Day Twenty-One

Subhan Allah, (Glory be to God)

Alhamdulillah, (All praise and thanks is for God)

Allahu Akbar. (God is the Greatest)

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-One: B e a u t y… and the Bleach.

Bismillah.

It is currently 22:11 (GMT), Monday 31st May 2021. I am sitting at the dining-room table, with six red roses in a vase, in front of me. A mug full of water [the one Suto Fufu had gotten me, from Paغi]. A postcard filled with nice messages. A Qur’an. Sweetie and Mama. My dad and his banter.

They… are discussing their plans to go to ‘Peppa Pig World’ on Thursday, Insha Allah, for Dawud and Siyana. They kept asking me if I wanted to go: they plan to stay there, and then, on the way back or something, visit the zoo. I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy a trip to… a ‘world’ filled with anthropomorphised pigs and such. I’ve said no on this occasion; I will probably stay here, with Nanu, and live out my introvert-y homebody cottage-core desires.

[I am looking so forward to doing errand-y things in p e a c e. The idea of washing one’s water bottle… has never sounded more exciting!]

Today, we had our Khayr event. Our first one ever, Masha Allah, Alhamdulillah. And it all happened because… someone had moved my salsa from the staff room fridge. Actually, even before then: ’twas because of mine and Safiya’s initial conversations, in Year Twelve, about Arab supremacy, and about how we wanted to better ourselves Deen-wise. We reminisced on those beginnings, today.

Today, I decided to wear the silver-y abaya that I had worn on Eid day, with the scarf I had found at the same shop [that shop assistant had been so lovely. And I saw her again at a different book shop; again at the Palestine protest; the other day, again, at Tesco]. I took it down to iron it, but the ironing board wasn’t there. So I decided to put it on the sofa to iron it, as I sometimes do.

I ended up… leaving a burn mark on the sofa, in the shape of an iron. Alarm bells! My parents had been out, and I needed a way to deal with this mark. I had been stressed and excited about the event; I had also been quite stressed out about this.

I Googled ways of dealing with scorch marks on upholstery. Again and again, cleaning sites and YouTube tutorials made use of… hydrogen peroxide to deal with them. Hydrogen peroxide. The stuff that had been sitting, right there, in the corner of the school lab. But, alas, school is currently closed for the half-term holidays, so there was no way of asking Sweetie to get me some for this purpose.

I used the new bag that Rushna Khala (my mum’s friend) had gotten me. It is a nice shade of dark blue: a backpack. And today I discovered that yessss! It has an extra strap in it, to become a satchel! Incidentally, I’d been thinking about the whole satchel-bike-teacher aesthetic lately.

I got a bus to the place. But first I went to the hybrid veg-shop/florists’ on W. Lane, to look for flowers. I was looking, specifically, for roses, but there were none there.

At the café, I signed in [just Covid things. Flower heart flower heart. Cursive font] and was shown downstairs. We had been given half of the basement, for this event. And, since most people had been running late [just TFL things. Knife bus knife bus. Comic Sans MS] I decided to go on a little shopping trip. To Tesco – yes, the one near work, which I basically fund the existence of with my clientship, at this point – to get those roses. I got three bunches: yellow, white, and red. My hands were shaking: I felt excited, but stressed. I also looked around for… hydrogen peroxide. Or products that I could use, which contain the stuff [hair bleach contains it. So do some cleaning products. And mouthwashes].

Eventually, I settled on buying… silver-y hair dye. Contains HP; matched the colour of our sofas. I literally also made Du’a to Allah to help me with this.

Back at the café, what lovely scenes. Dim-lit, people from Khayr coming in. A rose for each of them. People genuinely do tend to love receiving flowers: it’s quite a universal joy. One of my friends from Khayr, Sitra, said this is the first rose she has ever been given. My friend Tamanna later said the same thing. [Can’t wait to inform Tamanna’s future husband Insha Allah that I did dat. Not you, buddy boi. Me.]

[Romancing my friends is a big hobby of mine.]

We rearranged the tables, to make one long one. What a sight, Masha Allah. These awesome Muslim women. Roses. Cups of coffee, cakes, ice-cream [I had two scoops of ice-cream, today. One chocolate, one coffee. And most people ordered red velvet cake]. Such lovely, intriguing, soulful, beneficial, funny conversations.

Discussions on how you pronounce ‘diaspora’. On dealing with anger. Reminiscing on days long behind us now. That sort of stuff.

There, I had a friend whom I have known since we were in nappies: Tamanna. I had a friend whom I have known since Year Nine, at secondary school: Aya (whose nickname from me is ‘Anteayer’. She’s Spanish-Moroccan, and helped me so much with my ol’ GCSE Spanish exams). I had friends whom I met at sixth form (Safiya, Nadia, Sitra, and Hanan). And then some of their friends, from uni. Subhan Allah.

Those hugs were so lovely: many of these sisters, I’d only seen them/heard their voices on Zoom. They recognised me [I tend to talk quite a bit, in these Zoom sessions. Then worry that I’m being annoyingly too-talkative]. One called me “so cute” upon seeing me. I asked her if it’s because I’m small; she said no. Maybe I should stop being so low-key bleddy defensive with this ‘cute’ thing. Embrace it. I’m ‘cute’ in my own way.

Today’s event consisted of: nice conversations. Food. Flowers. F.G. cards. Postcards [I had a box of flower-themed postcards at home. Idea for a mingling activity: give each person a postcard, and get them to go around and get it signed by the others].

Tamanna, Aya and I left sort of early. Tee had work [during this gap year of hers, she is tutoring] and I had… a bit of an unfortunate sofa situation to go home and try to deal with, you know?

The believers are but brothers/sisters.

Today, I have learnt, again, that I love being Muslim. It is the greatest gift, from Allah, to me. It is crisp cleanness, and natural beauty. Ice-cream, and a sense of togetherness, away from Dunya’s numerous stresses and sinkholes.

Later on in the day, Nadia, Safiya, and Safiya’s (awesome, sporty, outspoken and confident) little sister Sabrina came to my house, to pray Salāh. We had another really nice conversation. And, Masha Allah, I am quite glad for this day.

I have learnt that the Somali language doesn’t have a word/phrase for ‘thank you’; that cheetahs do not roar — they meow. That I have some silver hair dye left… I really want to make a bit of good use of it, Insha Allah.

Furthermore, the HP on the sofa thing… kind of worked, a bit. But there is still a scorch mark. I… will likely never iron on the sofa ever again……………………. But the stuff helped a little at least.

Further-furthermore, if our family spoken word night does ever happen, then here is the poem for that. It’s about anxiety and security and this search of mine, for ‘home’; its first lines are a play on Emily Dickinson’s ‘Hope is the thing with Feathers // That perches in the soul’.

Home is the thing with flowers,

That opens up the soul. Should make lightnesses of heavier things;

Should make poetry of our bones. // Well, I can’t say it doesn’t hurt me:

The way you speak of me so low. You blame me for all your troubles;

And if you’re right, well then, I guess I’ll never know.

Home is the thing with flowers;

I’m not sure where I went wrong.

I’m doing the very best I can, but

you seem to, and with violence, muffle out my song.

Why do my hands shake this much? Why does my neck feel so tight?

Why do you exaggerate others’ faults, and think you’re always right?

I guess I’m really hoping for

Another way of seeing things: I’ve got to lose this one for good.

I’ve got these own eyes of mine, through which to see the world, though. I’m growing into myself far more,

As I think I really should.

Do I continue to live my life, in apology to you? No, with gladness, I part from here.

I call out to Ilaahi; with certainty, I know that He is near.

I’m quite glad to be alive, while you freely say you wish that I were dead.

Well, I choose to live this life of mine //

in an outpouring of gratitude to Allah, instead.

Nah, kidding. This one’s too much; it’s not particularly ‘spoken-word-y’ either. I’m not going to edit it, and probably won’t read it in front of everyone.

“Until Allah opens the next door, praise Him in the hallway.”

[Source: Le Tweeteر. I can’t say I don’t love it.]

On our way back from Khayr [we should 100% call it ‘THE KHAYR CONFERENCE’. Just to be all dramatic and stuff] Tamanna held my flowers for me [I’d nabbed what remained of the red ones], as well as her own. A random middle-aged man asked her if the flowers were for him, and, “Masha Allah sisTah. Where are you from?” Tee just said, “no,” and we carried on walking.

Tamanna gave me some excellent advice today. Things like: if there is a difficult choice between two things, then it is definitely not the first thing. Otherwise, there would have been no difficult choice. And all these things are tests from Allah; the signs were always there. We’re in the ‘hallway’ right now, and we must praise – and exhibit due trust in – God.

[Gross, gross, gross. Ref: my – probably really terrible – annoyance when people whom I really don’t know anymore confuse me with their actions. It mek no sense to me, but then again it does. The signs are there, and the simplest explanation is the one we have got to accept, but not tolerate. But I’m going to take Tee’s advice. And I’ll take this advice and run with it, Insha Allah, while pinning it to the memory of how wonderfully Parisian Tamanna’s aesthetic had been, today.]

I want to look back at this entry in 365 days, though. What happens?! Fear and excitement: same energy, just expressed in two different ways.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twenty

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty: Thai Food and Tiredness.

Bismillah.

Yesterday had been Day Twenty of this thirty-day documentation thing. Yesterday, after breakfast, I got ready to leave from Ranga Mama’s: he gave me a ride home, and took Stomami and Dawud Biyya to Stomami’s mum’s house, in East London.

Some random additional memories from being at Dawud’s house, this past [past? Last? Past? Past.] weekend:

  • While playing with Ya’qub and Sabrine in the adventure park, Dawud, swinging on the baby-swing, called out: “I love you Fuldiiii”
  • While I prayed Salāh on Stomami’s purple prayer mat, Dawud Biyya put down his mini red prayer mat, put his forehead on the floor once, then whispered, “I love you Fuldi” and packed up and ran away
  • Dawud tried to put my bracelet on my hand for me [the one that Nabeelah’s fam got me, from Saudi. It has my ‘other name’ (Jannath) engraved on it, in Arabic, on one side, with ‘Allah’, in Arabic, on the other]. He wasn’t really succeeding with it, but kept trying nonetheless
  • On Saturday, at breakfast time, Stomami had made us a full English breakfast. Dawud loves to eat eggs (with a ‘zh’ sound, at the end, the way he pronounces it). He wanted some of my food; I went to get him his own fork because he probably has the same lil hygiene particularities as I do. But then his mum said I should just carry on eating: he’s already eaten. To us: this was kind of a ‘small thing’. But to Dawud: this was kind of a big thing. I think he sort of came to see it as me not liking him anymore. Perspectives. Kids are so impossibly heart-meltingly c u t e, Masha Allah.

