Category Archives: Personal Stuff

Feeling the Burn

Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

I am just starting to take exercise a bit more seriously again in my life and there is a point where you are lifting weights or indeed doing any exercise where your muscles start to burn, it hurts and it is not pleasant.

Your instincts are to quit that particular activity, take a break or do something else at least, anything else but if you know anything about how muscles and your body as a total system works you know this is the time not to quit, this is the time to carry on for as long as you can.

At that point your body is going to be getting signals to start convert fat to burn, your muscles are gaining the most use and will correspondingly get their best work out, you’re at the point where you are starting to gain real solid benefits from your exercise.

It’s not that doing less than this isn’t beneficial, it’s just a whole lot less effective then carrying on even when hurting and feeling the burn.

Likewise there are times when we attempt to strengthen our spiritual, emotional or mental state or preferably all three where we suffer, we feel in pain or at least massive discomfort and it is hard to see the benefits of carrying on in that moment, so easy to quit, or at least find something else which benefits us in a lesser way but at least doesn’t hurt so much.

But these are not the times to quit, these are the times to push through, strengthen our emaan, our character, our minds and through momentary suffering and sacrifice become a better person on the other side.

There are parts of you and me, disgustingly fat slothful parts of our minds and character which desperately need a workout or burning out entirely to clear space for more productive growth and habits in our lives.

I and and I know many people reading this are physically unhealthy in the damage done to our bodies through years of neglect and ill-treatment, we do need to feel that burn to strengthen our physical bodies, our vessels that Allah has given us as a trust here on this earth.

But how many of us are equally guilty of doing little or maybe only just enough to sharpen our intellect, to build true meaningful character or to make our emaan a shining light?

Discipline begets discipline, the more we strengthen one aspect of our lives, the easier it is to bring that discipline in elsewhere to transform ourselves into the best versions we can be.

Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,

Gingerbeardman

Scraped Clean / Scraped Bare

Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu my few readers,

I am writing this primarily for myself, few people come to this blog anymore, well even fewer than before and that’s okay, this is being written mostly for my own benefit, to get my thoughts in order, set them down so I can read this later in life and if I help others sort out the mess in their own heads that is a bonus.

It’s been over a year since I semi-retired from this blog,  as well as most of my da’wah activities and events and withdrew myself somewhat from life to reflect and think about where I am going, how I am moving forward or not in life.

Gingerbeardman - I’m Not Running Away But…
Gingerbeardman – I’m Not Running Away But…

I did at the time write a long ish post on the matter, linked in the pic here –>

Since then it’s been been dark but interesting times as I’ve gone through every section of my life, evaluated it and ruthlessly thrown out everything which was not True or didn’t bring any genuine benefit to me.

But on the truth, it’s so often the case that we’re all lies, deceptions, built upon half truths, built upon misconceptions and we rarely truly do anything of real value  because we are not willing to admit how much of that surface stuff and even a lot of the under surface stuff is just false facing for others and more often to ourselves.

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.
Quran translation, Surah An-Nisa, 4:135

So I’ve scrapped, pulled, cut and at times ripped mask after mask away to see the person within. Peeling back layer after layer to see new layers of lies underneath because Allah knows all this other stuff was not true and how much I was harming myself and being unable to help others around me because of the years of crap built up which just wasn’t me and wasn’t true.

It’s also been a painful time, lying is always wrong but I have found the hardest lies to admit to are the ones we tell ourselves. Some of them really didn’t want to go, they seemed a part of me and in a way they were, they’re comforting but anything not true had to go.

So I told myself I was a da’ee, a caller to Allah and that this may compensate for my shortcomings in other areas of the deen. Now when I look back, I’ve examined my actions truly and deeply so much of it was riya, showing off either at the time or I would destroy my deeds later by talking about them to draw attention to myself, or allow others to do so on my behalf and big me up in a way which was not at all justified.

These stories we tell ourselves and tell others are how we interact with the world, but that doesn’t make them true or useful and they can often be the barrier holding us back from doing anything meaningful.

I told myself I was morally a good man, but much of the good I did I did out of an expectation that others would behave likewise towards me, it was selfish and often self destructive emotionally when it was not reciprocated, causing me to lash out and hurt others which in turn I think showed people at times on some level my good deeds lacked sincerity.

How often can we say we truly do a good deed just for the sake of seeking the reward of Allah and not in seeking reward or praise from others? In that I would also include self-praise, self-deception, fooling ourselves, flattering and fattening up our egos which is one of the most long term damaging forms of showing off.

In failing to be a ‘good man’ I also admit I was also not much of a man, falling short in my obligations to myself, my family and my community. I am not a good man, or much of a man at all, and I am okay with that because acknowledging that is the first step to changing and learning what manhood really is again then living that.

I am having to slow things down for a time, I have to reexamine every deed I do now to see if I am genuine or not,  then correct my intention and if I cannot then don’t do it because there is no reward in this action.

 

Now for the last couple of months after what has seemed like an age of effort I finally feel I’ve hit bedrock, the real me below all the other crap and hitting rock bottom is actually not such a bad place to be if you’ve prepared for it and aimed for it deliberately and there is a purity of vision, a simplicity that has it’s own beauty and attraction.

I can also with out all the fluff in the way see the hurt and damaged parts of myself I need to fix, and more easily see negligence and even malice that caused or still causes me that hurt and I have become much less tolerant of it.

I am cold, naked and vulnerable, it’s kinda uncomfortable but it is the real me. Being uncomfortable is valuable, it tells us something is off, we shouldn’t be avoiding such feelings or smothering them down but embracing them, contemplating them and finding out how to change ourselves to make sure we’re not uncomfortable with that aspect of ourselves in the future because we’ll have achieved permanent change.

An easy example of this is my physical health, my body itself is not just a bit out as I would convince myself previously for many years. I am not just fat, I am technically in the obese range, I am a fat man’s fatty. I have to lean forward to see my toes.

I was gifted with a frame which allowed for physical strength, fought my way through school, played rugby but I have done nothing since, I am not strong or tough and the inner impression of who I was was off, way off with who I actually was in reality.

I absolutely should feel that is wrong, it’s uncomfortable knowing I’ve let things go so far, so do I allow myself to push such feelings down, go for good quick emotional highs with time with others, or food or escape in a book, documentary or computer game or do I get out walking, do some jogging on the spot or some weights?

I am not who I should be. I know now given I’m in my early forties I will never be the man I could have been but now I must concentrate on being the best man I can be from here on out.

For those who know me personally I may seem withdrawn but that is because all the other stuff I did or said was not me and now I am ready to start growing again in a more productive way.

This time without all the lies, to others and to myself.

I am going to try to write more, on this blog and elsewhere to document my growth and it is this potential growth that allows me to see my failures, my product of past lies and see a way forward, that I am going to be able to choose a different path this time if I keep myself spiritually, emotionally and mentally strong.

Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

Gingerbeardman

I’m Not Running Away But…

Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,

I’ve been going through a period of introspection lately, as I often do, every few months or year or two but this time it’s been much deeper and broader in scope than anything I’ve probably done since I said my Shahadah nearly 16 (lunar) years ago and indeed has lasted months not the days or weeks it has before.

Normally I pause, I reflect, maybe do a bit of research and ask people I trust around me and I correct my course slightly but still moving onward and upward again in the same direction more or less but this time it I find myself unable to move on again, I am frozen in place, and think I must choose a different path to what I’ve been on before.

Do they not think deeply about themselves? Allah has created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, except with truth and for an appointed term. And indeed many of mankind deny the Meeting with their Lord.
Quran translation, Surah Ar-Rum, 8:8

I’ve come to realise the image of myself I have in my head, which in some ways is a reflection of what others think of me in the community and that I’ve taken their word for is not actually true. It is not me as I know me truly or a accurate reflection of how I feel in my interactions with others and I am not being honest with them, or my family or myself to continue this lie, and it is a lie in part at least.

Until now I thought myself in some ways a deep thinker, an activist, a Da’ee, a caller to the truth, the community reformer, even if only on a very modest scale but the truth is I am far from these things, I barely have mastery of my own household and it’s development or reform, or indeed of myself which is where the heart of this problem I think comes from.

Like many other reverts, almost since I said my Shahadah I’ve been pushed into this role, and that’s not to blame others, I’ve relished it,  and ran with it from the beginning, and the mistake of faking becoming this thing I am not, of fooling myself is my own and no one else’s.

This has really hit home this ramadhan and especially last night at a community iftar meal, when I was speaking to an elderly brother who I know thinks a great deal of the work I do in the community. We spoke about family, and also homeschooling and he made mention how it must be good for the kids to benefit from a father who is able to teach them so much in terms of the deen and life.

I had to be truthful, tell him straight up this is not me, I do a little, but barely anything in terms of my kids Islamic education, or indeed other educational needs other than offering words of advice as any father would, that such lessons are taken up by my wife, my children’s devoted mother who has in her efforts to become a better home-schooler educated herself in ways I have not over the years.

This conversation, though brief prayed upon me all night, stopped me sleeping even the little hours I had to sleep, though the migraine which came in the middle which jammed the on-switch on my brain probably didn’t help, but this discussion played over and over in my mind summed up neatly my thoughts through many wakeful nights these past few months.

I know my own weaknesses, I cannot allow the assumptions of others that I am someone good or great at what I do to hide the truth, at least to myself that I am not that person they think I am. Allah knows the truth, I know the truth and I am not really helping anyone, least of all myself to continue to pretend otherwise.

In the past I’ve fooled myself I would change, become this person as time went on as I lived it, but looking back to my recent past this has just not happened, and I think for the past few years I’ve known this and hidden it deep within myself.

“It is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation V-VII

I am only child in the fields I dabble in, fundamentally lacking in anything more than basic knowledge and so unable to enact change in anyway like the effectiveness I wish I could achieve.

My self development over the years has been severely lacking, forget learning arabic I am still struggling with reading the Quran fluently after 16 years of Islam and though languages is the one major area of learning I struggle with, I’ve allowed this difficulty to stop me even trying in anything like a meaningful way.

This Ramadhan has been the first time in years I have regularly prayed my sunnah prayers, rather than just the fard ones, my practice and knowledge is severely lacking yet the classes, the access to knowledge and skills was out there, I allowed myself to be distracted by being busy, but in an ineffectual manner.

In other fields I have a cursory understanding and knowledge, and being the one eyed man I’ve allowed myself to be setup as a ruler or at least and adviser among the blind when I know I can be, and should be far more.

In every aspect of my life I am falling short, deeni and other education, health and fitness, character and moral fibre, family and home, community and social life, career and wealth.

I am spread thin, running from area to area, helping this person or that project at an individual or small scale yes, but failing to build systems which could help enact change on the level on which it needs to take place.

It’s just not enough. I need to withdraw, reeducate myself, strengthen my being, redefine who I am internally and then have that reflected externally, so I become the man I know I could be, which others now wrongly think I am.

If I don’t the alternative is to know I ultimately fail in life. Myself, my family, my community and ultimately Allah who has the parameters of my being and how far I could truly go if only I pushed myself as I should and who knows how short I fall in reaching those limits.

So I am not running away, not exactly. I cannot stop everything which I have been doing, the need is too great and others are not yet willing to pick up those burdens but I am over the coming months going to be withdrawing from some activities where I can, taking up less new projects, freeing up the time I need, the space I need to grow and learn and become who I know I need to be.

I need my space each month, my time away in the cave of Hira, relaxation and reflection and not to be so busy with life and activism that I am stuck in being the role rather than becoming the man who can truly fulfill it as it needs to be filled.

For those worried about such things, I am not burned out, far from it, I am more determined than ever but I know continuing the way I have been for so long would ultimately lead me to that end, I’ve seen enough activists fall over the years to see the warning signs in myself and to take steps to avoid them if Allah wills it.

Writing is also something which I have neglected and I’ll probably be blogging more over this time also, I find I need to vent, and find the truth in what psychologists say, that far from thinking before we speak, instead giving word to my innermost thoughts helps me clarify what is true and good for me and others. I need to hear the words, or see them written to see the truth in them or not.

It is my sincere hope, that if Allah wills it, I can come back in a few years as a better man,  someone people can genuinely look up to but I am not willing to keep living right now as someone I am not and if not at least I will have tried.

Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,

Gingerbeardman

Victim Blaming… Kinda

Assalaamu Alaykum brothers and sisters,

I saw the above image on my facebook feed and it really struck me as being totally true and the answer to so many of our problems in life, whether with others or even ourselves.

Yes, often people are stuck in terrible situations they just cannot get out of, either ones they’ve made themselves, or been trapped in by others, and in such situations sabr is the solution alongside turning to Allah in du’a and other means.

But too often, when we are looking at a problem objectively it not becomes clear there are opportunities along the way to stop the abuse, or evils taking place, to actively remove a harm but that the victim’s sabr in the face of problems actively contributed to it’s continuation or even makes things worse.

Advising sabr in such a situation as a long term ‘solution’ is not helpful, it’s absolutely harmful but it’s the first response, almost the default response from so many imams, community leaders, elders etc.

Assalaamu Alaykum,

Gingerbeardman

Changing My Life With Fitbit Charge 2

Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

So it’s been a long, LONG time since I discussed my health and fitness regime on my blog…

Probably because it went down the drain and has been needing a reboot for quite a while so in this post I’m going to talk about my new fitbit charge 2, how fantastic it is, how well it’s worked for me Alhamdulillah and why maybe you should probably think about buying one too.

JUST A CRAZE?

So this fitness fitbit thing has been on my radar for the past year or so, even without a TV or taking much interest in popular culture, some things like this do creep in to my view and attracts my interest, like what’s that? Does it work? Is it worth the cost?

Especially as I keep seeing them increasingly at work, who give them out as one of the prizes for taking part in certain healthy living schemes they promote to make us extra super fit uber productive workers!

But at £120 or there about’s it’s quite an expensive bit of kit, for what is effectively a digital watch if it doesn’t work so I was going to wait and see if seems to be the real deal.

I also thought it wouldn’t help me in my current stage of getting healthy, which is trying to slim down enough so I can get out and jog without too much risk of damaging my knees or getting shin splints.

Then the Mrs went and bought me one as a present…

SO DOES IT WORK?

Short answer is yes… if you stick with it. The concept is not something new, the monitoring of in-comings and outgoings has been around for decades and effectively does the same as MyFitnessPal mobile phone app but much more efficiently as you only need to enter in your in-comings, the daily exercise grind is all entered for you when the phone updates from a bluetooth connection to your fitbit device.

By seeing your steps going up and up, as well as the number of floors you’ve done or minutes exercised etc, it gives you a real sense of getting somewhere, a tamagotchi type buzz of achievement as you hit each target and smash them and keep going onward and upward.

Now if you’re going to cheat, forget to enter in that sneaky burger or chocolate bar you had at lunch, then maybe the fitbit is not for you, but if you’re willing to stick with it then by effectively monitoring you food and exercise you will quickly see where you are going wrong, what habits you need to break and what you need to work on and it’s all available to see on the phone ap or on a PC dashboard.

It even measures your sleep pattern and asks you to enter your water intake each day, these being two areas of health and fitness people often fail to monitor.

RESULTS SO FAR

So results so far, in a month and a half of using the fitbit has been losses of 10lbs, as well as some reasonable gains in muscle mass around my shoulders and arms and corresponding fat losses from my substantial waist and the rest of my body.

If you want an idea of what 10lbs of fat looks like, see the image here, or else weigh out 10lbs of butter as animal fat is about the same mass and size as butter.

The beauty of the fitbit is that it enables you to choose your own exercise regime and then monitor the results, so if you want to push the weights, there is an option for that, if you want to run or jog, an option for that and so on and so on.

Unlike with other health and fitness regimes I’ve tried, there is no where to hide with fitbit, it’s harder to cheat and if you fail you not only see it on the scales but you can see why it is on the app or dashboard.

GOING FORWARD

I can really see myself using this for a long time to come and as I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained energy, as opposed  to feeling drained and lethargic which happens when people only diet and don’t exercise.

Extra energy I’ve been able to put into studying the deen, getting into reading al-Adab al-Mufrad as well as getting into listening to lectures and reading more about my own totally unprofessional interest in psychology.

Given how quickly the fitbit has helped me slim down I can see myself being back in the gym in the matter of the next couple of months, as opposed to 6-9 months which was my previous target and getting on those running machines to target that hard to reach subdermal fatty layers and push myself to my higher goals in gaining and maintaining a more healthy body.

A healthier body has brought me more confidence, a better relationship with my family as I’m not constantly tired, except sometimes in a good post exercise good way and finally restored my confidence in being able to Insha’Allah get my body back into shape whilst I still can given my age.

If you were like me, struggling to know where to start with getting healthy, then fitbit could easily be good for you and if you only gain the benefits I have so far, worth the £120 expenditure.

Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

Gingerbeardman

Jordan Peterson – How to Improve Yourself Right NOW (and Why)

Assalaamu Alaykum,

I have a strange hobby, actually I have a few of them but this one I am discussing today is picking up interesting text books on subjects I know little or nothing about and starting to read, to see how much I can understand and where I don’t understand the topic what I need to learn to get there and doing so.

I am not claiming to be some sort of genius or anything, but it just helps me grow in understanding as a person and I might then read about this subject for a few weeks, months or sometimes longer.

So whilst studying English at college I used to browse the library and from this I developed a casual interest in psychology which unlike many other subjects has stuck with me since.

So no formal training or education, just a passing interest but one which I find often helps me relax from my daily life and also in understanding the world and though sadly it’s something which with marriage I had to slow down with and sometimes stop at times because with marriage, kids, life etc you have to prioritize your time, still it interests me.

My favourite teacher and speaker in this field at the moment is a man called Prof. Jordan Peterson who brings a whole other element to psychology which can often be aloof and distant from the concerns of man’s daily life in that he brings it down to a practical level.

Actually, that’s not really true. He brings the average man or woman up  to a level they can understand basic psychology which is a much better way of teaching and helps you ask important questions about yourself, your life, how you got to where you are and how you can get to where you want to go.

How did this happen and how can I stop it happening again?
How do I improve myself and what is the most efficient method of doing so?
Where do I want to be in x years and how do I get there?

I’ve reached a point in my life myself where these questions are reaching a greater degree of importance, I am conscious of time, that I have to work smart and not just work hard so for a while you’ll probably start seeing more and more posts on psychology and related fields popping up on this blog.

Hope you enjoy this short video and find it as beneficial as I did where Prof. Peterson some practical steps on improving your life, and why you should start doing so right now. Good advice for a natural procrastinator like myself.

Assalaamu Alaykum,

Gingerbeardman

Gingerbeardman Does Gingerbreadmen

Gingerbeardman does not often bake gingerbreadmen but when he does, they are the best tasting gingerbreadmen around…

Here showing is some of the ‘wonderful’ icing ihram and kaaba inspired design work for our Eid al Adha themed gingerbread biscuits.

Eid Mubarak to you all from Gingerbeardman and family!

Maybe There is a Reason Allah Made Men Forgetful

Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

Every man here will sympathise I am sure, unless he has an eidetic memory the frustrations of getting into an argument with his wife, and she can bring up past mistakes in detail whilst he is pretty sure there are some similar good points from his side, but right there and then the details just are not there.

Point and often argument lost in many cases and men in they are wise learn other coping mechanisms to deal with this side of relationships over the years.

My own personal one being not allowing the matters to escalate to that level in the first place because it’s not possible to ‘win’ in such a situation against a woman, even if you come up with the pertinent facts she just changes angle and brings up some related topic, or something totally unrelated until she ‘wins.’

But what if we could remember brothers, what then?

Being a somewhat typical INTJ personality type, I thought I’d come up with a cunning plan to get around my male memory and I did once make a spreadsheet of every thing done in our relationship, good or bad but this included every argument and misdemeanor for about two months in a row.

Not a good idea apparently and it was one of the worse times in our marriage at least from my point of view as I found myself becoming more agitated and not my usual calm self, as each day I would submit the latest entries, and dwell on past problems.

I became more liable to see flaws I would otherwise have not seen, or else let go long before, in the past. Every relatively minor little thing became another bitter addition to the previous few days list of what were really totally minor and petty disagreements.

I’d often become vexed, walking around doing a Mr angry impression with the Mrs not knowing why and often I was more annoyed with an unresolved issue from days or even weeks before I’d read about that morning than I was about the actual thing which was on my mind right then.

So maybe for good reason we are forgetful creatures, perhaps it’s really a good thing, or mostly so.

This old English saying (actually most languages probably have this one) has a lot of truth in it…

“MEN DO NOT FORGIVE, THEY FORGET. WOMEN FORGIVE EVERYTHING BUT NEVER FORGET!”

Whenever I have to listen to a brother or sister discuss the problems in their marriage, men tend to have a few ‘big’ items they just cannot let go off, where as the sisters… the sisters can write long lists sometimes even with dates of every infraction real or imagined most of which the man cannot even remember happening.

In our lives trying to follow Islam brothers need to learn to forgive, struggle and strive to forgive others especially our spouses and sisters need to learn to let things go, if a matter is resolved and in the past don’t keep bringing it up every time you are angry with him.

Psychologists have pondered over the reason why men are more forgetful, and this has been measured and proven to be so but for whatever reason Allah has designed and made us different in this way. I am not sure there is one reason why, but perhaps if men were less forgetful they would not be able to fully function in their overall tole as leaders of the household.

We are made to be forgetful of these little details in arguments and life and if this makes married life run along more smoothly so Alhamdulillah I am grateful to Allah he has made us this way.

Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

Gingerbeardman