Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thank You God for Saving Zaina p.2

So 1 week old they started giving her heart medicines to lower the amount of fluids in her body in order to ease the stress on her heart. Lower the risk of congestive heart failure they called it. And you can imagine how the words "heart failure" came down on our heads. bs il7amdella 3ala kil 7al.

So three months old little Zaina had to go into the hospital for a lung infection. They said it was common for her case. She stayed there for 5 days and did another sonar and that's when the dr. said that the hole in her heart was too big and needs to be patched. And on top of that news, he said that although most cases are done using an inserted wire through the vein "Qas6ara" and insert a sort of round mesh that expands and clamps on the walls of the hole, Zaina's hole was different and required open chest, open heart surgery.

I couldn't imagine the idea of my cute little peaceful girl having her chest opened. There was a moment when I actually found it hard to pull breath.

The Dr. wrote his report and gave it to me to start the whole "3elaj bel5arej" (treatment abroad) procedure. I had to get 4 signatures on it, 2 surgeons and 2 cardiologists, take it to the 3elaj bel5arej dept., make a passport for Zaina, get visas made for her, me, my wife, my mother, the escorting dr. and nurse at the British Embassy, get flight dates from Kuwait Airways, get permission from KWA to put an oxygen tank on board, have the visas get delayed, cancel the flights and get new dates and so on...

Let me just say.. to all the people who helped all the above go faster and the un-used was6at:
Thank you deeply from the bottom of our hearts.

The whole process took 20 days from report to flight lillah il7amd. and the only was6a she needed was her little heart :)

So it was the beginning of il3asher il'awa5er of Ramadan, we just arrived at Harley Street Clinic in the evening straight from the airport by ambulance and the surgeon's assistants came to talk to us and examine her, and the cardiologist did another sonar to confirm the case. They told us they're going to operate the next day in the afternoon. My wife slept with her that night as I went with my mother to the hotel.

The next day they did one more sonar, and said they'll come for her at 1 o'clock. They came at 3, and I carried her with my wife behind me with the doctors. I almost felt like walking on air and all my surroundings didn't matter apart from me carefully shielding Zaina's head from everything. I put her on the anesthetic's table and felt near outrage at how I was surrendering my girl into the care of these kind but strange men. Only remembering the total power and dominion of Allah over her life and everyone else's was what calmed me. Me and my wife kissed her forehead and shed involuntary tears and left.

My wise mother took my wife to Oxford St. to take her mind occupied and her feet moving. While I stayed in the hospital room waiting for any news. I couldn't think of anything to do other than to just start praying. So I prayed a while, reading all of the little Qur'an I knew. Then I took out my mini-Qur'an and read from it. Then standing up after rokoo3 I lifted up my hands and just started praying and asking God to save her with such hot and fervent pleading that I only felt in my darkest hours. I only knew how humble and helpless I was with nothing to offer my little girl but my pleading for Allah to save her. So I did with abandon. I cried and I felt then that this total helplessness was correct, not only for me, but for all people. But we just tend to be oblivious to it most of the time.

I asked Allah to save her and to make her a good and pious servant of His throughout her life.

Later I broke my fast on some chips and water from the hallway and then the nurse came for me and took me to see her in the intensive care unit, and told me that the operation couldn't have gone better, and that she's sedated and sleeping, and recovering.

Alf il7emdella ya Rab. Allah said, ask me truthfully, and you shall receive. That moment I had no doubt in that. Inshalla God help us all to never have such doubt, and help us let our selves go and ask for everything. Because only when you do ask, are you truly subservient.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thank You God for Saving Zaina p.1

Zayoona was born 17th of June last year.

She kicked and kicked and kicked so often that my poor wife was usually both happy and queasy at the same time. I knew by seeing her face smile and also holding her breath to control her upset stomach being relentlessly kicked and probed by little Zaina.

The Dr. while she did the pregnancy echo squinted at the screen and then turned to look at me, and then back at the screen, then back at me, then back at the screen and said:

"teshbah obooha" with matter-of-fact finality. (she looks like her father) as if she's jokingly giving disappointing news to my wife. Me and her just exchanged funny looks.

Three days after she was born, just as we were getting ready to leave the hospital room to go home, the pediatrician dr. came to the room and started telling me in a hushed voice:

"This is most probably something not to be worried about, but I suggest you get it looked at after a week or so just to be sure. Your daughter's heart has a faint but clear wooshing sound, we usually call it a Murmur"

It was still too little information for me to process and I didn't know what to make of what he was telling me so I ask him what does that mean.

