2 Ramadan 2016: Strangers … The New Support Network

No one is ever really a stranger. We cling to the belief that we share nothing with certain people. It’s rubbish. We have almost everything in common with everyone. – Mark Haddon


From war, disease and poverty to fear, stress and loneliness; our days seem to be more gloomy, no?

At the same time, we are spending more and more time away from those who love us and make us feel better, whether it is because of increased globalization as people study and work elsewhere or because of digitalization that has made our interactions more virtual or simply because we are too “busy”.

We are also spending more time driving on roads, waiting longer for appointments, traveling and catching buses, riding elevators, ordering food, buying products, seeking services, working, etc… with strangers! We are constantly seeing, speaking, and listening to … complete strangers!

The irony is that as we interact with strangers more than ever … and our need for love, care and compassion increases … more than ever,

  • we treat strangers or get treated by strangers with a suspicious eye for one reason or another based on unspoken judgements …
  • we speak to strangers or get spoken to by strangers in a rude and abrupt manner …
  • we cut off strangers on roads or in lines or even when speaking and vice versa …
  • we are sometimes downright aggressive with strangers or are treated with aggression …
  • we all feel entitled, we all feel that we are to be served and not to be of service.

It is ironic because we are all lonely, stressed and afraid and instead of making it better for each other, we make it 10x worse!

The truth is, we are not strangers, we are all in the same boat and as the month of Ramadan blesses us with its many benefits, I can’t help but pray that we start to see each other through the lens of similarity.

I wish that we all treat each other the way we want to be treated and no matter how bad we have it, treating each other politely and respectfully will only result in finding support in the strangest of places!

Politeness is the flower of humanity. – Joseph Joubert

And this is how we can make it count, supporting those we may never see again.

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28 Ramadan 2015: Role of a Woman

A beautiful woman delights the eye; a wise woman, the understanding; a pure one, the soul. – Minna Antrim


This post is not for some to disagree or agree with, this post only brings across how I felt when my mom’s life all came to an end and I would add to that, my beloved grandma who passed away 3 months prior to her.

As I stood watching my beloved grandma for the last time before her burial, and likewise, as I stood watching my beloved mother for the last time before her burial, only two thoughts came across my mind – the summary of all their years and interestingly enough, their role as women.

My grandma was a stay-at-home mom. She raised 8 children, moved to a place she never knew before with her husband just to support his career goals, lost her husband approximately 45 years into their marriage, lost her daughter at a young age of 37. She lived 20 more years after these two events. She celebrated weddings, saw her grandchildren, great grandchildren, lost parents, brothers and sisters. Suffered health challenges both her own and her friends and family. The only thing that came to my mind was, WOW, she did all that with patience and looking forward to the good and leaving the bad – what a woman!

My mom was one of the first few groups of women to complete a University education and move away from her parents at a very young age. She raised 2 children, moved to various places supporting my father to achieve his dreams. She worked – she was a teacher – for a few years but then dedicated her life to … life. She saw her grandchildren, lost a parent, a sister. Suffered health challenges both her own and her friends and family. Kept up her interests and connected with long lost relatives and gave love to everyone she knew. The only thing that came to my mind was, WOW, she did all that with patience and looking forward to the good and leaving the bad – what a woman!

You see in both cases, I didn’t think of their status, or reputation, or popularity. I didn’t think of their wealth or assets. I didn’t think of their education or literacy. I didn’t think of their image or their job titles at work. All I thought about is their role as women …

to give love, find and share hope with all

Was that what it came down to?

Yes – and it made me revisit my whole life again.

While pursuing one’s dream is not only a right, but a responsibility on each one of us given the air to breath in this life, it is not what our life is worth. Our life’s worth as women, and others I would say for that matter, is how much love we give and how much hope we find and share with others.

And that is what I saw – and that is what I felt – and nothing can change that.

If doing what one loves achieves this purpose so be it, but I continue to see women striving for many things that either tires them out or limits their ability to give love, find and share hope.

My mother taught me that …

we are remembered by the love we give and the hope we find within ourselves and share with others

And that is the beauty of a woman.

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27 Ramadan 2015: Don’t be afraid of …

When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice. ― Brené Brown


… boundaries.

Should we have them? Do we need them? Will they hurt us now? Will they hurt us in the afterlife?

I wouldn’t say my mom was excellent with boundaries, but I wouldn’t say she didn’t have any either. She seemed to maintain an interesting balance – sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

What I learned from her however is that not setting any boundaries is not good. Not setting any boundaries comes down to fear, fear that the person who might be sometimes rightfully kept on the “other side of the fence”, will not accept it and will even go out of their way to hurt us in one way or another, directly or indirectly.

It is interesting to note however that those who seem to have many many boudanries set, or what I call, harsh inflexible boundaries set, are equally afraid of getting hurt or losing out.

So what works?

Like all things, it is balance.

There are boudanries that matter, and there are those that don’t.

