10 Things I Love About My Kindle

I had heard long ago of something called a Kindle, and that it was a device for reading, but didn’t really think much about it. But when I read a friend talking about a kindle, it sparked my interest. I noticed that the said friend reads a lot and I figured it would help me to read more. Still, I did not know exactly why I should buy one, or what exactly makes a Kindle so special.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I was finally able to buy one. By then, I had started my studies at Islamic University of Medinah, and I was having a hard time forcing myself to read more. Then, one day I saw another friend, a fellow student at the university, reading Arabic books on a Kindle. That day, I first did my research on the Amazon Kindle, and I finally decided to save money to buy one.

After several months, and after getting some advice about which Kindle to buy (there are several versions to choose from) from a friend, I decided to buy an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.

18 months with the Kindle, and I am loving it. Here are 10 reasons why (in no particular order).

  1. The Size and Weight

Even though I had some idea about how big a Kindle Paperwhite is from the YouTube videos I watched when I was doing my initial research, I was pleasantly surprised when I first held my Kindle in my hands. It was a different model than the one my friend had, so I was expecting some differences. I love how effortless it is to hold it with one hand, which, along with its light weight, makes it very suitable for me to read while walking (which is a time wasted if something useful is not done during it, I always say). It doesn’t hurt that I can put it in the pocket of my thobe or even the back pocket of my trousers.

  1. The Display

The e-Ink display is new to me. E-Ink displays mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper. It depends on an outer source of light (such as the sun) to display whatever is on it. It is a bit slow rendering and refreshing the pages, and it leaves what is called a ‘ghosting effect,’ meaning that you might sometimes see some shadows of the previous page on the new page. But you don’t notice it that much when reading, and it isn’t a big deal.

Apart from that, I like how it looks and how easy it’s on the eyes, and it feels as if you are reading a printed book.

  1. The Dictionary

If you come across a new or difficult word that you don’t know the meaning of, you just tap and hold on the word and the built-in dictionary would pop up with the dictionary definition of the word. No need to turn the pages of your  dictionary, or change to the dictionary app to search for the word anymore.

I can’t find a good Arabic dictionary for the Kindle, though. And most of my Arabic books are scanned from printed books, so it doesn’t and wouldn’t work, anyway.

  1. Ease of Buying Books

Amazon has a wide range of eBooks, and if you find an interesting book or the one you are looking for, then it is your lucky day. It takes literally a minute or two (more or less) between finding a book, buying it, downloading it, and reading the first sentence.

In case of normal bookstores, this is not possible. The trip to the bookstore, walking around, waiting at the counter, paying cash, the trip back, too much.

Plus, on Amazon, reviews.

  1. The Absence of Distractions

No Facebook, no Twitter, no Snapchat, or any other social media for that matter (although you can post to Facebook and Twitter with your Kindle, I think). No notifications, no nothing. Not even calls or SMSs. Sometimes I leave my phone at home, so that wherever I am, all I have got with me is my Kindle, and all I can do with it is read (no games on the Paperwhite), and this makes me read more. Good.

  1. Auto Screen-Off

I have the habit of reading while lying down, and in such cases I almost always fall asleep while reading the book. When I wake up, the book will inevitably be closed (might even be under me), and I it takes a bit of an effort to find the page I last read.

With the Kindle, however, it will turn the screen off after some time of inactivity and in the morning, I can open to the last page I read (because when I fell asleep, I would have stopped turning the pages by tapping on the screen, obviously).

  1. Changeable Fonts and Sizes

I love this. If I am feeling too lazy to turn the pages too frequently, I just reduce the font size to the smallest, and it displays more lines on the page, so it takes longer to finish the page. Or, if I am walking or in a vehicle and it is a bit bumpy, I increase the font size so that it is easier to read.

There are several fonts to choose from, but I stick to one instead of changing it occasionally. But I like the fact that I have a number of options to choose from.

  1. Memory

It might be a bad habit, but occasionally I read more than one book at a book. Sometimes I get bored of a book (might be because of a boring chapter, my mood, etc.) and change to another, more interesting book. In the case of normal, printed books, it means that, in order to make this possible, I have to carry two or more books with me wherever I go.

