as human beings be any more complicated than those of animals or birds?  Did you ever hear of a bird wishing it had been born a bug? Or a cat yearning for the qualities of a dog?  Creatures accept what they are and do what they were created to do.  They simply fulfill their purpose, and are perfectly content.

We too were created with a purpose, but because so few of us know what it is, we end up struggling our entire lives to achieve a ‘success’ that we have no solid definition of.  Is Success a certain amount of wealth?  Or fame? Or having a perfect family?  Plenty of people have some or all of these things and still end up in the depths of Negativity - depressed, addicted, suicidal - looking to escape from Life rather the live through it.

When we ignore our Purpose or neglect to fulfill it, then we cause an imbalance in the Harmony of the universe that exists both within us and around us.  We make commitments knowing we cannot possibly honour them, or promise things we don’t intend to deliver.  We turn our backs on our humanity and become deaf to the voice of our conscience.  We know what we should do, but we only do what we want to do, and we exercise no control or discipline over those wants.  

All of us are tightrope walkers, and Balance is the only thing that will allow us to tread safely along the Rope of Life.  Living is always being in that struggle to find Balance. The better we get at it, the more gracefully and easily we go forward.  And that is when living becomes a thing of beauty, to be admired just as we admire the talent of the professional tightrope artists.

Once we lose our Balance, however, or the motivation to find it again, there is only the never-ending, spiralling fall downwards...


If you find around yourself poor, needy and destitute people who are willing to carry your load as far as the Day of Judgement, then consider this to be a boon, engage them and pass your burden on to them. Distribute your wealth amongst the poor, destitute and the needy - help others to the best of your ability and be kind and sympathetic to human beings. Thus relieve yourself of the heavy responsibility and liability of submitting an account on the Day of Reckoning of how you have made use of His Favours of health, wealth, power and position. Thus you may arrive at the end of the journey light and fresh, and may have enough provision for you there, reward of having done your duty to man and Allah in this world.

Have as many weight-carriers as you can and help as many people as you can, so that you may have them when you need them. Remember that all you give out in charities and good deeds are like loans that will be paid back to you....Be it known to you, my son, that your passage lies through the dreadful valley of death, and the journey is extremely trying and arduous.

Here a man with light weight is far better than an over-burdened person, and one who can travel fast will pass through the valley more quickly than the one whom encumberment forces to go slowly. You shall have to pass through this valley. The only way out of it is either in Heaven or in Hell; there is no other way out and no possibility of retracing your steps.

The funambulist who walks the tightrope has to grasp one main ability: to ensure his center of mass is directly above the high wire at all times.  This means that the entire mass of his body is concentrated in the area above the thin path he has chosen to walk upon and this takes a constant conscious effort every second of the walk.  It is not easy or even possible to always maintain this delicate state of equilibrium which is why many artists often carry a balancing pole that gives them a bit more time to move their center of mass back in place and ‘correct their balance’.

It’s not hard to shift this analogy to the Path that we must walk as human beings towards our Final Destination.  The ‘straight and narrow’ it’s called, because that’s exactly what it is, just like a high wire.  And in order to keep on it, we have to find the center of mass of our being - the thing that defines our existence and who we are - our soul or spirit. And then we have to weigh it down and make it the heaviest, most wholesome part of our Being and in the process ‘lighten’ everything else about ourselves.

You don’t have to ascribe to any faith / religion to know that the soul is always oriented towards what is right, good, true and simple.  It yearns for Peace and Balance, but it knows that the only way to get this is by going back to Basic Essentials.  Every holistic philosophy, whether ancient or modern, will emphasize the policy of de-cluttering: both externally and internally, in your physical surroundings as well as your emotional state.

The conclusion of many centuries, studies and observations have taught us that one of the best ways to feed the inner soul is to give of oneself to others.  Helping those in need, works of charity, service to the community, fighting for the rights of the oppressed...these are the things that make our modern day heroes as much as they made the ancient heroes we look up to.  The Universal Standard of Humanity has never changed.

It is these acts of selfless giving that become the ‘pole’ with which we regain our inner balance.  Every time we stumble or make a mistake, every time we do something that we regret or are not proud of, the best way we find to atone for this and seek retribution is to turn outwards to others. We can distribute the ‘burden’ of our duties only by seeking to fulfill the rights of those around us. Our conscience understands that this is the Law that governs not just the Hereafter, but this life as well - that Giving is the only way of Gaining.  


Therefore, it is wise to send your things beforehand so that your good actions arrive before you, prearrange the place of your stay before you reach it, because after death there is no repentance and no possibility of coming back to this world to undo the wrong done by you.

And therefore it is wise to act Now.  To do all you can to give all you can to all the people you can.  Regret is the very worst punishment we can ever inflict on ourselves.  And if it is such a terrible thing to bear in this life, where there is always a chance to make amends. then how much worse will it be in the next life when there will be no chance to repair the things and people we have broken?

As someone once said: “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”

May you always seek out and find your Balance.

*All italicized blocks of quotes are from the Will of Ali bin Abi Talib (a) to his son.
Current Location: Somewhere New
Current Mood: awakeawake
Peppermint Prose
16 June 2011 @ 01:14 am
Dear You

Tonight is the eve of the birth of the man who wrote this Will that I keep quoting.  I wish you could know him. I had a feeling once that perhaps he was the kind of role model you had been hungering for all your life and never found.  I know the solace and comfort I have found in his love and leadership have been what support me when I have nothing to lean on and no strength to stand.

I had hoped to introduce you to him and then be secure in the knowledge that should there be a time when I am not there, you would have someone far better, greater and perfect to turn to.

Unfortunately, you remain a stranger to him.  And a result to me.  And also to your own self and the purpose of your life.  This letter is not going to be as long as the others I have sent before simply because I don’t have the time to write to you, not when the minutes of this precious night and the time I have with him are passing by so fast. (If only you had learnt the sweetness of his company, nothing would have sufficed to replace it.)

I am writing however, because it would be a missed opportunity not to share his understanding of life on the very day his life began and his presence blessed this universe.


...Those people who have carefully studied the conditions of life and the world pass their days as if they know that they are travellers who have to leave a place which is barren, practically a desert almost devoid of food and water, unhealthy and uncongenial; and they have to go towards lands that are fertile, healthy and congenial, and where there is abundant provision of all comforts and pleasures.

They have eagerly taken up the journey, happy in the hope of future blessings and peace. They have willingly accepted the sufferings, troubles and hazards of the way, the parting of friends, the scarcity of food and comfort during the pilgrimage, so that they may reach the journey's end - a happy place. They do not refuse to bear any discomfort and do not grudge any expense on the way, giving out alms and charities, and helping the poor and the needy.  Every step which they put forward toward their goal, however tiring and exhausting it may be, is a happy event in their lives.