I am trying to use this documentation thing to capture this temporal slice of my early twenties: the bridge between being a (nominal) teenager, and being an adult. I am trying to write truly, to myself, while also giving due consideration to those who are reading these entries. To clarify, then: my little cousins call me ‘Fuldi’. Maryam randomly gave me the title one day, and I can’t even remember what everybody had called me before then. ‘Fuldi’ means ‘flower girl’ or ‘flower sister’. I love the name so much, and coincidentally, I have grown to also really love flowers. I would like for even my friends’ future kids, and my cousins’, to call me ‘Fuldi’ in the future. Insha Allah, Insha Allah.

My aunt that I have spoken about fairly copiously in these articles, also: her real name is Salma, but we have called her ‘Sweetie’ ever since Maryam’s mum gave her the name. For a good chunk of time, though, I used to call her ‘Switzerland’. Now I guess I just call her “Swey-‘ey” (Cockney accent) and “bro”, and, more recently, “babes”.

Well, yesterday, I felt really tired. When I feel tired, I feel it in my limbs. Fatigue envelops me. But it was that sort of nice kind of tired: a day out, in the sun, in nature. Topped off by food. Peaceful prayers. Dawud Biyya, and saying “I love you too Dawud” again and again [how sad that someday he will likely grow out of this…].

I came home and napped – I think, for three hours or more. Then, after thinking for a while about how much I miss riding my bike around Tower Bridge with the two people whom I would go with last year, in lockdown [M&M] I heard that Priya (my paternal cousin, who lives in Folkestone, Kent) was in London. She had to go and do something at my dad’s shop, apparently.

Priya and I made plans to go for a bike ride, while my dad had planned to take Saif and Isa to the travelling fun-fair. But “the best laid plans o’ mice and men gang aft agley” [R.B.] and all. Even though my dad had been fasting (voluntarily) yesterday, he decided to take us all out to a new[? At least, I think it had been] Thai restaurant for lunch. When we got there, we found that it was a Thai-Japanese-Indian fusion restaurant.

Beesa and I had chicken burgers and chips. I sort of absent-mindedly ate the burger using a knife and fork [because I hate the feeling of grease on my hands] and then I snapped back into reality (which I… share with other hoomans) and realised that… people find this shiz weird. Priya (whom I sometimes call ‘Priyanka’, and sometimes ‘Prijonka’) had actual Thai food. My brother had what he usually actively searches for at restaurants: chicken nuggitz and chips. Priya and I also had ‘Thai mojitos’: coconut, pineapple, something-else-I-think, and chilli flakes, to top it all off. [I’d forgotten that I’m somewhat allergic to pineapples. But that drink was kind of worth it].

Priya took the bus home; she had not been feeling especially well yesterday. Beesa, Soopaf and I had to wait in the mini-van while my dad visited a suppliers’ for his shop. And they would not stop harassing me. Saif whacked a paper KFC cup into my eye. I got really angry, and hit him back. This is how I fight with my brother who is almost twelve years my junior.

Currently, my brother is playing football outside, with one of our neighbours’ son, Faris. Faris attends a prep primary school, while my brother attends a state one. This conversation sounds interesting. [We first properly met Faris last snow-day. That was a fun day].

Oh! After a brief dialogue between Saif and Faris, about Palestine and Israel, we’ve just found out that Faris is eleven years old. They have no idea I can hear them from up here, probably. Now Saif and Faris are arguing a little: Saif is accusing F of lying about his age.

“I promise! I’ve just finished my 11+ exam!” This is so funny.

Saif can be way too direct, sometimes: “but you’re short for your age!”

I can’t even remember what I did yesterday evening, or what I had learnt. I guess I just learned, again, that Priya is a sister to me, and that this bond is an undying one, Insha Allah. All these blessings that I have, in my life, which I have often taken for granted: the people, the food, the random adventures. I am very deeply grateful, Alhamdulillah.

And, also, did you know that I love to sleep?


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Nineteen

What I have learnt, Episode Nineteen: Kids’ Cars and a Country Park.

Bismillah.

Currently, I am at Ranga Mama’s house. Dawud has turned one of his big sit-down cars – his Mercede-ay-dee-ay-dees – over, and was using one of the wheels as a steering-wheel.

My Dawud Biyya is obsessed with cars. Right now, he is wearing car-printed pyjamas, and all over his easel-whiteboard, there is a nebula of car stickers.

I have just learnt that on Monday, temperatures may rise to around twenty-five degrees Celcius! It might be the hottest day of the year (2021).

Dawud just held my black-framed screen glasses up and asked me, “why are you wearing this one? I’ll get you pink one. Dis boring. I don’t like dat.” Little man has also said that he will buy me pink shoes: he probably finds my black trainers ‘boring’, also.

“Come, play Day Station [Play Station]!. Okay, I’m gonna take your phone. Ha ha, your phone!” — Dawud Biyya, 29th May 2021, 23:53 GMT. Update: he has now managed to get my phone disabled for a minute. And then he went to enthusiastically play a game of ‘HULK SMAAASH’ with his dad.

“Oh, where do we be-gin?

The rub-ble,

or our sins?”

Yesterday, on the car journey here (much of which is a wonderful straight line, past glass-sharp, shiny, Canary Wharf) Dawud had managed to stay awake, somehow. It was around 1AM. He looked out, at the expanse of red-light car tails, in front of us, and said, extremely endearingly: “look! It’s the whole wewld!

This morning, I awoke in the (really gosh-darn comfortable) guest room, and overheard a conversation between my uncle and his son. “Dawud, you’re my whole world!” Children are such wonderfully imitative creatures: this is how a great article from ‘TLS’, a couple of months ago, had put it. And so are we: we, grown-up children.

Yesterday, while we waited for Fajr time to come around, Suto Mami and I stood in the bathroom, while she plaited my hair. It reminded me of a movie we have watched together: ‘Letters to Juliet’. “One of life’s greatest pleasures is having one’s hair brushed.”

Physical forms of intimateness are very strongly linked with emotional/spiritual intimacy. The conversations that you have when one person is braiding the other person’s hair: they would appear to be quite different from the ones you might have, say, over FaceTime. And perhaps this is why people in the beauty-service sector – manicurists, hairdressers, henna artists, makeup artists – are known to obtain access to people’s secrets and such, so effortlessly. [The same idea probably holds true for nurses, also. Not for dentists, though…] It reminds me of when I watched my cousin Nabeelah do Mendhi on my mum’s friend’s daughter’s hand: Nabeelah, in a matter of minutes, quite quickly got to learn so much about Aaminah. I guess it’s: I’m trusting you with a part of my physical being. You are proving to be trustworthy with that. Ensuing comfort, ease. And open-er, more flowing, (generally) organically sustained, conversations.

The night-time too: an excellent facilitator of the truest of dialogues. Connection. I really want to travel with my friend Tasnim, at least once, Insha Allah. To see the ‘Gilmore Girls’ set in LA, or something(s) like that.

Incidentally, in this life of mine, I know I just want honesty. Its synonyms: authenticity, genuineness, truth. I want this of and from and for myself; of, from, and for others, equally so. And I want for this to always reflect, in what I write. If it’s true, even if it is not deemed to be particularly ‘excellent’: it’s true.

I want for others to be comfortable, also. The idea of breathing, and of being: the sheer beauty of genuineness, and our presences in it. And uncomfortable truths, I really do consider to be far better than beautiful-seeming lies: at least the former are true.

Currently, Stomami and I are watching a psychological thriller (and I am, in a way, learning more about agoraphobia. Likely not a very accurate representation of it, here, but still). I’m drinking water out of a wine glass: I love doing this. Stomami and I are going to stay up until Fajr again, Insha Allah.

“Well, I’m haunted, but… I can’t see by what.” — a random quote from this movie. Separately:

“Fuldi!”

“Ye-es?”

And then Dawud proceeds to tell me something, or ask or show me something, or say “I love you. Fuldi, I love you. I love you, Fuldi.” Five seconds later, again: “Fuldiiii,” and the process repeats itself. I do not mind one bit, though. I love my Dawud Biyya so much.

Echo, Fuldi’s calling you!”

This morning, we sat on Dawud’s sit-down cars: Dawud on the Mercedes, and I on the Range Rover. Dawud asked Alexa (Echo) to play a Peppa Pig song. The song chosen began with an enthusiastic line about the “POWER OF VEGETABLES”.

This made me laugh so much, and then we started jumping and dancing around, and I never want to forget that beautiful moment. [To connect with a three-year-old kid… one must become a three-year-old kid].

Dawud, at this point in time, mispronounces words in such impossibly adorable ways. ‘Traffic’ is “saffek”. ‘Puzzle’ is “cuzzle”. ‘Yesterday’ is “lesterday”. And so on.

Ranga Mama asked Alexa to play a song called… I forgot what it’s called. But it is catchy: “What do you do, when you’re feeling kinda blue,

in an English country ga-a-rden.”

“Family’s… complicated.” — another quote from this movie. The intricacies of our networks; of our connections. You must take all the good, with the necessary downsides. And it takes a lot of trying to emphasise all that is good, in one’s mind and heart, while overlooking whatever might not be so.

I’ve just learnt, again from the movie, that ‘apple’, in French, is ‘pomme’ Le pomme. I just Googled the etymology of the word ‘pomegranate’: The name pomegranate derives from medieval Latin pōmum “apple[/fruit]” and grānātum “seeded” [Wikipedia]. Dang. Pomegranates are ‘seeded apples’. And pineapples are ‘apples’ that look like pinecones. [I need to visit some botanical gardens reallll soon, Insha Allah].

No wayyyy: I started thinking about how, in French, the way of saying ‘chips’ (i.e. ‘French fries’) is ‘pomme frites’, which literally translates as, ‘fried apples’. Turns out: ‘pomme frites’ is an ellipsis (a shortened form) of ‘pomme de terre frites’. The French call their potatoes ‘apples of the Earth’! Whaaaat. [What a great potential pet name, also. Mon chérimon… pomme de terre. Hoh hoh hoh.]