With the Kindle, I can carry thousands of books with me, and with no extra weight!

  1. Battery Life

Oh, my Kindle is showing the low battery warning? No problem, it can still go on for several hours.

Amazon claims that if you read half an hour every day, with the wi-fi off and the light setting at a certain level (I forgot which), one full charge of the Kindle will last six freaking weeks. Six.

I usually read for more than half an hour daily, so I can’t really confirm Amazon’s claim. But I sure can appreciate the fact that the Kindle’s battery lasts an impressive length of time. I have yet to charge my Kindle two times in a week, and if I say that it usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks for me, it would probably be very close to the mark. This is gold, compared to my phone, which I need to charge once daily at least.

  1. Backlight

I mentioned before that e-Ink displays need—like normal books—an outer source of light such as the sun. Ever noticed how difficult it is to read your smart phone’s display out in the sunlight, especially with the brightness set to a low level? It is the opposite in case of devices with e-Ink displays such as the Kindle. It is as easy to read in broad daylight as it is a book.

At night or in the dark, it is just like a book. Just like how you need a bedside lamp (or a torch under the bedsheet because the Dursley’s don’t allow any lights on or reading your school books after bedtime) to read a book, the Kindle needs a light source for its readers to read. This problem is solved by a backlight, which is series of led lights that project their lights on the screen. This light is quite comfortable on the eyes compared to the light of the smartphone displays.

Anyway, these are 10 reasons why I love my Kindle. If you are a bookworm, you probably have heard of a Kindle. If you are thinking of buying one, I hope this helps you take a decision.

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Arabic Vocabulary

Several years into my study of Arabic language, I looked back and analyzed my study of the language and how far I have come. That was when I found myself falling short in a lot of the various aspects of the language.

Vocabulary was one of them. I was doing surprisingly bad in acquiring new vocabulary, remembering them, and using them in context.

By the Grace of Allah, I was and am able to understand most grammar rules that I came across, and even to apply them while reading, speaking and writing. But, I realized, I know very little of the words that I can and should use to express myself in Arabic.

To solve this problem, I tried various different methods. One was getting a small notebook and writing down new words and their meanings. Didn’t work. I tried to memorize words right off the dictionary itself. You know, get the dictionary off the shelf, open at a random page, study the first few words, or even read from cover to cover (I tried this with some PDFs). Didn’t work.
It was not that these methods were unfruitful in and of themselves; I just couldn’t get myself to continue doing it. Perhaps I lacked motivation or something.

Then, I created a WhatApp group—which in Saudi is like Viber in the Maldives, you just don’t live without it—for improving Arabic vocabulary. Basically, I added some students of Arabic language to the group and asked them to post new words and their meanings as much as they can (2 words max daily, sorry), without all the gibberish and nonsense that happens in groups. I wrote a lengthy set of instructions and strict rules, and told anyone off if they posted anything other than a word and their meaning.

This proved to better than my previous methods, and the group is still ‘alive’, if you know what I mean, although I am the only one who posts even close to what you might call ‘regularly’. The ones I added hoping to benefit from them are, it seems, mostly benefiting from us. Perhaps it is better, when you think about it.

Despite the benefit from this group, I feel that this takes more of my time that I wish for. That is perhaps because I try a little harder to make the posts ‘attractive’, by ‘decorating’ them with colorful symbols and emoticons and stuff. I find that it is way easier to read and more likely to be read by others if I do this. This has another benefit, though. If I do this, it means that I have to spend a little more time playing around the word, and it helps me to memorize the word.

If anyone is interested, here is the link to the WhatsApp group, which has the strict rules I told you about (I posted these rules in this Reddit post). And here is the Telegram channel.

Sometime ago, I was in a taxi and the driver was talking to me about something which I didn’t understand at all, except that he was talking about increasing something or having a lot of something. I just kept nodding my head and saying ‘true! true!’. Now, when I remember the words he used back then, I realized that he was talking about how important it is to increase one’s vocabulary!