This is the journey I want to undertake, and if parting ways from you because of the choices you are making is part of it, it will be a ‘happy event in my life’.  I would rather work hard, hurt deeply and be lied to and disappointed, but know that every pain I bear is a scar of victory on my journey to my True Home, and that I have had the courage to make that journey instead of running away from it like you have.


On the contrary the condition of those people who are solely engrossed in this world and are sadly engulfed in its short-lived, quickly fading and vicious pleasures, is like that of travellers who are staying in fertile and happy regions and who have to undertake a journey, knowing fully well that the journey is going to end in inhospitable, arid and infertile lands. Can anything be more loathsome to them than this journey? How they would hate to leave the place where they are and to arrive at a place which they so much hate and that is so dismaying, dreadful and frightening!

How sad is it to see you engrossed and engulfed in your current lifestyle so deeply that you don’t even seem to realise how shallow it is? or the lack of worth in it?  Sadder than you can ever imagine....


My dear son, so far as your behaviour with other human beings is concerned, let your 'self' act as scales to help you judge its goodness or wickedness. Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you.

Whatever you like for your ‘self’, like for others, and whatever you dislike happening to you, spare others from. Do not oppress and tyrannize anyone because you surely do not like to be oppressed and tyrannized.  Be kind and sympathetic to others as you certainly desire others to treat you kindly and sympathetically.  Whatever habits you find objectionable and loathsome in others, abstain from developing.  If you are satisfied or feel happy to receive a certain kind of behaviour from others, then behave with others in exactly the same way.

Do not speak about them in a way that you do not like others to speak about you. Do not speak on a subject about which you know little or nothing, and if you want to speak at all about anything or about anyone, then avoid scandal, libel and aspersion yourself for you would not like yourself to be scandalized and libeled.

Do unto others as you would have done unto your self.  This is a maxim that crosses the boundaries of all religions, cultures and races.  It is part of basic humanity.  And yet you did unto me exactly as you would never want done unto your self.  After stating this fact, is there even a need to try and define the kind of person you have now become?

I would like to treat you the way I would want to be treated myself had I done what you have.  The problem is: in my wildest dreams I cannot imagine doing that to anyone, let alone you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to glorify myself or say this is something noble in my character - rather it is beneath the lessons of dignity and self-respect taught to me by the man I am quoting. 

Any goodness I try to emulate finds its source in him and I am sorely lacking in having followed his examples well enough.  But at least I have a unmatched standard to constantly measure myself by and an unparalleled lead to follow.


Remember, son, that vanity and conceit are forms of folly, traits will bring to you serious harm and will be a constant source of danger to you. Lead a well-balanced life; neither be conceited nor suffer from the feeling that you are inferior, and exert yourself to earn an honest living.  But do not act like a treasurer for somebody; do not be a miser who hoards what he earns.

Did you know that stubbornness is a form of conceit?  To think that the way you do things is the only way to do them?  To feel you can not change your mind, regret your bad decisions or go back and undo your mistakes.  To burn bridges and think that the only way is forward.  These are policies that can be flawed sometimes.  

You cannot go into your future unless you first use your present to amend your past, and to do that you have let go of your pride and obstinacy enough to admit where you went wrong and feel enough of a remorse to want to make things right.  It is the ability to do this that defines the boys and girls from the men and women.  I wonder if you are incapable of ever doing so?  That would be a true shame.


And whenever you receive guidance of the Lord to achieve the thing you desire, then do not be proud of your achievement but be humble and submissive to Him and realize that your success was due to His Mercy and Favour.

I chose to end on this note because I can not be thankful enough to be where I am.  Who knows if I too would have been deserving of censure or lost on the way if I had still been in the circle of your influence.   When I look at my life this past year or so, I cannot see much in terms of achievements and progress - this has been entirely my fault - but I can see that I have been saved from turning my back on my Lord, my faith and my Hereafter.

God has Blessed me with the awareness of what is Real, Important and Invaluable and what is not.   I have no idea what I did to deserve this, but I don’t question it.  I only thank Him in every way I can.

The guidance of God is there for everyone and for you, more so because you were born into the Truth.  There is no legitimate excuse to turn away from it after having been exposed to it.


I know I stopped at the point above in the Will, but I can’t stop thinking about the wealth of knowledge that springs from the words of this man.  And because one who loves cannot help but mention their beloved at every chance, I’m tempted to share a couple more sayings that seemed to speak to me and I think they do to you too.

He is known to have said “He who sells his next life for his present life in this world, loses both of them”.  I might not be very good at mathematics or business, but I can make out a bargain when I see it.  Can you not?  Will you continue to throw away this life as well as the next - willfully and voluntarily?  What happened to all your good sense and intelligence?

 In all the time I have known you, I have worried about you and felt sympathy for you, but when I realised that this is exactly what you have done, sold your next life for this one...for the first time ever, I have felt a profound pity for you.  And selfishly perhaps, an utter gratitude for being blessed with the ability to make out a good deal from a bad one.

But this is a night of Celebration.  The heavens are lit up in joy and the Doors of Forgiveness flung open to anyone who would want to walk through them.  All it takes is the realisation of where true Success and Joy lies and the sincere desire to want only the best for yourself.  The rest is provided by God Himself.

He also says: “I wonder at a man who loses hope of salvation when the door of repentance is open for him.”

I too wonder.


*All italicized blocks of quotes are from the Will of Ali bin Abi Talib (a) to his son.
Peppermint Prose
27 April 2011 @ 11:22 pm
Dear You

In first contemplating this letter, I was tempted to take a poor-me stance. I even had my first sentence planned out and it was going to simply be: “Again?”  Punchy, no? Following it would be a tirade of how I don’t understand what it is about me that provokes you to do the things you do. What did I ever do to you to deserve this? And so on and so forth.

Once I got past the pity-fest, I came to terms with the one thing I’ve been struggling to accept from the start: I’m not the one with the problem. You are. A part of me feels guilty even writing that down, but I think that feeling is a product of the society we live in today.

‘Don’t judge me’ has become such a catch phrase, that everybody - even criminals - throw it around as a form of defense. But sometimes, you have to judge - fairly and by universal standards - because otherwise, there is no way for people to take responsibility or reform themselves.

Remember things we used to try as children? Locking ourselves up in the cupboard from the inside, trying to see if our head would fit between the railings of a staircase and getting stuck, setting our socks on fire...the list of ridiculous experiments is endless. Inevitably these were followed by a thorough scolding or smacking - as if the experience hadn’t been a lesson enough.  What we didn’t realise as kids is that the reaction of the elder person was based more on fear of ‘what could have happened’ than fury at ‘what had happened’. It was love speaking, not anger.