Next: since ‘grānātum‘ means ‘seeded’, then… this must be where the word ‘grain’ comes from! ‘Granary’. Wot abahht ‘granite’? Seeded rock?

Quick Google search, and… yep, it means ‘grained’, and therefore ‘seeded’! Sigh. I love words. Ain’t played Scrabble in a long time though.

Dawud is never going to be this young again. What a beautiful little kid, Masha Allah. Ranga Mama says that he isn’t too distressed at the idea of Dawud growing up and leaving behind his chubby-cheeked babyhood: he can’t wait to see what the future holds, Insha Allah. The teenage years, the having children of his own, Insha Allah. But R.M. did say that there will be a last day of him being able to physically pick up his son. He said that this would get to him, truly, and that it would make him go to the bathroom and cry a little at the sadness.

It is now 08:32 AM, the next day. Sundaaaay. In a cottage-like home (Masha Allah) in a cottage-like place. I’m just waiting for Dawud Biyya to wake up, to commence his adorable tired babbling.

Yesterday, we went to Ranga Mama’s local ‘country park’. It is huge and it is gorgeous. Trees, streams. A wooden adventure playground, which we discovered. The way the sunlight filtered through the trees, also: only one word, really, for it. Ethereal. Shivers down yer spine, sometimes.

While waiting on the side, near a bench, while Dawud went back to the park with R.M. to play some more, we saw a most quietly remarkable (Masha Allah) yet subtly terrifying thing: a majestic tiger-orange fox. Stealthy creature, and an unassuming one, also.

When we came to a little wooden bridge, and had to cross it, Ranga Mama and I seemingly had the same thought at the same time: ‘Bridge to Terabithia’. A wonderful movie.

Yesterday, I looked at all the plants I could. Dots of flowers, dotted around; hexagonal and pentagonal arrangements of petals and of leaves. Wilderness: I love the word. And then:

While at the adventure playground part of the park [points for alliteration? Perhaps.] we bumped into (not literally, although that is something I would probably do) my mum’s cousin — my uncle, whom I maybe haven’t even spoken to once in my life. Or maybe just once. A passing “Assalamu ‘alaikum” and “I’m good, thank you,” at some family event at some point. He was there with his wife — Raheema Mami, who (before she got married to him) was one of my teachers at a Summer Islamic school. She also has her own cake business; her cakes are genuinely to (I won’t say ‘die’ so I’ll say) cry for!

Yesterday I learned that… I have two more cousins to add to this endless-seeming list of relatives. Guljar Mama [he has two brothers, called ‘Gulshan’ and ‘Gulraj’. In my head, however, they are all the same person.] has two children: Ya’qub and Sabrine.

Mama and Mami had just been sitting on a bench, talking, chilling. They pointed out their son Ya’qub to me: a boy probably the same age as Saif, my brother. He had been sitting, with a football in front of him, on the grass. Specifically, on a part with shorter grass. “He’s searching for insects,” his parents said.

And what a cool kid he is, Masha Allah. So sweet, so clever. We had a nice conversation, and bonded seemingly effortlessly. His three main hobbies, apparently, are 1. collecting (and examining) insects; 2. reading; 3. playing football. I sat with him for a while, to look for insects. He told me his sister Sabrine had found a beetle earlier, but that he hadn’t been having any luck with it.

We started talking about worms and snails. He pointed out a tiny lil ant-hole. I told him that worms tend to come to the surface when the rain falls [a Google search later reminded me that birds are known to mimic these sounds of rainfall, using their beaks, to get their food to come out and play]. Ya’qub had an idea: he went to get a water bottle from his parents. He was going to use it to drop water on the mud in the style of rain, to inspire the worms to come out. [I guess I used to love insects, and inspecting them, too, as a kid. I would sit in the playground, naming ‘pet ants’ names like…. ‘Anty-She-She’. It became a whole thing, in my class: our pet ants].

Later on, when Ya’qub had gone to play football with some boys he had just met — according to his parents, he tends to be quite shy initially, but then, specifically right when they are about to leave from places, he goes ahead and becomes real good friends with new people — I saw, on the ground near the swings, a most gorgeous creature, Masha Allah. It was a tiny beetle, weaving in and out of all the rocks. It rather resembled… a tiny, elegant, walking (or, crawling) bronze bullet. I wanted to keep it somewhere, for Ya’qub. But alas, to no avail.

I also met Sabrine. Adventure-inclined little girl; she is four years old. [When I asked her how old she is, she just showed me four fingers]. So, so cute, Masha Allah. She was climbing on the climbing-frames; climbing up the slide, swinging; helping her brother look for insects; standing around the boys while they played football. I have a feeling that Ya’qub must be a wonderful big brother to her. What good, cute, and clever kids, my heart. Allahummabārik.

Yesterday, Dawud learned how to go down the slide without being scared anymore. A short metal tunnel slide. I still remember how terrified Moosa, for example, used to be, of going down the tunnel slide in the ‘school park’ in Wapping. I remember making up some elaborate lie that if you go through it, there’s like a nice shop, halfway through, where you can buy chocolate. Something like that.

Yesterday, I went down the slide with Dawud. I tried to sit Dawud there first, and then sit myself behind him. But then Sabrine, this very very clever little four-year-old, Masha Allah, politely asked me why I don’t go ahead and sit there first, and then carry him over. Her idea worked!

And then: inspired by Sabrine, most likely, Dawud braved the slide all by himself.

I can’t believe I have such cool cousins, Allahummabārik. Can’t believe I didn’t even know about the existence of these particular ones… until my Qadr-ic meeting them, yesterday.

Dawud, Ya’qub, and Sabrine. My cousins who live sort-of-in-the-city, but sort-of-in-the-countryside, also. I can really imagine them all having horse-riding lessons and stuff in the future, maybe.

Also: I really think that ‘countryside-y’ air is just better for skin. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m using Stomami’s ‘Clean and Clear sensitive skin‘ cleanser, while here. Sumfing about sumfing. Happy skin, happy me. That is how it goes.

After traversing the rugged paths of that beautiful park, we hit the local town, in order to eat. Stomami is a foodie, just like me. When we go Green Street shopping together, our first (shared) thought tends to be: Food? We usually go to ‘Chaiiwala’, there.

Yesterday, we went to ‘Pepe’s’, and ordered a platter. I discovered that their pilau rice is actually really good! After food, we went for dessert: Ranga Mama took us to the mall, to get milkshakes from a shop called ‘Shakeaway’. The pun in the name: R.M. said that, once, he’d wanted to open a restaurant. He had plans to call it ‘Typo’ (but I told him that, now, there’s a stationery shop that has the same name). The USP would be: lots of typos in the menu. Calling ‘chicken burgers’, ‘bicken churgers’, things like that. Offering 5% discounts to people who use the menu names for things.

While waiting for our shakes [there were so many combinations to choose from!] Dawud (and I…) sat in one of those shopping-centre moving car things. I put a pound in, and skrrrt skrrrt. Off we went… to nowhere at all.

Yesterday, I learned that … blech. Some people are really not whom I guess I tried to make them be, in my head [ref: weird-as-heck rumours. And, disgustingness. *Vomit vomit*] . My fault, probably. Character is shown, over and over again, through our actions. Lies might be made about you, spread like fire; trust will be broken. I believe in forgiveness, but sometimes I don’t think that trust can ever truly be repaired. Disappointment. But the signs were already there, already. I just wish I’d trusted my intuition, then, instead of forcing it into silence, in pursuit of this ‘love-rooted connection’, which I’d found myself chasing after. Open yer eyes. [I am super glad that I care way less, now. I’m only in this Dunya for a while. No need to get so attached to things; what and whom are for me are what and whom are for me].

Yesterday, while Ranga Mama had been changing Dawud’s nappy, Dawud said that he is going to chuck his dad’s car in the bin! Grand plans. He also told me that he would throw me out of the window or something. I said, “pick me up then”. And in that moment, he realised that his plans had been foiled.

And, yesterday, Ranga Mama and I had some of our usual sorts of conversations. Speaking about gossip culture in terms of ‘Occam’s Razor’. Talking about just how high-maintenance the human body is. Child Psychology. Things like that.

Yesterday, Dawud scribbled all over my TLS paper. The dude on the front cover: he drew all over it, then called it “Sassa” (‘paternal uncle’). Dawud also sometimes calls people his “babes”, with an emphasised ‘s’ sound at the end. “You’re my babes”.

All of these ‘perfectly imperfect’ things, in this here world. They’re actually… far more perfect than we, at present, can ever fathom.

Also, random, but: sort of a while ago, I found out that someone I knew in a particular capacity has… changed his name (from a very ‘ordinary’ one) to… the name of a particular flower. He seems to have journeyed, as many people do, through the very academic/corporate path, right into the very ‘spiritual’ one. He used to suffer from bad panic attacks, and it seemed as though there was an atmosphere of anxiety at his old workplace: which, ironically, had been a private healthcare centre. [This process is something I had first came across, I suppose, in a book that my aunt Avelina had gifted me, in Year Nine. ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’. I think I’d gone through sort of the same process. In Year Nine, I wanted for people to call me ‘Sasanqua’… … .]

‘Spirituality’: connections with things greater than ego, greater than ourselves. Fitrah. I thoroughly believe that the ways to connect with Fitrah are… 1. Salāh / Qur’an. Conversations with Allah. 2. Nature. 3. Spending time with children. Professional fun-havers, and closer to Fitrah. 4. Good food, probably. 5. The spousal relationship. Physical, emotional, spiritual. Eternal, Insha Allah.

All, such very healing stuff. The only way to be truly okay is to shed ourselves of Dunya’s pollutions. Other things: maintaining good hygiene: purity. Sitting on the ground.

Walking through the woods: very… thought-inducing. Peace-provoking. Healing; reassuring.

Ranga Mama, Stomami and Dawud have just woken up. Ranga Mama said: “you’re my life, Baba. You’re my life.” And Dawud said he wants to go back to the country park.

Finally, to end this entry slightly abruptly: everything, everything, everything (the trees, and the stars, our passions and our lives) tends towards God Alone.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Eighteen

What I have learnt, Episode Eighteen: Spicy Water Balls and Poofy Sleeves.

