Sunday, January 29, 2012

The exploits of an amateur vegetable gardener

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently started doing vegetable gardening. This was a strange thing to do, especially since I have never done gardening before and have always believed that it’s not for me. It’s not that I have a problem getting my hands dirty; I really don’t mind that at all.  It’s just that I am rather impatient in many ways and planting things, and waiting for it to grow; well that takes a lot of patience. Anyway, I figured that planting food was different, since it just seemed much more worthwhile and useful, so I joined my mother and sister and started planting vegetables.

Before I continue I must tell you that this seems like something unnecessary in the City. I mean whenever you need any vegetable all you have to do is go to the supermarket and there you will find rows and rows of vegetables and fruit. Anyway, let’s just say that this was a learning experience.

So I started planting aniseed, I’d read up about the benefits of this plant and thought it would be great to plant. It worked out well. The plant grew, I got some seeds and everything, but it wasn’t one of those everyday things that you need all the time. I was about to abandon my planting at that early stage already, but then something started growing in the sand. At first I thought it was just a weed and I was going to pull it out. Then it grew bigger and bigger. My sister who knows much more about planting vegetables and who has been doing this in her beautiful garden for some time now told me to leave it because it was a tomato tree. I was so amazed, a tomato tree! See I didn’t mean to plant tomatoes, what happened was that we had a tomato that got old and I didn’t want to throw it away so I threw it in the sand thinking that it would at least not be wasted there, and lo and behold, from that one rotten tomato an entire tree grew, with beautiful fresh tomatoes. If this isn’t testimony to the Greatness of Allah then I don’t know what is? SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah) from one bad tomato Allah gave us so many more beautiful ripe ones, an entire tree grew from that one tomato. The generosity of Allah Almighty is astounding.

It was so nice to have fresh tomatoes at hand. I have never seen such fresh tomatoes. Then there was the lettuce. My sister gave me lettuce seeds and I wondered where the seeds come from because I’ve only ever seen the leaves of the lettuce. Anyway, I planted it and SubhanAllah fresh lovely lettuce grew so easily. The inside leaves were white and crispy. I had so much fun making salads. Each time all I had to do was go out to the garden and get what I needed. When the lettuce leaves were all used up, the lettuce started growing a stalk, and there on the top of the long stalk, guess what developed- the seeds. So my question about that was answered.

I have planted some other stuff which is taking a while to grow, and then there are some things which didn’t grow so well, like my potatoes. But Inshaa-Allah whatever Allah wills to grow will grow.

All this has taught me something very interesting and I know there are people who are going to regard me as someone who is always negative about “modern day life”, but the thing is that City living has taken us away from remembering Allah to a large extent. Growing these vegetables has increased my faith because it has reminded me how Allah is the Creator of everything and how from a small seed a huge plant can grow to sustain life. In watching things grow through stages I could not deny the existence and the wonder of Allah Almighty. This has forced me to focus more on my Creator. This doesn’t happen when you go into a store and buy everything. Just like I had to wonder about the seeds of lettuce, or I didn’t know that a flower grows above ground when you plant potatoes and when the flower dies that’s the time to remove your potatoes from the ground, many people don’t ponder about where vegetables come from, how they grow, what they go through in the different stages of development, how you know when they are ready for consumption, etc. Because things are spoon fed to us, we take it for granted and in the process we miss out.

We miss out on the understanding that Allah Almighty has an absolutely perfect system; not just for the lives of human beings but for every single thing on this earth. When you watch something like a vegetable grow it makes you understand that Allah is our Creator and Allah is our Sustainer. Allah creates and provides each thing with its needs, whether that’s air, water, and sunshine, whatever... It is only Allah who can create and maintain and if we ever attempt to do things on our own then the results will be very poor.

 So yeah; although my brother teases us calling us “farmers”, I have been having a lot of fun planting vegetables. Just because I’m in the City doesn’t mean I can’t farm. I would recommend this for all of you. You don’t even need a garden, you can plant stuff in pot plants and watch what happens. Inshaa-Allah this will teach you some important lessons about life as well.

