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It's October again, one year after my post Violet The Colour which I had written as a Birthday present for my husband, Ahmad Cendana. This year, besides this inexpensive pen (I'd spend a little more for him but I know it'll be at his displeasure so I'd better settle for this one) which I hope he'll like, and use, I thought I'd write yet another post as a gift for his 52nd birthday. After all, it was blogging that got us together. :-)

I write as I feel, and more importantly, I also write with the hope that I could provide someone or two  with some enlightenment, comfort, hope and even strength. I write with love, which, I believe is the most powerful emotion created by God for His beings. 

As a practitioner in Islamic medicine, I am confronted with many women who are depressed, disheartened and/or desperate and of course the reason is almost always because of a loved one, or the loss of one, and often, the fear and/or anger of losing one. Love is empowering, and it has incredible healing powers. But it can also be consuming and destructive. It's simple enough; when love for God is placed above everyone and everything, it is love that is constructive and productive. Anything less and we're doomed for an emotional disaster.

But as mere human beings, there are many, many times when our faith dims and falters. We give our love to this world and allow our emotions to get the better of us; we lose our focus, direction and strength. At this point we become very vulnerable, sometimes irrational even. I'm not exempted from going through these phases; if I am, I'd have to tell my patients "I understand how you feel, I know what you're going through, but only theoretically."

Some may question my reasons for exposing my personal life so publicly and seemingly without shame. For those who opine that personal lives ought to be kept private may even be disdainful of me and this blog. But that doesn't bother me at all; what matters most to me are those women who need reprieve. My experience from my practice tells me that women are immediately comforted and relieved when they realise I know and I feel what they're trying to express.

I would never judge, belittle or scorn them for I have hit the dirt many times myself. I am as much a woman as they are, one who has gone through trials and tribulations, who has many weaknesses and have made bad choices and terrible mistakes. I am real. And I survived.

But I had only merely survived. I had thought I was content as I was and that that was enough to get me by. That was up to May 2010, that is, until I found happiness in the form of a soul mate. Someone that makes me feel more adequate and complete. Someone who shares my views and dreams. Someone I now call my husband. He provides me with the much needed strength whenever I falter or when facing a difficult case; this is crucial because I need to be strong for others almost all of the time.

 It's unexplainable but Ahmad Cendana has made so much difference to my life and my practice in this one year. Besides the intangibles, one very pertinent thing I learnt from him is in dealing with wives of drug addicts, in knowing exactly what to say to them. And they know they can talk to me without fear of prejudice and embarrassment. For many of them, they love their husbands and want to be of help and support to them. But the pressure from their family and friends who only view addicts as troublemakers and worthless people puts them in a dilemma and in a state of confusion and distress.

I could go on and on talking and writing about love and happiness, or L&H, whimsical as it may be to some.  I dare say that these two virtues give us immeasurable power, not only to make things happen, but also to keep negative vibes and energies away. Not a temporary, superficial kind of happiness that one could get from shopping or eating, or from possessing something.  Not the kind you get from patronising H&M or JPO. 

This kind of happiness only serves to cover or hide a sadness, an emptiness, insecurity or pain. And empty pockets. Don't get me wrong, I like pretty things too, but when the desire to possess is so overpowering and shopping or anything else becomes addictive, financially damaging and/or is prioritised in one's life, then it has to be checked with all honesty to oneself.

Happiness has to come from within ourselves; it persists even without any possession, it is there in whatever circumstances we're in, it fills the vacuum in the soul and it heals all pain. It is not dependant nor does it expect from anyone or anything. It's terribly sad to see so many women living in sadness, fear, guilt, anger, regret, unhappiness and emptiness. These emotions are toxic to our minds, bodies and souls and in time will manifest as diseases and illnesses.

One of my favourite writers Yasmin Mogahed beautifully sums up what real love is, and as always,this surfaced just as I finished this post :

"Try not to confuse "attachment" with "love". Attachment is about fear and dependency and has more to do with love of self than love of another. Love without attachment is the purest form of love because it isn't about what others can give you because you're empty. It's about what you can give others because you're already full."