Bismillah.

Today, I tried to take a wooden tray, and some fruit from home, into work — with the intention to later add to it, with more fruit[s???] from Tesco. But, alas: I’d left the tray, the grapes, and the oranges, on top of the shoe-box outside. A similar thing has happened once before: when I’d made a big flask of karak chai for everyone, and… left it outside, on one of the two pillar-things by the stairs.

Today had been a sort of celebration day for us. A belated Eid celebration, firstly, and also because it had been our last day of this half-term (Summer One). It goes: Autumn One, Autumn Two, Spring One, Spring Two, Summer One… and now I am going to enter into my final half-term there, possibly. I. Do. Not. Want. To. Leave.

Why. Would. I. Want. To. Leave. Save for: to get a degree, I guess. Make my parents happy. Reputation things and all. Roughly £28,000 to find myself in debt of, by the end. Sounds wonderful(!)

I do want and hope to carry on studying, God-Willing — iz in my blood; I don’t think I would be me, without my triplet loves for learning, and for writing, and for teaching. But, I’m not sure. I do think I would strongly benefit from a structured programme of learning, but I also love this academic freedom of mine, Alhamdulillah.

Well, today I walked into a school of light-blue-clad staff members. I wore the Turkish dress my nan had bought for me, from when we went to Istanbul together. The dress has puffy sleeves, and I got it tailored – cut – a few inches at the bottom, while in Turkey. [I used to call them ‘poo-fy’ sleeves, and Tamanna would find this hilarious.]

Today had been Zahra’s last day at work. The teacher she had been covering for this year (who had gone on maternity leave) is now back. Zahra had been in charge of Religious Studies and Citizenship; she also managed to continue working part-time for her family’s travel agency. While also taking care of – her niece, was it? – sometimes. Oh! And! She is pretty much a professional baker: she has made some of her sweet treats for us before. They are amazing, Masha Allah.

For today, she had made… an individual cupcake, packaged in its own neat and ribboned box, for every single student she has taught this year. How?! She said she only managed to get three hours of sleep last night.

I do thoroughly believe that the people who come into our lives are parts of Qadr, and forms of Rizq. The knowledge we can absorb through them: also, Qadr and Rizq. A while back, Zahra and I had both stayed back at the school — until, like, seven o’clock. Never again — in order to mark books. We were overzealous novice teachers back then, probably.

I think, one of the main things I struggle with is fear. I guess I am quite a sensitive person: I think ‘too much’, and I feel ‘too much’. And, back then, in November I think it had been, I started worrying very deeply about what others might think of me. Namely: what ‘Bengali society’ might make of me.

Zahra is a very forward and take-no-shiz kind of person. Any job she is given: she gets it done, super efficiently. On the human level: an unstoppable force, Masha Allah.

And on that November evening, we had spoken about lots of things together. About her divorce, which she openly speaks about. She is not the type to stay for things, merely for the sake of appearances; so that people do not ‘speak’. About others’ expectations of her. About her journey of personal development. About her academic journey. And probably some things about my own life, too, but I can’t quite remember.

Zahra’s advice? People talk. You don’t have to care. Just carry on.

When we left school that evening, Zahra had insisted on dropping me off home in her car. We had to walk and walk, to go to the place where she had parked it: a random council estate. I sort of stopped near a Volkswagen, wrongly assuming that this might be her car. But then the headlights of a really nice white BMW sports car flashed. Zahra told me to let my parents know she’d be dropping me off… in case they would see me getting out of the (really nice) car and assume that a guy had dropped me off.

Today I learned, again, that a lot of these students attend ‘Maktab’ (Qur’an classes) after school, pretty much every day. M—iah, for example, found herself to have been very “stressed” today, playing around with a ball of slime for stress relief purposes: she has five Surahs to memorise, before tomorrow. And then I learned that A—sa… has one Surah to learn before she has the entire Qur’an memorised, Masha Allah! She asked me if I could get her V-bucks (Fortnite credits) if/when she finishes it. I said yes. Sometimes I like to get baby brother mine V-bucks, just for being alive. I think I talk about him way too much, to my students — but it’s always relevant to the class discussion.

Today Tha—yra (Year Seven) made a very clever point about media reporting, and about popular awareness, and deliberate distraction.

And, for the extended lunchtime today, I went to (you guessed it) Tesco, to get some things. Not a fruit platter this time, unfortunately, but: some popcorn, and some breadsticks and hummus. Because, to paraphrase my brother, and in a TH roadman accent, I’m a wetty like that.

Celebration days at the school tend to be especially lovely. Everybody is in a celebratory mood. Ethnically, our students are from everywhere: Bangladesh, Somalia, Algeria, Egypt… I even teach a girl who is Scottish-and-Bengali! When I look at people who are ‘mixed race’, if I focus on one of their ethnic backgrounds, I tend to see mainly that. And if I focus on the other, I see that. Same with little kids, and their parents: if I choose to see mainly their mother, in them, I do. Father, same.

Today, I went with Rashida to a local Islamic bookshop, to buy some books for a friend of hers who has just had a baby. She is putting a hamper together for them. Apparently, the baby’s mother is favouring mint over the traditional blue, for clothing her child, and for decorating his living space, I think. So we looked, specifically, for baby books with mint-like covers, for the hamper. Then we went (back to) Tesco: Samaiya asked me to get some plastic cups and spoons for our form girls. But by the time I had returned to the classroom with the goodz, they had no longer been in need of them.

Rafia – who told me to “snap out of it!” today, when I zoned out, thinking about the timetable changes, for some reason – had brought in Panee Puree for her form class (8S). There is another way of saying ‘Panee Puree’: Gol-something. Golap-something? I forgot. But, also, the ‘proper Sylheti’ (an oxymoron, according to some snooty peoples) way of saying it is ‘Fanee Furee’. It literally means ‘water balls’. [‘Gol gappe’: that’s the other name!]

Spicy water balls. A classic Desi snack. And one I would like to try, from street vendors in India/Pakistan. As I have said before, I don’t like to rely on fancies of travel in order to maintain a sense of adventure in my life. But, at this moment in time, Insha Allah, I would like to go on a lil tour of Bangladesh (again), India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Imagine having panee puree; chai; biryani… in India/Pakistan. Wow. [Foodie tour of South Asia, 202-…4? -5? Insha Allah]

Jerusalem and Bethlehem, also. Scotland, again, Insha Allah. Those are the places that I would really like to go to. And Ranga Mama and Stomami said they really want to take me to… Egypt! They’ve been before, and Ranga Mama assures me that I would love learning about the history of the country — especially Cairo.

I would like to do things like quad-biking and scuba-diving, too. These things tend to be things that make me feel a little scared – uncomfortable – at first. And then you get into them, and you achieve this sense of overcoming, and it tends to be really enjoyable. You just have to reach that nice flow state. Many of the things I am initially a little wary of doing: I end up being very, very glad that I did them. Better to have no regrets.

I really want a Vespa, too. Someone at work told me I would really suit one, and now I cannae stop thinking about it. Probably would not go down too well with my parents, though. [Plus, I feel like people low-key find hijabis doing anything like this… funny. But in Zahra’s words: we shouldn’t care. We’re not here long; going to die. Let others’ eyes be others’ eyes, and let our own be our own.]

[That random song I found on Twitter, a while ago: Hijabi, hijabi, hijabi. Stop making fun of hijabis.]

Bike, Vespa, horse. Or nuffink.

Later today, I am going to Ranga Mama and Suto Mami’s house, Insha Allah, to stay there for the weekend. I can’t wait to see my Dawud Biyya! [‘Biyya’ is an honorific title for older brothers. Dawud is my lil cousin who is three years old. I just find it super funny to say ‘Dawud Biyya, Dawud Biyya’ whenever I see him]. And: their house is in a nice little village, tucked away from the busier parts of London. A nice retreat-y kind of place.

The other day, when Suto Mami called Sweetie to get Dawud to talk to us, he had been speaking to Sweetie, and then I said hello to him and he shouted, “FULDI! LOOK! PIDER-MAN! LOOK FULDI! LOOK!” I think he thought it had been a FaceTime call. I love this kid so much.

Dawud had been born exactly a day less than seventeen years after me: his birthday falls on the 18th December (2017), while mine is on the 19th (2000).

Today has been a day of lessons, followed by lots of food, and spirited conversations. B—-isa came to the staff room, to give me something: a box of brownie bites, on which she had written ‘Ms Sadia’ in red board pen. I found this so, so sweet. But I probably expressed it really, really awkwardly. Why am I so terribly awkward, at times?

Today I really ‘deeped’ how things can change. From October 2020, to now: May 2021. At the start, I had felt like such a wary-feeling guest in the staff room; at the school. During staff meetings, I would feel anxious, sitting at the side-tables. Now, I walk around the place like it is my home. I like to take in food for my colleagues, sometimes; I like joining in on random discussions with them. We talk about pretty much everything, together. The ‘mundane’, the ‘big’, the universal. Sometimes, we laugh about really silly (hilarious) things. And honestly, the sound of some people’s laughter is something to be treasured, Masha Allah.

Truly, even in the space of a ‘mere’ six months, this school has become a home for me.

R.M. and S.M. are planning to leave from Nanu’s in T-minus an hour and a half. They’ve ordered pizza today, but I’m trying to do this say-sorry-to-my-body-and-eat-healthier thing. I need to pack, and then I need to go.

[And I can’t remember if I’ve learnt anything else today… I’m sure I have, but… ya girl is – you guessed it – tired. I want to learn how to say this in Arabic. Ana… *thaayerrd*.]


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Seventeen

What I have learnt, Episode Seventeen: Model Faces and Periwinkle Colour Schemes, which are of UPmost Importance.

Bismillah.

Today I learned that I think the shape of my nose has altered a little: as a result of wearing screen glasses, maybe? Or, as a result of wearing a mask? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m being paranoid, here. But also: if I am this (low-key high-key) obsessive about a possible little facial change, then… how on Earth am I going to react to my first wrinkles and grey hairs and stuff?!

