Having Versus Wanting

Bismillah.

The consumption of fiction, and the significant effects it has, upon our psyches, and on all these ideas surrounding what we want to be, and what we want to have, and what we expect of life. That school is, or ‘should’ be, like a Disney series; travelling is a vlog on YouTube; summer is a poem. Fiction: filtering out the ‘mundane’, the ‘undesirable’, the ennui, the unevennesses, frictions. Taking singular moments, which ‘real life’ may exhale, at certain given moments, unpredictable, un-plan-able. Marketing people, relationships, institutions, experiences… as being fundamentally ‘shiny’. ‘More than’ reality, and thus quite ‘liberating’.

Allah created Dunya in a certain way, and this, we all, after a certain age, truly come to know. And it might feel like consuming fiction, or imagining life in light of it [I am tres guilty of doing this. And hence this blog article.] is relief. But I want to take a (metaphorical) axe, and rid myself of these: my ‘super-Dunya’ expectations. They come about spontaneously, sure, but they can often be… entertained, in this mind of mine.

Yesterday I came across a podcast about ‘bringing blessings (Barakah) to one’s life’. The central matter being discussed was gratitude. A cosmic law, emphasised in the Qur’an: if we are grateful – thankful, using what we have towards goodness and making the most of it – Allah increases us in favour(s).

And I have noticed: when I have abstract expectations, or when I find myself wanting… I feel restless, and dissatisfied, and lost. But when I look down at my feet (m e t a p h o r i c a l l y) and really ‘deep’ what I have, and just live, and do what ought to be done, sans against-fiction expectations… Good things happen!

When I do not want, I know I receive [note: the word ‘want’ has two separate-but-connected meanings. To desire something (that you do not, at present, have) and to be deficient, lacking, in something]. Good, quietly – but deeply – lovely, things, from sources unexpected, but which Allah has given to me. [Ref: a colleague whom I sometimes speak with – I, struggling, in Bengali, embarrassing myself – randomly got me a box of sushi for lunch <3. And then, not to show off, because this was entirely a one-sided thing: my baby brother got me a book, from school (World Book Day). My heart melted, and I asked him how come (I had lowkey been fishing for him to say something extremely sweet) and he just said, unemotionally, in classic Saif fashion: “I had two book tokens and I already got myself the one I wanted so I just got you one too.” Eh. Good enough.]

I know I am a bit of a … romanticiser, at the best of times. I like looking up at the stars; I like it when words sound and feel beautiful; I like to feel the golden glow of things, when I am with people whom I love. But this is not necessarily idealism: the stars do exist, and so does the beauty of words; so, too, does the Divine gift that is family (even with its ups and downs, and little knife-wound betrayals… like when I no longer seem to be Dawud’s favourite cousin anymore. Sigh.) I think I can be quite prone to romanticising things… and I think this is okay, so long as it is all rooted in reality, and not in things that are not real, or real at present, or which I do not know, fully and deeply and fundamentally.

My muddied boots are mine: my reality. The craggy, the uneventful and the mundane. The errands, and the times when things get a little tough — and these gorgeous skies overhead are mine, also, and everybody’s. I need to manage my expectations, and focus on doing what is fruitful. These are the realities with which we are presented, and all fictions are inspired by reality’s best parts.

Reality is a fuller experience, though. Unscripted, and not engineered for the eyes of those of us who, at times, seek escape.

And the opposite of ‘escape’ is… being here, and facing it all. No (or, re-managed) expectations; no comparing my reality with others’. Futile. [To have their blessings, I would have to have their lives’ difficulties/tests. To lose my difficulties/tests, I would have to lose my blessings, also…]

These are the stuff of our lives. And now, what to do with them, or about them… The good, and the bad, and the… greys, the neutrals, also.

I need to focus, truly, on what is there, and not on actually-nonexistent things, like what ‘could’ or… ‘should’ (according to the fictions that we have digested, and/or concocted) be there. Loving what one has, and focusing on here-and-now considerations, and on giving/engaging in acts of acts of service as opposed to receiving, leads to Barakah: to an unmatchable, though quiet, goldenness, which is present even in times of acute difficulty. And Allah Azawwajal takes care of the rest: the outcomes, the Future, and all the rest of it.

[Some Biblical quotes, I find extremely beautiful. So, to quote the Bible:]

“I shall not want.” [Psalms, (23:1)]

Instead, I shall try to say: “Alhamdulillahi Rabbil ‘Aalameen” [Qur’an, (1:2)].

All praise/gratitude is for Allah, Lord of the Worlds: Lord of every single thing that exists, including [existential moment, here] me…


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Alive

To care so deeply, about what is important to you, that you come to… not really care about minor setbacks, trivialities, at all. Everything else can change and change and change, but Purpose and, secondarily, our passions: these will, I hope, remain the same. It is, for instance, that moment, in conversation, when there is a spark in somebody’s eyes. And in their voices, and all the circuits, whirring away, coming alive, within their minds. And you know that they love whatever they are talking about!

