Saturday, November 22, 2014

Soulmates For Life?.......

Soulmates For Life?_Aquila Style

Few weeks ago, on a glorious afternoon, I met a good friend of mine. As we chatted over a cup of coffee in the hectic city of Jakarta, our conversation took an unexpectedly profound turn.

Some of our talks were so lame, with me asking my friend to intercede in, well, boy trouble. I feel particularly sorry and ashamed of myself for getting so emotionally absorbed with this trivial problem when there are bigger, real-life issues I should actually be concerned about.

Nevertheless, the thought of a long, lonesome wait for a “shuttle” while others are embracing their loved ones on the curb was just too much for my little heart to bear sometimes. This might sound superfluous, but the thing is that, for girls in their 20s (quarter life), thoughts of finding the right person to be by our sides to face the cruel world every day are inevitable.

In this regard, it’s no wonder that the search for a lifetime partner, also famously considered a soulmate, becomes one of the most important phases in our lives.
On that afternoon with my good friend, our conversation traversed along various pathways until it landed on that loaded word “soulmate”. Right out of the blue, she blatantly asked me, “What do you mean by soulmate? Please define for me the term ‘soulmate’.”

Spontaneously, I said, “It’s the person you are destined to be with, the one whom you are going to spend the rest of your life with, the one who will be there for you no matter what –  your spouse.”

My friend raised an eyebrow, “Really? So they should marry and be happy?”
And I naively replied, “Of course, they should be together and live happily ever after; everyone in this world has their soulmate destined for them.”
“Then what about people who divorce? What about those who stay single for the rest of their lives? How about unhappily married couples? Are they really soulmates?” my friend mused.
I paused and pondered. At that very moment, I realised that my definition of “soulmate” was based on Disney’s and Hollywood’s superficial, wishful “someday-my-prince-will-come” construction.
I have been programmed to believe that a soulmate is someone who will meet our every wish and need when it comes to love. Well, the reality showed evidence of the contrary.

That afternoon’s tête-à-tête left a nagging question in my mind afterwards. So what makes a soulmate then? The previously crystal-clear definition of soulmate inspired by unrealistic Hollywood romance had vanished, leaving behind a nebulous idea.

After some contemplation, I realised that it was time to redefine that word from one based on a romantic point of view, to one shaped by philosophical insight. I once read Elizabeth Gilbert’s phenomenal book, Eat, Pray, Love, and I think the term “soulmate” was rather wisely described there:
“People think that soulmate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a  true soulmate is a mirror, […] the person who brings you to your own attention so that you can change your life. A true soulmate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soulmate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soulmates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. And thank God for it.”[I]

By this definition, having a soulmate is no longer about a long, winding road to a “happily-ever-after” ending with someone. Rather, it is a powerful idea you can live by. Everything in this world is subject to transformation and nobody can promise you a happy ending except you.

You are going to meet a lot of soulmates in your life. They will teach you important life lessons, which can be intensely painful at times, but that’s how you will grow as a person. And isn’t this what life is about?
At the end of the day, unpacking the flowery myths surrounding the idea of a “soulmate” will help you to better cope with reality. The truth is, if you are so busy buying into the “glossy”, socially constructed definition, you’ll miss out on experiencing the true meaning of being soulmates.

Because sometimes having a soulmate is really about the journey to finding yourself, and not about finding your spouse.


Friday, November 21, 2014

The Search for Love ...........

I spent my life running after the creation. I have always been what you might call ‘needy’. I needed friends, I needed people. All the time. And I couldn’t handle letdowns.

But at the heart of what makes us run after the creation, is simply love. The need to give and receive love. This need has been put in us by the Creator. And every need created by God, has been created for a purpose. The need to give and receive love was created as a driver. A driver that pushes us back to God. You see, we began with God, and God wants us to come back to Him in this life—even before we come back to Him in the next. So He puts inside us, drivers intended to bring us back. Intended to bring us back Home.

