’til We Meet Again <3

I remember starting a draft one morning about how my Cyprus visit was coming to an end, and that I was going to be missing my parents. I never completed the draft and that was in February 2020. Here we are in March 2023, nearing yet another end to a visit and I’m so thankful we’ve had so much time connecting ever since my incomplete draft entry 3 years ago. Here’s to many more years, in spite of the distance. Technology helps but it’s not enough, so I’d like to give some credit to all of my family members for putting in the effort.

With the Mediterranean oranges still in season, I told myself I had to eat as many of them as possible. Otherwise I would have no valid excuse paying a ridiculous amount for a bag of tasteless oranges in the States when we get back. I love the accessibility of nature here. While many people don’t live a nature based life and rather a materialistic one in Cyprus, it’s still so easy to access a fruitful garden as well as the wild flora. As someone who doesn’t have roots in the States for at least a few generations, or perhaps because of the culture there, I feel nowhere near the same level of accessibility. My Italian neighbor shared the same sentiment with me the last time we had a chat. There’s more accessibility for other comforts in the USA, like a functional bureaucracy, wide side walks, and Amazon prime.

Speaking of accessibility, there’s more accessibility for educational resources in the States particularly for homeschooling families. The concept of libraries is nearly nonexistent in Cyprus which is probably reflective of the interest the local culture takes in reading — not that we visit libraries often in the States to be honest, but it’s so much easier to access educational books. I also love the seasonal workshops held at nature reserves that are suitable for different ages. The free admission days to several museums is likewise appreciated.

We’ve treated this visit as our extended holiday period instead of the summer time. I am excited to return to a homeschooling routine and have written out a plan. If we finish off strong this upcoming Spring, then we can take it easy in the summer and focus more on outdoors stuff along with some continued reading. We’ll be continuing with some Math Mammoth revision, some incomplete Singapore maths (I haven’t yet decided which I like best but I am leaning more towards MM), language arts, our next chapter book tbd — we are about to wrap up Caddie Woodlawn — daily outdoors ideally right after breakfast as long as the weather allows, a designated nature trail once a week. They will continue Arabic and Qur’an with their dad as per usual and I will sign up Zaynab to her sewing class again. We haven’t yet decided if we want the kids to continue their karate class. I think that jujitsu will be a nice alternative to try out especially for Abubakr as it’ll offer some more hands on techniques. I want to focus on more art consistently and ideally once a week. The children have plenty of time drawing and coloring on their own. However I want to channel my creativity through a class with them consistently too. Pinterest helps and there’s so many videos on Youtube that one can find inspiration from. I will be finishing stories of the Prophets and starting seerah inshaa Allah as we enter Ramadhan with a focus on Ramadhan’s relevance to the Qur’an and revelation as well as the spiritual dimensions of fasting. Without going overboard and consumerist, I am excited to bring a festive vibe into our home and will be making some touches here and there in the house with the kids.

My husband has been off of sugar and breads for nearly 3 months I believe, and I am intending to join the bandwagon in Ramadhan. The accessibility of ‘healthy snacks’ is widespread in the US and I want to cut out any prepackaged stuff no matter how ‘healthy’ they are, because I want to decrease the kids’ desire for those foods in between real meals. We had come to a point where offering apples, cheese, bananas with almond butter — check out Philosopher Foods, my fave — and so on in between meals was not considered ‘snacky’ enough, and they demanded biscuits (i.e. cookies), ‘gluten-free’ pretzels, potato chips fried in ‘avocado oil’ and whatnot. Basically anything that made a crinkly package sound of sorts. Of course the first (and last) step to that is to not have them available in the pantry, end of story.