Lettuce Image from here

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2011 Reflections

So I’ve been aiming to do this post for a while now, but for some reason or the other I just didn’t get down to it. I guess it’s better late than never right?
Anyway, this is actually part of a project started by three lovely bloggers, Salma, Marie and Wafa. I think this is such a nice idea and indeed there is so much that we can learn from one another.
Time passes by so quickly. I can clearly remember the beginning of 2011 and now we are already more than half way through the first month of 2012. But despite the time passing so quickly, I have learnt some really valuable things last year and perhaps it will inspire someone out there, so here goes:
õ  Change can help you grow- Sometimes we don’t look forward to change because we think that it will be bad for you. But the thing is that change is inevitable and you know what they say; “What does not kill you makes you stronger”.
õ  There is always positive in every situation- This sounds like one of those over clichéd motivational speaker quotes, but it’s true. I’ve found that no situation is entirely negative and it is up to us to look for the positive and focus on that instead. If we focus on the negative we will become bitter and sad people and honestly there’s way too much to look forward to in life to be a bitter and sad person.
õ  Don’t restrict yourself-2011 has taught me that I can do things I never thought I’d be able to do. Simple things like gardening (which I intend writing a post about, Inshaa-Allah). I never thought I could do this, it just seemed like something that wasn’t for me, until I made up my mind to try it, then it turned out to be quite fun. Too often we restrict ourselves by believing that we can’t do certain things but in doing this we forget that human beings have amazing potential (SubhanAllah- Glory be to Allah).
õ  You can never have enough patience- In particular I realised that I really need to have more patience when it comes to working with other people. My sisters and I are working together on an education project for young children. I love that we are able to work together and since we all have very different personalities, the contribution made by each one of us adds so much to what we do-BUT sometimes I can really get frustrated. I’m someone who doesn’t like working under pressure at all. I want time to plan what I’m doing and set out my work so that nothing is left for last minute.  I hate the last minute rush and in my family I’ve always being teased for being “the slow one”. When you’re working with other people you can’t have everything the way you would like to, and even though you may plan your bit and start in advance, somehow you still end up doing things last minute, under pressure. Although I really hate this, I guess I just have to learn how to become more patient because we are all not the same and we can’t control things in life. Also, getting stressed about it just makes it worse.

õ  The grass is never greener on the other side- I think this is a timeless lesson, somehow one that we need to constantly be reminded of. It’s easy to look at other people’s lives and wonder why your life didn’t turn out that way, but that very person may be thinking the same thing about you. No one has the perfect life, we all have challenges to deal with, that’s life, it’s a test, if life were perfect for anyone then I think they’d really need to be worried.

õ  People often misinterpret things- Last year I had a small “incident” with an old friend. She said some stuff to me and I thought that she was being insensitive and a bit mean. I was quite upset with her for a while and a part of me just didn’t want to bother ever calling her again. When I put myself in her shoes though, I had to understand where she came from. Slowly I began talking to her again (okay I mainly texted her), anyway, after speaking to her just recently I realised that I was being over sensitive and I really misinterpreted her intentions at the time. She did not mean to hurt or offend me and if she had realised the offence I would take then I’m sure she would’ve been very sorry. We need to look at ourselves and understand our own faults and misunderstandings of others.

õ   Health should never be taken for granted- I’ve seen and heard of so many sick people in 2011. So many people I know had to deal with illness, whether healing after an accident or fighting cancer, or struggling with heart problems. This has just made me realise that I need to be more thankful for my health and I need to take stock of my life. I have to watch what I eat and cut down on the unhealthy stuff because health is something that we really need and once it’s gone, life can become very difficult.

õ  Allah always knows best so put your trust in Allah always!- For me this is such an important lesson. There have been times and events that I have had to go through last year that were not very easy, but Alhamdullillah (All Praise is for Allah) these things were much easier to deal with when I understood that Allah has a plan for us all. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t exactly deal with these things in the best of manners. I became despondent, sad, frustrated etc when things did not go how I hoped they would, but you know what afterwards, with hindsight I was able to understand that if I put my trust in Allah then things will work out perfectly. I can’t see the bigger picture of life right now, and so sometimes things that happen seem negative when in fact they are positive for my life for the future. Since Allah is the one who knows about the Past, Present and Future, my trust is that Inshaa-Allah all will work out well when I rely on Allah. So I beg for forgiveness for all my shortcomings and weaknesses (and I have to admit that I have many), but I pray and hope that I am able to appreciate that no one knows what’s best for me like my Creator does, and Inshaa-Allah all’s well that ends well.
So yeah, I guess if I really think about it I could find more 2011 reflections, but this post is becoming way too long so I won’t bore you.
I have learnt a lot, even when I didn’t think I was learning. The best way to measure whether we are progressing or regressing is to look at what we have learnt and how we have grown as people. One year has passed by quickly, but I am fortunate to say that I was able to grow in that year and I am thankful for all my experiences. I hope and pray that this year (2012 and 1433) brings many positive things for us all, but moreover I hope that this year brings us closer to our Creator, and closer to being people that Our Creator will be pleased with.
A warm thanks goes out to Salma, Marie and Wafa for encouraging us to share what we’ve learnt so that we can all benefit from each other.
Image from here