For matters that may be harmful and involve yourself or your family, there should be a clear and consistent application of boundaries with active reflection and strength to ward off fears that may or may not be founded.

If these fears are founded, thank god you picked them up. If these fears are unfounded, thank god you did something about boundaries that will prevent future feelings of resentment, isolation and potentially negative behavior and mistrust towards others.

For matters that benefit ourselves or others … boundary-less. I would also ask myself why I would want to set boundaries in matters that bring benefits to many?

As we approach the last couple of days of this blessed month, may god make us witness more and more of them in our future, a big lesson that my mother’s life taught me is that …

Boundaries are essential.

When none are set, resentment sets in.

When too many are set, injustice towards others sets in. 

Set them in matters, specific to you and your family, that may be hurtful or harmful.

Let go of all boundaries in matters that benefit yourself and others.


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25 Ramadan 2015: Always say the Truth

In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot. ― Czesław Miłosz


I can definitely vouch for that.

The number of times mom stood up and spoke up with most, if not all people around her, in silence are countless.

What I can say though, as uncomfortable it may have felt at the time, is that she was pretty much right ALL the time.

I bet that she is so thankful now for the courage she had during such times now that she is in another world and life altogether where she can reap benefits of this courage.

It wasn’t that she was against people being who they are, on the contrary, she wanted to help people be the best that they can be and she used her courage to do that. Whether people accepted it or not, that was not her concern.

She never apologized for it and while there are times that this truth could have been said differently, her intention was in the right place and as she always sought forgiveness from god for any unintentional wrong doings, her intention alone is enough to give her rewards that only those who are lucky would attain.

At least now, anyone who was facing her in such a situation will always remember how ‘she said the truth’.

My mom taught me to …

always say and be a walking example of truth, honesty and integrity

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22 Ramadan 2015: Respect the Young

A person’s a person no matter how small. – Dr. Seuss


I have already mentioned how my mom’s grandkids miss her so dearly for the beauty she brought into their lives.

In this post I want to expand this thought and note how they miss her so dearly for how she made them feel – respected – and according to my own daughter, it was her:

  • cooking;
  • kindness;
  • ideas;
  • love;
  • hobbies;
  • passion;
  • ways of doing things;
  • flowers; and
  • smell

that made them feel that respect.

These are all aspects her grandkids, all under the age of 8 felt, and what a lovely list.

I bet that if I polled her nieces and nephews, they would probably come up with more or less a similar list, this was who she was.

She cooked for love. Her kindness was overwhelming. Her ideas were unique. Her love was endless. Her hobbies were infectious. Her passion was love. Her ways of doing things were beautiful. Her flowers were a reflection of who she was. Her smell … was mother … grandmother … wife … sister … daughter … niece … aunt … and friend.

May god rest her soul, I will quote one of my friend’s who has a young son who met my mom once who said after her death how she had never met someone who did not get flustered with kids and was so respectful of them.

If doing all these things is what makes the young and youth feel respected, then the formula is not so hard, is it?

My mom taught me …

respect everyone, especially the young, by sharing who you are with them



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Thank (made by a 7 year old child)

Alya2you should always thank people especially god because he gave you food,water,

toys and many other things,and to think about it you should thank people when

they say or give something nice to you even though your sick or tired because

god gives you good points especially in ramadan,because imagine your walking

and someone comes and says ”I have a gift for you”you feel happy but you don’t

say thank you  that makes the person who gave you the gift feels like you didn’t

like the gift then that person gives you more and more gifts and you never say

thank you god gets angry for 2 resons 1. because you didn’t say thank you

2.because you didn’t thank god.Do you know why?Because god told them to

buy you a gift.Do you want to know the best way to have a happy life?





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16 Ramadan 2015: Forgiveness

The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget. – Thomas Szasz


None of us is perfect – we all make mistakes and bad judgement calls that may hurt people around us.

So it makes sense to wonder why we don’t forgive more often – we all make these mistakes – then again, what does forgiveness actually mean assuming one is even aware that they had made a mistake?

I will use observation from my mom’s life to elaborate on what I saw forgiveness to be in “action”.

Some hurt others in silence through body language, some hurt through words, and some hurt through action.

I must admit that my mom did not give much time or thought to those who hurt her in silence. She literally seldom even noticed and if she did, she ignored it and came up with excuses why people behaved the way they did.

Forming the minority of cases, and while action never involved anything violent, those who hurt her in action – for example, be it cutting her off or refusing her generosity or misjudged her – was embarrassing to her. Yet, I can honestly say that she stood tall and strong towards such people and literally did not react back, retaliate or confront.

Was she hurt? Absolutely especially when done in front of others.

Majority of cases involved hurt through words as people get angry and lose control of what they say – like we all do at times. As hurtful as they were at times, she never followed up and usually acted as if these words were never said, in other words, she did not linger on and focus on what was said. Again, she moved on.

So was she not hurt? Of course she was – but she was not going to demand an apology – the apology had to come from the person.

So what is forgiveness when it comes to those who hurt us? It is what is common in all three cases.