On Leaving

Very few people are blessed with having not to let go of things that they hold dear in their life. When I think back and scrutinize the two and a half decades of my life, I am reminded of so many fond memories of leaving. And some equally bitter. This is about the latter.

The first time I had to leave something close to my heart was when I left my island for studies in Eydhafushi, a neighboring island. Admittedly, it wasn’t as sad as one would expect, maybe because of the fact that the kid that I was back then had little or no idea about what I should be feeling—I was too excited about going and living in another island (perhaps it shouldn’t be dictated what one should be feeling, you should just accept it and deal with it as it comes and goes). And the fact that Eydhafushi was very closeby helped a lot.

The emotions came when my mother who came to drop me off eventually left. I can’t remember whether I cried in the bathroom or not, but I was left with a feeling that I hoped I would never have to feel again. Moreover, I was already and definitely looking forward to her next visit and the occasional weekend trip back home.

When I left Eydhafushi after 5 years of study, I hardly felt anything.

However, saying goodbye to BAEC (the school in Eydhafushi that I studied in) was something else altogether. When you leave a school like that—a school that you considered a second home, not unlike what Harry felt towards Hogwarts—you need to squeeze out every ounce of bravery and courage you have if you don’t want to break down crying. I hope I did a good job.
I hope I can go back there one day and pay back some of what I owe. I certainly owe BAEC a lot.

Somehow, I never felt anything like that on leaving any other school that I have studied in.

Then there is the time I said goodbye to my country.

When I left Maldives for studies in Saudi Arabia, I was both happy and sad. Happy because my dream of studying in Madhinah was at last becoming a reality, and sad because I had to leave behind my family, especially my wife.

I distinctly remember remembering them and crying in the bathroom—crying in the open is too weird for men.

Academic year started and came to an end like the passing of the wind, and it was time to leave Madhinah for the holidays.

Leaving Madhinah was always (and it still is) difficult for me. I always leave Madhinah in the summer, even if it is for a few weeks. But every time I do, my chest feels kind of restricted and I feel a strange type of anxiety. I have this ‘thought’ that I might not be able to return to Madhinah. Somehow, there are going to be problems wrong with my visa or something.

So, everytime I leave Madhinah, I go the Prophet’s Mosque and ask Allah to allow me to return to Madhinah. And so far, Allah has answered my prayers.

al-Hamdhu lillah.

Leaving Makkah is on a whole new level.

Whenever I go to Makkah for Umrah or something, and the time of leaving comes, I feel as if I am leaving behind a part of me. Leaving your island, your parents, wife and loved ones—not even Madhinah—is nothing compared to leaving Makkah. I just want to sit in the Grand Mosque  and keep starting at the Kaaba. Perhaps those of you who have visited Makkah might be able to understand what I am saying. The feeling remains for a better part of the trip from Makkah to home, which doesn’t feel like home during the sai time. I realize that these are great blessings that Allah has bestowed upon me, and I ask Allah not to deprive me of them, not ever.

Food For Thought

Once I was traveling to my island from  Eydhafushi in a small dinghy. I was sitting by its side, so I could see the surface of the sea up close. I have seen the sea up close many times before, of course, but that day was different.

Gazing into the deep blue sea, I was suddenly hit with something obvious but also something I had never given much thought: the tremendous volume of the seas and oceans. In simpler terms, the sea has a lot of water. I mean, a lot. Next time you go to the beach or travel by sea, take a good look. Take a good look at a small area from the surface of the sea and try to imagine the volume of liquid beneath, then try to estimate the amount between that area and the next island (conveniently, Maldives is very suitably placed on the earth for this), not that it is easy to get an idea about how deep the oceans can get.

That day, gazing into the deep blue sea, I was reminded of the words of Allah: “Say, “If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement.”” [al-Kahf, 109].

If all the oceans of the world—Indian, Pacific, Atlantic, all the oceans of the world, and not just ‘Kaashidhoo Kandu,’—were converted into ink and then used to write the words of the Lord of that oceans and everything else in this universe, it would be insufficient. Even if another batch of ink similar to that it is brought as a supplement.