Moments of absorption. Captivation. ‘Flow’ and engrossment. Our habits do matter: they become strengthened, over time, solidified, into our identities. Our passions matter, so very much, too.

In those moments in which lightbulbs flash, and sparks fly. Electricity.

The intellect: Mind. The emotions: Heart. The eyes, the way our hands come to reveal what we are thinking; when people explain things as though they are letting you in on a really big secret, shoulders pointed forwards. Body. What grows from the core of we: the depths, undefinable, unfathomable: Soul.

Sometimes, this world can feel so very dizzying. Exhausting, and emptying. “Amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children.” [Qur’an, (57:20)]. These plants, in reference to the aforesaid Ayah, will die. Now, how to persistently tend to those gardens that will remain?

This is when, most, we must cling to what we Know. That some things are worthwhile, and are good for us, and that some things are completely… not. My Nana returned to Allah at the age of sixty-something; Habi Khala went at the age of just twenty-seven.

I do not know when my turn will be. But I know what I live for; I know where my golden passions might lie. And I should not think so much about the petals that decorate these endeavours; more so about the point, and the little breakthroughs, and the refreshing dynamism of this entire gradual process.

If I can try a little harder, maybe, with what must be done, for this: work and serve, and perhaps not deliberately focus on self and tangible, ‘big’, results so much… I must have faith that with Allah (SWT) are the consequences of this whole thing. I am but one person, alone, and I am with billions.

Why? in English. In Arabic: لِما, which actually directly translates to: For What?

Towards the things that die, or towards the things that stay?

And… nothing at all, here, really belongs to me, or, really, to anyone. Not knowledge; no place; no thing. If a pursuit is truly worthwhile, it will be so irrespective of what the ego is able to gain, momentarily, from it.

Our passions are what we can lose ourselves in – effortlessly. And Islam is this entire thing, through which one finds oneself – without intention, and yet so strongly, unwaveringly – solely through… losing oneself.

In oceans of blue, and in tulips of red: these things can be, as much for me, as they are for you. And vice versa.

For What is it all? For Allah: the One, the Only, the Eternal.

I promise you this, though: that when you have Allah, you have Everything, and

لَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِٱللَّٰهِ.

There is no power or strength, except with Allah.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Books Versus Boys?

Works of fiction tend to be composed of a number of different… tropes. Male writers writing tragically one-dimensional, unrealistic female characters, pandering to the ‘Male Gaze’ [perpetually sweet and lovely. Very physically available. Mysterious and exciting, able to ‘liberate’ the man from a mundane existence]; female writers, also, writing tragically unidimensional male characters [dark, brooding, sharp-boned, and uniformed. Effortlessly eloquent and quietly, deeply emotional and passionate].

Works of fiction are fascinating. These particular products of our minds can tend to reveal quite a lot about… ourselves. In works of fiction, characteristics – physical and personality-based; aesthetic and otherwise – are singled out, and detached – liberated – from the quagmires of present, Dunya-based reality.

Fiction can tell us an awful lot about what our innermost desires may be: it is both informed by these desires, and also contributes to fuelling them; shaping our expectations from life, often without our consciously realising.

Our Fitrahs (generally defined as, our ‘innate human constitutions’) are so receptive to things like physical beauty, and ‘idealistic’ ideas. Constantly, it is like a constant reminder that we are not at Home, here: that there exists, between (Dunya-based) reality and (Jannah-promised) idealism this… journey. Our innermost desires do continue to exist, though. It is not ‘wrong’ for us to have these fundamental yearnings, but it is wrong for us to indulge in them here in Dunya.

‘Islam’ means finding peace in submission to the Creator of all things knowable. Therefore, it would be fallacious to attempt to detach considerations of bodily beauty; sensuality; luxury, and other ‘wants’, from ‘Islamic’ considerations.

One cannot act like the Deen of Islam is somehow… separable from all of these abstract elements of the human experience. Quite the opposite, really. From Allah comes beauty and all things good; with Allah is everything that we could ever dream of having, and More. It is just that these are not the Purpose of this present life of ours: this journey.

There is, for example, a rather interesting real-life story of a particular Muslim scholar/Sheikh – a European revert Muslim – whose forays into Islam began when he had been an adolescent, witnessing a scene of heightened (feminine) beauty. Allah’s artistry at play… and he realised that, since there can be such Beauty in the world – such Unity, Proportion, and Harmony of design – for example on the corporeal forms of women — then there simply must be a Creator.