But our problem is we get lost along the way.
We can’t deny the drive; but we get lost because we seek to fulfill it in the wrong way. We look to fulfill that need in the wrong place. The driver was created by God to take us to Him. But instead, that driver takes us towards the creation. And that’s where we get lost.
Why do we run after other people? Why do we run after money? Why do we run after status, or power? We run after these things because we want love and respect. And we believe that by attaining these things, we will succeed at getting both love and respect.

But there is a fascinating formula that governs this world. And it is very, very simple. Unfortunately, we almost always get this formula wrong.  Yes, we all have that same driver inside us, but the human being is hasty. We prefer the immediate over the delayed, the seen over the unseen, the physical over the spiritual. We run first to what we can see and feel and touch. We run first to what we *think* is closer. We do this because while the human being is needy and dependent, the human being is also impatient and weak. We go for what seems closest, easiest, quickest.

So we go towards the creation.
See, we think that the more we run after this world (dunya)–the more we run after the love of people, and wealth and beauty and status–the more we will have of it. We think that the more intensely we want something, the more likely we are to get it. And when we don’t get it, we become angry—so angry—at God Himself. As though the *intensity* of my wanting, somehow makes me entitled to having.
But the more we drown in this false equation, the more we fail at reaching our goal, and the more we miss the true–but simple–equation of love and life. That equation is clear: The more intensely we want the creation itself, the less likely we are to attain it. If it is love you need, and you seek it from the creation, you will never *truly* get it. Or get enough. Anything of the creation sought for its own sake will evade you.
And will never fill you.
Even happiness itself: The more you run after it, the more it evades you. But if you run to God instead, happiness will run after you. If you run to God instead, the love of people will run after you. If you run to God instead, success will run after you. True success in this life, and the next. If you run to God instead, provision will run after you. This, brothers and sisters, is the secret formula for which tyrants have burned down cities, and kings have searched the world—but never found.
This is the secret. The only formula you need to know.

In a profound hadith (Prophetic teaching), a man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said: “ O Messenger of God, direct me to an act, which if I do, God will love me and people will love me.” He said: “Detach yourself from the world, and God will love you. Detach yourself from what is with the people, and the people will love you.”  [Ibn Majah]

Ironically, the less we chase after the approval and love of the people, the more we gain it. The less needy we are of others, the more people are drawn to us and seek our company. This hadith teaches us a profound Truth. Only by breaking out of the orbit of the creation, can we succeed with both God—and people.
To run to God is a movement of the heart. To run to God is to strive with everything He has given you. Running to God is movement. If you are passive, you are not moving. You are falling. Movement to God, running to God, is to face your heart towards Him in every motion of life. It is to face every goal, every intention, every End towards Him. He becomes the object of your striving. The means of your striving. The ultimate End of your striving. But you keep striving. You keep working to be the best mother you can. The best father. The best neighbor, the best student, daughter, son, employee.
This is the legacy of all our Prophets, peace be upon them all. Their bodies were in dunya. Striving. The Prophet (pbuh) was the best leader, the best father, the best husband, the best friend. His body was working hard in dunya. For a while. But his heart was always with Allah. His heart was already in Akhira (Hereafter), even while his body was still here—for a time. His heart was already Home. His heart saw through the illusions of this life. His limbs worked hard. So hard. He bled, and cried, and strived. His body stood until his feet cracked. His body was abused in Ta’if. His body lost sleep, and felt hunger, and thirst, and fever, and pain. And loss.

But his heart faced only Allah.
And with Allah there is no hunger, thirst, pain, or loss. His body had to strive in different directions; he was a father, a leader, a friend, a husband. But while his body had to strive in all those places, his heart faced only One. Only one direction.