Let’s talk about the Qu’aan. It was 23 years’ worth of Allah’s words. For someone reading or memorizing, it sure seems a lot. Indeed, it’s an incredible amount of His Words. But for someone paying to print a copy of it, it doesn’t seem a lot. I mean, it wouldn’t need a lot of ink to make a copy of the Qur’aan. Or, if you were to write the Qur’aan yourself in a notebook, you wouldn’t need any more than a dozen pens, max. Besides, it is just a single volume with just 600 pages. And there are even pocket-sized versions with readable font sizes.

If the Qur’aan can be written with just a small portion of that ink, and the whole—no, but double!—of the earth’s oceans as ink would be insufficient to write the rest of the Words of Allah and His Knowledge, how great do you imagine Him to be? How mighty would He be and how vast His Knowledge would be? No, no one can grasp or comprehend Him, for He is far greater than anything the humans’ minds can come up with, as stated by Sheikh as-Sa’di, may Allah have mercy on him, in his tafseer.

Allah says in another verse: “And if whatever trees upon the earth were pens and the sea [was ink], replenished thereafter by seven [more] seas, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” [Luqman, 27]

A similar verse, but this time instead of two, seven more seas are mentioned further emphasizing the gist of what we are trying to establish here. In addition, another illustration is mentioned in this verse, namely that if all the myriad trees—from the beginning to the end of the world—are used as pens to write the Words of Allah and to enumerate all of His Knowledge, using all the seas and ocean—seven times over—as ink, it still won’t be enough.

Sheikh as-Sa’di commented on the verse from the chapter al-Kahf (after mentioning this verse from Luqman) saying that this is [stated] as a way of bringing around the meaning closer to minds [so as to make it easy to understand]. He elaborated, stating that all these things (i.e. the trees and the seas) are creations and all creations will eventually perish and cease to exist. But as for the Words of Allah, they are one of the Attributes of Him, and none of His Attributes are created, hence there is no limit or end to them. The verse doesn’t mean that if someone comes up with eight seas it’ll be enough. No. Even if all the knowledge of every creation in this Universe from the beginning to the end are combined, it will be—compared to the Knowledge of Allah—less than the amount a bird’s claws pick up after being dipped into the sea is compared to the sea itself. (I hope you got that. If not, try reading it again). Do you know how great we estimate our knowledge to be? Ever heard someone talk about how much information is on the Internet?

Despite all that, “mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little” [al-Isra’, 85].

On libraries

When I was studying in the school in my island, we didn’t have a library (they do now). I don’t even remember thinking about a library, let alone wonder why we don’t have one. Maybe I didn’t even know what a library was. I can’t say for sure, I don’t really remember that much.

But when I moved to Eydhafushi for studies, I was blessed. The school in Eydhafushi had a decent library. Well, I am assuming that it was decent—I didn’t really have anything to compare it with. At any rate, I didn’t have any expectations so I had nothing to complain about.

Then, I fell in love with libraries and books.

I started reading. A lot. Almost everyday, I would wear my uniform and go to the library in the morning, borrow a book (mostly fiction), come back home, finish the book, and again go to the school for regular classes in the afternoon. Next morning, return the book, borrow another and repeat. Granted, I started with relatively small books, but I gradually moved on to reading longer ones that usually took a couple of days to complete. Back then, they had a file for every grade, with a section for every class, with a page for every student. In at least one academic year—my memory is a bit fuzzy here—they had to append another page to the file for me, due to my “extreme” borrowing activities. Once, while lending me a book, the librarian asked: “Don’t you do anything else?”

The library was not small, but you could get the hang of it, or get a general overview of the library (so that you know approximately where to look for a particular book) just by a day or two’s worth of browsing through the aisles. They didn’t have—as far as I know or remember—any method for searching for a particular book, apart from asking the librarians.

When I started my A levels in CHSE, I didn’t get too much of a chance to visit the school library. I had my classes in another building which was too far away from the building with the library. I did visit the library a couple of times, but somehow I didn’t like it very much. Instead, I got a library card from the National Library.