As human beings [when I say ‘human beings’ I feel like I sound like some alien anthropologist, trying to observe humanity from the outside, but anyway… When human beings] enter into maturity – puberty – and actually even in the years before this fundamental transition – we find ourselves naturally beset by… a hyper-awareness of the opposite gender, coupled with little obsessions with… getting a six-pack and good haircuts. Or with being thin, and having glowing skin.

In bodily characteristics; in lightness or depth of voice; in scent, even, and in essence. As far as fleeting attractions go, it is quite normal for – boys and girls alike – to enter into a deep… recognition of attraction. And these acknowledgements are almost daily, for the majority of our lives. We are recognisers of beauty, but we are encouraged to “lower our gaze[s]” when it comes to the opposite gender: gazing is known to fuel desiring. And the stuff of Dunya simply leaves us hungrier the more we chase after it all.

Generally, also, in fiction, there tends to be carved out a particular dichotomy between the ‘Beautiful’ – the ‘bodily’ blessed, and therefore the more physically desirable – and the ‘Brainy’. The male characters who are supposed to belong to the former group are meant to enjoy frequenting the gym; playing football; flirting effortlessly with lots of women. The women of the former group: shopping, makeup, shoes, clothes, and partying.

The men of the latter group: socially awkward and cannot speak to members of the opposite gender, though thoroughly accomplished and knowledgable. ‘Socially’ unsuccessful; economically and professionally thriving, and with numerous differentiating ‘quirks’. And the women of the latter group: ‘unstylish’, neglectful of physical appearance, caring too much about minor details and/or seeming … monotonous, devoid of any proclivities towards lightheartedness and humour. No friends at all, or being… evidently disliked by the friends they do have.

There is Ralph ‘versus’ (the character who is rather unfavourably named) ‘Piggy’, in ‘Lord of the Flies’ — i.e. the ‘popular’ and widely-socially-approved-of, ‘golden-bodied’ ‘versus’ the ‘intellectual’, ‘physically weak’, caring and compassionate, but ruthlessly overlooked. Daphne ‘versus’ Velma, in ‘Scooby Doo’. Zack ‘versus’ Cody, in ‘The Suite Life’… [Personally, I really favoured Cody but in the show, he had been designed to be a little ‘pathetic’, teased by the others. Not particularly ‘respectable’ or ‘enviable’]. Haley Dunphy ‘versus’ Alex, in ‘Modern Family’. The list goes on and on.

But when it comes to defining real people, outside of the caricatures that are necessary in order to make works of fiction digestible and entertaining… People are people. Some people are quite smart and quite good-looking. Some people are quite smart in some ways but not necessarily in others; beautiful according to certain sets of standards, but not others.

When we attempt to fit people into convenient-but-oversimplified brackets like this, we forget about so many necessary nuances. When people admire – or envy – the ‘smart, productive’ one, they do not see the loneliness and restlessness that might be an essential downside of that general experience. When people envy the physically ‘beautiful’ ones, they may not see the behind-the-scenes emotional toils, and all the masking – that may come to form an essential downside of that general experience.

I know of people who, for instance… grew up reading ‘Harry Potter’ – repeatedly – in the bathroom. And then they got ‘dench’ and ‘popular’ (i.e. I suppose, easily, readily approved of by people) and grew into a newly developed part of themselves. But we do not ever lose who we are, at our cores, do we? And how many parts of oneself need one shed, in order to fit into any acceptable bracket of categorisation: any simple trope, any fiction?

As soon as we try to simplify human beings in such ways, they are no longer holistic people in our eyes, but ‘characters’. Fictions. And our formerly held convictions will almost necessarily be disproven.

We are just… people. [I really wish there were an actual antonym for ‘just’. For now, I’ll just say:] We are wonderfully… people.

Morality, according to the Muslim Weltanschauung [love that word] concerns: what ought to be done. We are each Children of Ādam; we have souls; we have our ‘selves’ (our Nafs…es?)

What is, versus what ought to/ought not to be (done), and what could be (done).

On the ‘sexual’ level, which is fundamental to us as a species… women love to beautify themselves. Skincare, henna, hair, clothes, and all the rest of it. Women crave male validation; men, certainly, also crave female validation, and also have impulses within them, to gaze at, and to pursue women.

Recently, I learned that, when it comes to sexual drives, the most influential hormone at play is… testosterone. And average men’s bodies tend to contain, within them, over eight times the amount of testosterone that is contained within the female body! [The entire world makes about… eight times more sense now…] It does also thoroughly seem to be the case that, while men have natural inclinations towards the more visual side of things, women have stronger inclinations towards the more… ’emotional’ side of things. Hence the differences in male and female fictional characters that are designed to be uniquely attractive to the two respective genders. ‘Men fall in love through their eyes; women, through their ears’.

Men are in need of women; women are in need of men. We have been created differently, but in a connected way. Complementarily, in a handful of very interesting ways.