But what if we repeated these mistakes as adults, knowing full well the consequences of our actions? Would people laugh later and tell stories of the things we got up to, as they do with our childhood escapades? Or would they look at us with disdain and tell us to ‘grow up’?  Where is the line between indulging your inner free spirit and being immature?

I believe the essence of being an adult lies in appreciating and respecting the ripple-effect your actions have in your life, on those around you and society as a whole.  The problem is that our emotional and spiritual maturity seems to take a backseat. So if you were get your head stuck in the staircase at work, you might get fired the next day or at least never be taken seriously while you’re employed there, yet if you happen to tell a lie or throw around a few curses, you get away with saying it’s necessary business sense or stress. Our standards for secular versus spiritual, superficial versus real growth are totally skewed.

And that is why this mail is going to be a rough ride. Because you’re not just doing some immature pranking in your life, you’re tying a noose around your neck to strangle yourself and everyone seems to be just standing watching the show. I’m sorry but I refuse to indulge you because I know what’s at stake.  Consider this my ‘reaction’ to the idiotic - and dangerous - choices you are making. I only hope something gets through to you before it’s too late…


Be it known to you, my son, that nobody has given mankind such detailed information about God…as our Holy Prophet. …Have faith in his teachings, make him your leader and accept his guidance for your salvation. In thus advising you, I have done the best that I can as a sincere and loving adviser. I assure you that however you may try to find a better way for your good, you will not find any superior to the one recommended by me for success in this world and salvation in the next.

This what makes me so mad: you have no excuse in not having a role model. This man we both believe in, this man who is known on earth as Muhammad (One who is worthy of Praise) and in the heavens as Ahmad (One Who constantly Praises God). 

This is a man whom we know to be the most gentle, polite, compassionate, trustworthy, reliable and noble personality, who came as a Prophet and led a society out of barbarism into civilization, who opened doors to intellectual treasures and revealed oceans of knowledge, who set the highest standard of principles and ideals. This is a man who gave us back our self-respect and taught us the worth of being human.

He reigned over the entire Arabian Peninsula and also sat with the poor by the roadside, sharing their meals and their woes. He had the courage of a lion on the battlefield, and the gentleness of a lamb when he played with children.  He revealed to us our true purpose and taught us how to have a relationship with God.  He showed us the way Home, not just by drawing a map, but by actually walking down the path himself. He asked us to do nothing, unless he had first done it himself. He asked us to abstain from nothing, unless he had first abstained from it himself.

This man suffered and gave sacrifices for this message to reach us, you included.  And you claim that you are a follower of his faith, while doing none of the things he advises you to?  What kind of belief is that? What kind of respect are you showing for all the blood, sweat and tears he shed for YOU?


Remember, my son, that had there been any other god, besides the One, he would have also sent his…prophets and they would have pointed out to mankind the domain and glory of this second god, and you would have also seen them. But no such incident ever took place. He is One God whom we all should recognize and worship. He has explained Himself. Nobody is a partner to Him….He is Eternal, has always been and shall always be. He existed before the Universe came into being, but there is no beginning to His Existence. He shall remain when every other thing has disappeared into nothingness, and there shall be no end to His Existence….None can understand or visualize Him.

When you have accepted these truths and realities, then your behaviour, as far as His orders…are concerned, should be that of a person who realizes that his status, power and position is nothing when compared to that of His Lord; who wants to gain His Favour through prayers and obedience, who fears His Wrath as well as His Punishments and who is absolutely in need of His Help and Protection.

Every day, we dress, speak and behave in public as society expects because we don’t want to embarrass ourselves or offend others. So what of the fact that God is watching us every single second? The movies we watch in the solitude of our rooms, the books we read, the thoughts we think, the promises we break, the boundaries we trespass, the duties we neglect that we think no one will ever find out about...He knows each and every one of those acts. Are we not ashamed of offending Him?  

God gave us the tongue with which we speak - and we use it to lie, He created ears - and we listen to what He has forbidden.  He gave us senses through which we derive pleasure - and we use them outside of His set boundaries. He fashioned the amazing system of sight - and we view the immorality around us with relish. Can we imagine life without these abilities? And yet we use them to go against Him? Is there a depth of ingratitude to which we will not sink?

What excuse do you - do any of us - have for this disobedience? You gave me two.

i) ‘Because I want to.’

Really? I mean...really? After reading the above, you still have a sense of ‘I’?  Who are you? Who are any of us? What is our place in this world? Do we make the sun come up in the morning or bring the nightfall? We complain of lack of time but can we make a day longer for our convenience even by five minutes?

When we plant a seed, do we make it germinate or tell it how and what to grow into?  Do we control the rains that fall or just wait and pray for them to come? Did we make the sugar we sweeten our tea with or the variety flavours in our food? Did we create that heady scent the fresh earth gives off when it rains or the feelings that make our hearts beat faster?

How many things do we derive pleasure from in a variety of ways during any given day...and how many of those things did we originate ourselves?  Everything we use is borrowed, everything is on loan, everything is a favour, a debt we owe Someone Else. And we still have the audacity to possess a sense of 'what I want' over what He wants?

It doesn’t matter how successful, happy or great you think you are, as long as you can’t show gratitude for all you have been given, what really is your worth?

If you ‘want’ to sin so much, then do what the great-grandson of the Prophet said: either don’t eat any food provided by God, or find a place in the universe that doesn’t belong to Him, or hide your actions from Him…and if you can’t do any of that, then when the Angel of Death comes, refuse to give him your soul so that you have no accounting to worry about.

Do any of these things and then by all means go live your life the way you want to…


Remember, my son, that God has not ordered you to do anything, but that which is good and which propagates goodness and He has not forbidden you anything but that which is bad and will bring about bad effects.

ii) “I’m getting it out of my system.”

You’re beyond blessed to believe in a God Who only asks you to do what will help you and to stay away from what will destroy you.  So what makes you think disobedience to Him is IN your system or needs to go through it in the first place?

The fact that He said you have to avoid certain things completely - immorality, alcohol, drugs, lies, promiscuity, certain kinds of music, places of decadence - it means these things have NO PLACE in the system He fashioned.

Would you start drinking a litre of sewage water every day as part of your diet? Maybe eat a plate of rotting vegetables or maggot-infested meat? Just to get it out of your system? If you were stupid enough to do this, not only would people think you were disgusting, you’d either die from the toxins or get so used to it that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between wholesome and repulsive fare.

The same thing happens with your spirit. If you feed bad habits into your system, they will either embed themselves in your heart so you won’t even see them as being different from good or they’ll kill your soul.