It was after seeing the National Library that I started to realize exactly how a library should be. Big. Spacious. Lots of books. Easy and comfortable ways of searching for the books. Overwhelming (yes!). Friendly. Silent (yass!). Et cetera, et cetera.

There was this huge board on the wall that said ‘Dewey Decimal System’ with some numbers and topics. That was the day I realized that it is how the books are arranged in the library. Before that I had no idea. I wonder why I didn’t ask anybody.

Meanwhile, I paid a visit to the Islamic library at the Islamic Center. Owing to the fact that I was very unfamiliar with Arabic at that time and most of the books I could see were Arabic, not to mention the unwelcome opening hours, I never paid another visit. Perhaps I will find it much more interesting now, especially since what I read now—books, as opposed to what I read on the Internet—is almost always Arabic. I should make a mental note to visit during the holidays. I heard they have had a major upgrade.

Then came my days of working as an assistant librarian, at the Central Library (CL) of Maldives National University (MNU). The few months I worked there was a fascinating and exciting experience for me. I gained a lot of knowledge about something that I deeply admire and love. I studied more about the Dewey Decimal System and realized that it was way more complex than I imagined. I learned how to take care of books. My fascination with books increased tenfold. I finally understood the true significance of libraries—let’s say ‘professional’ libraries—for academic institutions, students and the general public. Now, I can safely assume that I have enough information to set up a decent (?) private library. But, sadly, I don’t have enough books. Not yet.

While working at the CL, I particularly noticed—and appreciated—some things, partly because I had never seen them being used in libraries before (not that I have seen that many libraries). Take, for instance, the special gate at the entrance which sounds an alarm if somebody tried to sneak out a book. This meant that you can bring in any book of your own or even a bag. Apparently this is not universal—the old library of Islamic University and that of the Prophet’s Mosque have a similar gate, but they don’t allow you to bring in any personal books, let alone bags, except notebooks and such. I once asked an employee at the latter whether I can bring in my own book and he looked as if it was the most ridiculous thing he heard all week.

Another thing that I noticed is the system for lending and borrowing books. Almost everything is computerized (even reserving books), although they do have a backup system that is manual (when STELCO is down, out comes the logbook). The computerized system obviously has its perks, which I won’t mention here despite its relevance, and I was somewhat impressed with the whole thing. Not exactly new, I know, but I had never seen such a setup in a library before. Perhaps it looked more impressive because I was behind the counter lending books, rather then borrowing then myself.

Additionally, I got to see what happens behind the scenes. And experience them. I know that sort of work would be done in all the libraries, but hearing about them is not the same as seeing and  experiencing it first hand. Hey, you get to handle the sweet-smelling new books before they are put on the new arrivals shelf. Most of the work are classified, so I can’t divulge that information. Sorry.

When I started my undergraduate studies at Islamic University of Madhinah, I had high hopes. A university of such reputation has got to have a library of similar prominence (is that the definition of a ‘decent’ library?). I can’t say I was completely disappointed. It was big enough, with enough number of books, with enough study desks, with enough resources to do a satisfactory search. Basically, it was enough. But somehow, not unlike the case of the library of CHSE, I didn’t take a liking to it.

Then there is the library of the Prophet’s Mosque. If I can take some one thing from it home, I would take a chair. I mean, they are super comfy. Too bad I always feel sleepy when I sit down to read something.

One thing that I would put on the ‘pros’ section would be the fact that they have a kind of book stands with adjustable slopes and some metal clips to prevent the the pages turning. You put the book on it, adjust the slope, open the book to the page you want and align the clips. This is a big help when copying down something from a book and when you just want to lie back on the comfy chairs and enjoy the book hands-free. Again, this is something that I have yet to see elsewhere.

The library of the Prophet’s Mosque also has a small section for non-Arabic books, along with a lot of  computer systems for reading ebooks and listening to lectures given at the Mosque.

About a month a ago, the university’s new library opened and I have never seen a better library elsewhere.