I guess, what I am trying to relay here, is that we should not be in denial of who we are, and what we want. But the Muslim way of viewing things is that just because your Nafs beckons you towards something, we need not chase those desires like wolves. Ultimately, if we try to satisfy these desires within Dunya – to entertain non-Mahram people of the opposite gender, for example, or to always thoroughly beautify ourselves in order to go outside, and to religiously follow all these beauty trends pandering to that age-old Male Gaze – we set ourselves up for great disappointment.

That is not to say we should just… ‘let go’ of our outer selves, and ‘not care’. More so that… we have desires; we have animalistic, base parts of ourselves. We also have knowledge; intellect; the ability to discern what is right from what is wrong. There are permissible avenues through which to do certain things; there are also certain prohibitions in place, for us: for our own good. We choose what we do with this information.

As Muslims, one can have spent one’s youth having spoken to hundreds and hundreds of different boys/girls; having been ‘built’ and/or very beautiful, garnering much approval and validation as a result of our physical forms and behaviours. One can have spent one’s youth reading books, focusing on schoolwork, and on personal interests, perhaps (instead?) garnering approval and validation as a result of our intellectual capacities, vocabularies, ideas. Or… a bit of both, perhaps, with added helpings of familial responsibilities and such. Alhamdulillah for what we have been given, here in Dunya; equally and alike, for what we have not been given.

Ultimately, the purpose of Dunya life is… for us to be tested, and to worship our Creator. Pure gold, becoming separated from its ores. And our tests are also blessings; our blessings are also… tests.

With all this in mind: if one recognises – and is complimented on – beauty on one’s face and/or body, if one accepts sacred Islamic laws, one is inclined to cover up before non-Mahrams; thank Allah; ask for protection and for Barakah. If one recognises high levels of intelligence, within one’s mind, the Muslim is inclined towards thanking Allah for it; using it towards Good and not towards arrogant ends: of feigning superiority, disregarding the truth, mistreating others.

And: books ‘or‘ ‘boys’? Being ‘smart’ ‘or‘ being ‘pretty’? Being ‘cool’ ‘or’ ‘pathetic’… ‘religious’ ‘or’ ‘fun’…

Well, on the ‘boy’ front- or the ‘girl’ front, if thou art male – Insha Allah we all… end up with just one. A special just-one. And may they love us deeply: in soul, in heart, in mind, and in body, and may we love them very deeply in return. Sigh. May they also have good hair. Āmeen.

And on the general-life front: we are here to worship Allah, and we are here to be tested. One cannot focus on the body, at the expense of focusing on the other dimensions of our being: [just going to list them again, for my own benefit] mind, hearts, and souls. But! We also should not focus on, say, intellectual-or-otherwise pursuits at the expense of our physical health, and appearances. Whatever brings us towards that which is Good is… good. Whatever brings us away from holistic goodness might… not be so good. Everything about balances; moderation, holism, is the way of the Believer, is it not?

Furthermore, a random question, but one that I find quite interesting to consider:

If you had to choose: would you rather be very intelligent but average in terms of looks or very physically attractive but average in terms of intelligence?

We are judged, first and perhaps foremost, based on how we appear. In all physical social settings: at school, interviews, and more. The Halo Effect: good looks translate into ‘goodness of being‘, in our eyes.

I do care about how I look; how I come across. But people who ‘know’ my face do not really know me. I am not sure how much a face can reveal. Some markers of youth and health, sure. Ethnicity, perhaps [but people frequently guess at my ethnic background, and get it wrong. Including some random strangers who seem to ‘like’ me based on… where they think I am ‘from’. They don’t like me: they just… have some sort of appearance-based particular-ethnicity thing]. But if I am to be known, I would like to be known far closer to my core. Is it better to be shallowly ‘loved’ by the many, or is it better to be deeply loved by a select few?

Is this an ‘either’/’or’ thing? Yes, I think. Probably. We are limited in terms of how much time we have, and energy, to expend. Physical beauty speaks to – is pleasing to – the Fitrah. The stuff of the mind, heart, and soul: these are the abstract worlds that lie beyond what can be seen by the eyes. So much to explore, within ourselves, and others. Night-sky depths; oceanic mysteries, we.

And The Test of Life. It is hard. Dificil. It is meant to be, because the best, most worthy things usually are. But we are here, as knowing worshippers of Allah. This whole life thing: in terms of learning, socialising, health, sexual partnership (‘sexual’ in the sense that it is between the two sexes. More so than being bodily, in Islam we acknowledge that these partnerships are partnerships of the soul).

[With our food, and our books. With the natural world, and our families. Masjids, and our friends. With what is Halal, hopefully, and without what, here in Dunya, is not:]

To paraphrase a line I really liked from one of my all-time favourite TV series [‘Girl Meets World’. Uncle Joshie,]

We are in it for the long haul.

