Monday, 31 March 2014

The Chartered Flight that Delayed : My First Umrah Trip Experience

Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh to all beloved muslim brothers and sisters. At the age of 40 which was the same age our Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him (PBUH) was granted the prophethood, I had this greatest opportunity of all to make an umrah and ziarah Rasulullah PBUH in Saudi Arabia (Makkah Almukarramah and Madinah Almunawwarah respectively). Alhamdulillah Allah made it easy for me and my husband, and made the pre arrangements very smooth and hassle free for us. We made the booking in September 2013 with Andalusia Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd ("Andalusia"), our trusted travel agent for the trip, and we managed to attend the umrah preparation course 3 times before we flied. One of the reasons we chose Andalusia was because they are among those few travel agents who provide weekly umrah preparation course without fail, and this course is open to public indeed Masha Allah (although such course is meant for Andalusia's customers,  because they would not check the identity of those coming so literally it is open to all).

As we were first timers (never perform umrah and ziarah before) and with the guide of my office mate who is also an appointed  tour leader with Andalusia, things became easy and ran smoothly for us. We got our big luggage bag, cabin bag and a sling bag with the Andalusia logo and trademark printed on them just few days upon the booking fee was paid. Nice, Alhamdulillah. 

Being a servant of Allah SWT with full of sins, I was too nervous. I heard about stories of those who did not made it, few of them could not see the Kaabah, they got lost in their way and so on and so forth. Na'uzubillah...I was telling myself, I must repent and regret over all my sins and disobedience to Him. Alhamdulillah Allah SWT being the Most Merciful...I made my own spiritual preparation and I knew by heart I was all set and ready for the day.

So time was ticking, we were counting months, then weeks then by days. We were supposed to fly off on 8 Jan 2014 (KUL-MED ), EDT 2055 (8.55pm) via a chartered flight with Saudi Airlines. However just few days before our departure, there were news in the media that reported an emergency landing by a Saudi Airlines aircraft in the Madinah Airport. I brushed off immediately the thought that something was going to happen and kept comforting myself that our flight would be forthcoming and would be just okay.

Nevertheless as my instinct told me, the night before the departure we received a message from Andalusia that the flight might be delayed to morning the following day. But we still had to assemble at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) as per the original schedule. So sticking to the original schedule we gathered at the check-in counter at 6pm and checked in our baggage, still hoping that the flight would depart as scheduled. 

Little that we knew that Allah had other plans for us. As Allah SWT mentioned in Surah Al-Imran 3:54 :

"And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners"

It was almost 7pm and still no signs that we would get our boarding pass. Finally the confirmation came from the airlines representative that our flight had to be postponed to the following day, estimated to depart at 11.30am. We were given a food voucher and later transferred to the not-so-nearby JW Marriot Hotel in Putrajaya. Imagine the big flock of the chartered flight pessengers...5 express buses were chartered to take and transit us to the hotel. It was a chaotic moment indeed, the hotel lobby was crowded and noisy, 5 mutawwifs were running back and forth with the room check-in listing, some jemaah demanded dinner to be served despite food voucher (worth RM25 per pax) given at the airport...but eventually we settled down and slowly but surely everyone got to their room at around 12am. Because of the message we received the night before about the possible delay, most of us had our clothing for the next day, Alhamdulillah. 


Check-in process for departure at the counter

The next morning after breakfast,  we all were set for KLIA again. The 5 express buses left the hotel between 7.30am to 8.00am. Later there was a briefing by the mutawwifs at 11am telling us that the flight was further delayed to 2pm. At this time all the boarding passes were already distributed and our international passport was given back to us. After collecting our boarding pass we proceeded to the boarding gate, this time we prayed even harder that Allah SWT made the departure successful for us.


It was 2pm and most of us have excitedly passed the final security check. Hundreds of jemaah waited patiently in the waiting area just before you enter the aircraft (I hope you can imagine the small area where passengers would queue up just before they walk through the passage to enter the aircraft). There was however one big problem, we did not see the plane there!

As patient as we could, we proceeded to read our Salah at the Gate while waiting to be called for the departure and sought His forgiveness for all the sins that all of us have committed. Thinking positively and with prayers for the mercy of Allah, we comforted each other that perhaps the aircraft was in its way to the deck, and when we saw a team of cabin crews wearing the Saudi Airlines uniform made their way and passed by our waiting gate area, aah, here they come our aircraft crews...at last. Sadly however, the team was heading for a different flight. It was already 3.00pm now and obviously the flight departure was further delayed. Some old folks started having discomfort, young fellows walking back and forth anxiously with their smartphones, the mutawwifs looked very worried and concerned but they could not do much. Few debates and heated arguments started between the passengers and the airlines representative.
Again...another 1day delay ??
 