Let me give you a description. When you enter the library through the first door (yes, there is another), there is a number of lockers on the right and left for safe keeping your stuff (like the National Library). Once you get inside through the second door, you will see a gate (similar to the one I have referred to before), but before that there is an area for, let’s say, resting, to the left and right with nice sofas, coffee tables (not for drinking coffee, I presume, but I don’t really know what to expect from these Arabs) and more lockers.

Immediately behind the electronic gate, there is a circular information desk, to the left and right of which are two devices for lending and returning books. Self-service, bro.

Behind the desk, there are some more sofas—too many sofas, you say? You haven’t seen anything yet—and another desk, but this time more like a counter or service desk. (Maybe I am using the wrong word ‘sofa’ here, but I can’t think of a better word right now, so here is to hoping you get my drift)

Behind this are the stairs (the library had two more floors) and—at last—some book shelves. But if you take a right just after the information desk, you would see some stations for carrying out searches and browsing library catalogues. The rows of book shelves actually begins from here and continues along the walls of the library till a certain number. The rest is upstairs.

As for the chairs, you would see what one might call ordinary chairs around long desks and also beside tables designed to give readers some privacy. In addition to that, there are numerous, comfy looking sofas all around the library, presumably to increase the reading experience.

There are even special scanners for scanning pages of the books and copying to a flash drive. Pretty useful, in my opinion.

And the roof is breathtaking.

If Male’ was Madhinah

[Note: before you misunderstand and start throwing a tantrum, know that this post is in no way a comparison between the holy city of Madhinah and the capital city of Maldives (which should be obvious from the title, but the minds of people work weird these days). Rather, my only intention is to give a description of Madhinah from an different perspective that might also make it easy for Maldivians to understand]

Male’ is obviously a very different city than Madhinah, despite both of them being a Muslim city. But that does not mean that all Muslims cities should be one and the same, although it is of utmost importance that there should at least be some similarities that every Muslim city and country should share. Now, one may say that these similarities do exist already, but the focus here is not on just any similarities, but those that every Muslim community, society, city or country should have, but in most cases doesn’t.

Madhinah was the city that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, migrated to from Makkah. The descendants of the Muhaajireen and Ansaar still populates the city, although a lot of people have migrated to it since the migration of the Prophet to this today. It was the capital city of Islamic State (no, not the ISIS) which the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) established 14 centuries ago. The Masjid that he built back than is still here (duh!) and is currently undergoing a huge expansion project.

Unfortunately, today it is not the same Madhinah that was brought up under the guidance of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Those who govern its affairs are nothing like Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) in whose leadership is a great lesson for today’s leaders. Its youth are not like the ones that once asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to allow them to join him in battle despite their young age. Despite all this, there still remains some (or, from a subjective perspective, a lot of) good. However, the aim of this post is not to describe just the good that is present in the air of Madhinah, but just to give a general description of the city and its people, be it good or bad. By no means is this ‘list’ complete. Feel free to suggest any edits.

Ok, then. Enough jibber jabber. Here is how Male’ would be, if it was like Madhinah, presented in the form of bullet points for clarity and because of the love of a certain individual for them:

The Masaajid
• The mosques in the city would be closed (as in you cannot enter to pray) from after one prayer to the beginning of the next, but not without exceptions. They are usually closed after everyone leaves the Masjid, and if there is someone in the Masjid, they will just close the doors and leave. The doors cannot be opened from the inside, but once closed, cannot be opened from the outside without a key. So the last person to exit would invariably lock the doors if he closes it properly. Exceptions include the time between Maghrib and Isha, which is relatively short when compared to other times. I wrote this point inside a mosque, between the said time. Another example of an exceptions is if there is a circle (or let’s say a class) of memorizing Qur’aan (see next point) going on in a Masjid, which happens usually after Asr or Maghrib. In such cases, you might see some masjids with the doors open.
Now, I don’t know exactly why this is the case, but normally most of the people come to prayers on time, so perhaps there is no need to keep them open. Another big exception would be the Islamic Centre, which would be open all day long, except between 11 pm and 3 am, which is the time the mosque would be cleaned. But even then, you can access some part of the Mosque.