I want to leave with the hope of being reunited with my family very soon, with gratitude in my heart for the simple pleasures, the fresh air, the delicious juicy citrus fruits, the fresh pecans, the lovely rocks my children picked out for us from the beach and the few peaceful minutes I had to myself while I painted them. There will never be enough hugs from my parents or enough laughter at the dinner table before I feel satisfied. I can only hope to be so present at those brief fleeting moments that when I’m taking my last breath I will remember them vividly. I am so grateful that in all of this magnificent creation and universe, no matter how small and insignificant the planet may seem, Allah has brought our souls into being and blessed us with an ever expansive consciousness. When I met a close friend of mine in Istanbul a couple of months ago after 2 years of not having seen each other, the first words that she said to me upon being united again was how it felt like I was never gone, and the separation had never taken place. I could really imagine that’s how it will be in the Afterlife and that is my prayer.

the threads I am weaving with

We left Cyprus nearly 6 months ago and this has been an interesting and difficult transition, going from spending 2020 very close to my family (ironically) to being away from everyone back home for nearly half a year. I miss my mom so I am going to dedicate a few words for her as this is also something I have been pondering on. A while back I listened to Sajah Popham having a beautiful discussion with Kami McBride, my first introduction to her which thereafter led me to now stay up-to-date with all her news and wisdom. She referred to how she is gathering loose threads from her family line in order to weave them into her personal journey. It made me think about what I could gather myself, from my grandmother and great grandmothers, but then I realized… I have gathered so much from my own mother, who already did so much of the work in bridging her gap and who allowed me to have a jumpstart in my own journey of discovering healing modalities, and more importantly, in the way I am rearing my own family. It has given me a whole new layer of gratitude. I am so proud of what she has accomplished despite her circumstances in different phases of life, and anyone who has spent enough time delving into herbal medicine knows that it is also a spiritual quest in its own right.

My maternal grandmother, collecting orange blossom, either for distillation or for jam.

I am still curious what I can gather from my great grandmothers in regards to herbal wisdom. I already have some insight in regards to other aspects, and often when I am carrying out certain tasks, I think of my great grandmothers who might have done those very things. My great-grandmothers are not alive. So whatever I can gather further will be from my mother’s, my father’s and my grandmothers’ memories. I also have a maternal great uncle who is still living and who spent the most time with my Iraqi great grandmother so I think that he would enjoy sharing some memories if I send him an e-mail soon. I only ‘met’ my Iraqi great grandmother as a baby. I don’t think I was even a year old, but I’ve had several vivid dreams of her and felt so close to her, and one of my sisters (who has never met her as she’s younger than me) has also dreamt of us two together. Sometimes I feel that perhaps what connects us so deeply to some of our ancestors is a prayer of theirs that has touched our lives.

As I am reflecting on this, I feel challenged in one aspect: trying to think of what I can gather from my paternal grandmother, who is still alive, but whom I feel for more as another human being than close kin whose blood I carry. I don’t want to get into too many details out of respect for her but it will suffice to say that she carries some seriously narcissistic qualities which have been very hurtful for my father, and probably for my late grandfather too in different ways, and obviously my mother. My father is her main caretaker, and currently she is diagnosed with cancer and so, that coupled with her psychological state, it’s been a tough ride. Still, I do want to think about what thread I could gather from her. It’s a tough one. I think of her mother when I drink rosemary tea, or when I think the strength of a woman during childbirth, but not so much of her. A few years ago, she said something which I will never forget. She is someone who complains a lot and will always find something pessimistic to say, but occasionally something good and genuine (as I like to believe) will come out of her mouth. I went to pick her up and it started drizzling, and usually she’ll lament about how this will impact her laundry schedule, but this time with a little sense of surprise, she simply said, ”oh! it’s raining.” And then she continued to say, ”that’s ok, we always do what we want. Let Allah do what He wants too.” If I had to really think of something valuable to carry and appreciate, the fact that some medical errors left her in very bad health following two C-sections, a luxury at her time, made her very cautious of pharmaceuticals for a long time, and ever since I’ve known her, she would also always brew a combination of aromatic herbs for her breakfast tea. I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom had a role to play in this to be honest. I don’t know how far back it dates. Maybe, even the simple fact that she birthed my father into this world should be enough for me to appreciate, and I wouldn’t ever choose a different father if I could, with all his positives and negatives; he has not been anything short of loving.

