I recently signed up for the Afterglow Light the Soul three-day spiritual retreat (YES, AN ACTUAL RETREAT IN KARACHI!) that I had absolutely no idea what to expect from.
For some reason, I kept having a good feeling and took a leap of faith and decided to go.
It turns out that my gut feeling was right – I was BLOWN AWAY by how incredible it was.
It was seriously way, way beyond my expectations. Just saying that it was an “amazing experience” is an understatement (I am not kidding).
Rather, it was an experience of a lifetime and THE most memorable, spiritually enriching three days of my life.
I literally can’t stop talking about it and yesterday I actually said this out loud to myself, “I want to go back to the retreat!”.
Here is what it was about in a nutshell:
The idea behind the retreat is to promote Islam as a simple religion that is a way of life through a very practical and fun approach.
Basically giving the message that Islam isn’t boring or a chore, but rather a lifestyle that is awesome and can be incorporated into our daily lives.
We were invited in so warmly by Sumika Farooqui, the brains behind Afterglow, who started this initiative as a passion project. She really put her heart and soul into this retreat and I could feel it as soon as I walked in.
The retreat had different activities, such as workshops, NAK tafseer videos and self-reflection based discussions of how each of us attending can improve ourselves spiritually.
Since there is a lack of community for young Muslims here in Pakistan, this retreat was the perfect avenue for everyone to come together in a non-judgmental environment and learn from one another through discussion-based activities and share how each of us wants to develop a closeness to Islam.
I will do a mini break down of all three days, a short insight into what the workshops were like and the main lessons I learnt from each of them. Be prepared to keep hearing tareefain (hey, I have to be honest) but I just can’t stop because I am a fan for life of Afterglow!
As soon as I stepped into the hall of Pearl Continental Hotel, I was like WOW – WHAT IS THIS HEAVEN?!
The reflection journal was very impressive and perfectly organized into sections for each workshop.
I also fell in love with the Ramadan Legacy journal that made my month so much more organized as I set goals for each day.
We started off our retreat with a very beautiful and melodious Quran recitation by Shahbaz Mirza followed by a short tafseer.
We were a group of 22 young, talented women from diverse backgrounds and I couldn’t help but feel such an urgency of pride when we were introducing ourselves.
Then, we had a yoga session given by Tazkia Ali (yes, yoga at an Islamic event!) with our janamazein as our mats. She told us about the benefits of yoga and how some positions are similar to the ruku and sujood.
Amazingly enough, our sujood are very beneficial for our blood flow to the brain and can greatly reduce the chance of getting wrinkles on our skin.
It was such a refreshing way to start our day and most of us were laughing at how we were struggling to do the downward facing dog and warrior poses!
We felt so refreshed and then we were in for another surprise – HEAD AND FOOT MASSAGES by the Raintree Spa team!
After our relaxed mode, we began our workshops which I will tell you the key points of what I have learnt from each of them.
Ofcourse I can’t possibly explain in detail about each because you just HAD to be there to experience it for yourself.
Every single session was so unique and practical in its own way because of the highly experienced, diverse range of speakers. That’s why none of us got bored or felt that it’s repetitive because it was so well thought out and just so much fun!
Here are the workshops we attended and what they were about:
Islam: A Way Of Life
He spoke to us about Islam as a way of life and I can’t even begin to describe how motivational his talk was.
He gave such inspirational examples of people in Islamic history and practical situations of life.
We had an interactive session with each one of us rating ourselves in terms of our faith and how we can tackle our weaknesses through a good deeds list.
I felt so light and comfortable talking to the women in my group about spiritual struggles that I am going through.
Key lesson: Islam is a 24/7 deen and a complete lifestyle, it’s not just a “religion” that we follow.
Salah and Patience
This workshop by Mehwish Sarfaraz, a trainer and counselor for mothers, was definitely one of my most favorite! Her extremely bubbly, cute and honest personality just had us all extremely pumped up throughout her talk.
This topic is also close to my heart because I feel strongly about the importance of prayer and developing khushu.
Here are a few very valuable lessons:
- If we pray out of habit, we lose focus and forget the reasons why we are doing the act in the first place.
- The first thing you need to gain Allah’s help is to help yourself – make it a commitment to become the best possible version of yourself.
- Prayer will give you strength to deal with trials in life, it is our self-help and Allah gives us patience through it.
- A lifestyle shift is necessary to improve our prayer such as leaving haraam acts, increasing our practice of the Sunnah, decreasing unnecessary indulgences etc.
- Understand the meaning of what you are reciting in your prayers by listening to the tafseer of Surahs you read regularly.
- Practicing mindfulness and breathing techniques before you start your prayer will increase your concentration levels.
Islam and Significant Others
This lecture was ABOVE AND BEYOND emotional, heart wrenchingly beautiful and so eloquently delivered by Aaisha Aamir, who is a renowned teacher at Al-Ilm Institute.