And how, how, how, do women cope with how their bodies are known to change, post-labour? There’s just so much to it. This may sound bad, but I find it… disgusting. The miracle of life is wonderful and all, but… wow, women sacrifice so much for the continuation of humanity! Swollen ankles; darkened skins on their tummies; stretch marks; ruptures; pain pain pain. Babies do be cute, and this is a truth universally acknowledged. But… that shiz do look extraordinarily terrifying, also.

I am twenty years old. Almost (en español,) sin duda, without a doubt, I am going to start hearing, a) of friends’ Nikkahs, and, b) of… friends’ pregnancies, soon (if Allah wills). I’m super excited to be an aunt. Do not want to hear about anything related to the whole biological side of it, though. Blech-y.

Walking – cycling – into work today, I saw Samaiya from far away. And we both raised our hands to say hello, before walking in together. Kind of a nice moment: Samaiya called it… “recognition“. Edgy. [Samaiya is the sort of person to wear checker shirts and Air Maxes into work. She also has a part-time job, outside of teaching Geography, at… Screw-Fix! Once, during Ramadan, we went to the fancy new-ish Baklava place near O.F. mosque together, and she bought me this delicious Nutella cake, which I later broke my fast with. Food really does seem to be the way to my heart, doesn’t it?]

Today, I planned my media-representation lessons in my frees: first, in the staff room, and then, in the lab, where I had been covering for my form class. And I based the lesson around the exploration of concepts like scapegoating; generalisation; the deliberate usage of certain types of language. I love it when English and Sociology mix: the separations between these fields really are, actually, quite artificial. And the study of humanity is inextricable from the study of language. Still can’t believe that we get to be alive, and that we get to speak, and that there are different languages. I still can’t believe I get to occupy the roles I do; eat; rest; hear beautiful things; walk around this world, as a human being, created by the Best of designers. Subhan Allah.

Back at the staff room, I decided that, in order to properly explore methods of media reporting, I wanted for the girls to read some newspapers, and to analyse some articles, themselves. So, with twenty minutes left – actually, with fifteen, since I had been stopped at the door, in general-staff-room-conversation, while I tried to edge away – I went to Tesco. The Guardian; The Times; Evening Standard; Daily Mail [more like Daily Fail, ooooh burn]; The Irish Post, even. There was nothing, in any of them, it seemed, about Palestine anymore. These things: they enter the news, and in such particularly-worded ways. And then they are made to leave: what we are asked to focus on is thusly controlled.

Language choices are of utmost importance. [Insert, here, that ‘New Girl’ scene that Ranga Mama brings up, sometimes. When Jess tells Nick that it’s “utmost”, not “upmost”, and Nick stubbornly refuses to accept it. “What’s an ut?”]

Same thing: different perspectives, dependent on the eyes, and minds, and hearts, looking upon them. Deciding on what is going to be focused on, framed in a certain way; what is going to be ignored, omitted. Language shapes realities; the realities that people have made for themselves ends up shaping their use of language, also. Glass half-full, or half-empty? Only a word’s difference, between the two: and this word is enough to define a reality.

Tomorrow, Insha Allah, we are having a little Eid event at the school. We’ve had a handful of them before, throughout the year. There’s this thing of (of course) bringing food, and of wearing clothes of a particular colour. Tomorrow’s is… anything light blue. Once, it had been, specifically, ‘periwinkle’ (before Ramadan). Wot to take tomorrow, though? There’s no time, really, to make anything today, though, ordinarily, making things for these events tends to be quite fun.

Doughnuts? Fruit? Fruit! Fruit platter [I saw a nice one on Twitter recently. Might copy]. No tengo nada tiempo [I don’t have any time], though. Unless I leave my hoos real early tomorrow. Time shall tell, Insha Allah. I want to carry the fruits in my, to quote pretty much all my colleagues when they describe anything that I have, “little” bike basket. Aesthetics and that.

Today, I learned from some of my Year Seven English girls that, apparently, if you: smile, and then raise your eyebrows, and then stop smiling, while keeping your eyebrows up… this is your ‘model face’. [Compare to Maryam’s ‘roadman’ face: you squint your eyes, bite your lip, and… make sure to get yer designer watch into the picture, some way, somehow.]

I love my Year Seven English class: they’re such characters. Today, one of them had a unibrow and a mole drawn on their face, with a board pen. They didn’t want to remove it. They wanted to “show someone,” apparently.

Ha—a, from my form, said something really nice to me yesterday, and she clarified what she meant by it, today. She complimented my teaching, and said that she sees me as a “ray of sunshine” (which Miss Nazish said to me, too, when she was still at the school, before leaving for maternity), and “inspiring”, especially in terms of my Islamic perspective on things. I told her how much she inspires me too: she is extremely clever, Masha Allah. So sharp and insightful. She said something along the lines of, you know you dont need to immediately respond to my compliments with compliments, right? And I said, but they’re true, Wallahi!

Today, I walked into the middle-floor Qur’an room to see some of the Qur’an/Islamic Studies teachers making personalised gift packs, together, for their leaving Year Eleven students.

“It takes all kinds of different minds.” — I love this idea: the concluding line from the postcard that that 17-year-old author had sent with her book. It does. Diversity is wonderful: Allah made us into “nations and tribes, [so] that [we] may come to know one another” [Qur’an].

Today, A—sa asked me why I carry wipes on me [I’m a veteran carrier of wipes, from long before corona. I should have a sticker on my bike in celebration of this fact] and I said, “why wouldn’t I?” And then the sleeve of my dress accidentally touched the cake she had bought, from the charity bake sale in the hall today. And I used my wipes to clean it. And then M—-m M. sneezed, and I… had antibacterial wet wipes. I’m really proud of myself — can you tell? [Compare to when Mazhar, I think it was, or some other boy from school, asked me why I carried a mini first-aid kit with me. And then guess who was later in need of said first-aid kit, on the same day? Ooh yeah].

Today I learned, again, that some of the girls are disturbingly obsessed with one Tom Holland, and with another Theo James. They’re ‘married’ to them; they attack anybody who insults them. Today I told them to just make Du’a they end up marrying someone handsomer. Solutionz.

After work, Sweetie and I walked home together, I, pulling my bike along, and she (as usual) saying “sorry Sadz” all the time, if she even bumps into me a tiny little bit, *Scottish accent* bless her. I also saw Juthie after a long time and hugged her [I asked first. These be weird times, weird times]. Jazib had been there also… but I’d seen him outside the Post Office some two weeks ago… What a happening. My life is a sit-com or something.

Today, I learned that Ranga Mama would like to hold a spoken word event at his house. [I’m a little shy at the prospect of reading a poem in front of the fam, but courage is not…!] My uncle and I both love words; astronomy [he had a telescope, once]; talking about matters of what might be termed ‘philosophy’. But something strange though interesting: it’s like we’ve both respectively just been wired to be like this. It’s like I grew up, and then realised the things I have in common with him. [When I was younger, we would simply debate all the time. On questions like “Is water wet?” and on topics like feminism. We disagreed vehemently, back then, on ‘most everything.]

Today, we had Khayr again [our weekly sisters’ circle, on Zoom]. The topic: Qadr. And, how Qadr-ic: after work, I had a nap. One of them deep ones. And I woke up, instinctively almost, at exactly the right time… Qadric-ally, today’s time had been changed from 18:30, to 19:30. I woke up at 19:33. And I am glad I did. Qadr: what a thing.

Allah (SWT) has a plan for you. And for me also. And the plan increases in Barakah, I suppose, when we learn to trust Him better. When we review our circumstances and our options, and when we make good choices in light of them.

“Be in this world like you’re a stranger to it, because this is not our Home.” And excellent is the Final Destination… granted we put the work in.

“We just do our time here, like we’re in prison. And then we’re off to Jannah, for eternity.” — Safiya Mohamud.

And roses are growing, right through the cracks, in these ‘prison’ walls. The light is being let through: look at it. It’s golden. There are beautiful people, here, to meet; to love. Things to be done; things to be seen, learnt, felt, discovered. Nutella cakes to (wait for the whole day for, and then) eat. There is Dunya; there is then, inevitably, the Ākhirah that renders every single thing worthwhile, Insha Allah.

Today I learned that Maryam can’t come with me to Ranga Mama’s tomorrow. To quote Tamanna: *blows raspberry*. But it’s okay: I miss Dawud Biyya so much that I will go by myself, Insha Allah.

In this life of mine, I have Allah, and I have my passions. I want to always lead an inspired life, Insha Allah: one in which I know to always (try to) begin things with Bismillah.

Today’s F.G.-card section of Khayr had been based on the card that reads:

“ONE OF ALLAH’S NAMES IS ‘YOUR PROTECTING FRIEND’.

NAME A TIME IN YOUR LIFE WHERE YOU HAVE FELT THAT NAME IN EXISTENCE.”

And, honestly? It’s that whole idea about how limited we are; how limited our minds are. Our notions of ‘perfection’. And then we walk through life, and things happen more-than-‘perfect’ly, and all we can really do is reflect on our lives sometimes; look back in awe and perplexed retrospective understanding, Subhan Allah. To have my Lord as my ‘protecting friend’? Biggest honour ever; I owe Him every iota of my existence, you know.

Qadr, Qadr, Qadr: I do my part; I want to race towards what is Good [and True, and Beautiful. For the Mind, the Heart, the Body and the Soul];

Gladly, then, I leave it to Al-Khabeer, Al-Lateef, Al-Razzaq, the Lord of everything.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Sixteen

What I have learnt, Episode Sixteen: Matcha Tea, and Marriage.

Bismillah.

Today, in contrast to yesterday, I got to work on time, Alhamdulillah. My aim is to get here, at least fifteen minutes early, every day, Insha Allah. No: scrap that. Twenty-five minutes early, perhaps. That would give me enough time to relaxedly enjoy some cornflakes, and some random conversations. One of today’s random conversations had been really funny: Mas—ah really showing her take-no-shiz side. [Compare to when Mah—, who is known to be super tough and cool, with her trainers and her biker jackets… FaceTimed her baby niece/nephew, and started enthusiastically babbling along with them, in baby language. Trés cute: things like this, they, how you say, set the lil heart on flowery fire].

