Rough roads, pain, laughter, heartache, cold, discomfort…..Like everything in life, and life itself, it is just temporary. Nothing lasts forever. I have adopted this as my mantra when I arrived at the base of the mountain. Why? Because I knew that it’s not going to be smooth sailing. I knew that I was going to be removed from every comfort known to me for the next six days. By remembering and constantly reminding myself that whatever I feel or what I’m experiencing is just temporary, I was able to keep going, and able to push myself through what is now officially known as the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Three weeks ago today, I summited the highest free standing mountain in the world, “The Roof of Africa” Mount Kilimanjaro, 5898m above mean sea level.
This was by far, one of the most memorable days of my life, as this was not just a childhood dream, but I also got to raise funds for charity.
After six months of training, the time finally arrived for us to put ourselves through the ultimate physical and mental challenge. I have discovered things about myself on that mountain that I would never have learned in any classroom or book. The lessons I have learned will stay with me forever.
I will be doing a series of #lessonslearned in the days to follow.
I’ve come across this profound advise by the great scholar Ibn Al Qayyim. So many times in life, we stress and depress ourselves over that which we have little or no control over. What seems like such a simple thing to do, is sometimes the hardest….Leaving it in the hands of the Almighty.
❝A friend will not (literally) share your struggles, an a loved one cannot physically take away your pain, and a close one will not stay up the night on your behalf…So look after yourself, protect it, nurture it…and don’t give life’s events more than what they are really worth…Be certain that when you break no one will heal you except you, and when you are defeated no one will give you victory except your determination…your ability to stand up again and carry on is your responsibility…Do not look for your self worth in the eyes of people; look for your worth from within your conscious…if your conscious is at peace then you will ascend high…and if you truly know yourself then what is said about you won’t harm you.
Do not carry the worries of this life… because this is for Allah…and do not carry the worries of sustenance because it is from Allah…and do not carry the anxiety for the future because it is in the Hands of Allah…
Carry one thing: How to please Allah. Because if you please Him, He Pleases you, fulfills you and enriches you. Do not weep from a life that made your heart weep…just say “Oh Allah…compensate me with good in this life and the hereafter”.
Sadness departs with a sajdah…happiness comes with a sincere du’a…Allah does not forget the good you do…nor does He forget the good you did to others and the pain you relieved them from…Nor will He forget the eye which was about to cry but you made it laugh…
Live your life with this principle: Be good even if you don’t receive good…not because of other’s sake but because Allah loves the good doers.❞ Ibn Al Qayyim
It was a random day in August 2014 after a short trip to Cape Town, when I sat at my desk and decided that I needed to do something out of the ordinary. It must have been my short love affair with Table Mountain that inspired me to do some research on Kilimanjaro, The Roof of Africa.
It was then that I wrote down my plan to trek Kilimanjaro in 2017.
At this point, I must have hiked about twice only in my life and really didn’t make any further effort. Let’s just say, the idea died almost as soon as it was born.
On January 25, I was interviewed for a position at an NGO. One of the two things I wanted to do when we moved to Cape Town, be a housewife or work for an NGO. After having a year off, this was exactly what I wanted. It was then that I realized that I am right where I needed to be!
One of the first things that I came across at the organisation, was their annual Kilimanjaro Challenge Fundraiser….I know what you’re thinking, divine intervention? Well, that’s exactly what I thought. So, I decided to settle into my new role first before I started raising questions.
During a volunteer briefing meeting, it was then that I was sold on the idea and decided to inquire into the subject matter. I was given the go ahead to register from my manager….and family.
Climbing with a purpose
What really attracted me to this challenge is its cause. Children. Orphans. I see the value of children even though I may not be a mother. My passion lies with children who are primary victims of poverty, which is the main cause of violation of their fundamental rights. With this challenge, we are raising funds for the children and orphans of Sub-Saharan Africa. For children in developing countries, lack of basic necessities, facilities, education, and loss of one or both parents is unfortunately a sad reality for many.
Due to this, the sustenance of nutritious meals, and the chance of a secure future can all become an impossible dream. That is why I believe that the care of orphans and less fortunate children is our responsibility.
I will never be able to touch the lives of every child who lacks basic care, but I can, together with the support and assistance of friends and family try to make difference even if it’s in the smallest way, one child at a time.
