Book Review: The House of Unexpected Sisters

So, I love finding books at the library.  I found this book on display at my local library.  I was immediately drawn to the picture on the cover.  Whoever was the librarian who put out those featured books that day was on point!  MashaAllah I found quite a few books that day and this particular find led me to many others.  This book, The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith was the first that I had read from the author.  It is actually part of a series about the main character, Mma Precious Ramotswe, the owner/operator of Botswana’s fictional No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  This book series actually inspired a short-lived television series with the same name starring Jill Scott as Mma Precious Ramotswe.

This book, like other books in the series, follows Mma Ramotswe on her adventures solving a few cases or problems that her clients bring to her.  The stories of these adventures are interwoven with mundane tidbits of daily life as well as numerous mentions of Mma Ramotswe’s African Red Bush Tea habit.  In this particular book, we are delighted by finding out more about Mma Ramotswe’s past and joining her on a journey of unexpected revelations of her own.  I really enjoyed this book.  Much of the book is sort of an ode to the old Botswana, as are other books in the series.  The author’s ability to put you in the main character’s mind with simple language and clear descriptions gives the reader a longing for Botswana.  I find it refreshing to read a book set in Africa that is down to Earth without being depressing or overly political.

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Mindset: Scarcity

Bismillah

Mindset is an interesting thing.  It can make the abstract concrete.  It can turn a mirage into a reality.  It can turn abundance into scarcity and vice versa.  Scarcity usually refers to a lack of something physical; for example, a lack of sufficient food or other resources.  However, scarcity is not always physical.  Now, psychologists have referred to scarcity in reference to the mind – how our mindset can put us in a sort of ‘survival mode’, where scarcity of varying resources is at the focus.  These resources may be physical such as financial resources or they may be more emotional such as relationships.

Although it was difficult and embarrassing, I have had to admit to my own scarcity mindset.  I noticed this within myself before I even heard this term used in this way, but couldn’t quite articulate it nor did I quite grasp the ramifications of such a mindset until something brought it to my attention.  Having a scarcity mindset makes it less likely for you to share because you usually feel that there isn’t enough and you get nervous of the thought of there being no more.  I used to always be in such awe of very generous people.  I so badly wanted to be more generous too but found it quite difficult.  I usually could only manage to be generous when a) I didn’t care much about the thing I was giving away or b) when I felt that I could give some away and still have plenty left.  It just didn’t feel right.  Now, I don’t want to dismiss the very real and physical limitations of poverty (or having too little money to properly meet one’s needs).  It’s true that being generous and having what people now like to call an ‘abundance’ mindset can be quite difficult when you are struggling financially, and I’m not discounting that at all.  But, then I think of the stories of the prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions and how some of them were so giving even though they were in need.  Also, I’ve met people who were like this and it always left me in awe.  So, what is it about them?

While reading a personal finance book written by a Christian woman, it became so clear and straightforward to me. She basically said that when you live always feeling as though you never have enough to be able to give and that you are always lacking, that you really don’t understand the source of all that you need and that you really do not Trust in that source.  Islamically, this is Tawakkul ‘ala Allah (reliance on Allah SWT).  Additionally, it is understanding Allah’s (SWT) attributes.  He is our Rabb (Lord), Sustainer, the Most Merciful.  He knows all that happens in the heavens and the earth.  Not a leaf falls without his knowledge.  He knows exactly what we need, when we need it.  He is fully capable of giving it to us also if He so wills.  Everything that happens is according to His decree and He is the Most Wise, knowing us better than we know ourselves.  SubHanallah, Allah (SWT) guides whom He wills and when He wills.  None of this was new to me.  How many times have I read about such things in the Qur’an?  How many lectures have I heard?  How many books have I read?  But it wasn’t until that moment that such clarity had come to me.  Hence, the importance of mindset.  Do you see?  My mindset shifted and helped me gain clarity on what I already knew and now made it easier for me to implement what I knew.  Albeit, I have made much du’a asking for clarity so of course all success is ultimately from Allah and du’a should always be a part of our regimen as much as possible.

When we decide and understand for ourselves that ultimate success and resources are truly from Allah and that He knows what is best for us and that He is perfectly capable of taking care of our needs, we become free.  We become free such that when things get tough or don’t go our way, it is comforting to know that He sees and hears all things and He knows what will come to follow and what He has averted from us.