• There would be Qur’aan Memorizing Circles held in (some of) the mosques, especially the Islamic Centre. Generally, the participants would be children, but you would not be amazed by the sight of elder people also joining these classes, especially those that would be held at the Islamic Centre.

• The people who misses the congregation in the mosque will almost immediately start a new congregation with a new Iqaamah at the back of the mosque. You can usually hear the Iqaamah as soon as the Imam ends the prayer. One would seldom see anyone praying alone (except the regular Sunnah prayers), even children. They will appoint one to pray as the Imaam and they will make rows behind him. Or if they see someone praying alone, they will just go up to him and join in.

• My grandfather can catch the first unit of the prayer even if he starts walking to the Masjid when he hears the Azaan (because he cannot walk that fast now because of old age—may Allah grant him good health) and the old  people—and this is just a figure of speech—who goes to the Masjid early on would have to wait longer than they do now, because the time between the Azaan and the Iqaamah would be longer. For Maghrib it is 10 minutes, which is normal, but for Isha, Noon and Asr it is 20 and for Fajr it is 25 minutes. If you are in a hurry, that is a long time. But in the city life, it is still not long enough most of the time.

Schools
• Ameeniyya School would still be a girls-only school. So would be any school for girls. Basically, all the schools would either be for boys or girls. Not for both.

• All the schools for girls would look like a house (or more like an apartment building) from the outside. You cannot see anyone who is inside (unless of course if there is an open window or something). The students would enter the school from the outer most door and close it behind them. They would also have some sort of a barrier outside the door  so that no one can see the inside of the school directly even when the door is open. The reason, if not obvious, will be explained in the next point, in sha Allah. The teachers would all be female and no male will be allowed to enter except in, well, exceptional circumstances. My wife related to me of such an incident only a few days ago, where a student fainted at their school, so all the students and teachers were told not to come out of the class and to close the doors of the classes while the medics come and do their business.

• Both the girls and boys would wear uniforms to school (at least all girls would, as far as my knowledge regarding this is concerned). But the girls would wear their jilbaabs (the black dress which covers the whole body including the face) over their uniforms and remove them once they enter the school. This is why you may not see them in their classes. Perhaps their uniforms would be the same (i.e. similar to those in the Maldives), the difference being that they won’t be seen outside the school, the inside of which you would not see either if you are a male. Of course, this depends on whether the students stick to their code of conduct: if they do not—and that happens more often than one would hope—then you can see them lifting their jilbaabs, showing their skirts.

• The traffic problem you face at the end of the sessions? Same.

Gatherings
• Dharubaaruge would have separate entrances for males and females, be it for formal occasions or wedding parties or anything else. There would not be any mixing of men and women in these cases. This would be the generally accepted custom, and how it should be.

• If a family visits another family in their home, the women would be having a separate ‘meeting’. The men would be in a room and the women in another. Even when eating.

• Lemon Grass (and other restaurants) would have an area where people can eat sitting down on the floor and this would be the normal way to eat in restaurants or in homes during gatherings. They place a piece (or two) of plastic cloth (made from a material similar to that of plastic bags) on the floor or the carpet (where you don’t tread or walk on with your shoes, obviously), then place a big plate of rice or the rice itself on this cloth and eat from it. With two to five people sitting around it. All together. From the same plate. Sometimes they wouldn’t need curry, Just rice and grilled chicken would be fine.
I do not know how they eat alone.
Some other points
• The police (or some guys from the Islamic Ministry) would drive around in cars ordering people to pray. They would normally be seen when the times of prayers are near or during the time between the Azaan and Iqaamah. They would also prevent anything that they see happening that is contrary to the teachings of Islam, such as unacceptable behavior between the two sexes.

• People (not all) would look at expatriates with contempt. Same, eh?

• The employees in most offices would drink a lot of coffee (not exactly the coffee you are accustomed to) and tea. And I mean  a lot. They also want you to come back tomorrow, or next week, or a couple of weeks later, and they want you to do this everyday. In other words, come back tomorrow everyday. Get it?