Don’t kid yourself that you’ll get over them. If you think you’re in so much control, why the need to keep doing these things? Why not stop now?  If you decide to, you’ll have to fight the Devil himself to get rid of these habits.  And even if you succeed, the effects, the shame and regret, these will always haunt you.


My dear son…I have explained everything about this world, how fickle and quick-changing its attitude, how short-lived…everything that it holds or offers is, and how fast it changes its moods and its favours. I have also explained the life to come, the pleasures and blessings provided in it, and the everlasting peace, comfort and happiness arranged for in Heaven.  I have given enough examples of both aspects of life, before and after death so that you may know the reality and lead your life on the basis of that knowledge.

Do you notice how the last sentence above refers to only life? The event of death is simply a barrier you pass through between two sides.  The only difference being that this side is a reflection of the other, what you do here is what you are there.

For a while, I blamed your circumstances and your friends for your change.  After all, events could have pushed you to make bad choices and the people around you, your new relationships, how much could they really care about you if they were inviting you towards the forbidden? But then I realised those are their choices.  In truth, only YOU are to blame for your own decisions. 

How much can you possibly love your friends if you’re dragging them into disobedience with you?  Instead of trying to show them the right way, you’re happy to watch and help them along as they destroy themselves as well?  Isn’t that selfishness of the worst kind?  As if handling the responsibility for your own choices isn’t enough, you want to take on the responsibility of encouraging others too?   Perhaps you need to re-define your concept of Love and Friendship.  Because right now it seems you claim to care easily enough, but your actions show the complete opposite.

There are people out there who, if they had even one of the many gifts you have been given, they would set themselves firmly on the path to progress towards Him.  Instead you disregard your blessings and then hide behind excuses.  What a strange mix of ingratitude, bravado and cowardice…


I started this mail by warning you that there would be judgement involved. I have tried to use a measure that you cannot refute - unless you want to deny your own beliefs.  But true judgement isn’t about pointing out someone’s flaws, otherwise it would just be gossip.  It’s about telling them: “YOU are better than this”. That is the message the Prophet - your Prophet, brought for you: realize your own worth and help others realize theirs.

We buried a 12 year old girl this past weekend. It was a harsh reminder that death does not discriminate. It could come to you or to me at the end of this sentence. Or this one.  Every second that ticks away is carrying you one second closer to your end. 

In Islam, ‘dead’ isn’t used to describe your physical body. It’s only when your soul is no longer aware of God, then you are considered to be dead.  It doesn’t matter how much fun you have or how much you achieve, or how much you entertain others and are entertained by them.  When you turn against the Truth, in the eyes of your faith, you’re a walking, talking corpse.

You need to realise that the greatest gift you have is Now.  And that means you only ever have this moment to make a decision to be brave or be a coward. Every time you pass into another moment, it’s a gift on loan from God, one more second to make that choice.  Not days, not months, not years, just this one moment to choose between living and dying.

You may think you’re not suicidal, but I’m watching you slowly kill your true self.  And no matter how much I want to, I can’t physically shake you in the hope that something will come awake inside of you.   I can only write all these letters and keep yelling: Stop being an IDIOT and CHOOSE LIFE, will you?  Not for God or me, not even for the new friends you have, but for your self.

Choose. Life.


*All italicized blocks of quotes are from the Will of Ali bin Abi Talib (a) to his son.
Current Location: At The Desk
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
Peppermint Prose
02 April 2011 @ 12:26 pm
Dear You,

I’ve lived most of my life forgetting things.  I forget to shut doors and then bump into them; I forget my cell phone and miss important calls, I forget toast in the oven and burn it.  I forget important deadlines, essential necessities, promised tasks, birthdays, anniversaries, telephone numbers...I’ve even forgotten my own name once.  It’s never been hard for me to misplace memories and let things vanish into yesterday like they never happened.  Until now.

Suddenly I remember.  I remember waiting with fingers poised over a Send button three years ago today, wondering why I was doing what I was doing, debating whether to simply delete the message unsent or not.  I remember sitting for months afterwards and thinking - first in amazement and later in confusion - of what it did accomplish, and whether it might have been better never to have indulged in that one (and only) true whim I ever had in my life.

I remember a lot more too.  I haven’t gone back to re-read a conversation or to reference an event but I can recall with a clarity I find surprising, the most random moments from the past thirty-six months.  Words, gestures, tones, silences, events.  I can recall the coolness of a stone step and the barely comfortable heat of a sunned bench.  I can hear the rain on a tin roof and shiver at the memory of chill breeze.  I remember the colour of the sky on certain days and the smell of a specific scent on others, I can feel ghost textures that my fingers trailed on and sense emotions without the events that evoked them.

I have many many details in my mind that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I don’t know why these things have been carved indelibly in my mind.  I never consciously stored them and so I don’t know how to rid myself of them.  At first I thought that I remembered them because the specific memories had such strong associations that there was no choice but to do so.  But then I discovered that many a time, something I had stored away as being special had simply slipped your mind as a passing event. 

Did you know that sometimes saying “I don’t remember” doesn’t mean you have a bad memory?  It implies that you didn’t consider that incident worth remembering. Perhaps there is something to be said about everything that has happened in that?  Perhaps.


Remember that this world is working under the laws ordained by Him, and it consists of the totality of actions and reactions, causes and effects, calamities and reverses, pains and pleasures, rewards and punishments; but this is not all that the picture depicts; there are things in it that are beyond our understanding, things that we do not and cannot know, and things that cannot be foreseen and foretold.  For instance the rewards and punishments of the Day of Judgement.

I have always been aware of the Unseen working under the patterns of our actions and words.  It has been a blessing of the faith we belong to - knowing that the Hand of God supports all our plans.  And that sometimes, it thwarts them too.  But that doesn’t mean the way things work is fatalist either. 

The laws set out by God guide us to understand what causes will have what effects.  When you try and grab the blade of a sharp knife, you will cut yourself and bleed, but when you hold on to someone you trust, it makes you feel warmer and more secure.  The same hand, the same sense, but such different feelings based on what you apply it to. It only matters which you choose to reach out for.

Pain and pleasure are to some extent our own doing.  We may feel them as an effect to the circumstances around us or the actions of others towards us, but we can also cause them in others. If you are born with a disability or in circumstances you cannot control, there is a different kind of patience and understanding required of you.  But if you have the power to harm or to heal, to support or abandon, to help or to hurt, to make the right choices or the wrong ones...as long as you are equally capable of doing one or the other, I cannot find any justification for choosing the negative option.

It is true that the future cannot be predicted, that the familiar can become strange overnight, but for every moment in our lives, we have the choice to try and make the present the kind of ‘cause’ that will have the best ‘effect’ on our future.   We can neither blame our character and habits nor our feelings and fears.  If we are to be truly human, we must step back from ourselves and first take control of who we are.