As I always say, love is not about receiving but about giving. But how do we fill our hearts with love? First we must believe we are worthy of L&H. We must work on removing blockages and let go of anything and everything that is dragging us down.  Once L&H flows in our hearts, the energies radiate to those around us, our daily prayers become so very pleasurable, and it can...break spells...ah-hah! Not now...more of this later. 

Usually the experience comes through people because of the things done out of love and with sincerity. In my case, much of it came through a husband, one who not only ardently supports my practice but even gets involved in it. My practice constitutes a large part of my life, and with this practice, I am able to serve God by spreading Islam through healing. Similarly, many found L&H after getting involved in charity work or voluntary services, because they are serving God by serving mankind, and doing it sincerely and wholehearted, expecting absolutely nothing in return, except for blessings from Allah. I know some are actually smiling as they read this...

I must admit, I had once given up on the desire for a soul mate. I had  resorted to the belief that I was meant to be alone and my purpose in life was to directly serve Him. But I was wrong. It is mentioned more than once in the The Holy Quran that man was created to be in pairs, and my husband and I, we are obviously meant to be one pair. For us womenfolk, to be loyal, faithful and subservient to the husband is to serve Allah. Alhamdulillah, a significant part of my happiness lies in serving my husband because I know, I am serving Him.

Happy Birthday Ahmad Cendana, 
I don't have very much to give you, 
except my prayers, love (lots of it), support and loyalty.
 May you find the Ultimate love and happiness, 
may you succeed in all your endeavours , 
those you desire and those Allah desires of you. 
May you be blessed forever and granted with everything you are meant to have, and be what you are meant to be. 
If I am meant to be, I shall be with you to serve you 
as long as Allah wills so.

Orchid : orchid isolated on white background Stock PhotoJust about three weeks ago, I suddenly felt compelled to write a post about my mother, and before  I could even start, just two days later, she left us so quickly and peacefully minus much pain or suffering to be with The One. Distraught that I was, I did, but barely managed a post with more images than words in memory of Mama. Since things happened this way, I then decided  to produce a more comprehensive write-up, but I realised that there is just so much to write about her, and it may take me up to a year just to research on her life story. So I decided to shelve it temporarily, and instead, follow my heart that says write about this other woman instead, someone I have looked up to ever since I was a child, someone I  greatly admire, respect and love...someone who has taken over the role as a mother figure in my eldest sister, Azni. 

Like the orchids she loves, Prof Dr Azni is strong, sturdy and hardy,
yet beautiful and compassionate.  

Here's her academic biography taken from InTech :
"Prof Dr Azni Zain Ahmed is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and International) at the University of Technology MARA (UiTM). She was born in Kota Bharu, Kelantan and was educated in Kuala Lumpur until the Sixth Form in Victoria Institution. She continued her studies at Southampton Technical College in the UK before graduating with a degree in Physics and Urban Planning from Aston University, UK. She also graduated with a Masters degree in Solar Energy from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and a PhD degree in Energy in Buildings from the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.  

She has sat on several editorial boards such as The Scientific Journals International and International Journal for Clean Coal Technologies and a Technical Reviewer for the International Journal for Renewable Energy. Besides managing the university's academic activities at the university, she also lectures in Renewable Energy at the Faculty of Applied Sciences. She has produced more than 120 papers in solar energy and daylight modelling, thermal comfort, solar energy technologies and energy efficiency in buildings. She has been involved in many renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes in the country such as the Solar Energy Roadmap, National Solar Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Steering Committee, National Energy Efficiency in Buiildings Workshop and contributed to the Malaysian standards MS1525:2001 and MS1525:2007. She is currently the President of the Malaysian Energy Institute (InTEM), Senior Fellow of the Institute of Science, UiTM, and Head of the Centre for Research and Innovation  in Sustainable Energy (RiSE), UiTM.

She has served almost 30 years in the university as a lecturer and later professor and held management posts such as Pre Science Coordinator, Dean of Faculty of Science before being appointed as the Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Research in 2001 and Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Puncak Alam and Puncak Perdana campuses) in 2009. Among her achievements 
for her university include increasing the number of research 
grants, researches, innovation awards and income generated from consultancy services. 