This morning, I discovered that the scarf I am currently using for Salāh (navy blue) still smells like fire! And… my bag still smells like chicken wings. So does my coat [I sprayed some of that weak-and-diluted perfume over myself, before leaving the house]. Living in an Asian household means quite often smelling like food…

Today, I learned again how much I love my friend Tamanna. She wished me a good day today, God-Willing, and she told me that I am her “favourite writer”! Subhan Allah. For me, it is okay if hundreds of people do not see, or like, my work. If a Tamanna Islam [not a Tamanna Atheism or a Tamanna Christianity. Not even a Tamanna Agnosticism, mate] enjoys my work, then I have absolutely succeeded, Masha Allah. When people compliment me or what I write and stuff, I like to write it down. [Ref: Ay—, Aw—, Aq–, P-li, Ranga Mama, also!]

Is the stuff of the above merely some exercise in vanity? Nah… I think it’s more one in encouragement, for me. I want to keep on going, Insha Allah. I really, really, really, love writing, and I would like for my words to always be rooted in Truth, and in pursuit of goodness, and dipped – like a feather quill in ink – in beauty.

Today, I found out that it is Mominah’s last day at work… Apparently, she had announced it around, in the staff room, while I had been off sick last week. I am going to miss her being here: she has such a soft and comforting presence [which quickly becomes something else entirely when she is telling her students off…] She has taught me such interesting things about Islamic Psychology.

Today, Mominah asked me to “decode” [handwriting] another one of the exam scripts she has been marking. I secretly love doing this: it makes me feel somewhat Benedict-Cumberbatch-as-Sherlock-ian.

Mominah: when I first met her, she immediately reminded me of someone else I know. Very, very similar in appearance. Then I looked at her lanyard: she had the same surname as Maryam – not my cousin, or any of the other gajillion Maryams I have come into acquaintance with, in this lifetime of mine, but – my former Qur’an teacher. Maryam, as we later discovered, is also my aunts’ (Sunia and Tania Khala’s) friend, from their old Tae Kwondo class. Maryam and Mominah are sisters; I knew it! And I discovered, through a long story involving a rather sad incident, that one of the girls in my form class is Maryam and Mominah’s cousin.

[Weirdly enough, this whole recognising-someone-I-know’s-sister thing has happened again, at work. One of my colleagues looked, to me, a lot like my mum’s friend/colleague. And, yep: they’re sistahs. Miss K got homemade guacamole into work for me, once, to encourage me with this whole ‘healthy eating’ ting].

Today, Mominah has brought in two big boxes of Krispy Kremes. There are twenty-four doughnuts within reach-out distance, for me, right now. But I said (internally, of course) to my Nafs: NO. U fatty.

I kind-of-jokingly just asked M when my invite to her house will come: she has a big family, Masha Allah, and they seem to really enjoy holding (highly aesthetique) parties. Right before she said, “yeah, I would love to pick you up and take you!” I quickly assumed she wouldn’t really want to, and said, “I’m joking,” [yeh can’t just invite yourself to other people’s houses…]. At this exact time, I had accidentally pressed down the button on my phone that gets Siri up: he completed Mominah and my exchange, for some reason, with a remark of: “Deep down, I’m LOL-ing”. AI, folks. 2021. The robots have not come for us just yet, but……. ….. ……….

Mominah and I might have a ‘matcha tea party’ soon, at her house, Insha Allah. I’m quite excited to meet the rest of her clan, whom I have previously only seen on Snapchat. They seem like a spirited and stylish bunch, Masha Allah. [Update: we have planned to have a book-shop tour together – Islamic bookshops, followed by the ‘floating’ one, in East London, topped off with a matcha tea date, Insha Allah Insha Allah.]

Today, I saw Habiba Khala (a friend of Sweetie’s — Sweetie has a lot of friends, Masha Allah, and they are all my aunties) at work: she is applying for a teaching position there. Part-time, though: she is also a nurse at the Royal London Hospital, as I learned today. In fact, she had been one of the first to have seen my baby cousin Siyana – Sweetie’s daughter – when she had been in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the hospital.

Habiba Khala used to run the local Muslim girls’ Scouts group, here in East London. My cousin Maryam had been a member of it. Sadly, I had been too old (by a year! Oh, what’s in a year) to join… Camping activities; building things; crafts; awesome trips. I missed out on those things, sigh [well, I got to do many of these things, through other avenues. Still, it’s not quite the same as having a Scout-y neckerchief and all those badges…] I’m not sure if Habiba Khala is still a Scouts leader, but she told me that she took the girls to a café called the Crêpe Factory, when it had been open, and obtained permission for them to make their own crêpes in the kitchen! I think, in order to compensate for this, one of my biggest heartbreaks: I would like to sort of spend the rest of my life being a grown-up Girl Scout of sorts.

I (accidentally-on-purpose) looked down at H Khala’s shoes. Pristine-white trainers. Probably her ‘interview shoes’. She is such a cool person: she came in with her backpack on, with a Palestine flag coming out of its side pocket. She wore a long top with floral decorations on it. I just remember her being so cool, when I was younger, and she still is, now, Masha Allah. [Today, also, she said I look like I’m fourteen years old…]

Today, after my school day had ended, I went up to the school’s lab, in order to watch Sweetie and her students carry out their experiment. The plan had been to do a sheep heart dissection [throwback, for me, to Year Nine, when Miss Khatun showed us a sheep’s pulmonary system, and even blew into it to show us how it works. I… could not stand to even look at meat, for weeks, after that event…].

As it so turned out: Sweetie could not find sheep hearts at any of the local butchers’. But she still had to carry out an experiment with her girls. So, Mama (Sweetie’s husband) to the rescue… He called up a bunch of local florists’ and such [pun not intended, but it’s there, Masha Allah! Ohhhhh] and located some pondweed, for Sweetie to carry out a photosynthesis experiment with them instead.

Mama and Sweetie’s relationship. Masha Allah, I just love so much. Mama: lover of Ertuğrul; Islamic history; food; an engineer by day, chef/husband/father by evening. Sweetie: lover of crafts; holding fun dinners for us all; taking us on awesome outings; an A-level Biology teacher by day, chef/wife/mother-to-us-all by evening. I really do believe that Allah made human beings “in pairs”, as the Qur’an says. Some people are lucky enough to find their other halves, in this lifetime. I think this – their beautiful relationship, Masha Allah – is an example of that.

Yesterday, Sweetie found a fiver in her pocket, and got really excited about it. Then Mama said same! He loves randomly finding money in his pockets, and had also found a fiver in his pocket yesterday; they both held their matching notes up excitedly. I love the idea of being married with someone whom you can freely be a dweeb with.

Today I learned what ‘acetate sheets’ are. And I ate some Roses chocolates (they are wrapped in said sheets) in a room in which there had also been dead locusts in vinegar solutions; casual containers of hydrogen peroxide; sand; test tubes… Kinda makes me want to go all Frankenstein and stuff, up in there.

Sweetie and I tend to walk home together on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Sometimes, we grab a bite to eat; usually, Sweetie makes us food. But increasingly, recently, Alhamdulillah, I am really growing into this whole adulthood thing. I make food for her, and she actually enjoys it! [She’s known to be an honest food critic… she’ll tell you when the food is great; she’ll constructively criticise, if need be, also.]

I love hearing about Sweetie’s random stories, on our walks home. And, the way she explains scientific concepts, making them comprehensible to me. Once, the other day (last month, maybe?) she had planned to do an experiment with pollen – there was a more technical name for what she wanted to show them, but alas, alas, science and I had officially parted ways after Year Eleven – and so we went to the local produce shop (H–s-y’s) to get daffodils. Atchoo! if you have hay fever.

Today, also, Sweetie asked if she could leave something of hers in my drawer [at work, we are given a drawer – for mail and for printing – and a locker – for personal things. In some people’s lockers, for example in Miss Fillanda’s, there are basically entire kitchens, Tardissed away in there…]. I said yah, sure, why not. When she opened the drawer, we found a parcel in there [and man do I love receiving mail at work!] from… a 17-year-old author, who has published a book about autism (‘The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic’, by Siena Castellon). I love receiving books. I love receiving anything, to be honest. This book: I look so forward to reading, Insha Allah. I just need to fix up on how much I read: my aim is to read (and I know it sounds unrealistic but…) a quarter of a book a day, Insha Allah.

This particular book: I do believe that the attempted organisation of deeply complex human personalities into boxes of ‘symptoms’ is not always so helpful, but equally… if we do take this construct of a ‘spectrum’ to be true, then I know (now, at age twenty) that I am probably basically certainly on it. I look forward to reading this book, Insha Allah, and finding out more about the autism spectrum [and about its links with what is termed ADHD. After flipping through the book a little, I have found a little section on this very link].

Today, while on our way home, Sweetie stopped at S-v-r- (Bengali cake shop) to get pastries, and she insisted on getting me one too.

I probably have more things to say, about what I have learnt today [ref: perspectives; ‘cool’ and true security; today’s FaceTime with Baatqa, while Saif said that “Wallahi [he wouldn’t] annoy [me]”, and then proceeded to… do just that] but I shall leave it for Saturday, Insha Allah.

Today, I am really scared for my future. Mainly: I have choices to make, regarding university. And, marriage, weirdly enough: I found out from Sweetie yesterday that my dad has asked her to start ‘looking’, for me; to see if there would be anyone I might like. He brought up the topic of my marriage with me the other day, in casual conversation, saying something like how he would like to buy me a house once I get married: something like that. And then, apparently, he went and proudly told Sweetie and Mama that he had an “open conversation” with me about it. Bless my dad: how sweet. I can’t really – at. all. – picture myself with a normal Bengali dude, though. I cannot do anything for the mere sake of itself. Marriage for the sake of marriage? No way: I’d rather die a spinster! I need someone with, to quote that poem I so love and now have on a lil beloved T-shirt, (metaphorical) ‘blue skin’ like my own. To pray beside; to be completely myself with; to eat with; to develop with; to talk to all the time, etc., etc. We shall see, we shall see, though. [Does it happen? When? How?! A–ssa’s theory, which she brought up again today, is that… I meet him at a library. I drop my books; he picks them up. Our hands touch, and then he looks at his hand and dies about it. I don’t know why the description was so specific, but it is a developed cut-out from ‘Gilmore Girls’]. Time shall tell; shall reveal the plans of the Almighty.