"This is very common, don't worry about it too much, most likely its the result of a hole in her heart".

When I heard that I thought (how can there be a hole in my baby's heart and she's still breathing??)

"I can't tell how big of a hole it is until you get a chest echo done to your baby. So I suggest you have one within the week at al-Sabah." (I thought to myself, typical, when the going gets tough, private hospitals get cold feet everytime. Alla y3afe il7okooma)

He then explained to me how its common for babies to have tiny holes in the wall that separates the left and right ventricles. VSD they call them, Ventricular Septic Defects. And most babies with these holes don't require any treatment because the hole just gets smaller with time and closes up on its own as the baby grows up. And I start hearing from friends and family how THEY had holes in THEIR hearts when they were small and how it wasn't a big deal at all.

I get relieved somewhat and try to comfort my wife with the statistics and that the odds are unlikely that any treatment will be needed at all.

We go to the chest sonar appointment and even though the place is brand new and clean, but its still a bit crowded and seeing so many other families carrying small babies just like little Zayoona I get a sense of how this issue is larger than just my little family.

The sonar dr is so swamped with cases that to smooth the process they tell us they'll have to put a mild sedative in her milk so she sleeps while the sonar is on her chest. We were apprehensive about giving her a sedative being such a small baby, but I manage to convince my wife that it'll be fine, and it tastes bitter so Zaina started crying when we gave it to her, the whole thing just fried our nerves even more, being already fried from the fear of what the sonar might show.

She finally sleeps a bit but they didn't call us to the sonar room until the sedative started to slowly wear off anyway.. so as we finally are in the room and the dr. is trying to do his sonar, Zaina started to wake up and cry, and he couldn't do his job properly, and I just had to sit near her holding her tiny tiny arms away from her chest and shush her to calm down and sleep as the dr. did his work. He was a little amateurish and took longer than needed and it was getting harder to keep Zaina still and peaceful, and my wife's shot nerves were getting more and more stressed, so when the dr. said any remarks about the baby not being still enough we both snapped at him to just do what he can because we're not giving her any more sedative and waiting for another 30 minutes outside for her to sleep, which she won't because she's already cried too much and too upset.

Anyhow, il7emdella we were done and went and occupied an empty room without permission to feed poor Zayoon and calm her down. But we were too anxious and stressed waiting for the dr. to tell us what the sonar showed.

When he finally came around to talking to us he told us that it was a "Large" hole, and that its location near the aortic valve raised the pressure going towards the lungs, which caused her to breath shallow and fast. This fast breathing later proved to burn alot of her calories and caused her to become a very small and light baby. We tried to offset this by using a high-calorie special type of milk given by the government pharmacy called "Infatrini" which over the next 3 months did help keep her weight up, but still she was thinner than the thinnest 5% of babies.

We were told that after 4 months it would be clear whether an "operation" would be needed.

Hearing the word operation even as a remote possibility hit me like heavy brick in my chest. What kind of operation could be done to an infant's 3 month old tiny heart??

( be continued inshalla)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

God is talking to you

روى مسلم في صحيحه و ذكر أربع طرق لنفس الحديث
حدثنا عبد الله بن عبد الرحمن بن بهرام الدارمي، حدثنا مروان، - يعني ابن محمد الدمشقي - حدثنا سعيد بن عبد العزيز، عن ربيعة بن يزيد، عن أبي إدريس الخولاني، عن أبي ذر، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فيما روى عن الله، تبارك وتعالى أنه قال

‏"‏ يا عبادي إني حرمت الظلم على نفسي وجعلته بينكم محرما فلا تظالموا
يا عبادي كلكم ضال إلا من هديته فاستهدوني أهدكم
يا عبادي كلكم جائع إلا من أطعمته فاستطعموني أطعمكم
يا عبادي كلكم عار إلا من كسوته فاستكسوني أكسكم
يا عبادي إنكم تخطئون بالليل والنهار وأنا أغفر الذنوب جميعا فاستغفروني أغفر لكم
يا عبادي إنكم لن تبلغوا ضري فتضروني ولن تبلغوا نفعي فتنفعوني
يا عبادي لو أن أولكم وآخركم وإنسكم وجنكم كانوا على أتقى قلب رجل واحد منكم ما زاد ذلك في ملكي شيئا
يا عبادي لو أن أولكم وآخركم وإنسكم وجنكم كانوا على أفجر قلب رجل واحد ما نقص ذلك من ملكي شيئا
يا عبادي لو أن أولكم وآخركم وإنسكم وجنكم قاموا في صعيد واحد فسألوني فأعطيت كل إنسان مسألته ما نقص ذلك مما عندي إلا كما ينقص المخيط إذا أدخل البحر
يا عبادي إنما هي أعمالكم أحصيها لكم ثم أوفيكم إياها فمن وجد خيرا فليحمد الله ومن وجد غير ذلك فلا يلومن إلا نفسه ‏"‏ ‏.‏ قال سعيد كان أبو إدريس الخولاني إذا حدث بهذا الحديث جثا على ركبتيه ‏.

I found this translation online:

O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another.
O My servants, all of you are astray except for those I have guided, so seek guidance of Me and I shall guide you,
O My servants, all of you are hungry except for those I have fed, so seek food of Me and I shall feed you.
O My servants, all of you are naked except for those I have clothed, so seek clothing of Me and I shall clothe you.
O My servants, you sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you.
O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and will not attain benefiting Me so as to benefit Me.
O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything.
O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything.
O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more that a needle decreases the sea if put into it.
O My servants, it is but your deeds that I reckon up for you and then recompense you for, so let him who finds good praise Allah, and let him who finds otherwise blame no one but himself.


The sheer audacity with which God talks to us in this 7adeeth, just humbles me. I could not find a single figure throughout history who speaks with such unlimited power and grandeur. Even the ones who claimed to be Gods. They lacked the imagination to describe themselves in a correctly infinite way. Yet with the simple parable of a needle poking an ocean and coming out with nothing.... No human has this powerful poetry.

What do YOU think?

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Rules of the Game p.1

The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.

In its most basic meaning, it means to treat others the way you prefer them to treat you, regardless of how they actually DO treat you.

Ya3ne: They treat you good or bad, doesn't matter, you treat them good.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10 verses 25-37.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn in Jericho and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Unconditional mercy. Not preceded by reciprocation. People who do this infront of us command our admiration and awe. We can't help it. It feels alien to us to be like so generous. To follow the Golden Rule feels like going against my very nature. More like ascendance from clay to light. From base humanity to angelic nobility.

It gets even harder when the act of goodness is preceded by offense.

In the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

WARNING: The following story is very disturbing. Don't read if you don't want to feel very bad.

This is Zawadi Mongane from east Congo. I heard of her on the BBC, here's her story.

She and 50 of her village were abducted by the Interhamwe "Those who fight together". They were the same people who were the tools in Rwanda's massacres.

They took them to a rebel camp, asked all related to the village chief to stand up, then hacked them to death with knives and machetes.

Her brother was forced to rape her, and when he refused, they decapitated him infront of her.

Then 19 of them raped her.

Then they killed 2 of her children infront of her, one of them only a baby on her back. They put a noose of rope around the baby's neck and forced Zawadi to pull and strangle her own baby to death. Here I just got so disturbed by the story I teared up.

That all happened more than a year ago. Not very long. The reporter returned to her a year later to see how she was doing and although physically she had slightly recovered, but mentally she says she "Has nothing to live or look forward to in the future".

She says she still has nightmares of her pulling the rope around her baby's neck. When asked why she pulled the rope, she said that her 3rd child, her only currently surviving family, would need her help to survive. And that she realized at that moment that they'd kill her baby anyway. So she tried to stay alive so she could have a chance to go back to her living daughter to take care of her.

When asked if she wished these men to be punished or killed, she replied:
"No I don't. I still feel that I don't want those people to be killed. I know that God will judge them."

She says "still feel.." because she was asked the same question while in hospitalization shortly after her incident 1 year ago, and she replied the same way.

Now I don't know whether she's truly of such a noble spirit, or if she's simply too traumatized and afraid of her offenders to even express her "wish" for revenge aloud.

If its the 2nd possibility, then I don't blame her one bit. I've had long and elaborate fantasies of going into these Congo jungles, wearing black ninja robes, tracking down and killing these men one by one. I feel tremendous and powerful need for vengeance against them. So you can try to imagine how SHE must feel. They do not make the world a better place, they make it a worse place, hence they should be removed.

But if it is really the 1st possibility, and that she truly can forgive them, then she's a rare saint on this earth. I would wish to only meet her and try to be like her.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Listen to the MYoosek! and buy the Myka!

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It has Wifi, so you don't need to move it around from your PC to your TV, it plays ANYthing, so you don't have to be stuck with only Quicktime movies with the AppleTV. It even does the downloading by itself!!!

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Rules of the Game, intro

Ever since my brother sent me this essay by Carl Sagan called "The Rules of the Game", I've fallen in love with it. It talks about the evolution of our morality.

Probably the best and easiest way for me to relate all of it to you is to simply post a link to it, as I did. But I would like to post it in parts so we could discuss and talk about each part separately and at leisure.

Where does Your morality come from? What set of rules do you use to determine right from wrong? here's a very early attempt at answering that question:

Everything morally right derives from one of four sources:
It concerns either full perception or intelligent development of what is true;
or the preservation of organized society, where every man is rendered his due and all obligations are faithfully discharged;
or the greatness and strength of a noble, invincible spirit;
or order and moderation in everything said and done, whereby is temperance and self-control.

De Officiis, I, 5 (45-44 B.C.E)

I did not personally like this answer, it seems a bit lost and unhinged. Translating an arabic parable "he explained water, after much effort, with water". Sagan used it to start his essay, so..

He then relates this simple yet to the point story from his own childhood:

I remember the end of a long ago perfect day in 1939... a day that powerfully influenced my thinking, a day when my parents introduced me to the wonders of the New York World's Fair.
It was late, well past my bedtime. Safely perched on my father's shoulders, holding onto his ears, my mother reassuringly at my side, I turned to see the great Trylon and Perisphere, the architectural icons of the fair, illuminated in shimmering blue pastels. We were abandoning the future, the "World of Tomorrow,", for the BMT subway train. As we paused to rearrange our possessions, my father got to talking with a small, tired man carrying a tray around his neck. He was selling pencils. My father reached into the crumpled brown paper bag that held the remains of our lunches, withdrew an apple, and handed it to the pencil man. I let out a loud wail. I disliked apples then, and had refused this one both at lunch and at dinner. But I had, nevertheless, a proprietary interest in it. It was my apple, and my father had just given it away to a funny-looking stranger... who, to compound my anguish, was now glaring unsympathetically in my direction.
Although my father was a person of nearly limitless patience and tenderness, I could see he was disappointed in me. He swept me up and hugged me tight to him.
"He's a poor stiff, out of work," he said to me, too quietly for the man to hear. "He hasn't eaten all day. We have enough. We can give him an apple."
I reconsidered, stifled my sobs, took another wistful glance at the World of Tomorrow, and gratefully fell asleep in his arms.

So, the dilemma was, the boy Sagan could not comprehend or understand why giving the apple (that he did not like or want) to someone else. His dad explained by immediately trying to get his boy to "empathize" with the homeless person by listing his problems "poor", "out of work", "hungry", and then pointing out that it won't "hurt us". Point being, if it threatened our own "wealth" in any substantial way, then we might not give him the food. So if they had 4 apples and NOTHING else, 1 for papa, 1 for mama, and 1 for little Carl, would they give the 4th apple to the homeless person? probably they'd save it to share it between them when they became hungry tomorrow, since they were homeless hungry people themselves :P

What are the boundaries of goodness?

Us wealthy kuwaitis don't think about such matters. We think about going to chocolate bars in the afternoon. Which flavor, size and caramel or non-caramel of starbucks coffee I'm going to get this morning. And the agony (Oh the agony) of deciding which fancy restaurant to have dinner at tonight. (3asalla la yghayer 3alaina ni3ma, o yzedna ba3ad)

We don't face critical decisions like not knowing what you'll be eating tomorrow and whether or not to split your lunch with another writhing-hungry person sitting on the opposite side of erraseef.

Well, who's more relevant? us? or the hungry people? obviously us because its us. but also obviously we are a very obscure minority in the world. The vast majority of people do NOT share our careless bored existence. But to care about them we'd have to do that awful thing called Empathy :P

So, next post in this series will be about the first and highest of the moral rules:

The Golden Rule.
Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

Til then, enjoy :)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Strong vs. Smart

Imagine yourself sitting with your best friend, and you attempt to lift a chair and move it to the other side of the living room, to see how it would look. And as you try to heave it up grunting, your friend says to you:
"Stop, you might hurt yourself, its too heavy, you're not strong enough, I'll help you lift it."

You'd happily accept their offer. And thank them.

Imagine however if the situation did not involve moving a heavy sofa, but was about something that requires some high mental abilities. Say wisdom or intelligence. for example: You're trying to figure out your accounting figures for your small business. Or trying to solve some mathematical equation for a statistics class. Or maybe even trying to figure out how to diplomatically work your way out of a sticky argument at work with some stubborn manager. Take any of these examples or think of one of your own, and imagine that you're failing in dealing with it, and you're telling your best friend about it, clearly in need of help. And the friend says something like:
"Stop, the way you're handling this is wrong, you're not smart enough, let me offer you some advice."

I don't know about you, but the "not smart enough" bit would very likely piss me off.

So, what's the difference between these two situations? both involve your deficiency, and both involve someone else criticizing you in that lack of ability. The first is a muscular ability, the other is a brainy ability.

But we're way more sensitive to criticism when it is directed at our intelligence than if it is towards our athletic prowess.

Lets go down to a childish level. Kids do tease each other based on physical abilities all the time.
"I can easily outrun you and run circles around you. You're SO slow! wahahahaha"

But now as grownups, if someone sneered at how slow you ran, you'd point them out to your friends and laugh at how irrelevant the comment was. "what's this crazy person on about?"

But if the remark mentions anything about how stupid or unwise we are, even if the intention of the remark was friendly and genuine, most likely we'd be very offended and defensive about our mental abilities.

We're all too willing to concede that black athletes are more proficient in speed, jumping height, strength and so on. But dare to mention any hint of academic achievement or mental ability differences between blacks and whites, and you're likely to get scornful and chastising stares from all around you. just incase, here are some references:
The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability
Chapter 11 of The g Factor fully documents that, on average, the American Black population scores below the White population by about 1.2 standard deviations, equivalent to 18 IQ points. (This magnitude of difference gives a median overlap of less than 15%, meaning that less than 15% of the Black population exceeds the White average of 50%).

So my question is, Why?

Why are we more sensitive towards our mental capabilities, but not so much towards our physical ones?

I'm guessing one possible answer could be that in this day and age, being smart is more important for prosperity. If you're smart and handicapped, you still can get a PhD and be an overpaid consultant. If you're strong and dumb you might end up a janitor on foodstamps.

So was the situation reversed in hunter/gatherer communities 1000's of years ago?

Stone Age Muscular Joe says to his Thinker friend Archimedes : "Oh man, Archie, you're still fiddling with that round rock with the hole in the middle? why don't you get off your ass and hunt some more deer with us? I hate to be so crass and rude, but its sort of straining my family's food supply to always have to trade a deer's leg for the bone hair clasps you make. Don't get me wrong, my wife likes using them to hold up the wet laundry and even hold up her hair, but give me a break, you can't really feed them to your kids now can you. Poor baby timmy even tried and almost choked on one of them."

So what do YOU think?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

As If Teddy Was Watching

So I'm watching this movie called "Resurrecting the Champ", and if you plan on watching it, I might spoil a certain twist in it for you. Anyway, if you don't or you don't think its a big deal (its a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the twist can be expected anyway), then read ahead.

So the main character is a reporter who's having trouble at the paper, they don't think his work is good enough, and he's separated from his wife and has a 6 yo son who he visits on weekends. The reporter catches a lucky break and writes a super good article and starts getting nation-wide attention for it, only to realize later that what he wrote about is a lie and that he didn't check his sources thoroughly enough.

So he and his wife (who works in the same paper) are arguing what to do. He's asking "who'd know if I just stayed quiet?", and his wife is insisting that he should print a retraction of his article, and admit that he was wrong. That would ofcourse mean the end of him and a major embarrassment.

So in the end she tells him:
"Let me put it more clearly to you: You need to act as if Teddy was watching." (Teddy is his son)

And hearing that, I immediately hit pause and started writing this post.

So to this man, if he could visualize in his head that his 6 yo son was present, he'd be too ashamed and embarrassed to do something dishonorable. He would be afraid that his son will either learn to be dishonest, or even that his son will not be proud of him as he grows up. So the movie expected from us the viewers to all relate to this feeling and understand it. That if we could only try to be respectful of our children's feelings, it would make us become better people and do the right thing.

Ofcourse our kids are extremely important. More specifically, their future is the most important thing we care about. So in order to protect them from future disappointment in their own parents, which might destroy their sense of self-worth, we stop ourselves from doing the wrong thing.

But we muslims have an even larger reason to behave don't we? If we replaced Teddy with God, it would be: Act as if God is watching. And God IS watching, all the time, all day, minute in, minute out. We learn something like that when we're young. No more than 4-5 years old and you've already heard that Allah foog, o Allah yshoofna shinsawe.

And our kids will grow old one day, and they'll get over any complexes we might have inflicted on them and they'll die, leaving kids of their own. So the impact of potential damage is limited to his/her lifetime. But if we do something bad infront of God, isn't He more deserving of our embarrassment and shame?

And the consequence of our shameful behavior does not affect your kid in the future. It affects your OWN life for eternity in the afterlife. So any smart person would instantly realize that the latter situation is of compoundedly more gravity to you.

Niste7e min yahel wala niste7e min Allah?