The same can’t be said about my maternal grandmother whom I am forever grateful and indebted for, my second mother and my rock. I love her so much. I don’t know where I’d be right now without her prayers throughout the years. A lady with class, always beautiful and adorning herself with rose & oud and kohl even as she approaches 90 years of age, and with so much wisdom. She also came a long way after many experiences that shook her to the core, albeit more in the spiritual sense without as much of the herbal aspect in comparison to my mom.

In short, I’ve got some digging in to do, and in the meanwhile I am so grateful for my new level of appreciation for my mother whom I miss and love dearly. It just makes me feel even closer to her.

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Gratitude & Breaking the Parenting Cycle

Beautiful Islamic Calligraphy by Turkish calligrapher Hanifi Dursun (Instagram @hanifidursunn); ”Heaven lies at the feet of your mothers.” — Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

In the Qur’an, in Surah Luqman verse 14, we are enjoined to give thanks to God, and to give thanks to our parents immediately thereafter. It is as though they go hand in hand.

Some of us are blessed with supportive, truly loving parents who tried, to the best of their ability and knowledge at the time, to raise us as balanced, righteous individuals. We felt their genuine love & protection and no amount of due thanks is sufficient. On the other hand, some others may not have felt the same amount of love and support, while others are neglected, guilt tripped, black mailed, manipulated, and even abused, emotionally or physically, by the very people who were responsible for their protection & nurturing. I can’t speak for those individuals as I can’t understand their pain, nor am I a counsellor. All I can say is that one thing is clear; they were not in any way responsible for their mistreatment.

Even with parents, we have to set boundaries if there is harm involved. In Islam, respect to parents and their good pleasure is invaluable but this does not include obedience in things that are forbidden in the religion and therefore displeasing to God, and it does not include unhealthy relationship dynamics that hurt you in any shape or form. It has to be solved, either through honest dialogue or through distancing and protecting yourself if there is no other alternative. For people who have had severely hurtful experiences, I pray to God that He nurtures your heart with His love and care and fills it with serenity. Some things you may consider doing is reading His 99 Names and reflecting on their meanings. He is our true Guardian, Giver of Peace, Bestower of Favours, the Most Appreciative, the Most Loving and Gentle, our Guide. Send abundant salawat (prayers) on the Prophet Muhammad, who cared about us before he could meet us more than anyone you can imagine, and reflect on how with every salawat we draw nearer to him & we receive tons of blessings. Reflect on what those blessings could be.. protection, healing, peace. Our Prophet cares deeply for each and every one of us. He prayed for us at each prayer. Your salawat on him is a means of prayer for him and just like praying for anyone else brings you closer to that person, praying on the Prophet brings you closer to him.

Going back to most relationships with parents, even with healthier dynamics, we’ll have clashes from time to time. We are unique individuals from different generations. There may be generational trauma that your parents carried with them and things they may have gone through that will inevitably reflect on you. In the Book of Assistance, Imam al-Haddad cautions parents to be easy on their children. If we are parents ourselves, we need to reflect on how we can form a healthier, safer bond with our children without driving them away and without abusing our rights over them. Reflect on your upbringing and use it as a tool to do better yourself, to improve yourself, and to break the cycle instead of putting all your energy towards blaming your parents for their shortcomings and the impacts of those shortcomings on you. This will come in handy even if you are not a parent and don’t plan to be because –v whether we like it or not – we are impactful individuals, and even if our time here is temporary, our impact will carry on for longer after we have passed on. We have relationships outside of our families with other people, and most importantly we have our inner personal relationship that dictates our own happiness & felicity.

When we shift focus to our parents’ sacrifices, praiseworthy aspects and give thanks as the Qur’an orders the believers to do, we’ll experience a lot more tranquility. Remaining patient in the face of some disagreements or disagreeing respectfully, trying to maintain close ties with them and even helping our parents (physically as well as spiritually) is not always easy but it’s not necessarily meant to be. If not physically, it can take a mental toll but remember Allah’s pleasure and that this is a means of drawing nearer to Him. Attaining their pleasure is attaining the pleasure of God, and even when we have tried really hard and they do not seem appreciative, remember ash-Shakur, the Most Appreciative.