P.S. not to sound like a wannabe Romantic poet-philosopher here, but… this evening I went on a night walk with my aunts and cousins. The sky was uniquely clear here in London, tonight, Subhan Allah, and the Big Dipper (a constellation that I have always loved) resembled a perfect diamond question mark in the darkness. And I remembered and thought about that very powerful Qur’anic Ayah:

“So where are you going?”


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

On Love of Wisdom

A glass o’ wisdom, this particular talk. Super nutritious, much meaning and beauty, Allahummabārik.

If you know Allah, you know all things. And knowledge of ‘all things’ also facilitates our coming to know Allah.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

People and Places

As far as visible and tangible things go, we are made up of so many things. Micro and macro: all of these various systems in place, carrying out their unique roles.

And, in terms of the very-real, but which-cannot-be-seen:

We are wonderfully imitative, emotionally dependent, creatures, aren’t we? We learn to eat how those around us do; dress in light of how other people dress; learn to speak and behave in different ways, with different people, in different contexts and places.

We know to adapt, almost effortlessly, intuitively. We are our selves: a space that is, by nature, held for us by who others are; ourselves, in relation to them. Human relationships: the bonds that we have with others, and the connections we have with places, too.

Deeply affecting, and deeply being affected by, other people and places, often even without our noticing. Who introduced you

to the great food place, hidden in an alleyway, around the corner? Whose ‘words of affirmation’ do you value most, and why? From whom did you get the idea, to introduce this new way of doing something, into your way of doing things? Who bought you that water bottle, that you so love? That new word: you learnt it from someone. That particular gesture. Way of sitting. Idea.

We are not individuals who are ‘set in stone’. We are intelligent, learning, conversant creatures: turning towards, and thus in (mutual) conversation with, other People, and with all of these Places.

For me: family, and close friends. Classmates and colleagues, who are/were here for a while. Nanu’s house, and Maryam’s. Local library; local mosque. Tamanna’s house, and our local Adventure Park. Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh. Wapping, Whitechapel, Westminster, and then back to Whitechapel for a while. And where to, next (Insha Allah)?

I do not know. Shall I be content with… not knowing? Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. There would appear to be a lot of space for it, in this mind of mine. But, as much as certain things – places and people – feel like home, in Dunya, for me: I cannot keep running back to the past merely because it is familiar.

I think, I love these places: my current places of living, and of working, and of everything in between, very much. I sort of really want to come back to this school, in the future, perhaps, Insha Allah. But Allah might have different things in store for me: after all, this… acceptance that Allah Knows, while I do not… is precisely how I found this place, in the first… place.

I have learnt so much from these very people. [I also, sort of narcissistically, wonder what they may have learnt, picked up, from me!]

Call this all ‘serendipity’. No, better still: call it Qadr.

How wonderful, wonderfully awe-inspiring, it is, that we carry within us, pieces – souvenirs within our persons – of places and of people, whom we have, in whatever capacity, come to know? How weird a thing to realise that… we are real, too. We have also influenced other people; been meaningful, valuable, and beloved, parts of places.

The makings of marks – even ‘small’ ones. The etchings, stitches, into various fabrics, histories.

Moving forward: I wonder what will change. I wonder what stays the same.

I do so love the things that, at their cores, stay the same. And, yet, what would we be, without those things that change and change and change?

I like the idea that the best people, and the best places, for us, are those that feel, at the same time, like Home and an Adventure. A balanced life: the beneficial inter-plays between two opposite (separate, and unknown) but connected (intrinsically known, familiar) forces.

Who and how and what I may be now: I had no idea how things would pan out, just a year earlier. None of this had been, even in the slightest, predictable.

And I am able to look back on erstwhile times with… the distance, the benefit of hindsight. And, the ‘future’, with… the distance, these imaginative impulses that are known to fill the spaces that are, at present, devoid of Knowing.

But all of it, in truth, is experienced as a series of present moments: right between unbearable suffering, and liberating, uninterrupted euphoria.

People, and places: significant, and yet fleeting, ever-changing with Time. But, sometimes, their effects on our minds, hearts and souls: permanent, valuable, undying. The permanence, also, in contrast to all that is transient: of Purpose (the nectar of things), and of Prayer.

At the end of the (long, winding, unpredictable) day: where do we end up? In a Place that is permanent, Insha Allah, beneath which rivers flow. And, with the People whom we have known – permanent souls, also – and loved: walked beside, and prayed beside. All of these things:

they begin as little specs in the distance. Invisible, even, sometimes. And then, seen from afar. Images; while we know not what lies beyond what we see and (think we) know, of them. And then, with Time, we come closer and closer to them. See what lies beyond the shininesses of prospectuses, websites, social media displays, and otherwise. Closer and closer. Faces, and then hearts and souls. Until our beings feel… a little inextricable.

We define ourselves in terms of our people, and our places.

And to know something, and to also be known by it: we need to experience it, or them, in their (relative) entireties, and in present tense: in the Here and Now. Their necessary upsides and downsides.

“There can be no ‘love before marriage’. That isn’t ‘love’,” says a colleague of mine. [When you are twenty years old and South Asian, you tend to find that a lot of conversations start off as being centred on one thing. And then… marriage is brought up: the trumpeting of that age-old Elephant in the Room. But the point is:] There is no authentic ‘loving’ something – be it a person, or a place, or a time outside of this one – before (or, even long after) being entirely, and truly, present with them. In time, and space, and true, close-up, experience. Otherwise, one claims to be ‘loving’ mere images; lusting after fictions, in place of their up-close and real, truths.

I am so happy-sad for everything that has passed. I still even miss people and places that had been in my life over a decade ago. But I am grateful, too. How strange that I will never know them, in the same ways, at least, again. But (necessary) losses often come to form openings: spaces for new things to grow. For other things, whomever, and whatever, they may be.

I am (a little worried, but also) very curious – excited for what is yet to come; trying to be as content with what Allah has written for me, as I can be. Life, as we know it to be: is Process. Toil and hardship, and our moments of levity and ease. And only Paradise is Paradise.

But how quietly wonderful an experience it is, this human one. And how… bittersweet. So many people and places and parts of oneself, to come to know: if only for a while. And then, when the leaves fall: though on the same branches, new ones do grow. Life moves on, and things (which we find we may only be able to half-love, in the present moment, at least) change — just as it is in their nature to.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

More than you could ever know.

[not in reference to the Christmas song]

And just what did you find yourself… so afraid of? To what did you look to, for escape?

While walking through the Earth, taking your seat at places atop which

Your name had been writ: did it feel true? What did you think you had been running from,

And to what do you reckon you had been… running to?

Peace. A fine word, it. No longer attaching one’s worth to what the next man might think. Though

it still matters to you, maybe. Under the surface; beneath the skin. But you are far more,

I promise you, than what… various fictions may ask, of you. To be cartoonish and smooth;

Easily… amenable, or super suave. But your value here, far more than being some mere accessory;

far more than being merely surface-based, or bodily and sexual: it is intellectual. Emotional.

Spiritual. Beautiful. Far more — within every single cell that facilitates you —

than you could ever know. The shells of things matter, yes, of course they do. “Allah is Beautiful and

He loves Beauty.” And He made you beautifulin Mind, Heart, Body, and Soul – and True.

Any single man, or woman, or cat or dog, might disagree. But Truth remains Truth, objectively.

I want to

Let go of whatever holds… false convictions… for me: decorated conceptualisations of Past, or of Future, or of Other People and

Places. Realities outside of my own. I am grateful for whatever, by Allah’s permission, brought me right here.

Our Value, here, is holistic, and it simply cannot be eroded by any fellow, flawed and dependent, aspect of creation. It is, by God’s grace,

Eternal. Unwavering. Intrinsic. And I promise you: for whatever your own trials and tribulations may be, you are strong enough.

Intelligent enough. Capable enough. [And if you’re a woman: downright gorgeous enough!] Important – to all the right people – enough. With Qadr, you will struggle and strive;

Walk, with due effort,

effortlessly, right into whatever is Yours: has been Written for you, and has always been.

If you can only find it within yourself, to sink, with peace, into what and who

Your Creator – Rabbul ‘Aalameen – has ordained for your life, and the billions of things He has chosen, in Grand Design, — to come together to form

You.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Islam is

Islam is: beginning right from where you are. It is finding Peace, finally, amid all of tumultuous Dunya’s numerous tribulations.

It is Ultimate, life-giving, life-restoring,

hope-fuelled

Surrender.

And — Islam is not solely for the man for whom the Arabic language is his native tongue. It is also for… the Bengali woman. Malaysian, Nigerian, French, Argentinian. And for kings and nobles, and for their sons, and for seamstresses and chai-walas, and for their daughters.

Islam is for the ones who grew up going to — some call it Fora, others call it Maktab; some call it Dugsee — every weekend. And it is also for the ones for whom the words of the Qur’an are, at present, wholly indecipherable.

For the ones who grew up in Roman Catholic households. Or Hindu ones, or otherwise.

The truth is, we do not know, and we are truly not aware of

which of us truly are the Best of us.

How can one look at another and be convinced that we know what their intentions are? How can we look at another and be sure of where they stand, at present, before God?

Islam is also for the heroin user whose family chose to disown him, for his one fatal error. It is for the chronically sick, and it is for the young, and well, and wealthy, too. It is for the ones who know the most, and it is also for the ones who simply cannot wait to learn.

When I say that Islam is Universal, I mean: everything that exists — everything, of which we are a part:

We come from One. Are loved, and nurtured, primarily and ultimately, by One. Are being Tested by One. And it is to One, that we return.

When Allah explains to us that we are human, He means, necessarily, that we can choose between Good and Evil, based on the knowledge that we, individually, subjectively, possess, and have access to.

And that we are, all of us, fundamentally flawed — and that many people are stitched up with Good intentions, while others destroy themselves, through arrogance. But for the most part, these things remain invisible to the fallible human eye.

Fundamentally, goodness is something that must be shared. Trying to meet people where they are; trying to love them, as they are: these things are Sunnah. There is no room for violent tribalisms, where there is true Islam.

Islam is for anybody who, even in the slightest, cares — enough to seek forgiveness; to ask for Help; to try. In your own time; in your own beautiful ways.

Islam is for the human being who is uncertain, in himself, or as herself. We are not Necessary Beings; we forget and we make blunders.

We struggle, and we fall; we can come, crawling, or walking. If we are able, we can come running.

Islam is for the one who has “always felt a little bit Muslim at heart”. Who, eventually, started carrying a prayer scarf around, in her bag. Used the prayer room at Westfield, once, and amassed the courage to say Salaam to an auntie, a different time, outside the mosque.

For the man who is consciously trying to “lower [his] gaze” when it comes to women, contrary to the pullings of his Nafs (loosely translatable as ‘inner-self’). For the one who feels broken, breaking, alone. Trying to speak to his Creator, under the soul-baring covers of good night.

Islam is Meaning, and it is Purpose. It is Love, and it is Comfort. Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, concerning the Mind, the Heart; our Bodies and our Souls. Beginning: fusing together. And Ending: coming apart (for a while). The centre of the Universe, and the very fabric of our being.

Ever-a-continuation: a personal story, journey. And, always, a beginning-again, too. Right from where we are.

[Allah knows, while we do not.]

And every good thing that we (endeavour to) do, here, in submission to Al-Rahman

is growing into something Unspeakably Beautiful (we hope,) over There.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Relativity / Reframing

“Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”

— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

[Not that thistles are ugly or undesirable; not to offend all Scottish folk (the thistle is their ‘national flower’). But… you get the point, I hope]

So much of it, in truth, is ‘relative’. Our definitions; our modes of being. They are not set in stone: they are, for the most part, fluid. Heavily contingent on: whom we are with, at the time; what our accepted roles are, there; the parts of ourselves that are realised, in those moments. And the parts of ourselves that might slip back into latency.

We, in relation to great spinning Earth, and even to entire galaxies, at large. To billions of other souls, replete with their own collections of experience, walking alongside us, atop this planet.

It is all relative! To whom they are; what you actually know, of them. To where they have come from, and where Allah knows that they are going. And everything they had to do, or face, or overcome, to get to here. Relative to different people:

How we come to define ourselves, in line with what others have thought, and/or said. It all depends on the criteria that different people come to value, with regard to different things. I could come to view someone as being the most… intelligent, or cool, or hilarious, person in the world. And another person could look upon the very same individual, through their own eyes – their own lenses through which they view the world – and decide that, no, this person is dull and inconspicuous.

Who is more correct? Well… both, and… neither.

Varying perspectives and opinions on the very same thing at hand. Truly, it depends on where people are coming from. Some people despise the taste of chocolate, while others (like me!) cannot live (contentedly) without the stuff!

The practice of reframing things is important. There really is a ‘bright side’ to everything, I think, and we just have to look for it. Refusing to take things at face value: the (often-involuntary) art of choice of we ‘over-thinkers’.

Little – and big – happenings, and wins, and losses, and every single thing in-between. A conscious reframing, while considering Purpose, and the fundamentally existent ‘Bright Side’.

For example, I used to (secretly) take little comments that people would make, about me, to heart. The wealth of ‘good things’ people have said: they are there. But often, it feels easier to just focus on that one little wolfish statement, which threatens to blow the whole house down.

“I find you really intimidating.”

Oh no! Am I not smiling enough? Do I have a really stern expression on my face?

Or: (internally,) …Okay.

[Some people seem to consider me to be the very opposite, so…….. who’s right?]

“You’re weird.”

I probably said something so strange. What if I’m being really… alien-like?

Or: Ahem. “Normality is a paved road. It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.” Vincent Van Gogh.

“Do you even know how to have fun?”

Crud cakes. I’m probably coming across as being the most ‘boring’ person ever right now!

Or: Yeah. We probably just have different personal ideas on what constitutes ‘fun’. And… that’s okay!

[Also, you really do not have to be a ray of sunshine all of the time and with everybody, in order to be an acceptable human being on this Earth.]

Our individual minds perceive certain things in certain ways: we are not meant to agree with one another on everything. We don’t; we can’t.

Many people may have differing ideas and opinions, on the same things. It is virtually impossible to escape the ‘downsides’ of things, isn’t it? The dream job, perhaps, and the stress that you might experience, because you care about it very much. The seasons you love the most, and their necessary downsides. The memories you love, deeply, in retrospect. But they’re over, and they will never come back, and nostalgia – among all other forms of idealism, actually – is a liar.

The dream family, and the wailing children and sleepless nights. The amazing friend, and the times when you do not see eye-to-eye.

Trying to eat healthier. And, gosh darn it, you now have to eat less fried chicken.

Every person, and place, and time, and moment of being. From the smallest of household tasks, to the slip-ups, the rays of sunshine, the redirections, and more. Strengths, and weaknesses. Pros and cons. Upsides, downsides. (Our choices, too, in light of this knowledge).

And… today! Is a brand. New. Day!

There is Khayr that just waits to be uncovered, in almost everything.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Homesick, Traveller

I suppose I find myself writing here, quite a lot, about the nature of this life: of this human world of ours. Through writing about it, I guess I am trying to internalise my own knowledge on the topic… if that makes any sense at all.

Like there is a more ‘rational’ side of my mind – which knows these things. This, therefore this, and then, logically that. No fear; certainty. And there is a more… ’emotional’ side. Fearful, and uncertain, and seeking such comfort in… talking about it repeatedly, relatability.

I look around and I realise that nobody can, truly, thoroughly, consistently, be a ‘winner’ in this life. And we know this to be true. Fundamentally, we are, just as all other human beings are: carriers of burdens. Fellow-sufferers. And, also: إنّ مع العُسر يُسراً. “Verily, with hardship(s), comes ease.” [94:1]

When we are young, bright-eyed, untainted by Experience: we are not yet aware of the extent of others’ difficulties, or of the ones that we are soon going to step right into; inherit. Grief, pain, respiratory diseases, heavy responsibilities. Interpersonal conflicts, deep insecurities, financial stresses. Partners cheating, partners and/or parents leaving, loss of health; of wealth; of jobs; of motivation. Postnatal depression — my gosh, everything about childbirth, really. Ageing; abuses; growing fears of illness, and death.

So every time we look into a fellow human being’s eyes: we know they are half-made-up of blessings, and half-made-up of suffering; tests. In this way, we pretty much already know everybody.

An activity that I find to be quite fascinating – and telling: dividing a sheet of paper into two. Listing my blessings on one side [I am alive, and young, and the smell of coffee, and my little brother, and my room, and trees, and rain, and running clean water, and inky pens. The list goes on] and my tests on the other side. Fears, sorrows, frictions: all of it. While the second list seems to be composed of a set number of things, the first one seems like it is actually rather… inexhaustible [وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ ] [Qur’an, (16:18)]

“And if you were to enumerate the favours of Allah, never would you be able to enumerate them. Truly, Allah is the Forgiving, Nurturing/Kind.”

So even the fact that my eyes can…perceive the colour yellow. Every single breath that I take. I can walk. I do not have this disease, or that one. The beauty Allah has given us; the intelligence; the people, the places; the night sky. Every positive experience you have ever had. The people who love you very deeply, even if you accidentally, momentarily forget about this fact. You can read. You know what mangoes taste like. And… buttermilk chicken burgers [which I’ve only just discovered recently. Que delicioso, chica!]

I will not say that my life is ‘easy’, and nor does it begin to verge upon being frictionless, heavenly, ‘perfect’. I do like challenges, though. I just need to stop convincing myself that there is something ‘better’, somewhere else in Dunya. I am simply wasting mental energy by ever doing so. Hey, ’emotional’ side of my brain. I keep saying this, but: Dunya is Dunya.

You know why you are here. Leading a ‘perfect’ life would make me forget my Purpose, here, wouldn’t it? Perfection – the Denouement, Catharsis, Victory – is ultimately a Jannah thing. Work, burdens, (mystery, unpredictability, challenges and little breakthroughs) and tending closer and closer to the End, and ever-longing for Better: these are essential Dunya things.

“Allah does not burden a soul beyond what it can bear” [Qur’an, (2:286)]. And we are surely being tested. With every single day that elapses; with every passing moment. A Book is being authored: the Story of You. Letters, words and sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters.

And in some moments: I do think I get a little glimpse of Paradise. In this world, at least, the rarity of those moments is what grants them… value.

[Not to sound dramatic, but] Certainly, there is a yearning, within me. For Something Better, and for More. And I know I cannot put my hope into the fleeting, often-deceiving, elements of Dunya in order to fulfil it.

I am okay, here, Alhamdulillah. As a ‘traveller’. I am also Homesick —

I am, after all, waiting (hoping) to go Home, aren’t I?

“إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

“Indeed, to Allah we belong, and to Him we shall return.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.