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The right to education

Last week a very sad thing happened in Johannesburg. A mother died in a stampede outside a University as she waited with her son to see if he could gain admission to study further after completing secondary school. What happened was that many students who completed Grade 12 last year didn’t expect to pass with university admission. So after getting their results they realised that they were eligible to study at tertiary level, thus there were thousands of students queued up outside the university waiting to see if they could get last minute admission. When the university finally opened up its doors, people began to push and shove (which is natural in any huge crowd where people have been waiting for hours). The result was that a mother who was with her son passed away and some other people got injured. This is a tragic thing to happen, but it highlights some very important issues within South African society, one of these being that although many people are still in need of good education, access seems to be rather limited.

The fact that thousands of prospective students were queued up outside the university clearly shows that people believe education is the key to a better future, yet so many people don’t have proper access to education at all levels. The other thing that stands out for me is that education has become this thing that is way too formalised and theoretical. There are so many skills that can be acquired in life and the truth is that many things cannot be learnt at university. Also, even when people do gain admission to university, there are many obstacles that they have to deal with. High student fees, expensive textbooks, difficulty coping or adjusting to working independently, large workloads etc. I know that all this is part and parcel of life but it just seems to me that a basic right such as education is so difficult to come by, and I really don’t think it should be this way.

Seeking knowledge is also a fundamental part of Islam. Muslims have been encouraged to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave so our quest for knowledge should in fact never cease, it should be ongoing and continuous. In these times when gaining education is so difficult and expensive, it may be worth noting that knowledge can be found in many ways and forms. “Education” is not and should not be restricted to an institute, whether it’s a school, a university or even a workplace. Education is far too broad and multi-dimensional to be restricted. Knowledge can be acquired in many ways and people should not be afraid to learn whatever they can, even if they think it’s irrelevant to what they want to do in life.

My mother always tells us that she had an aunt who always told her to “steal with the eye”. What this aunt meant was that through watching someone do something, you can learn how to do that yourself. This is of course the oldest form of education. Anything you learn in life will benefit you in some way (of course if it’s something positive otherwise learning negative things will only cause you harm). I have an uncle who studied to be a teacher and his father used to do glasswork-making glass frames for people and so on. So this uncle always used to help his father out and he learnt how to do things himself. Today he does not work as a teacher but does glass work himself and he has done much better in this field. So you see, education is not limited to what we learn at university or at school. Education is limitless; it goes beyond the walls of an institution. It can be gained in many different places and through different means and you never know what part of your education will benefit you.

I’m not saying that people should not go to university. I think my life would be very different if I didn’t go to university. University has taught me many things, but there are lessons outside the classroom as well and sometimes these lessons are much more valuable than the one’s you learn inside the classroom.

I still find it unfortunate that so many people who are longing to study to have a better life have not gained access to university this year, but if I could give those young people advice, I would tell them not to fret, because education can be gained in many ways. There will be time to go to university and perhaps next year they’ll be more fortunate to get in, but in the meantime, they should keep their minds open, learn whatever they can learn and strive to continue learning. Every skill you have is an asset and no one can take away from you what you have learnt. For instance, there are women who have spent their lives making money through cooking and baking. There are people who make a living through doing and making many things. This is education as well, the knowledge of how to do things like cook and bake, fix a car, make a frame or furniture, etc...should not be undermined. It may not have the prestige that comes with careers such as law, medicine or economics, but it is education and takes a huge amount of intelligence as well.  

So in short, what I am saying is that every single person has a right to education. Knowledge should be an ongoing quest. BUT...

Education should not be restricted to the walls of a university. There are many people who never go to university but their knowledge is astounding (the example of Sheikh Ahmed Deedat comes to mind here. This amazing man had no formal education, and yet his knowledge and achievements are amazing-

May Allah give Him Peace and allow him to rest in the highest stages of Jannah Inshaa-Allah).

We should not wait for others to fulfil our rights and we should not hold others responsible for our destinies. We have the ability to learn what we can, and like I said, every bit of knowledge can benefit you in some way. So let us all seek knowledge and increase our education in whatever way we can, even if that means doing tasks that others may regard as menial.   

