Category Archives: Life

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!

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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.

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.

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.

The Dream That Was

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to fly: I wanted to become a pilot. Since then I had a
fascination for aircraft. I still have.

I persisted in convincing myself that when I grow up, I will be a pilot. After all, the life of a
pilot was simply awesome. A pilot gets to travel to a lot of places, see a lot of sunsets and
sunrises, and they get to take home big fat paychecks. Who wouldn’t want that? Up until
my grade 10, my thoughts about my ambition never wavered. I was as determined as
anyone could be.

However, when I started seeing more of life and the world, I began to contemplate upon
the fact (or the possibility) that becoming a pilot might not be the best of choices. Maldives
was witnessing a time when newly trained pilots were finding it very difficult to get a job
and it didn’t help that my faith (in every way) was very low at that moment. A female cousin
of mine had married a student pilot and when finished his studies and applied for a job, so
did 700 others (he now has a great job (at Maldivian, I think), praise be to Allah). I was very
disheartened.

So, I began to think about other choices. How about another career, but from the same
industry, aviation? That seemed sensible. Engineering never appealed to me, so that was
crossed off my list. To cut this part short, when I completed my A-levels I applied to an
Aviation Management Course in the UK. Praise be to Allah, I got the placement, but even
more praises be to Allah, I got even a better placement.

I had been planning something good for myself ever since my childhood, but Allah had planned something even better for myself even before I was even born.

Breaking Fasts at the Prophet’s Mosque

On most Mondays and Thursdays, I usually break my fast (whether I am fasting or not *grins*) at the Prophet’s Mosque.

These two days every week, along with the 13th, 14th and 15 of every (Hijri) month, and other special days when fasting is recommended (like the first 9 days of the month of Zul-Hijjah), there usually is–make it always–sufras for breaking fasts.

The meaning of the word Sufra here includes:
1. A plastic, disposable cloth (about 2 feet wide and as long as the people want it to be, depending on the number of people they want to serve) laid out on the carpet (in essence, this is what is called the sufra, but here by sufra I am referring to itself and whatever is placed on it),
2. A cup of Zamzam water for each person sitting at the sufra,
3. A number of dates (types of which vary according to every sufra or even within the same sufra, although they try hard to distribute each type evenly),
4. A small cup of Arabic coffee (which I don’t particularly like because it tastes ridiculous),
5. A slice of a kind of bread.

In addition to this, you might also find the following in some of the sufras:
6. A cup of tea, the taste of which usually enhanced with a type of leaves which gives it a minty taste.
7. A brown colored powder called dhuggah, in which we dip our bread before eating.
8. Cheese and cream, which is also used for the same purpose as dhuggah. If I am not wrong, this is illegal, but some people smuggle them in. I am not complaining, though.
9. Yoghurt, which is rarely found except on really special days. Probably because it is a bit hard to smuggle them in, unlike cheese and cream.

Sometimes, we have to go and sit an hour or two before the time for iftaar if we want to get a ‘seat’ at any of the decent ones. You know, high demand. The moment the Muazzin starts the azan, we all start to eat. When we finish, the organizers of the sufra collect any remaining dates and pieces of bread. Then the sufra is picked up (with the used cups and all) and put in a dustbin bag.

After Maghrib, they spread a sufra and start eating again. In addition to tea, dates and bread (the unused ones collected before), this time some might provide extra types of hot drinks like zanjabeel (don’t ask me what it is) and green tea.

When I came here during Ramadan in 2011, I saw that some sufras here at Madhinah even provided rice and chicken. Looking forward to that, No, I mean Ramadan.