We were all literally crying throughout her talk and some of us were weeping by the end of it (including me!). You just had to experience it for yourself, but I will try to sum it up.
The main subject was about not just our spouses, but how our relationships are with those who are closest to us in our lives and giving them their rights. There were beautiful, thought provoking examples given of the Prophet (S) and other companions.
A few key points:
- Whoever gives their due rights to Allah will be successful with all of their relationships.
- Love is the main factor with which you can win people’s hearts.
- Islam is the religion of living for others, not individual needs.
- Analyze how we are with our own family members at home versus how we are with others outside of home.
- Take out time for your parents everyday, even if it’s just a five minute phone call – their rights are above anyone else.
- The testimony of someone is crucial after you are no longer in this world – remember what legacy YOU want to leave.
A Productive You
I know I keep saying how each workshop was brilliant in its own way, but it’s true! Every single one of them was so practical and left an impact on my heart.
We did many activities on how to be more organized and structure our daily lives according to what values and experiences we want to gain.
It felt SO good to put this all down on paper because I had never done this before. I would always think of ways to bring about changes in my life, but it has a totally different impact when you pour your thoughts out on paper.
Shahbaz also pointed out a food for thought statement that made me think: OH MY GOSH HE IS SO RIGHT, which was: “Often it is an internal matter that is not allowing us to be productive.”
Let that sink in….
After you’re done, here are a few tips on how to be more productive:
- Make a monthly focused Islamic goals list and dua list.
- Tackle a weakness, such as not waking up for Fajr, every single month.
- Plan out your weekly schedule on a designated time and day.
- Establish a routine of waking up early and getting your work done by the afternoon to have a whole new day in the evenings.
- Block a time to make calls and answer texts on Whatsapp.
He also recommended two books: Deep Work by Cal Newport and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell as two incredibly useful references.
This session was also given by Shahbaz Mirza and it really made me realize how self-care is actually a form of worship because our bodies also have a right on us. I had never thought of it this way before!
We should NEVER EVER feel guilty of taking the time out for ourselves. Ofcourse, it’s important to not overindulge and keep a balance.
For the first time, I had the chance to think about what I am doing for self-care and what actions to continue and stop in my life.
Key lessons on what Islam says about Self-Care:
- We should have positivity and gratitude all the time.
- To exercise regularly, the Prophet (S) advised us to practice archery, swimming and horse riding.
- Eat moderately, don’t go overboard on the meat. Eat one proper meal a day.
- Self-care is a form of worship.
- Practice fasting twice a week, the Sunnah way on Monday and Thursday.
The Extra Mile
I can’t even begin to explain how awesome this was! The talk given by Raja Ziaul Haq was seriously life changing. As the founder of Youth Club, a teacher and prominent public speaker, he really captivated us in such a short span of time.
He was so open and honest about himself, which made us feel so much more comfortable in talking to him.
The biggest thing he made me realize is that our goal should be ALLAH and nothing else. Everything we do in life should be to please Allah – whether it’s your job, improving on your character, or simply taking care of your family.
We did a SWOT analysis on ourselves and it felt like food for the soul. I am the kind of person who never sits and takes the time out to specifically think about my strengths.
The most amazing thing was that he asked each one of us a strength and then told us how we can use it in a positive, realistic way. I MEAN HOW COOL IS THAT?
Key lesson: The bare minimum we can do is the Fard actions which will guarentee us Heaven Insha Allah, but we should always try to go the extra mile if there are any shortcomings in our Fard actions.
Notable quote from his talk: “If parents have the right to tell us what to do, then doesn’t our Creator? And if we don’t do what He has told us, doesn’t He have the right to Punish?”
The Extra Mile – In Action
This session was like THE most fun and very very special.
The founder of the Mawada Project, Noha Mahdi, made me actually say “DAYUUUM GIRL” when I saw how accomplished and passionate she is, Masha Allah.
She had such a warm and pleasant personality and talked us through the limited children who have access to education Pakistan. There are currently 25 million children outside of school and thought about constructive ways to change this.
And then we were in for a super duper amazingly awesome surprise!
We wrapped up our three days with thinking about our action plans and what changes we want to make in our lives.
It was such a refreshing activity and made me so much more goal oriented and conscious of what I want to achieve.
There is no end to learning about Islam and working on improving oneself and it felt SO good to share this in a group setting.
Insha Allah, we plan on meeting a few months down the line and seeing how much we have all progressed, even if it is a small change.
I couldn’t recommend this retreat highly enough as you can tell by now! It really was an experience of a lifetime and I loved each and every second of it.
You should definitely follow Afterglow to keep updated of when their next retreat is. I can honestly guarantee that it will uplift your heart and soul.
It will leave you coming out as a more aware, refreshed individual who appreciates our beautiful deen, Islam, even more.