We are set to depart on August 2 and return August 11. Before embarking on the trek, we will spend time in Chekereni, which is a small village not far from Moshi in the Kilimanjaro Region. Here the number of HIV/AIDS orphans are on the rise. In many cases, the orphans are left behind in the hands of a guardian, fellow child, or with one parent who may be infected. I guess that being in the company of the children, will give us renewed energy as to why we’re actually doing what we’re set out to do, trek the highest free standing mountain in the world.
How you can contribute to making my climb a success
Account number: 071 621 881
Branch code: 031110
Reference: 5122362 – Your Name
For more information on how to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you know that for just R300, you could feed a child for an entire month!
Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d(Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet(Peace be upon him) said, “I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise like this,” putting his index and middle fingers together. (Saheeh Al Bukhari)
2016 turned out to be, what I now call, my unplanned sabbatical year. A year that was by far one of my best years yet.
After relocating to Cape Town from Johannesburg at the end of 2015, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. The two things that I did know was, 1) I do not want to get back into the corporate world and 2) I want to be a housewife (very ambitious, I know). The housewifery wasn’t my long-term plan, but I figured what better way to start the new year in a new city.
So how did I spend my year?
Doing the things that I love.
The one room in my home that makes me completely happy. I’ve spent day in and day out cooking up a storm and experimenting with new tastes and flavours. I must admit that it didn’t always work out, but at least I’ve tried it by putting it through the test. Over the years, I’ve developed a love for cooking and it to be the most therapeutic “chore”.
For many people spirituality does not coexist with religion. I consider myself to be quite fortunate as I was able to explore my spirituality through religion. Last year, I’ve experienced the best Ramadaan ever. Even though we were nowhere close to family, the whole experience was moving. I looked forward mostly to Taraweeh (special evening prayers are conducted in Ramadaan, during which long portions of the Qur’aan are recited) and I longed for it most when Ramadaan bade farewell. The highlight for me however, was a ladies programme I attended, where I was in an audience of 4000 women! Let’s just say that once I’ve left the veils from my eyes were lifted!
Me, Myself and I
When you’ve been married for as long as I have been, you never really have reason to do things alone. Besides, I was never really comfortable with it anyway. With Mr. M at work, I didn’t have a choice but to do things alone. There was no one around to grab a coffee with or take up yoga classes. I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company. When I had weekends to myself, I would meander through markets by myself, as if it was the most normal thing for me to do.
Stop, Drop and Yoga
I’ve always had a keen interest in yoga practice. I’ve just never had the time to take it seriously. I’ve started under a yogi while in Johannesburg, but the enthusiasm soon fizzled out.
With all the time I had on my hands, I decided to take up classes, which I’m pleased to say is still part of my life. In the beginning, yoga was just about the poses and trying to fold myself into pretzels. Until I realised that the goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil the layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates. To make peace with who you are. But mostly, it was about going to my mat and feeling, not accomplishing.
A Book or Three
My deep love for books stems from when I was a child. The first book I’ve ever owned was “The Gingerbread Man”, which was gifted to me at my pre-school graduation. My favourite book would have to be the children’s classic “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri. I still sometimes dream about living in the Swiss Alps.
I’ve spent so much time reading last year, that at one point, I felt like the characters in my books were my friends. I’ve made a little reading nook in my bedroom, and winter afternoons became my most treasured moments when I was lost in a book.
Take me to Nature
There is a wealth of natural wonders to see and experience in this city. From hiking up mountains, chasing waterfalls, swimming in dams, long walks on the beach, Cape Town is definitely a city worth showing off its natural beauty. I’ve always been in touch with nature, but my first year in Cape Town really connected me to nature.
I’ve had to deal with many frustrations. Not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life. Doubting whether or not we made the right decision to move. In hindsight, I should have savored every minute of that time, as I now believe that I was exactly where I needed to be. My unplanned sabbatical year prepped me for my new journey, even though I had no idea at the time what that was…..
After spending the past two years on my version of a “spiritual journey”, I have found comfort in a place I never imagined I would……my hijab.