Otherwise every dictator and tyrant, every liar and thief in the world will claim that they only committed their crimes because they couldn’t control their actions, because it was in them and they didn’t understand what motivated them. Because once they were down a certain path, it was too late or difficult to turn back.  It was when people stopped questioning themselves and holding themselves accountable, when people refused to take long hard looks at themselves and forgot that the only way to perfect themselves was to admit their flaws, and then to have the courage to change...when this happened, we ended up with the society that surrounds us today.


Under these circumstances, if you do not understand a thing, do not refuse to accept it. Remember that your lack of understanding is due to the insufficiency of your knowledge. Remember that when you came into this world your first appearance was that of an ignorant, uneducated and unlearned being; then you gradually acquired knowledge.  There were several things which were beyond your knowledge, which perplexed and surprised you and about which you did not understand “why” and “how”. Gradually you acquired knowledge about some of those subjects, and in future your knowledge and vision may further expand.

For every four out of five questions I have ever asked you in seeking understanding, you have replied with: “I don’t know why”.  I have to be satisfied with this answer because I don’t see myself getting any others in its stead.  But it bothers me that you are satisfied with it too.  It reeks of resignation and I never took you as being of the people who give up on themselves so easily.

Of course you don’t know! Few of us do when faced with new and frightening circumstances.  Isn’t life a process of growth? What to do, when to do it, how to do it?  Every time we face a new choice in life, our first reaction is always “I don’t know how / why / what.”  But we weigh options and think of possibilities, we find out and do research, we take the effort to learn and be absolutely sure that we do know so that we can do what is best for ourselves and those around us.

So when you say you don’t know and then you’re okay with not knowing, with ignoring the things that would help you understand your actions and the consequences they have, this seems to me to be a stubborn streak that stunts potential and abilities.  An imprisoning of the self by someone who was born to be free. A fear that has gripped you so completely that it has crippled you on your True Journey.

It is as the Will says: you only have got so far in life based on the things you have been taught in the journey from infancy through childhood to adulthood.  What you learn next or ignore, how far you go and in which direction - now these things are in your hands and your responsibility.  And where you go, what you do, the people you are with, these things determine the kind of path you will adopt. 

The son to whom this Will was addressed has said “If you felt the need to befriend people, then befriend a person whose association adds to your dignity...”  because habits are infectious.  How much true dignity is there in your life right now?  How much of its lack is from your own choice? Are you adding dignity to their lives?

Even if you don’t do something to change your life and fail instead, it will be of your own doing and not just ‘meant to happen’.  Inaction is as much an active choice as action is.


Therefore, the best thing for you to do is to seek guidance of the One Who has created you, Who maintains and nourishes you, Who has given you a balanced mind and a normal working body.

I have a book on my shelf that talks about why men don’t ask for directions and women can’t read maps.  It’s an age-old Mars/ Venus issue.  In both cases, the problem is with taking instructions.  Regardless of gender, our pride prevents us from asking someone else for what we consider to be simple direction.

Therefore, the concept of asking an entity we can’t even see for guidance on how to live our lives is one that rubs a large number of people the wrong way.  Life is the only thing we think is our personal property to do with as we will.  To be told how to go about it would be the final supreme act of suppression.  What would happen to free thinking and expression? What would happen to independent spirits and exploration?  What would happen to identity and individuality? What would happen to ‘me’ and what I want?

We don’t disagree on the existence of God.  You know as well as I do how much of your daily life depends on Him.  The body you use - and misuse - in all its health and glory, that is a gift from Him; every breath you take, you owe Him.  Your mind that challenges and explores, that is capable of witty answers and thoughtful conclusions, of dreaming and imagining, filled with intelligence and sensitivity - that was created and given to you by Him.

Can you imagine what kind of life you would live if you didn’t have a personal sanctuary within, that keeps you sane?  How often have you withdrawn to that special inner place and found that you can be good company for yourself because you have been blessed with the ability to do so?

You have the capacity to show enormous appreciation for the smallest of favours from other human beings, to make them feel that the one good turn they have done you is worth a dozen times more.  Why do you then deny it to God who has given you literally everything?  Why do you give so much to others whom you owe no more than thanks, and keep away from God the constant gratitude He deserves? If you did that to another human being, society would look down on you.  Indeed you would not respect someone who did that to others.  So how do you accept it in yourself towards Him?


Your prayers should be reserved for Him only, your requests and solicitations should be to Him, you should be afraid of Him and of nobody else.

He doesn’t want much from you, you know.  Dedication to His cause - which in essence is your cause as it only perfects you - is all He asks of you.  That you obey Him and follow His Laws. That you show utmost loyalty to Him alone.

And that in times of confusion, when decisions need to be made you turn to Him for help instead of running away into the escapism of desires.  That you stand up and face whatever He sends your way, always choosing to do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like.  That you seek out which path is the right one, instead of hiding behind excuses of not knowing.

He wants you to make Him your priority, because you are His priority.  He created you to be an example of nobility, honour and leadership.  He gave you the potential and the circumstances to mould you - sometimes with the gentle touch of a potter, sometimes with the fierce flames of a furnace. 

Why do you give in to fear of your own self when the only one to be feared is Him?


I write these words and try to inject as much enthusiasm into them as I can, but I must admit (raw honesty was the policy, right?) that I find my energy waning.  I am tired of coming up with new ways to say things so that they have some effect.  I feel like I’m beginning to repeat myself; scraping away with a nail file at the brick wall of your prison when you have the key to open the door and walk out yourself...

This isn’t about something simple or inconsequential.  This is about life and death, about saving an Eternity and I wonder if I am up to fighting this battle.  At first my doubt was whether you would ever read these words, but now I wonder if even when read they will ever be the spark I try so hard to make them. 

How many times do you strike flint before giving up reasonable hope of ever lighting a fire?  When do you finally give up and allow yourself to fall asleep in the dark without knowing when the dawn will come? 

I ask myself these questions because three years have passed and the only thing I have to show for it is being stuck between ‘Farewell’ and ‘Hello again’.


*All italicized blocks of quotes are from the Will of Ali bin Abi Talib (a) to his son.
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: apatheticapathetic
Peppermint Prose
12 March 2011 @ 02:14 pm
Dear You

Every once in a while, I wonder at my irrationality in writing these letters that you never read.  What is the point of talking to someone who doesn’t want to listen to what you have to say?  And then I remember the reason why I made a promise when I started off this series. It was because I knew that when I wanted to chicken out or give up, the weight of that word would bind me.