Her eight years at the helm of research culminated in the awards received by the university, notably the Geneva Award 2007 and 2008, National Intellectual Property Award 2007 and the Malaysian Prime Minister's Research Innovation Award between the public sector and the private sector 2008. Her most recent contribution is in the capacity of Lead Author, Chapter 9 (Buildings) Working Group III (WG III), 5th Assessment Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2011-2014)."

As one can see, my sister is no ordinary woman. I don't care if anyone thinks that I'm boastful, because I just cannot help being proud of her. Not only for her academic excellence and professional achievements but my admiration for her in entirety: her splendid personality and capability to successfully undertake so many other roles too, as a daughter, sister, wife, short, a complete woman.

I'm not quite sure why the InTech writer did not mention Azni's earlier secondary education at the Bukit Bintang Girls' Secondary School, formerly a missionary school in the heart of Kuala Lumpur that had a reputation for being very, very strict, but churned out students of outstanding character. Maybe she's from the rival school Convent Bukit Nanas :-p.  My sister's years here were very significant and I believe, they were the foundation towards the shaping and building of her character. She was a prefect here and was very popular among her friends. She was always in the top class, and at home there was hardly any competition from her four siblings, be it in academics and                                                                 intellect, or talent and confidence.

The  new "tiang seri" in the family and the "seri bongsu"  lol!

Orchid : orchid on white Stock PhotoAzni learnt to play the piano and possessed a natural talent in drawing. She had a sketch book where she did her pencil drawings, her favourite being portraits. When she left home to study in the UK, I secretly kept the book like a coveted treasure, and looked at her drawings almost everyday. She could also paint, and entered a competition where she chose to paint a scene of the Mardi Gras by day and by night, and the participating artists had to paint in full front of the public. For one so young and without any formal training, I thought her choice of subject was far above her standard but as it turned out, her painting was a real masterpiece. It was eventually sold off in an auction and she had made quite a tidy sum for the school.

Having a mother who taught Home Science in schools, we were all encouraged, and sometimes forced to learn how to bake and cook while still very young. My sister loved to bake, and as of today, I have never, ever tasted a better Pumpkin Pie than hers. Now, even though she leaves most of the baking to her children, she still cooks the family's favourite dishes whenever she can steal a little time between her packed work schedule. 

This woman works so hard - her husband and children can attest to this, yet I have never, ever heard her complain about her work or about anything else for that matter. Her dedication and commitment towards making the university a world-class tertiary learning institute is truly admirable. Despite being full-handed pursuing academic accomplishments and fulfilling the demands of her job, sometimes both at the same time, my sister managed to raise eight children, all of them successful in their own right. She seems to be working for the university all of her waking hours, and yet she is still able to be on top of things in the domestic sector. Where family matters are concerned, nothing is too trivial for her. And oh yes...I may risk being given a cold-shoulder if I don't mention this: Azni is a very, very happy Opah (grandmother) with four grandchildren to her name and another two in the process. 

A day when I was bursting with pride. Besides watching my only daughter, Marzia
receive her scroll, I also had the opportunity to witness my sister carry out her duty in her capacity as the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Uitm (Academic and International), deliver the opening and closing address during the graduation ceremony.
I had observed that Prof Azni, as she is known to many, was the only one on stage who took
the trouble to look at each name in the very long list of a few hundred graduates at least, and
place the name on the face of each graduate, as she watched them walk on stage to receive their scrolls. She did this from the start right to the last recipient. And this was only one of the many, many sessions she has had to attend year in, year out during the University's convocation ceremonies.

Orchid : Pink Phalaenopsis Orchid Stock Photo
There are many, many more things that can be said about my sister, and even more things that I am not aware of, because she is not one who blows her trumpet. She just goes around doing what needs to be done without expecting any praise, recognition or rewards. I am so proud of her beyond words;  she makes me proud to be a Zain Ahmed, she makes me proud to be a Muslim, and she makes me proud to be a woman. 

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