Being born a Muslim, dad was pretty strict but we were never forced to wear hijab. We were told that it’s something we should do as Muslim girls. But of course it was in the one ear out the other. Growing up in a pretty modern society, hijab was never a first choice of clothing that I would adorn. “I’m still young” was the average response to my dad when I was encouraged to adopt a more modest form of dress. I was also never a fashion follower or trend-setter. I’ve always been and still am a jeans, t-shirt and sneakers kinda girl.
From Miss to Mrs
Thank goodness Mr M never forced me to change my dressing. I do however remember him asking me to at least wear a scarf on Fridays, but that too never happen. Being not young anymore, I couldn’t use the old excuse any longer, so it changed to, “I’ll change when I have children”. Then five years pass by and still no children……By this time I found myself spiritually dead. Not even knowing how I got to where I was. I’ve neglected my religious practices over the years and I was nothing but an empty shell….walking dead. Two years ago I rediscovered my path back to Islam and embracing hijab has been part of my spiritual journey. …..for the best……to be my best.
Oppression vs Liberation
I recall putting my head scarf on (about two years ago) for the first time and going into public, and that was the best feeling in the world. For the first time in my life I didn’t care to “fit in”. I didn’t need to be dressed according to the standards of society. The best part of it all was being able to walk down a street and not getting any unwanted stares or attention. I now know what liberation is….I understand it. I live the life of a liberated woman everyday I step out of my house in hijab.
All too often women in hijab are looked at as if they are not normal people. It’s as if they are not living full lives or missing out on something. I had a conversation with a much older woman and we spoke about hiking. I mentioned to her that I really enjoyed it and then she asked a question……”do you hike with the scarf on?” My response was yes. The response in my head however, was far from a simple yes…..
Wearing a scarf covers my hair, not my brain. I’m able to think and make decisions all by myself. I live a normal life like every other 30-something year old woman. There’s nothing an unscarfed woman can do that I’m incapable of doing. I go the the gym, I go to the beach, I practice yoga, I go out with friends….Everyday I live.
On January 2nd, I lost a friend. 30 years young. And although we stayed in contact, I haven’t seen her in 7 years. We lived about 50km apart, and every time she wanted us to get together, I always had an excuse. There will always be next time right? Wrong. The next time I would see her, was at her funeral. Her passing made me realise, that time should not be taken for granted. No one knows how much time we have left.
Over the past two months, there has been very few days when I scrolled my facebook feed, and didn’t come across a young life that was tragically lost. Young people. People like us. People who have their whole lives ahead of them, who has all the time in the world to chase their dreams. But they never had that time, none of us do. It’s an illusion. Our lives are short. We think we really grasp this but we don’t. It should terrify us, as it terrifies me sometimes in the stillness of the night, when it seems no one else is terrified but me!
Every day, that we are given, is a gift. Regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof, our time on earth is limited. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is permanent. We spend time and money as though we’ll always be here. We buy shiny things as though they’re worth the stress of attachment. We put off the “once in a lifetime” activities/adventures/trips because we believe we’ll be around next year to do it. We don’t tell the ones we love how much we love them often enough because we assume there’s always tomorrow. And we fear. Oh, do we fear. We stick it out in miserable jobs and situations because we’re afraid of the risk of stepping out. We don’t reach high enough or far enough because we’re worried we’ll fail, forgetting – or never realising – that it’s better to fail spectacularly while reaching for the stars than it is to succeed at something we never really wanted in the first place.
We think we’ve got forever and that these concerns that weigh us down are so pressing. We worry about the trivial, to the neglect of the most precious thing we have: moments we’ll never see again. We talk of killing time, passing time, and getting through the week, forgetting we’re wishing away the moments that comprise our lives. We say time is money when in fact the time we have is ALL we have. Money can be borrowed, time can’t. We fear taking risks, unaware that the biggest risk we run in playing it safe is in fact living as long as we hope and never doing the things we dreamed of. And then it’s too late. We watched our favourite TV shows, we fought a losing battle with our weight, we picked up the guitar once in a while and never quite started the spanish language course we wanted to do. We managed to get a large flatscreen and new cars once in a while, but the list of things we would have done if we could really, truly could have done anything, kept growing. And we never did them.
Life is short. Don’t just exist, Live! Treasure every moment. Tell the people you love that you love them. Be aware of who and what you spend your time on. Make the most of every day. Lastly….be thankful that you’re alive, and that you have another day to live your best life.
In memory of Farzahnah Patel. RIP my dear friend.