When that happens, I am reminded of the fact that these letters may have a lot to do with what I want to say or how I feel, but they are also firmly embedded in the desire to share the treasure of knowledge I am tapping into with every letter.  The Prophet of Islam (pbuh) also spoke to people who weren’t willing to listen, right?  Some listened in time, some never did.  But the loss was theirs and never his. 

So what do I have to lose in continuing with these letters?  Some pride maybe, a little ego at the thought that you might be snickering when you see the tag pop up in your feed and then simply deleting it. Perhaps the doubt that the others reading this might be thinking, “What? She’s *still* at it?” 

And what do I have to gain?  Everything.  In every letter I write, I see something new in the world around me. I learn something and I am inspired to change a part of me for the better.  Every time I sit down to put these words together, I find I am once again overwhelmed by gratitude at how much God has provided for my guidance out of the darkness I was in, towards a place of light. 

And perhaps also, with every time I finish one of these letters, I feel a little bit sadder because I no longer know how much further from that light you have walked away....


Remember my son, the best of my advice is tell you to fear God, to concentrate and to confine yourself to the performance of those duties that have been made incumbent upon you by Him and to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors and your pious and virtuous relatives. Verily, they always carefully measured their thoughts and deeds, as you must also try to do.

This kind of deliberation made them take from life what was really the best and forsake that which was not made incumbent upon them.

Fear God.  How often has that phrase been repeated in religious circles?  And how often it has been misunderstood or misinterpreted. Is God an entity to be afraid of?  Are we supposed to live as serfs - bound by a feudal Lord - to obey Him under the threat of a hell we have not seen, but whose terrors we have been told we cannot imagine?  Are we to be subdued by dread and promises of the worst kind of fate for an eternity. Is that truly what we were created for and what is meant to motivate us to worship and follow His Laws?

How can you love a God you are afraid of?  How can you be intimate with an entity that threatens you?  How will you ever turn to Him in times of need if you live constantly looking over your shoulder in fear of His Wrath?

I don’t deny that there is a Hell and that we can end up in it because of our sins, but perhaps it is because we begin with that as the basic premise of belief that religion seems such a difficult, limiting and oppressive system to so many.

What if we started with love instead?  What happens when you love someone?  Truly love them with all your heart and soul.  Doesn’t it become the most natural thing in the world to want to impress them, to gain their respect and admiration?  To please them?  

As we move from new-love to mature-love, there is a subtle transition in our attitude.  We begin with being afraid of doing or saying something silly or something that will make the other person think less of us (or worse leave us).  And because we can no longer imagine life without them, this fear keeps us on our toes - we need to look our best, to sound our best and always be at our most perfect possible infront of them.

With time, when we trust them enough to believe they’re with us for who we are and not what we do - when we realise the otherperson isn’t going anywhere - we find a place of comfort where we know the occasional idiotic thing said will not drive them away. 

In a really good relationship, however, we are aware of the danger of complacency, the possiblity of destroying the relationship if it isn’t nurtured, so we still try to surprise them with something clever or special all the time.  We strive to become even more beautiful than what we are - for them.

Isn’t that the way it should be with God?  At first, we want to be obedient servants and make it to Heaven / stay out of Hell. We’re afraid of not being able to measure up to the requirements so we feverishly perform all our duties, sometimes getting so caught up in the technicalities that we kill the soul of the action.

As we get to know Him better, we realise that of course we’ll never be able to match His Standards because He is Infinitely Perfect!  With that knowledge, we also understand the limitlessness of His Love and His Kindness, His Gentleness and His Ever-Forgiving Essence.  We accept that we may be flawed, but that He is willing to embrace us into His Mercy despite that.  After all, He didn’t create us flawed with the purpose of punishing us.  We are flawed because there can only be One Perfection and for us to be able to realise that, there exists the difference between us and Him.

Yet, because He is so Beautiful and Amazing, we live in a delicate balance of hoping that everytime we do something good we’ve pleased Him and fearing that everytime we slip up, we’ve disappointed Him.  The fear we then have of disobeying Him stems from our awe of His Power and His Grace and not from an oppressive burden of guilt.

This is the kind of fear we need to have, where we are so in love that we are afraid to an opportunity to earn His Love pass us by. 


...Remember that before you start deliberating over a problem, seek guidance from the Lord and beseech Him to give you a lead in the right direction. Avoid confusion in your ideas, and do not let disbelief about the truth of the teaching of religion take hold of your mind, because the first will lead you to agnosticism and the others towards errors and sins.

When you are thus prepared to solve any problem and you are sure that you possess a clear mind, a sincere and firm desire to reach the truth, to say the correct thing and to do the correct deed, then carefully go through the advice that I am leaving for you.

If your mind is not clear and free from doubts as you wish it to be, then you will be wandering in the wilderness of uncertainties and errors like a camel suffering from night-blindness. Under these circumstances it is best for you to give up the quest because with such limitations none can ever reach the truth.

Who do we turn to when we have a problem or need to make a decision?  Friends, family, ourselves.  And when none of them can help? Aah, then we turn to God, so really He is our last resort when all else fails....

Ask yourself who you would turn to at 3 a.m. if you had a dilemma you needed a way out of.  That person is a usurper in your heart who has taken the place that rightfully belongs to your Creator.  As a Muslim, you are already committing what is called ‘subtle’ shirk (polytheism) by inviting a ‘partner’ to God into your priorities.

The most famous and comprehensive verse quoted with regard to the relationship between God and man in the Qur’an is “When My servants ask you about Me, [tell them that] I am indeed nearmost. I answer the supplicant’s call when he calls Me. So let them respond to Me, and let them have faith in Me, so that they may fare rightly.” (2:186)

Can you see any conditional element to that statement in terms of when, how or where? If we truly love God as we claim, then together with love comes trust and dependency and loyalty.  We claim to be loyal to God by our obedience to Him, but do we not believe that He is loyal to us?  Has He not promised that if we depend on Him, He will suffice for us? Do we not trust that promise to be true at all times and in all cases?

And if do trust Him and ask for guidance, how then do we know what the answer is?  That’s where the rest of the advice comes into play: clear your mind and then set yourself the aim of reaching the truth and doing / saying the right thing.  In Islam, the guidelines to discern right from wrong are already present in the Shariah and so all you have to do is filter your decisions through them.

Is what you’re planning to do going to hurt someone?  Will it involve anything haram (forbidden) by the law?  Are the consequences going to harm others? Does it involve immorality?  These questions usually eliminate a lot of our choices. 

Of the ones that remain...well, by the time you have gone through the entire process, you’ve pretty much achieved the goal of submitting to His Knowledge and Will, you’ve fulfilled your end of the covenant and I don’t think it matters which option you then coose.  Since you started by relying on Him, He will suffice you and lead you to the place of your trust in Him by whichever path you pick.