The prophet (SAW) said, “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Narrated by Muslim, 2999).   Patience does not mean that we are free from sadness, disappointment, or even worry.  However, part of patience is staying away from being excessive in any of these things, and staying away from complaining and panic.  Patience entails relinquishing control to Allah (SWT) in His wisdom.  Understand that you are not in control.  Yes, Allah (SWT) has given us choice and will, but that is within boundaries set by Him and still within His ultimate decree.  We do our best and take comfort in leaving the rest up to Him.  Imagine the example of young children and their parents.  Imagine how children can easily ask parents for what they want without the worry of budgetary constraints.  The budget is not the child’s worry.  The child does his part by asking the parent for what he needs and complying with the parent’s request.  It is up to the parent to worry about the budget.  Do you see how liberating that is for the child?  The worry of how to earn and allocate money is completely off of the child’s shoulders as long as responsible parents are involved.  So, what about us?  Allah (SWT) is the best of providers and the best at showing love.  He is the One in whom we are able to put ultimate trust.  If he does not fulfill your desires as you want or when you want, perhaps he is averting something harmful for you or testing you to reward you later-on or helping you grow.  He knows best.  Allow yourself the liberty of truly trusting in Him and removing the scarcity from your mindset.  He is the source of all things and if more is needed He is the One with Whom is a never-ending supply.

6 Steps On The Path of Contentment

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6 Steps On The Path of Contentment

I’ve been thinking a lot about contentment lately.  Perhaps it is because I could feel the vines of discontentment creeping up to me and I certainly didn’t want to be bound by them.  The following 6 tips are a few that I’ve come across in my reflections about contentment.

1.    Focus on What You Do Have

To me, contentment is a path and I believe that gratitude is the key that opens the door to that path.  But let’s face it, sometimes it’s so darn hard to feel grateful when you have bills to pay and no money.  Or, when everyone else seems to have a loving and helpful spouse, and you don’t.  I get it.  This is part of human nature.  But usually something is going right in your life, even if it is simply your desire to be a better person.  Reflect on that and on the good things that have happened to you in the past or even the bad things that have not touched you.  When I was a kid, I used to get sad and sometimes angry that everyone at school seemed to have their mom living with them and I didn’t.  Sometimes, I would cry about it.  But then, when I was a teenager, I started feeling better about it because I reflected on the good of my situation.  I had a very good father with me, a brother, safety, etc.  Also, I was a fairly independent person partly because my mom wasn’t there to do certain things for me.  It actually helped me grow in some positive ways.  There is always a chance for a silver lining to our dark clouds, either in this life or the next.

2     Remember This Life is Temporary

Okay, this basically means reflecting on the bigger picture of life.  You are going to leave all the material stuff behind one day.  Is it really that serious?  Your actions are what you can take with you.  Even if you leave behind material stuff that will benefit others (ie Sadaqa Jariyah) it’s still intentions and actions in relation to that stuff that will benefit you after you are gone.  I’m sort of a minimalist but even I was getting caught up on minute details of things that I don’t have.  It’s okay to want things but don’t let that be your focus especially if those things are out of reach at the moment.  It’s funny that when you stop making such things a deep focus in your life, a lot of times you end up getting what you wanted or better, or stop wanting it so bad.

3.     Avoid the Wrong Company

Notice I said Wrong company and not Bad company.  Sometimes the wrong company for you at a given time are not necessarily bad people.  They may just be a wrong fit for you at the time.  When you are struggling, you may need to give yourself time to rehabilitate, and that may mean staying away from social media and/or some of the people that you associate yourself with.  It may be hard especially if those people are not bad people.  For example, if you are going through a lot of financial hardship and you are having a hard time dealing with it emotionally, give yourself time to keep away from things that will remind you of your problems.  If one of those things is social media, then stay away.  Also, if you are surrounded by friends who love talking about shopping and the latest things that they bought or something of the sort and it really gets to you, take a time out.  You can either be up front with them and tell them how you feel or if you can’t find anything else to talk to them about, expose yourself to them less until you have a better handle on your emotions.  I’ve actually taken steps such as these before, and it helped me immediately.  I strive to be conscious and sympathetic to my friends’ struggles and want the same from them, so if they cannot do so then I feel that my mental health and iman are too valuable to sacrifice.  However, if members of your family are included in the wrong company, then you need to do your best to give them their rights while trying to balance your needs.  Allah knows your struggle and will reward you for fulfilling your duties without needing you to be a doormat.

4.     Get Busy – With a Purpose

One thing that I think is really really important is to have a sense of purpose in your life.  That sense of purpose is for you to be engaged in something everyday that either you are utterly passionate about or devoted to.  I really struggled with this and this is one reason why I started this blog.  I had so many ideas and things that I was interested in coupled with an unwillingness to compromise my time with my family that I was hit with confusion and subsequent inertia.  I was frozen.  Then, I realized that your purpose can be anything.  With the constant talk of reaching for the stars blah…blah…blah at school and other places you can easily get caught up into thinking your purpose has to be something grand and outside of yourself and family.  But it doesn’t.  Your purpose may be to keep a clean and organized home with a home cooked dinner on the table every night.  Your purpose may be to make sure you teach your children Qur’an.  It may be to make sure you exercise and keep yourself healthy and fit so that you have the stamina to worship on time and do tahajjud.  With the right intention anything that is beneficial and halal can be made into a worship.  Also, remember that your purpose can change with the seasons of your life.  Your purpose as a young, unmarried 20-something may be very different than your purpose as a 30-something parent of young children, and so on.