His heart faced only God.
As Ibrahim (AS) said so beautifully:


His heart faced only God.
As Ibrahim (AS) said so beautifully:
“Indeed, I have turned my face toward He who created the heavens and the earth, inclining toward truth, and I am not of those who associate others with Allah.” (6:79)

Ibrahim (AS) focused the face of his heart only on Allah. Completely. Haneefan. Completely. You will find that to only partially face your heart to God is to suffer. And that suffering is in proportion to the degree of partial submission.
Allah tells us in the Quran:
“O you who have believed, enter into submission completely [whole-heartedly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” (2:208)

There is pain in just partial submission. There is a pain in not entering into peace and security—the *only* peace and security—completely. With one’s *whole* heart. There is pain in half a sajdah (prostration). There is a pain in putting your heart (even partially) in anyone else’s hands. And that pain continues until you turn your entire heart *only* in one direction. Until you turn your entire heart *only* towards Him. He becomes the only true aim of your striving.

As we say at least 17 times every single day: “You alone do we worship and You alone do we seek for help.” (1:5). Allah is the only true End, and the only true means to that End. No one gets to Allah without Allah. La hawla wa la quwat illa billah: “There is no change and no strength, except by God.”
The one who turns his heart completely to God in this way, reaches true freedom. And that person can no longer be harmed by the creation. The fire couldn’t burn Prophet Ibrahim (AS). The ‘fires’ of the creation cannot harm the one who’s heart faces only God. The financial, physical, emotional, social, and psychological fires cannot harm the one who’s heart is *only* with God. Externally, the person might look harmed, but in Reality, such a person is never harmed. The haqiqah of the situation is not harm, but good, as we know from the words of our beloved Prophet (pbuh):
“Strange is the case of a believer, there is good for him in everything—and this is only for the believer. If a blessing reaches him, he is grateful to God, which is good for him, and if an adversity reaches him, he is patient which is good for him.” [Muslim]

And this is *only* for the believer. This is only for the one who’s heart is turned completely and *only* in one direction. Remember, Allah says:
“O you who have believed, enter into Islam [submission and peacefulness] completely [whole-heartedly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” (2:208)

Enter into peace and security completely. Complete security is only for those who enter *completely*. But remember the heart is not a still entity. The heart is by definition that which turns (hence the Arabic word for heart ‘qalb’ comes from the root which means ‘to turn’). The heart by definition is that which turns. So our object in life is to keep bringing the heart back to focus, back to center, back to God. And we consistently seek God’s help, as the Prophet (pbuh) used to supplicate most of all: “Oh turner of hearts, set our hearts firm on Your deen (way).”

This constant reorientation is tawbah. Return. Again and again and again. Until we meet Him. Only the one who gives up this fight, fails. Only the one who—due to complacency or despair—gives up the fight of constantly bringing the heart back to focus, fails in this life and the next.
We all want love. From God, and from the creation. We are all running towards something. Ironically, the more we run after the creation, the more the creation runs away from us! As soon as we stop running after the creation, and reorient, as soon as we start running towards God, the creation runs after us. It’s a simple, simple formula:
Run towards the creation, you lose God and the creation. Run towards God, you gain God *and* the creation.

Allah is Al Wadud (The Source of Love). Therefore, love comes from God—not people. As one author, Charles F. Haanel, put it: “To acquire love… fill yourself up with it until you become a magnet.”
When you fill yourself with the Source of love (Al Wadud), you become a magnet for love. Allah teaches us this in the beautiful hadith Qudsi:

“If Allah has loved a servant [of His], He calls Gabriel (on whom be peace)     and says: ‘I love So-and-so, therefore love him.’” He (the Prophet pbuh) said: “So Gabriel loves him. Then he (Gabriel) calls out in heaven, saying: ‘Allah loves So-and-so, therefore love him.’ And the inhabitants of heaven love him.” He (the Prophet pbuh) said: “Then acceptance is established for him on earth. (Muslim Bukhari, Malik, ; Tirmidhi)

We’re all running. But so few of us are running in the right direction. We have the same goal. But to get there, we need to stop. And examine if we are running towards the Source–or just a reflection.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lessons ............

(This article is about Yasmin Mogahed, received her B.S. Degree in Psychology and her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her graduate work, she taught Islamic Studies and served as a youth coordinator. She also worked as a writing instructor at Cardinal Stritch University and a staff columnist for the Islam section of InFocus News. Currently she’s an instructor for  AlMaghrib Institute, a writer for the Huffington Post, an international speaker, and author, where she focuses most of her work on spiritual and personal development. Yasmin recently released her new book, Reclaim Your Heart, which is now available worldwide. Visit her website,, where you can find a collection of her articles, poetry, and lectures. )

(This is written by her husband ...

I know this will come as shocking, unexpected, and even confusing news. But this was not an abrupt decision. We have been discussing and considering this for a couple years now.

The same way we came into this marriage--smiling, holding hands, with love, mercy and kindness-- is the same way we exit it. We started it for His sake, and we decided to move on and wish each other the best for His sake. Many will wonder what 'happened'. Nothing 'happened'. There was no drama, fitna, fighting, arguing, nor anger that contributed to this decision. There's no animosity, no ill feelings. There is no regret, no sadness, no feeling of time wasted. None of that. This was khair for us. God allowed us to grow through each other, become better people, and come closer to Him as a result. We're thankful for that. Some will wonder who's to blame. There is no blame. There's nothing wrong with the other person, on the contrary, we see an abundance of good. Many will ask 'WHY?' So here it is, it's this simple: This is two people who care for each other deeply and think very highly of one another, but feel due to differences in nature, growing apart, and irresolvable incompatibility, that it's best to go their separate ways at this point. That's it. God made this permissible for a reason. He just asks us to us to 'dissolve (it) in a goodly manner, with kindness' (2:229). And so we hope and pray we're doing this in the best way. In a way that is pleasing to Him.
We fully plan and intend on having a friendly, positive relationship moving forward, cooperating together for the kids (living in close proximity so each has access to them daily) and still working on a joint seminar, various projects and programs together inshaAllah. We also have agreed to attend and speak at each others (next) weddings, inshaAllah. Yes. Seriously.

This picture of us holding hands was taken shortly before we signed and made our divorce official. We were both smiling, gave each other a final hug, and prayed the best for one another. I know this seems strange to you. But it feels so right. Like this was all meant to be, happen and end in this way. Exactly. Alhamdulillah.



A lot of commentary is flying around about my recent divorce. The words that my former husband (beautifully) strung together in his statement will never allow perfect strangers to understand the depth of a situation. Often we forget that words are only limited approximations of internal universes and life altering experience. Given the limited nature of words, many will often misunderstand them or only process them at a very surface level.

To clarify for all those who are also struggling in their marriages or who will struggle. My former husband and I did not take this decision overnight--but after *years* of effort, prayer, and counsel. We did not decide to go forward with this decision simply because we grew apart, or had different natures. Many people can grow apart and grow back together. And many people with different natures can make it work beautifully. The reason we took this decision, after years of effort and prayer, was due to irresolvable incompatibility. There was no animosity, no ill feeling--only mutual care and respect, alhamdulilah. But at the end of the day, after we have *exhausted* 'our part', it still may not work, as was the case with Zaynab (RA) and Zaid (RA) and many of the companions.

Our deen is a deen of balance and ihsan (beautiful conduct), in whatever we do. Ihsan when we get married. And ihsan when we get divorced. Islam is not a part time job. It doesn't just teach us what to do when things go our way. It teaches what to do when they don't. Islam doesn't just teach us how to walk when the weather is nice, but how to continue walking--with strength and grace--even when it's storming. This is the power of la illaha Illa Allah. No matter what happens, no matter the storm, if you hold onto the rope of Allah, you will never, ever drown.

Allahu akbar.

Walk With Me ..........


"   Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend  ."