How many of us have made choices based on our own emotional judgement instead of on what is right and true?  How many of us have been afraid of going forward when we should have simply trusted Him and forged ahead?  You can know exactly where you’ve come from by looking at where you are right now.

Are you in a place where you might not know what lies ahead, but you are confident that the next step will open up because you are equipped with faith, knowledge and trust?  Do you feel safe where you are?  Or are you lost and wandering, feeling surrounded by a wilderness from which you cannot discover a way out?  Do feel adrift in a choppy sea, stomach slightly churning because there is no land in sight, you don’t know which direction to steer in and now you’re wondering if you should have taken a train instead...?

The Will says that in such cases you should give up on your current path, but how do you do even that if you’re stuck where you are? How do you find your way out?   How do you go back and start over?


My dear son, carefully, very carefully remember these sayings of mine, that the Lord who is the Master of death is also the Master of life. The Creator is the Annihilator. And the One who annihilates has the power to bring everything back again to existence again. The One who sends you calamities is the One Who will bring you safely out of them.

We started off by saying that we needed not to fear God in Himself, but rather be in awe of Him and fear His Displeasure.  We started off by saying we needed to be in love with God.  What do you do when you’ve hurt someone you love?  Do you give up the situation as hopeless and abandon your relationship?  Do you run away from your mistakes and leave behind something that added value to your life? Can you honestly - if you have claimed to love - go on with life and build happiness in the future knowing you have left un-accounted for pain or disappointment in your past?

How then can you abandon the best relationship in your life? How can you give up on the only one and true love you will ever have? Real Love is selfish by nature. That’s why God always wants us for Himself only. And we need to be selfish as well.  We need to want to hang on to the relationship with God, no matter what happens. 

So we make mistakes, Love forgives. So we walk away, Love waits for us to come back.  So we commit sins, Love forgets.  So we bring back excuses and apologies, Love tolerates. So we cry out of shame, Love embraces us with acceptance.

No matter how far we go, the thread binding us to Real Love never breaks.  It anchors us to the One who Loves us even when we forget that we love Him.  He might let us wander off, but sometimes it’s only when you’re cold and lost and terrified that you realise how much you need Him and how safe He makes you feel.

I don’t know where you are right now.  But I do know that when you left, you were going off in the wrong direction. That’s why I gave you the things I did: a book in which are the answer to the questions you are so afraid to ask, a number to call if you don’t know where to start, a promise to be there whenever needed and a prayer that you should use any or all three helplines some day. 

Perhaps you’ve already found your way back, but incase you haven’t...reach inside your self, somewhere there’s an empty torch (batteries included) simply waiting for you to pick it up and turn it on so it can show you the way back. 

After all, the dark wilderness and the choppy seas belong to His Kingdom as much as the lush hills and the clear waters and who knows the easiest paths out of them better than Him?

Current Location: home.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Peppermint Prose
29 January 2011 @ 01:14 am
Dear You

I watched a movie today. I don’t really watch them so much anymore.  Lame as it sounds, not being in sync with the rest of the world is one of the ways I maintain my independence.  So when people are going on and on about this latest release or the other, I can just shrug and look around for what’s not getting any attention.  It makes me feel like I’m in on special secrets the majority haven’t a clue about. 

Back to the movie though... it was a happy, simple, linear story.  As movies go, there were none of the conventional plot twists.  In fact it was less about the how of the story and more about the what.  Reviewers have described it as a showcase for ideals, a feel-good movie about honesty and sincerity, simplicity and innocence, about principles and noble thinking, about family and friends, about being there for each other and about celebrating existing relationships and building new ones.  The cheesy stuff, y’knw?

I think the producer was trying to recreate the way things were just a few years ago and perhaps it was the stark contrast of what was and what is now that got to me.  The sense of utter loss in seeing all the values we have abandoned played out in this ‘life-should-be-like-this’ story.  I don’t cry easily and I’ve never needed a tissue during a movie, but this one made up for all my years of stoicism. 

It reminded me that the stories we tell in fiction are the dreams and ideals we hold in our hearts.  We create and watch these stories with such enthusiasm because a part of us wishes real life would be like that - where people always end up doing what’s right, where villains realise their wrongs and change or get what they deserve, where there is a recompense for every pain and hurt and where justice is served; where no matter how far you go down the wrong road, you always have the sense to turn back.

It got me thinking.  What really prevents us from actually living these kinds of lives? Why can we envision the ideals and goodness, but not practice them?  If we can dream up what the best kind of human being would be and call him or her a hero, what stops each and every one of us from becoming those heroes in real life?


My dear son! Though the span of my life is not as that of some other people who have passed away before me yet I took great care to study their lives...sifting the good from bad I am concentrating within these pages, the knowledge that I gathered. Through this advice I have tried to bring home to you the value of honest living and high thinking and the dangers of a sinful life...

Honesty and high-thinking.  In the journey through this Will, there’s got to be a lot of that for me.  Honesty about myself: what I have failed to do, what I haven’t done yet and what I need to do still - these are not things I’m enjoying having to analyze.  And sharing them is another issue, yet having promised to do so the same honesty demands I have to stick to my word.  But difficult as all that is, high-thinking sometimes seems even harder to accomplish.  Setting your sights on a more noble way of life means losing a lot of things and the first of these are usually your friends...

We relate to the good guy in a movie or book because he appeals to the innate tendency we all have to gravitate towards perfection and right.  But we don’t go beyond just feeling because a part of us thinks: “It’s fiction. No one like that really exists.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not being like him.” The 2-dimensionality of silver screen and paper gives us a chance to excuse ourselves. 

But what would happen if we had to actually live around someone who constantly upheld ‘good guy’ principles when we didn’t?  Someone who had the depth of character we lacked?  It would be like looking into a Mirror of Truth where all our flaws and shortcomings are clearly reflected.  Suddenly, there would be someone tangible in the same environment we are, with the same challenges we face but still managing to live with nobility, not giving the excuses we are, making hard choices and rubbing our noses in the fact that we’re too selfish /cowardly to do the same.

That’s why if you decide to try becoming high-minded in your thoughts and actions, chances are good that people will translate that into being high-handed as well.  If you choose not to compromise on your principles, you might be tagged as inflexible, judgmental, self-righteous - anything negative that will allow others to silence the inner voice of their conscience.

Keeping that in mind makes it so hard to be different, to be better.  A sinful life just doesn’t seem dangerous enough to warrant being ostracized. If someone wants to live immorally then it’s their choice, isn’t it? They’ll waste their own life and that will be that.  We conveniently forget that society is a community.  One person’s actions affect not just their immediate connections, but everyone.  When we accept the unfair or immoral actions of an individual or ignore their effects on another, we reduce the general caliber of the entire society.