Image 1 from here
Image 2 from here

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Going back to basics

Its being a long while that I actually posted on this blog. This holidays I decided to “go back to basics”. This meant that I spent less time on the Internet and more time with other things. It’s interesting to think about how much time we spend on the Internet and how easy it is to get wrapped up in cyberspace without even realizing how much time has passed. This makes us forget that there is actually a world in which “posting” refers to paper letters sent via the Post Office, where “chatting” actually involves two people physically coming together to have a conversation and so on. As much as we may love the virtual world, we’ve got to admit that life can be very peaceful without it.

So I spent some time building a 1500 piece Jigsaw puzzle. My family and I grew up building puzzles together and we always enjoyed it, but the last time I actually built one myself was probably about 5 years ago. Shoo, how fast time goes.

I had so much fun building the puzzle and at the same time it also taught me so many lessons. Strange that a simple thing like a puzzle can actually have so many life lessons to teach:

õ  Firstly you learn that you really need to have a lot of patience. There’s sorting pieces out, differentiating between edge pieces and middle pieces, finding which pieces go on which place of the puzzle. Before you actually start having fun, a lot of work needs to be done.

õ  Then there’s the foundation. If you don’t have a solid foundation then the rest of your puzzle is not stable, and if you make one mistake then the foundation is not complete and with an incomplete foundation, you have an incomplete puzzle.

õ  Each piece has its appropriate place. If you just put the wrong pieces together (like what I did at times) then that makes the right piece out of place. Each piece belongs to a group, it has the surrounding pieces to keep it in place and make sure its firm, even though all the pieces are part of the entire puzzle.
õ  What you put in is what you’ll get out. If you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing then you can sit for hours and not really get anywhere, but if you have drive and determination and focus on what you are doing then suddenly the puzzle becomes easy, pieces are easily recognisable and you enjoy your task with ease.

õ  You can only see the beauty of the picture once it is complete. Before that you may appreciate the beauty of some parts, but the puzzle looks bare and incomplete and then when the completed picture finally emerges, then suddenly all that time spent on wondering how it will be when its complete seems like nothing because the completed picture stands out and everything makes sense.
Well, those are some of the lessons that I learnt while spending time building a puzzle. Some people might wonder if I’m that bored to actually spend time with something like that, but the lessons are important and a reminder of so many things in life.

Going back to basics is really good and sometimes we need it to help us remember lessons that we’ve learnt long ago and we’ve already forgotten.
There are many things you can learn on the Internet, but there are also many things that you will never be able to learn in cyberspace. I think that we need to have a balance in life so that we are able to take the most out of life that we can.

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday, filled with many important lessons of your own.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New year, new opportunities

The diaries are full and the calendars have changed,
A new year has begun; new pages have been turned.
Can we remember all the past years lessons which we’ve learned?
As the new year dawns, which part of our lives will be better arranged.

The time goes by so very fast,
And before we know it, this year will also be a thing of the past,
So we need to do as much as we can,
All we need to do is make a plan.

The time seems so short for all that needs to be done,
There’s so much to learn and so much to do,
Wasted days can never be undone,
We have to pray that we can make a difference too.

It’s sad to see that for some people thing stay the same,
Year in and year out, there is no change,
Relentless work and play seems like fair game,
When we don’t take the time to learn and grow.

The biggest question we need to ask is this:
Am I doing enough for the world to come?
Will my condition be good or will it bad?
Will I be left, alone, doomed and sad?

Our Creator is Indeed the Most Merciful,
He has given us more time to be dutiful,
To Him should we direct our efforts,
This is the only way in which we will gain benefits.

May Allah Almighty give each one of us a wonderful year ahead. A year filled with blessings, peace and contentment; where we learn the most important lessons in life and strive to do deeds that will earn us Allah’s pleasure. Time is going very fast these days, and before we know it, the year will be progressing until its December once more. It’s no use making resolutions at the beginning of the year only to let our goals fizzle out and die. We should be making resolutions throughout the year, and in fact, throughout our lives. We should be striving to be better in all respects so that one day, when the inevitable happens and we have to stand before our Lord, at least maybe we will have something to show for our short time in this world.

May Allah Almighty give us the best, May He fulfil our needs, help us in our affairs, assist us to achieve our goals, and make it easy for us to make the best of our time. Inshaa-Allah Ameen!