Being a South Asian woman: as soon as you hit, say, twenty [or eighteen, for some], people start talking about ‘getting you married [off]’. Quite a few colleagues of mine have asked me about it. Students too. And my dad: he expects me to ‘have’ someone already, even though… I don’t really even talk to boys. Asian standards, huh? Me not know, though. It just feels impossible for me to imagine going through things like… the CV-making [British-Bangladeshis who go down the arranged marriage route make a ‘CV’ (like a dating profile) about themselves, which is then released into the masses, the networks] and the fish-cutting ceremonies [once married, you’re ‘meant’ to symbolically… cut a fish. And everyone cheers for you, for some reason] and whatnot.

I… imagine myself weirding people out, during the first meeting. I would gladly pull out my ‘F.G.’ cards; talk about big-question things; bust dad jokes, be annoying (‘Medium Mac Squad’ style). And if I am not accepted and loved for me, then what the heck is the point? I am not especially fond of the idea of putting up façades, in order to be ‘liked’. I like being me; I like it so much that I am willing to embrace the (necessary, inevitable) downsides of my particular experience of being human.

*Cockney accent* I just gotta bey me. And, the right people will be here for it – for all of it – Insha Allah. The wrong people for me, they will necessarily be filtered out, so to speak. Merely being ‘liked’ is not such a priority for me (anymore?), but love will always be my foremost commitment, Insha Allah.

With everything, though, to paraphrase something that Aatqa said, you do your part[s] and then it is in Allah’s realm.

To top off this day, I am going to be marking some (sort of overdue) assessment scripts, Insha Allah [I do always learn little random things about my students, from what they write in their books/for assessments]. And, working on my final English presentations for this half-term: we are going to have some lessons on propaganda and media biases! Time to implement some subtle (anti-)indoctrination; Bismillah…

[Update: I left those last lil tasks to the next day.]


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Fifteen

What I have learnt, Episode Fifteen: Can’t be asked.

Bismillah.

Today, boy am I tired. Drained. Inadequate sleep, piles of work somewhere, everywhere. I love that Sundays often function as a sort of cleaning-and-tranquility day. But… we’re on Tuesday, right now. Some days to go, until the day of the sun…

I am so drained. Hear me complain.

Trying to make beauty out of difficult things. I love people who bring, with them, such beauty, to this Dunya. You know: the ones who leave a giant box of cornflakes for you, by your chair. Throw you a cushion, while you nap. Paint flowers over walls that seek to constrain them.

It reminds me of a Palestinian woman I’ve read about before, who plants lots of little flowers, in the shells of grenades. “Oppressors seek to destroy spirits.” And resistance often looks like such a thing of such powerful, deep-rooted, beauty, no?

I love it when people do their thing, and not really for attention. Engrossed; ‘unassuming’ is probably the word [which I picked up from Ranga Mama, when he had described Moosa’s unique lovability (Masha Allah)].

When people just believe so much in the value of what they do, that… others’ eyes don’t really matter that much. Quiet, determined, security. The doubts and uncertainties will be there; with (sadly metaphorical) swords, we can always strive to keep them at bay.

Committing oneself to beauty. Even when it seems tempting to either be neutral, or do something ‘ugly’.

Committing oneself to Truth. Even when it seems quite tempting to either be neutral, or to indulge in falsehoods.

Committing oneself to goodness. Even when Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and their metaphorical counterparts, seem real enticing, from o’er here.

Today, I learned, again, how to get through a difficult day. When I feel drained like this, firstly, people can tell. And people tell me I look very tired and drained; this does not really help.

And small conversations, which, perhaps, I would ordinarily enjoy, loom into noises I do not necessarily want; persistent questions that will not stop. Questions from students: endless-seeming. I was exhausted today.

But I have learnt that this is all part of the test. To be able to govern ourselves, even when at the mercy of heightened emotions. When I am tired, and when I feel annoyed by someone, it feels like something sort of burns, beneath my skin. And those times, I should not speak. Or, I should try to “speak a good word, or remain silent” [Muhammad (SAW)].

Today, I felt like kind of a tired mess. I cycled into school, and arrived there late. I hate this feeling: cyclical. Sleep late, wake up feeling terrible, rush to get out. Make it not on time. And the big, intimidating day ahead.

But Alhamdulillah, though. That exhaustion will hopefully bring me a blissful sleep tonight, Insha Allah. And Friday this week is my last day before a week’s half-term holiday. Woot woot.

I had accidentally left my laptop charger at home. Every morning, we get given a morning briefing, on Teams. Today, I had forgotten to check Teams; I did not know that I had been put down for Lesson 1, Year Seven Science cover.

There, since I hadn’t received any cover work, I got some scrap paper, and a pair of scissors, and organised a game of science-themed Articulate. Throwback, KS3 science; to learning about things like ‘ligers’ and the food chain.

In the staff room, I nap-napped. There is a corner of the room, in which, sometimes, people pray. And sometimes, people nap. In my first few weeks at the school, I used to look at the people who would nap, and think: that could nevah be me. I’d be way too self-conscious. Today, I decided that sleep was more important than self-consciousness. When you believe in something — and sleep is a cause I believe in! — you do it with chest. I had a great nap: I had my Bengali Kheta (embroidered blanket) in my bag – which I normally use, to pray on. I put my coat down, and just did not care if anybody would judge. I don’t think anybody is judgemental like that at my workplace, Alhamdulillah. Staff room: lesson planning; lots of marking; lots of eating; sleeping, too, sometimes. Girl’s got te nap.

Doli Khala chucked me a nice red cushion; I put my coat over it [imagine how many faces have been in contact with it]. Earphones in, Surah Rahman by Sheikh Sudais [recitation that reminds me, over and over again, of the first time I went to Saudi, aged five. I have such a sentimental attachment to this particular melody]. Beautiful, blissful: I had two frees, and a lunchtime, ahead of me.

Today I learned that (what an L) our form class, in general, did not really like our display. Neither the colours, nor the paint. They wanted to ‘do it [themselves]’. Internally: anger, anger, frustration; I could not wait for the day to be over. Externally: neutrality. I jos could not be bothered, today. And it is my responsibility to fix up, again, so that I can be a better teacher, Insha Allah. Tomorrow, tomorrow, there’s always tomorrow.

And I learned that M (a girl in Year Eight, who is of mixed Bengali-and-Italian origin [what a cool mix, Masha Allah]) is currently reading a book called ‘The Poetics of Movement’. M’s first name is a very classically-Muslim one. Her surname has an -oni ending. And she would like to take after her dad, and become a structural engineer in the future, Insha Allah. What a cool person, Masha Allah. When we did our unit on the Renaissance last term, she’d expressed a really evident interest in the works of Da Vinci, from a very architectural perspective, too.

Today I thought that Sweetie [my aunt who teaches A-level Biology at the school]’s sheep heart experiment (which I was quite excited for) would take place today. Turns out, ’tis tomorrow. She also reminded me on the phone that I said I would make my chicken wings for her, today. Crud, I had forgotten about this too. Tuesday 25th May 2021: good day in terms of the fact that I am alive, and Muslim, Alhamdulillah. But a day of such tiredness and disorganisation, also.

The chicken wings, I had made for Sweetie during Ramadan this year, when it had been my day to make Ifthar at Nanu’s. Mazhar semi-hijacked it, also, by making shepherd’s pie, and bringing cake. I’d made stir-fry, chicken wings, and rice pudding. I love finding recipes online [Pinterest is the one!] and going to the grocery shop for ingredients, and cooking. Certainly, a hobby of mine.

The chicken wings that Sweetie so loved [I always become real gassed when she likes my cooking, because she is known as being something of a master chef, in our family] had been an adapted version of a Korean chicken recipe I had found online, from the BBC website. But, for example, since I didn’t manage to go to Waitrose to get their Korean Gochujang sauce (which will likely forever remind me of young Tasnim-ji) I decided to mix some ketchup with chilli sauce, and use that instead.

Today, Sweetie kept expressing how delicious she found them last time. She told Mama (her husband) that he would love them too. No pressure there, then [I was actually quite stressed… If I had been making steaks, here I would have said that the steaks were high].

At Quality (ye olde grocery shoppe) I got a lime; garlic-and-chilli sauce; le organic honey; chicken pieces, from the butcher bit. I used to detest going to the butcher bit. [TW, vegans. Don’t read on] The smell of… death; the deeply disturbing view of all the cuts, hacks of meat. Today, I Bengali-woman-ed up, and just went and ordered. Sweetie told me to get her a ‘curry-cut’ baby chicken, also. So I did. I pinched the tops of the bags, though: I still find it a little disgusting.

Mainly for Sweetie’s future reference, purhapz, and for mine, so that I do not forget [“writing is an [excellent] aid to memory”]:

Sadia’s chicken wings recipe

You will need:

  • Chicken wing pieces
  • Oil, preferably olive-
  • Honey, preferably organic
  • Half a lime
  • An onion or two
  • Green onions
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Ketchup
  • A chilli sauce of your choosing
  • Bit of ginger
  • Bit of garlic
  • Sesame seeds, if you want

You just mix everything up, basically: oil first, then add onions and salt/pepper, ginger, garlic. Add ketchup and chilli sauce; honey; squeeeeze of lime.

Mix the chicken wings in; let that cook.

Finally, in a separate pan: more olive oil, and fry them. Add cut-up green onion pieces; add sesame seeds. Et voila! Chicken wings, which I am yet to choose a good name for. Sweetie loved the chicken, Alhamdulillah; she said they were even better than last time!

Buenos noches, dear readers. It’s now time for the best part of the day.

“You’re not you when you’re tired. Go to sleep mate.” — a very wise person, probably.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Fourteen

What I have learnt, Episode Fourteen: Fear, Wetness, and Compromise.

Bismillah. (Things are always better when you begin with ‘Bismillah’).

Yesterday, I spoke to my uncle about the whole ‘conformity’ and ‘individuality’ thing. He always, Masha Allah, exposes me to different perspectives on things. He asks me, “What’s your take?” It’s nice when people want your opinions on these things, also.

“For example, if all I ever achieve, outside of Allah’s mercy, is bonds with family and friends, I’d honestly feel like my life counted.

If I blend into a more general background while achieving this, no problem. It’s in these bonds that you feel special” — R.M.

“Dunya of itself is a pursuit in futility.”

And then I responded with that Shaykh Hamza Yusuf quote: “Everything other than Allah is vanity.”