Yet, in a world where the soul is denied or dismissed, how can we expect concern for its health to exist?  All we want is an easy, happy, entertaining life surrounded by friends and family and some level of success, so it can become tempting to just go with the flow of things in order to ensure you have people around you - regardless of the quality of their company.  After all, the greatest fear a human being harbours is that of being alone in this world.


I did something a few nights ago that I haven’t in a long time.  I took my cup of tea, went outside and looked up. The last time I had looked up at the night sky, I had marvelled at its beauty (yellow stars!) with you.  After everything, it had been too painful to even do that, so I was surprised at how easily the hurt settled in, made itself comfortable and then allowed me to continue my musing.

I stared and stared and then stared some more, because I couldn’t stop staring.  When did I forget that particular shade of deep black-blue that only a moonless night can have?  And the stars...did someone polish them in the months I have been hiding away in the shadows of my heart? Because these stars twinkled and sparkled like none I can remember seeing.  It was as if the air had become thinner or my eyesight a little clearer or perhaps, maybe... the heavens had shifted just that bit closer?

Have you ever looked into the eyes of another person and seen something so deep, so strong, so fearsomely overwhelming that the world seemed to take a deep breath and stand still?  And no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t tear your eyes from theirs?  That’s how I felt.  My palms were stinging from the prickly heat of the ceramic mug, my neck had a crick from looking back so far, my knees felt weak from the weight of cosmos bearing down on me and my eyes were burning from the uncountable pinpoints of light searing them, but...but, it was impossible to look away. 

So there I stood on a slab of cracked concrete, wondering at the mind-boggling extent spread out all around me, at how endless the space was in all directions!  Each of those pretty sparkles was a solid mass, gigantic beyond imagination.  Some were entire galaxies like our own (galaxies!) and I could see them merely as hazy blots.  What about the distances between them?  Chock-full of more cosmic debris and yet so far way that it looked like just a few inches of emptiness instead.  And even that emptiness didn’t last...

It was a bit like you feel when you enter a dark room and are blinded for a few moments. Then gradually, your eyes become accustomed to the lack of light and you begin to make out objects.  The more I stared at that inky sea, the more stars appeared in places they hadn’t been a second before.  Faintly shining dots overlapped each other -  layer upon layer - creating a depth that spiralled outwards into eternity.  There was no light at the end of this tunnel, the light was woven into the very fabric of its walls. 

Slowly the sky began to take on a consistency like clotted cream - thick and heavy - into which someone might have stirred crystals of sugar that sparkled, reflecting Divine Light with every motion of the Cosmic Hand.  Then, as I stood there covered by that rich thickness, it all came alive...

One by one, each twinkling synced with those around it until finally the entire sky seemed to be gently throbbing.  And in the next moment, I felt my entire being expand and contract in unison with it, as if in having managed to find the pulse of the universe, I had torn through the fabric of space-time and become trapped in its veins...until I realised it was because everything had synced itself to the most familiar of all music to my self - the rhythm of my own heartbeat.

I’ve always believed that there are other life-forms somewhere out there.  But now I know there IS life out there.  It’s the same Life that is in me and around me, it’s the same Life that is in everything that exists. It doesn’t matter if we ever find a new species on another planet - it will still originate from the same Life Source as us.  (Why are we hunting so desperately for answers that we already have?)

In that moment, I knew that God was staring me in the face, giving me His Full Attention.  No one had ever gone to so much effort to show such Love in just one glance, so I opened up to Him.  I told Him all the things that I was afraid of for you and for me, the things I regretted from Yesterday, the things I was unsure about Today and the things I hoped so much for Tomorrow.  I must have whined a lot more than I thanked, begged a lot more than I shared, wanted a lot more than I could promise in return.  But it was a nice chat, I’m pretty sure about that even though I don’t remember much of it.

I don’t remember how long I stood there or when I sat down or what I sat on. I don’t remember when I finished my tea or how I managed to come back inside, when at the slightest encouragement from Him, I think I would have simply floated up into that Sparkling Tunnel to Eternity and never missed a thing I left behind.

However, I do remember wondering why I hadn’t done this in so long.  Did I get so caught up in you, myself and everything that’s happened that I forgot Him? I always thought that in this friendship we had, God was an Overseer, looking out for both of us.  But I’m beginning to think that might not have been the case.  None of my relationships are about me and another person.  All of them are about me and Him, the other person is only there to make me appreciate His Perfection.  In reality, I only have one relationship - the one I was born into and the one I will die in.  I have only one Soul mate and one Love, and He found me before I even knew to look for Him.

I will always have Someone to talk to, Someone who understands me, Someone who accepts me just as I am.  I can be as high-minded as I want with Him, because there’s no limit to the summit or the depth or the vastness of our relationship.  I know I loved talking to you and sometimes I miss our conversations so much I play out old ones in my head, but despite all that, these talks with Mr. God are different. 

After all, who else can I chat with who can ask me, “How much Starlight would you like with that tea?”


...I felt nervous that I may leave you untrained and uneducated in the subjects which themselves are subject to so much confusion and so many contradictions. Subjects whose confusions have been made worse by selfish desires, warped minds, wicked ways of life and sinful modes of thinking. Therefore, I have noted down, in these lines, the basic principles of nobility, piety, truth and justice. You may feel they are over-bearing and harsh, but my desire is to equip you with this knowledge instead of leaving you unarmed to face the world where there is every danger of loss and damnation.

Looking back, even in just 8 letters, I know I have said things that are over-bearing and harsh already. And what is to come in the letters that follow will probably be even more blunt.  But lessons as valuable as nobility, piety, honesty and justice never come on a silver platter.  You have to hear hard words and accept harder truths, and then hardest of all, you have to be willing to actually change, to make amends, to sacrifice, to fight against friend and foe alike to gain these qualities and nurture them for your self.

Just remember that if you choose to stand on the battlefield of Right and defend the Truth with your life, you may be lonely, but you will never be alone. You may feel misunderstood, but there will always be Someone who understands you perfectly. You may have no companions, but your fight will not be solitary.

I believe you are as capable - if not more - than other people to do this. Therefore, the final words I leave you with for this letter are filled with some of that old feeling I was so sure I had eradicated when I wrote my last letter. (Perhaps I am an emotional wuss after all?)  They are the words of encouragement that this father left, not just for his son, but for anyone who wants to inherit from his Will:

I am sure you will receive Divine Guidance and Help. I am sure He will help you to achieve your aim in life.

Just make sure you set your aim right so He can.  Please.


*All italicized blocks of quotes are from the Will of Ali bin Abi Talib (a) to his son.
Current Location: At My Desk
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful