Felicity

Felicity sat with her legs dangling, feet hovering right above the stream. There had only been mere millimetres between the tips of her toes, and the icy wetness of the water. She recalled a question her father had once posed to her: “Is water wet?”

This had been back when he had been around, for that brief period, at least. Felicity had been around ten years old. She would spend her evenings, that year, curled up under the mustard-coloured fleece blanket in the orangery, ruminating over possible answers to her father’s many random questions. But, more often than not, there were no concrete answers. Only one thought, giving way to another, giving way to a dozen more: words spilling like tree branches.

Then, there were those bursts of thoughts about what ‘big school’ might be like: that entire presently unbeknownst adventure. And there were the orchids and the orange trees, which, when the house had been empty (as it often had been) Felicity would speak to. They had been her truest friends. Sometimes, they would end up being her only companions for the evening: on some days, her father would come home, would make himself a mug of hot chocolate, would sink comfortably into his armchair. A half-stranger, in the only home Felicity had ever known.

On other days, however, he would not come home. Half here, her father had been. And mostly not. 

She found herself thinking about her father quite often, these days – about his health, about that enduring sadness of his – and about that tree in the garden (the one with only half its leaves there — and even the ones that remained were quickly becoming more and more yellow) that she found had quite resembled, in nature, her mother.

Did the presence of two half-parents come together and equate to one sort of ‘whole’? Half a mother, and half a father. But, also, elsewhere, the entirety of a world, contained within the glass panes of that orangery. A room, a tiny universe, which had been quite alive, quite quietly. Known to let the sunlight right through, and on those blessed cloudless evenings: entire constellations, too.

But, even despite the delightful company of her floral friends, Felicity did often feel quite alone in the world; this had been a persisting feeling. And even at school, where she had not been without friends; even when swarms of other people would come around: when her mother would finally emerge from her tower, would come downstairs with her sorrows masked in powder and lipstick, would almost look… whole again. Like the moon, periodically coming into fullness, even if for a mere moment: even then…

Felicity felt alone. But she knew that love was there, out there and everywhere. She would wear that little old fleece blanket as a cape most evenings, walk outside and sit on that large rock by the stream. And she would remind herself, beneath the silver glow of the moon: that her father, too, was still there, somewhere at least. That the truest of loves never really do ‘die’, do they? When it is true, it cannot be destroyed.

That, rather than peering out with binoculars onto the outside world; seeking to come to know all of it, and to find all that could ever possibly be found…  The world, in its largeness, could often be quite dizzying, Felicity found. And everywhere, there had been destruction. Millions and millions of all these other people, and other lives, other concerns, and…

Maybe the orangery had been enough of a world, for Felicity’s own good. Maybe she did not have to worry so much. It had been God that had placed her there, specifically, in that half-glass world of hers, in the first place.

And it is He who puts love between hearts. And it had been He who had placed watchful old moon right there, right there, thousands of miles above Felicity’s head.

And “he who is not grateful to the people is not grateful to God”. God gives us, in our lives, certain people. And certain orange trees and orchid plants. And it is through love, Felicity concluded, that God oft speaks — and in this knowledge she found a unique sort of peace. That word, that word in Arabic, what had it been, again?

“Alhamdulillah.”

Had it not been in the bittersweetness of her aloneness, that Felicity had found God? And, would any other person, any other fellow creature — be it her father, or a dear friend, or a boy — be able to give her something (love, perhaps, and warmth) which God had not ordained, decreed for her? Nay. For it is God, as Felicity had told her assembly of orange trees, with all due conviction, who places love in the hearts of mankind, between one man and another, between a sister and her brother, between son and mother.

We receive what we receive. And we nurture certain things. We pick and we choose. And some things do blossom, do come into fullness, while other things… fall. What to do next, Felicity wondered. What to do, what to do, though, about her fallen, autumnal – moon-like – mother?

Regardless of the heaviness of these crepuscular thoughts of hers, which had followed her all the way to sleep: as the first rays of dawn broke through the glass panes of the orangery that nascent morning, Felicity looked all around her. Something had surely changed; she wanted to pay attention to, study, all the little changes. Things felt rather more real, more alive, and Felicity felt a remarkable sort of satisfaction in this morning’s aloneness. Mother, asleep still, but birds, though: wide awake, and quite loudly so. Sky streaked with a line of pink.

Other people will be other people, Felicity concluded. Including mother and father. Friends will be friends. Orchids, and birds, and orange trees. But in all those hours and crevices in-between: there is only she, in truth, and there is always God.

أولا وأخيرا ودائما

First, last, and always.


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

It Matters / It Does Not Matter

At my workplace, on Tuesdays, we are fortunate enough to have staff Halaqahs (Islamic talks, during which we sit on the prayer carpets, and one person leads the session). Delivered by the ‘Alimiyyah (Islamic Sciences) teachers in turns, these weekly circles are something I have truly been loving. This, and coming into school with Surah Kahf being played through the tannoys every Friday morning, just after winter sun has come up. The Tuesday Halaqahs: such necessary, and often quite moving, reminders. I like that Deen is at the very centre of the ethos, purpose, and all else of this school. I do not think I would be able to contentedly work at a state secondary school [where true spirituality and religion are not core principles, I truly think only meaninglessness and materialism are left behind in their wakes…]

Today’s had been a rather memorable Halaqah session. I suddenly found tears rolling out of my eyes: unimpeded and so unexpected, while processing the teacher’s words, today. Bringing it all back to what I had been thinking about, quite a lot, of late.

That is what I truly am, as a teacher there. I feel, simultaneously, I am very much a student: I am learning and re-learning things, from their very basics. Teachers do not know everything — about anything. They very much learn, and learn, and learn, on the job.

I love it when the early morning sun floods through this old Victorian building. Big windows, old walls. I love that the Qur’an is always there, to turn back to: I love that Qur’ans line many of the shelves here. And the view of yellow-leaved trees outside, and the high-rise buildings (Aldgate, the increasingly gentrified parts of East London) on one side, the rows of chimneyed council houses just adjacent to them: what an interesting contrast. The unmissable deep orange reflection of sunrise, still left behind on the new(-ish) part of the Royal London Hospital.

My brother had been born there, on the twelfth-or-something floor, of that building. I can still remember the day fairly vividly. Three days before my having started secondary school (as a student, that is!) Everything had changed, that year. Hours on end, of waiting and waiting. But that did not matter: I had waited for years and years to be an older sister. I mention my brother, here, because during Ustādha S’s talk, I had found myself thinking about the following questions:

“Do I love?”

and

Am I loved?”

The answer is, Alhamdulillah, yes to both. I thought about my brother, and about how much Du’a I had made for him, prior to his coming into (worldly) existence. Nobody, really, had seen him coming. Most thought I would remain an only child forever. And, I don’t know. He is not the type – and those of you who know him personally will likely know this about him – to express affection so openly and/or ‘conventionally’ (except, perhaps, when it comes to his cat…) But it is in the small and the silly and the unexpected and/or typical-of-him moments that my heart floods with the love I have always had for him. The love I had come to learn upon first being given the chance to hold him in my arms. The love I am frequently reminded of, for example when he… needs me to deal with a spider in his room or something. Yes, sometimes it is ironically through his eight-year-old boy remarks about how “annoying” or how much of a “dummy” I am – or when he simply needs to tell me everything he knows about Charles Darwin – that I am reminded that I am indeed so loved, as a big sister, Subhan Allah, too. There is loneliness in this world, and there is also love. Allah (SWT) is the provider of all of this love: He is Al-Wadūd.

Ustādha S had mentioned, in her talk today, That Day. A forthcoming reality we oft find ourselves quite heedless of, or in outright denial of. Falsehoods mixed with and mistaken for truth, and vice versa. That Day on which, on the horizontal ‘creation’ level, we will find ourselves quite alone. Standing before our Creator, trembling. Are you prepared well enough for it? And, right now, we are quite alive, and we are quite real, and every single moment means something. This is your story; these are the moments, and the days, of your life. The flow of time; the presently-ceaseless flowing of ink. The grand storybook that shall be produced, come the End of it all. It will either be placed in your right hand, or… atop your left one.

Nothing will matter, on That Day, except for your own soul, quaking in new-urgent God-consciousness. You will be alone.

Have you ever come to know what true aloneness feels like?

We must not fall in love with Dunya, my dear: not while Jannah is waiting for us. And, also, we must know to bow not to creation – not now, and not ever – but to the One who created us. This is authentic liberation, and this is authentic strength. Be flowing, and be firm.

People are only people, and I think I have learnt, by now, that I am capable of walking alone. I ultimately ‘need’ nobody else. But I sure do love some people. For some of them, I am willing to wait. But they are not whom I seek to bend and grow towards. Maybe they are trying to walk the same way as I am trying to walk; perhaps we shall grow together, towards sunlight, intertwined… but maybe they are not, and we will not. Maybe sometimes we must love, and ‘have loved’, and we must leave it at that.

This moment: time, and the present workings of your life, of your mind. This is what is real, right now. I have found myself thinking too much about distant and imagined things, and all the while… the ink is ever-flowing, is it not? Writing, writing. Things are happening, happening. These are the days of my life; every second, I find myself authoring my life’s story. I will not give it up for any human being; for any fleeting thing.

I have realised that if it is not Real, it does not matter,

neither to, nor for, me: simple as.

So long as my feet are rooted in Truth. Myself, I seek to be, and become, in submission to, and with the love, protection, and guidance of, the One in whose Hand my entire being is. I so hope to feel that sense of peace, relief. To be worthy of  جَنَّةٍ عَالِيَةٍ, you know? 

To do this, and to get there, to outside-and-away from truth and here, (now), I must say goodbye.

To everything I know to be so true, hello. Things either matter, or they do not. There is what is Khayr; there is what is not Khayr. I am learning to filter things, along these lines, better.

We are growing individually, though in parallel, I hope, towards being People of the Right Hand. Asking ourselves: in this very moment, if we were to go right now,

Would we be worthy of entering Jannah?


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020