Subsequently at almost 4pm, news broke that there was a technical problem with the aircraft. At the same time, other speculations aroused such as the Indian Government disallowed entry to their air due to security reason, which we found very absurd. Another reason for the delay as we heard, saying that the pilot and the crews just flew another chartered flight  some hours earlier and required rest for few hours before getting on board for our flight. I personally found it weird as how could the pilots and the crews dictate how long they want to have rest when a flight departure schedule is strictly controlled and determined by the airport management (I think so...).

Me and fellow jemaah at the boarding gate at the KLIA


Eventually the airlines representative confirmed that there would be further delay but they could not tell when exactly the aircraft would be ready to take off. All of us were taken to the nearby hotels  again for transit. There were mixed feelings among us; anxiety, sad, anger, hopeless (towards people whom you trusted yet they failed to serve) and one thing for sure it increased and strengthened our iman to the Almighty and to Him alone you ask for mercy and goodness. We were literally on a standby mode at the hotel until 8pm in case if there would be call for departure. However as midnight approached, still no news about our flight. Shortly after 8pm, we were advised to get our rest accordingly and prepare for tomorrow. The accommodation and the meals provided at the hotel were okay, Alhamdulillah.      

The next morning, we patiently packed our belongings and checked out from the hotel. Most of us wore the same clothing we had the day before. We flocked straight to the boarding gate and waited there for a few hours, and finally we boarded the aircraft at about 2pm. As human, no doubt there was a bit of frustration as 2 days were gone but immediately within seconds later we knew we were blessed as it was Allah's will and mercy that we eventually landed at the Madinah airport safe and sound.   

35,000 ft high above Oman...and that must be the desert.


Nabawi Mosque's external compound fronting the Osman Affan gate/door



O Allah! Bring me back to this place again and again...how could I ever forget the tranquility and peace felt the moment I stepped on this sacred land of Madinah.

Beautiful view during sunset

After 4 days in Madinah we proceeded to Makkah to perform the umrah. Everything was great. It was a blissful journey with some challenges here and there which resulted in the strengthening of the iman. I thanked Allah for this opportunity and prayed hard that I will make a comeback in shaa Allah.

The time came for us to bid farewell and completed Tawaf Wida'. We left for Jeddah at about 3pm. The bus took us to the Qisas Mosque and thereafter to the Floating Mosque along the way. We reached the Jeddah Airport at almost 9pm.

Qisas Mosque, Jeddah


The Floating Mosque at night
     
Again, we were tested with another flight delay. Our home-bound flight supposed to take off at 3.00am but delayed to 7am in the morning. Learnt from the last lesson, the jemaah now became more in charge and vocal. The airlines management took ownership of the issue and as promised, we boarded the aircraft at 7am. Alhamdulillah we made our journey home and landed at the KLIA safely.

Waiting patiently
Well, the story did not end upon return. There were attempts among the jemaah for refund from the travel agent company due to losses arising from the delays. As for the airlines company, I guess they had done their job for providing the accommodation and meals. After 1 month, we got a refund of a certain sum from Andalusia out of their courtesy and goodwill. Although the amount is insignificant, what more important is the gesture by the travel agent, their professionalism as well as the accountability shown to ensure customer satisfaction for their clients. I must admit that this experience will not stop me from getting more service from Andalusia.

The country is struck with the sad tragedy of the missing of our national carrier, MH370. As I am writing this post, the MH370 flight is still gone missing. This tragedy should bring closeness to our Creator in heart as anything can happen to us in the nick of time, as Allah says in the Quran, "Kun fayakun". Whatever we face and endure in life is nothing but a test to gauge our iman and faith to Him alone. Praises to Allah that we made our flight for umrah despite the delays. I hope that the aircraft of MH370 and all the cabin crews and passengers are somewhere, safe and sound. Nothing is impossible if Allah wills. Lets pray and in the meantime, keep counting the blessings Allah has given us. Wassalam.    

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Monday, 6 January 2014

The Must-Have Checklist to Become a Career Mom

I would like to write on this post in my own version...yes, there is nothing new about this but let me put it in a more structured way. Hopefully those who just started a family can pick up some valuable points here. For you ladies who may disagree or wish to add on, your inputs and feedbacks are most welcome. 

It is always not easy for the working moms having to leave their children at home to be with the maid or babysitter and most of the times they have to pay the price by being suffocated with guilt feeling and sense of failure to a certain extent. I myself have been a full-time career mom for a long time (14 years to be exact) and during this time, I knew there would be lots of things I could have done better.

Having said that, no matter how hard you try to be a supermom and a super worker at the same time (and become superwife...not to forget that), you need to be cautious of your purpose and be aware of your own limitations. All these must be given considerable thought and by doing so will determine how far you can go in your career.

# Checklist item 1 - Necessity

(Pic sourced from the internet)


Do you really need to go out to work to earn a living ? If you are married, is your husband financially able to take care of the family ? First and foremost in making the decision, you have to observe  the basic concept of the Maqasid Al-Shariah, which should guide you in prioritising your financial goals. So with the current income your spouse has, is it not sufficient ? If the answer to all these questions are no, then it is time for you to consider getting a job to assist your spouse financially (I know some women are really career minded so money is not an issue to them).


# Checklist item 2 - My husband is my best friend and consultant

(Pic sourced originally from internet shared by www.facebook.com/ajiyusop)


Talking about level of commitment, women would always have 2 options regardless whether they are self-employed, or if they are employed, career women. From a career woman perspective, the first option can be described with the following statement  : "I deliver what is required of me...when the time is up I just drop everything and return home. I am not interested with any career enhancement nor am I hard up for bonus". The second option, on the other hand is described as this : "I like the idea of being able to help improve my family's financial position.  I need recognition for my contribution to the organisation and career development is necessary to help in my promotion. Definitely I look forward for a good salary increment and bonuses as these will give extra comfort to my family". So which option do you prefer and choose ?

I reckon that both options have their pros and cons. I have seen many of my peer colleagues in the office choose Option 1. Honestly Option 1 is fine to me but somehow or rather the organisation you work with may have some expectations on you. The longer your service is in the organisation,  the more experienced worker you have become and your employer would not mind investing in you to groom you as the next leaders of the organisation. Unfortunately, we have seen some women employees who are not providing the required level of commitment, some with disciplinary issues  and some would require constant motivation to get the job done.

My point of view is as long as you think you need the job and maintain your career, whether you like it or not you need to manage your employer's expectations on you. It is what we call a 'win-win situation'. Nowadays many women find it hard to balance their commitment at the workplace and commitment at home, and this is the reason why more women nowadays opt for self-employment, or rather work from home at their own leisure.

Okay lets get back to the perspective. Now that both of you and husband, and not to forget your children, have decided and agreed that mom needs to work and provide reasonable amount of commitment to the employer, the most essential element required now would be your husband's blessing ! Approval is one thing...yet blessing is another thing. You really need your husband to support you in your career. As a matter of fact,  men are typically reluctant to let their wives leave the house and the kids for work, with a known tendency of men and female mingling around in getting things done in the office (or if I may say, occasions that may lead to flirting). Therefore it is very important that your husband is fully aware and understand the purpose, and at the same time trust you wholeheartedly (note : women must not abuse the trust given by the husband to avoid crisis and conflicts in marriage. I am not going to discuss about it here for it is assumed that all women know their boundaries, alright).        

A husband is the leader and advisor of the family and no matter how fast you climb the ladder and even if at one point you earn a lot more than him, you still have to respect him as your husband (note : For info, Islam emphasizes the role of man in the family and the teaching of Islam provides the fundamentals, rules and accountability of man and woman towards creating a strong family foundation). More importantly, you and your husband know your roles and responsibilities very well, co-operate with each other and manage the family and the kids with full of affections. 


# Checklist item 3 - You need Skills

Pic sourced from www.carseatblog.com
I still remember those days when we just got married and had our first baby. My husband and I  earned small income and we had our old motorbike to get to work (he dropped me at the bus station and I had to take a bus to reach my office). I asked for help from my mother to take care of our baby, and 2 years later when we had our second child, we had our neighbour to babysit our kids. Few years later when we were more financially stable and could afford a housemaid, we employed one.

There were countless ups and downs, twists and turns throughout the years, numerous lessons learnt, painful episodes, conflicts, sadness and failures of which all these taught us to maneuver our life better. Obviously skills are developed through experience. And obviously the things that you learnt as a mother in the past make you a better person today.

As a career mom, you need to master certain basic skills for you to be able to manage both your family and career. Different moms have different strengths and weaknesses in some skills and that is why you need support from your husband or your parents or whoever that are close to you. I have to admit that my husband is better than me in terms of time management but I am doing great in multi-tasking (something I can be proud of myself with !). My husband has a remarkably good self-discipline, well-organised and is an early bird. Unlike me, I am an owl who prefers staying up late to settle my things (consequently I have to keep snoozing my alarm clock few times before I could really raise myself from bed in the morning !), a bit haphazard (too much multi-tasking I supposed !) but am certainly fast and self-driven. No matter how, interaction and communication skills are important as these help to address issues and problems faced in the family. Being a career mom also means that you have to have the skill in balancing the 2 components in your life i.e. your family and your career. 

Well, this subject about skill is very broad indeed and I have briefly mentioned above those few basic skills required of which in-depth discussion on these skills will be done in my future posting in shaa Allah (God Willing).


# Checklist item 4 - Faith and Submission

I liked reading a post by Umm Salihah regarding working mom's guilt feeling. I totally agree with her. Sometimes you find yourself in argument with other women who question synically how you balance the family and work. You would then keep telling that you are doing your best and things work well, yet ironically deep in heart you blame yourself for many things. My biggest guilt is when I see my kids not doing well in their exam and I start blaming myself for that.

Six months ago an office colleague was suggesting to me to walk up to the boss to negotiate about my job promotion. Considering that most of my peer colleagues have had their career enhancement and it was high time for me to give a serious thought on that, I was contemplating. Honestly you surely want to keep up yourself with the rest, get a job promotion, lead a bigger team, get good bonus but is it what you really want at the end of the day?

Like Umm Salihah,  we all have a purpose.  We are not ordinary working mom, we are indeed great working moms! I learnt that you need to define your goals in life...be specific and be realistic. Then you gotta write them down. Give a timeline. You can download the Muslimah's Inspiration Journal 2014, a gift by Umm Salihah to write all these. It is free Alhamdulillah.

As I grow older and become more matured, I realize that there is nothing else I need in life. The path is getting clearer and the objective is more defined. My mission now is very simple...to worship Him! Then no worries about becoming the best career woman, or the greatest mom. I thanked Allah SWT for the life and opportunities, for everything that I have now, be it good or bad. And I thanked Him for the Hidayah...which with a strong faith and submission to Him, nothing can go wrong in shaa Allah. After all, why do we exist in this world? To worship Him, of course. I want to focus on how I can improve myself as His servant, being a faithful muslimah, a good wife and mother and eventually contribute to a strengthened ummah, in shaa Allah.

So sisters, hopefully this post would give you some benefits and knowledge. All the best to all career moms (and career moms-to-be !) in the world wherever you are.

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Thursday, 19 December 2013

An Autumn Journey of a Working Mother

As salam and good evening. I started blogging since 2008 and was very low profile. The visitors who came to my blog did not even reach 10,000 then. In early 2009 I decided to stop so that I could focus on my study. But the urge to write has been burning inside... Now I am no longer a student, so more time can be spent to write. Yet at the same time I have other greater commitments. At home, I am a mother and trainer for my kids and at the office, I am a trainer for my juniors. Well, that is an ordinary thing to imagine being a working mother. Nothing impressive right ? I believe so.

And suddenly last week  I had this glimpse of thought...which prompted me straightaway to come up with a new blog. I asked around and eventually met +Danial Abdul Rahim whom I outsourced the task to create and design this blog. Job well done Danial...keep it up, haha. For an excellent service, money is not a problem *wink*wink*.

Oh, last week I created my google+ profile too. Still facing teething problems and am still figuring out those functions and tabs in the application. I met +Norraha Ibrahim in google+ and I admire her works...I must admit that all the pics that she posts in google+ are....amazing !! I would love to know a bit more about her but not much info available as yet (opps sorry to peep you Norraha hihihi) That railway pic is taken from her posting (with your permission Norraha ;p), and i like it because it resembles a very long, straight journey; the path ahead looks messy, the trees and bushes are somewhat eerie, but there is plenty of colours ! Our journey in life is like this railway, don't you think so ?   

Okay, nothing much for a start, it's like warming up an engine of a very old car haha. My gratitude to you for reading this and hope we will meet again soon. If you think you have the same 'journey' like mine, please have me in your circle okay ! Till then, wassalam.

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