5.     Limit Your Expectations

Do you know why a surprise gift feels good even if you are not totally in love with the gift?  Because you didn’t expect it.  Expectations are funny.  Sometimes you need to have high expectations but many times they just get you in trouble.  They breed                d i s s a t i s f a t i o n   when not met.  My expectatations for others were never that high so I have a tendency to get along with a variety of people.  However, the darkness resided in my expectations for myself.  They were so high that they were almost all unattainable and this made me quite frustrated and unhappy.  I told myself that these expectations were for good and by not having those I expectations, I would not live up to my potential and I would thereby be ungrateful to my creator by wasting what he blessed me with.  Complicate, right?  It’s also very paralyzing and overwhelming.  I wanted to be uber religious memorizing Qur’an, organized, always be well put together, deeply intellectual and reading sooo many books, and speak multiple languages fluently, and have a good occupation with a decent income, and write books, and make clothes, and stay home with my children, and……you get the picture.  I know some of you may think I was crazy but somehow deep down I wanted it all.  NewsFlash:  You probably can’t have it all and THAT’S OKAY!  I’m not saying that you don’t need to have expectations for yourself and others, but just be very careful about your expectations.  Remember, that ultimately our fate is in Allah’s hands.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  We try our best and leave the rest to Him.  Our first goal should be to give Him his rights over us and everything else is quite secondary.

6.     Make Du’a (Pray)

I truly believe in making du’a….as in make du’a for what you need in every sujud.  SubHanallah, it dawned on me one day when I was sitting at home watching my kids play.  I realized that my prayers were being answered and I didn’t even really acknowledge it.  Ever since I was a teenager, I had made a constant du’a that Allah provide me with a good Muslim husband and children.  I had other details about my future family that I had prayed for and it was at that moment that I reflected and saw that what I prayed for had actually come true.  And it’s funny that the things that I was upset about not having were never part of my constant du’a.  So, continue to pray to Allah for what you need and want.  Also, remember that He is not your personal Genie.   Allah has different ways of answering du’as.  It may take time for your du’as to be answered.  You may be given something better or an equal harm may be stopped from befalling you.  You may also be rewarded in the hereafter.

I want to leave you with one of my favorite du’as (for anxiety & sorrow) from the Hisnul Muslim (Fortification of the Muslim) book:

Dua in Arabic

O Allaah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.

 

Tell me what you think!  Do you have any more tips?

 

 

Book: The One Minute Millionaire

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I admit it, I’m a softy for self-help books.  I find most of the ones that I’ve read to be informative, inspiring and motivating.  The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen is a book about following “the enlightened way to wealth”.  This book is unique in that it is 2 books in 1 – a guide book and a novel.  Every other page of the guide book is a purple-bordered page of the novel.  For full disclosure:  I only read the novel thus far.  Intertwined with the novel’s plot are carefully placed lessons from the guidebook.  It follows the story of a recently widowed mother of two, who is broke and in need of a huge amount of quick cash to ensure she prevents her wealthy, yet conniving in-laws from taking custody of her children.  To achieve her goal, she follows the guidance of a master millionaire mentor.  I must admit that at times, the story’s twists and turns seem somewhat over the top, but I guess not too far fetched for reality.

In  addition to snippets of some very practical advice about money and real estate, one of my favorite things about this book is the author’s principled approach to wealth.  The 3 main principles are:

1.      Do no harm

2.     Do much good

3.     Operate out of stewardship.

The path to wealth is not meant to be a solitary one.  You always have help on this path.  Help from God of course.  But also, help from others in one form or another.  Thus, wealth is meant to be shared and used to make the world a better place while doing no harm on the path to attaining it – the path of the enlightened millionaire.

Have you read this book?  Do you have any enlightened millionaire advice?  Please tell me what you think below!

 

Hello World!

Placeholder ImageWell, hello there!  As salamu alaikum (peace be unto you) and welcome.  I’m Fareeda, a wife and mother of 3 little ones.  After keeping many of my solitary musings to myself, I’ve decided to share with the world in hopes of helping and learning.

I was born in northern Nigeria but raised in the US.  I love to read and learn about different cultures, languages and ideas.  I am a wannabe intellectual and love my deen.  Although I have introvert tendencies, I sincerely care about others and strive to be helpful.  Join me on this journey!