  • She rarely complained to others;
  • Never closed the door for their return or apology;
  • Greeted them when she met them;
  • Always said truth when asked; but
  • The key in all is that she kept her guard up to maneuver repeated hurtful actions and found ways to avoid being in similar situations, in other words, she learned from her experiences.

So while forgiveness is not easy, what I saw from my mom is that forgiveness is quite simple, and while others may hurt us – we also may hurt others – even if unintentional.

My mom taught me that …

Forgiveness is leaving the door open, not complaining, learning from hurtful experiences and … moving on.



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11 Ramadan 2015: It doesn’t matter if they don’t, you do

Don’t wait for other people to be loving, giving, compassionate, grateful, forgiving, generous, or friendly … lead the way! – Steve Maraboli


What a tough thing to do … doing for others irrespective if they do for you.

I have to admit, it was often a point of argument between my mom and I as she always believed that we always had to do the right thing be it the more ‘compassionate’ thing, or the more ‘generous’ thing, or the more ‘friendly’ thing, or the more ‘respectful’ thing, etc… we simply had to do it.

I guess what she was trying to say is that irrespective of what people do, we are accounted for what we do and even if people do not appreciate or reciprocate, we must always do the right thing.

I still think it is tough, especially as …

pride, hurt, confusion, and ‘shock’ often kick in and talk us out of doing the more generous, friendly, respectful or compassionate thing.

So through reflections following my mom’s death, I realized that the best strategy is to have zero expectations from others and all expectations from ourselves within the boundaries of our capabilities, abilities and responsibilities. Then, even if we don’t do the more generous, friendly, respectful or compassionate thing, we know that it was beyond our boundaries of capability, ability and responsibility, with a clear conscious.

The *magical* thing is that as soon as I decided to have zero expectations, I followed my heart more clearly, found the more generous, friendly, respectful or compassionate thing easier to do and more importantly, it limited the pride, hurt, confusion, and ‘shock’ that stands in the way.

So this Ramadan, my mom taught me to …

have ‘zero expectations’.



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10 Ramadan 2015: More than a Thousand Words

A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside. – Denis Waitley



By the end of the first 10 days of Ramadan, most people’s bodies have gotten used to the new cycle of eating. Fasting, from food and drink,  becomes easy.

In an opposite fashion, by the end of the first 10 days of Ramadan, most people’s commitment to “fasting” from negative manners, behaviors and habits reaches a stage where one forgot the change they committed to.

One of the key inner changes is related to how we treat others, and that starts the first moment we see someone – a smile.

My mom smiled often – my mom even smiled on the day she departed this world onto the next one.

A lot of us find it hard to smile when we are focused on an issue or a matter at hand, but more often than not, smiling can actually help us think more clearly and may actually benefit us, it opens the doors to opportunities and for others to engage with us.

If fasting was of fasting from food and drink, that is one thing, but to reach the finish line in this blessed month, with stamina, we need to have taken control of our food, drink and soul.

In this second phase of Ramadan, the third of forgiveness, I seek forgiveness from god for all the times when we looked or acted “closed” towards others making them think we were “uncaring” and/or “non sharing”, leaving you with this:

I think that when you get dressed in the morning, sometimes you’re really making a decision about your behavior for the day. Like if you put on flipflops, you’re saying: ‘Hope I don’t get chased today.’ ‘Be nice to people in sneakers. – Demetri Martin

Smile …

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7 Ramadan 2015: Respect and All its Colors

I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university. ― Albert Einstein


Less than two months after my mom’s passing I realized quickly how respectful she was to others.

Respect is typically about treating people of all levels with care for their own feelings and rights, but the respect I saw from her went a little beyond that and quite specific.

I saw her respect others by:

  • calling them when it had been long she hadn’t heard from them, irrespective of who should or should not call first;
  • visiting them when sick irrespective of how old or young they were;
  • enquiring about other people’s families and friends especially when she knew someone was worried about them;
  • hastening to give her condolences to others who have lost a loved one;
  • cooking for those she loved even when she couldn’t (and she cooked very very well);
  • helping anyone who asked her for help, no matter how small or big the request was;
  • helping with excellence, e.g. not just what they asked for, but everything around it as well and if she didn’t know, she called around and found the support or information needed to help them;
  • her home was always open to anyone who wanted to visit, no matter what the history may have been;
  • accepting anyone’s apology;
  • generously served and fed her guests, no matter who they were or what their social status was;
  • avoided confronting others and just let them be;
  • supported people’s greatest achievements and milestones no matter what she was going through;
  • she gave honest advice, whether accepted or not; and most importantly,
  • she stood by people in their time of need until they no longer needed her.

Respect, respect, respect … not for the sake of being loved or being said this person is this and that, respect for the sake of god for she didn’t necessary get recognized for it before her death – but definitely recognized after her death.

All we are as human beings is a bundle of needs and emotions – during this blessed month – I ask god to help us be a source of comfort for all.



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