• They would (or might, as in very often) send you on a circle, from one employee to another till you end up where you started, probably because it’s not their responsibility or because they are too busy drinking tea.

• People would be seen on the streets (or around places where more people would gather, such as mosques or shopping malls) selling stuff, ranging from toys to siwaak to thobes, often with a very low quality and cost.

• Many people would brush their teeth with siwaak in public, and this would be normal and no one would be grossed out.

• Sometimes children (about 11 or 12 years old or more) would drive their families to places in cars when there is no male adult at home. This is not because it is allowed.

• Private cars will act as taxis. When you need a taxi, you would put up your hand and wait for someone to stop. Then you both will bargain until you reach an agreement. Else, you will thank him and send him away and then flag another car. Officially, taxis do exist, but they are too expensive most of the time.

Hopefully, this would give you an idea how the Male’ would be if it was like Madhinah, Perhaps more points would be added to this later on.

How I Stopped Wasting Time on Facebook

Unfortunately everyone is on Facebook these days. But that does not necessarily mean it is a bad thing. On the contrary, it can be a great tool if it is used for a good cause. You can even be rewarded for it, if you use it as a means of something that is prescribed in Islam, like maintaining ties of kinship. Facebook is perhaps one of the easiest way to maintain ties of kinship these days, and certainly one of the cheapest way to do it considering the fact that a relatively high number of people nowadays live far away from those with whom they have to maintain ties of kinship. Calling on the phone or texting is not always cheap, especially if you live abroad, and when you compare it to Facebook (or any other social network for that matter), there is little comparison. Besides, Facebook has other advantages like the ability to actually see your loved ones, by means of photos and videos (and other benefits of which I would not waste time on thinking).

In spite of all that, there is a lot of garbage (excuse me) on Facebook that is of little or no benefit. That certainly would make up most of my feed. Humorous or funny posts don’t count, because I “benefit” greatly from it. Now I just use Instagram if I need a dose of laughter.

So, on some days (more like everyday), I would find myself scrolling through my feed endlessly for some reason that I simply cannot fathom. To exacerbate a situation that I cannot get a control on, the Facebook app on my phone helpfully pops up a blue, round-cornerd rectangle (?), suggesting new beginning, a fresh start, and a whole new day of fresh scrolling, which I invariably tap.

To get a hold of the situation and to stop wasting time on Facebook, I had to think of a way I can stop all that crap entering my brain and still be on Facebook (I sometimes need to be on Facebook, because of—you know—reasons). I had tried deactivating a number of times before, but I always find myself returning to it after sometime. So, I unfollowed every single person on my friend list, every single page I have liked, and every single group that I am in (of course, I didn’t do it all in one go, I just unfollowed the first person I see on my feed over a span of a week or two until it became just like our home street after my mom kunikahanings it in the morning). Congratulations, your Facebook junk is safe from me now, and I from it.
Only the notifications are my thing now. In case I need to check someone’s posts, I do a little search and check their posts on their profile itself.

Now, even if I open the Facebook app, I can’t see anything of interest on my feed. I still do see some stuff, from some pages that I have a hand in managing (which I don’t think I can unfollow. Can I, Facebook?) and some post from November 14 telling me that my friend Alson is friends with some chick, which I admit, is interesting.

Now I spend the time saved on other cool things, like sleeping. Haha. All kidding aside, now I can focus on reading more, writing more on my blog and Quora (I got a Bluetooth keyboard (perhaps I will write a review), on which I wrote this whole post during a free period in class) and a whole other set of ‘mores’.

 

Quora is awesome by the way. It has some awesome stuff, and plenty of atheists you can spend your time arguing with (nicely!) if that is your thing. They have a policy called BNBR. Be nice. Be respectful.

Anyway, that is it for now. This is a new post in a long time, and I apologize to my fans (I certainly have one at home, but if I turn it on, my wife gets cold (because it is almost winter and, admittedly, a bit cold) and then consequently, inevitably and obviously upset (I hope she’s not reading this). I hope to write more than before now, especially since I can do it now on the go in sha Allah.

لعلكم لا تزالون بخير. مع السلامة.