This morning, I received a “Good luck at work” message from my cousin Sarina. She, after an Ariana Grande phase, is currently going through her ‘Harris J’ phase… a coming-of-age/rite-of-passage thing for pretty much all Muslim girls, everywhere. Sarina is a very amusing, lovely, and (can be) quite an outspoken kid, Masha Allah. [I feel like I am currently writing up an academic report for her]. If other girls start on her, she gives it back as good as she gets it. It really is better to be kind… but equally, retaliation in equal measure is great sometimes, too.

Today, I learned that a compromise can be made: to work, when I cycle in, I can wear my knee-length hoodie, and trousers: modest, and practical. I can put my Abaya on when I get there. And I also learned that… East London Mosque is on Alexa [domestic robot servant, who listens in on conversations]! The other day, when I asked Alexa when the next prayer time is, she (though my brother determinedly and persistently refers to her as a ‘he’) responded with the exact time, with location. Sick, with a dollah sign, Masha Allah.

Today I sort of almost got run over, maybe once or twice. Normal, for me. I don’t know how to explain it: I am, at once, a very clumsy individual, often a little lost in my own world. And, yet, I am often very hyper-aware of things, too. Spider-Man reflexes, sometimes: like when I reach out, to catch things, sort of way before they fall.

[On the way back from work, my Abaya got caught in the chains again. I didn’t have my scissors with me; a kind stranger yanked it out for me.]

Recently, things have been feeling somewhat scattered, in this mind of mine. It feels like there is so much – too much, perhaps – on my phone, and on my laptop, and in my bags, and at home. Thankfully, Insha Allah, the May half-term holiday is rapidly approaching: hopefully, a great time for a thorough clean.

Today, I learned some more random words — this time, from a thesaurus that had been left on my form class desk. ‘Renege’: to betray; to go back on a promise or commitment [I usually have to Google definitions, then click on the ‘sound’ icon, to hear how they should be pronounced. Or use the speech feature on Chrome]. ‘Malinger’: to pretend to be sick, usually to get out of doing something. And synonyms for ‘malodorous‘ include: ‘noisome’, ‘mephitic’.

Today, a student of mine lent me a book… ‘The Boy at the Back of The Class’, a story about a young boy who is a Syrian refugee. But then, halfway into the school day, she asked if she could have it back for a while: she has yet to finish the last page, apparently.

Today, we named our form class wooden spoon. H–a named him, ‘Chef Tony’. He’s kinda stiff, but he stirs up some good discussions. Alternatively, his government name is also ‘The Spoon of Peace’. As soon as I brought him out, there were jokes (which… were kind of rooted in reality, as jokes tend to be) like “Miss, are you gonna hit us with that?” To many Bengalis, a wooden spoon signifies a Singla, a Dewwa. I hope Chef Tony grows on them, though…

[Update: he did! Our class discussions today were great, Masha Allah. Very open and insightful… Call it Pavlovian re-conditioning.]

Home, in terms of areas, for me, are Wapping, and Whitechapel. Today, during our free together, Saajidah, Fahmeda and I [they are twenty-three years old. Along with Samaiya, they are the closest, in terms of age, to me] went out for lunch. Brunch for me: I didn’t quite get to eat breakfast today, save for… a ‘Thank You’ chocolate from that restaurant from the other day…

Saajidah and Fahmeda had to leave a little early, since they had a lesson soon. I stayed, for longer, alone. Alhamdulillah, this is something I had to really come to develop: the ability to do things like this alone. Sitting at cafés by myself, for example, used to bring me something like terror, fear. Now, it just feels like… table, tea, book. Writing on a napkin. Comfort, ease. And, the gorgeous, gorgeous sound of the rain, outside, in beautiful, somewhat-run-down, though mostly-terrific, Whitechapel.

I got out a book from my bag. I really haven’t been reading recently: I don’t remember the last time I actually finished a whole book. Perhaps this is something for me to get back into, Insha Allah.

My socks are currently wet, as is the bottom of my trousers. But I don’t mind: worth it.

The Assistant Principal just walked into the staff room and referred to us as “kids”. I referred to her as “grandma” back [it just came out]. She looked at me, joke-offended, and said she’d much prefer that I called her “mum” instead.

People keep calling the things I do “so cute”. They call my things “little”. “Your little bike,” “your little…” It’s kind, it’s nice, I guess. But it’s probably only because I’m small. If I were tall… different story, probably.

My colleague (A-level Psych teacher) is currently on the phone, talking about how the café she frequents so often let her off for the 20p she had been short of. “Afa, no, no, you’re basically family!” they had said to her.

Today, I had been pleasantly surprised by Miss Doli, who had come into work holding a large carrier bag. In it, a maxi box of cornflakes. She said it’s for me, to have a bowl of cereal whenever I get peckish in the staff room! This is the second time she’s got me food: last time, she got me an entire big box of Wasabi sushi… The thing is, what I understand is often quite different to what is true. [As I write this, my brother is watching another ‘Dhar Mann’ video, which is narrated in a similarly cheesy way to the writing of éste article]. I really, really thought that Doli Khala found me really awkward and weird [recurring theme here, no?] But whenever she sees me, she comes to me to talk for a while. In Bengali: with her, I am practising my Bengali, while she is practising her English. We have plans, Insha Allah, to hold actual lessons with one another. And, in return for the food, I went to Tesco today (inspired by yet another interesting staff room conversation, this time about flowers) and looked for a bunch of flowers, for her. I found a bunch of nice pink roses… but they had quickly been rotting, browned. I looked up, and on one of the movable shelves: a beautiful orchid plant. [Orchids remind me of Aatqa’s mum, and Tamanna’s. And Tasnim’s. Why do all my friends’ mums love orchids? Mine doesn’t].

I carried the plant; my newspaper; my oat milk [to have le cornflakes with] past the mosque, and back to the school, in the gorgeous pouring rain. And since I had still been wearing my screen glasses, it was like… sitting in a car, when there are rain droplets all over the front window.

And when I poured the milk in before the cereal, Samaiya looked at me (jokingly) like I were a lab experiment gone wrong.

Today, I learned about the art of compromise. Samaiya and I chose to work on our form class’ main display board, after school. We got the keys to the resource room (which is like being given the keys to a Lambo, for me) and got our paper and our borders. I kind of thought a yellow backing would be good — last time, I’d done the display alone, and had used yellow. Samaiya suggested something a little darker, perhaps. And, more in line with what the 9S girls had been saying. We chose a rich shade of purple. And, between a shiny red border, or a black one: after a few moments of deliberation… we went for black.

Samaiya took charge of printing things out, and laminating them. We both measured the paper, and cut it, and stapled it on, together. Next came the borders. I asked if we could paint the title, and she agreed. The font she had chosen for the sheets would not have necessarily been my first choice [I’ve been consistently using ‘TW Cen MT’ this teaching-year] but… iz okay. This form class is both of ours’. And, all in all, teamwork makes the dream work. Communication, efficiency, and the rest: good stuff.

When I went back to Tesco after school (after checking to see, again, if the mosque was yet open) I grabbed some fruits, and looked for my food for the week. Today I really discovered that there is sugar in ‘most everything! ‘Healthy’ soups; bread; sandwiches… sugar, sugar, sugar. Like crack cocaine, this stuff; it is everywhere. I really need to start making my own food every day… Even if ’tis hard. ‘Twill be worthwhile, Insha Allah.

This is quite serious. Diabetes, cholesterol issues, and all the rest of it: it scares me. And “Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves”. I have hope for this journey, and I must also put the werk in.

M a k e g o o d decisions, or… suffer the consequences of the less-than-good ones. A momentary buzz is never worth losing the best, most nourishing, most fulfilling, things for. Lower thouest glaze, young Sadia Ahmed Jannit.

Dear future self, it’s me: you at twenty. How art thou, my dude? I hope that you have always remembered that it is ‘enough’, for you; if only the word itself, could be itself. To nourish one’s soul with all the right sights and sounds and smells, and conversations; to become intoxicated, sometimes, with laughter that bursts forth, messily, melodiously. To try to always do the Right things, irrespective of how hard, in the moment, they may seem. To not delude ourselves in ‘want’ of that which is not good. Bismillah.

There is no ‘next’; there is only now. Still, though, what happens next? Currently, I am in your last few months at —– School. And I never knew that you would become this attached to the place, and to its people. And the new building has not been made yet; I want to stay for the library. Do I get to stay, for the library? What happens next? [Fear and excitement… But, faith: it is all in the Hands of the Almighty.]

And I need to really remember that everybody – even, say, kings and queens – is completely human. Made in weakness, in difficulty. Everybody has to use the toilet; everybody has their struggles, their things they do not necessarily want others to see and know. ‘Vulnerability’. Everybody comes into this world, distressed and wailing. We leave, though, quiet, noiseless, undisturbed. And all those spaces in between life and death: I hope that we make it a good one, a True one, a beautiful one, Insha Allah.

There’s a big, big, big world out there, in which it is so easy to get lost in all the crowds. Anonymity, distress, exhaustion, and dizziness. And, here, we will always have this one, of our own. It is okay if the entirety of the world does not really ‘see’ us: it is okay if only, say, ten of the right people do, Alhamdulillah. They are our worlds. And, in general, people are not ready to really flourish… unless — until… we feel completely, in the embrace of all these love-rooted networks, in the arms of the right people… loved.

To some people, you will be their world. To others, you will be only a stranger; nothing much at all. One man’s trash, another’s treasure. One woman’s poison, another’s medicine. This is how things are; different perspectives on the same things, always. And the other halves of the ‘downsides’ are always worth it, Alhamdulillah.

“Goodness is within that which God chooses for you.”

What concerns me concerns me: I need to focus on these things, and not expend energy on futile things. “Everything other than Allah is vanity”, absolutely.

“Loving can hurt, sometimes.

But it’s the only thing that I

know.” [E.S.]

“6t7 . hjokj.” — this is what Saif has aggressively typed, during one of his characteristic annoying-me-and-then-saying-I’m-the-annoying-one seshes.

Today, I cannot seem to stop singing ‘Away in a Manger’ for some reason, but only the first line, since I have forgotten the rest, and since there are lines of Shirk in it, anyway. Might go ahead and make up some lyrics. [I accidentally-on purpose sang it out loud in the staff room. I’m getting way too comfortable there. At the start, though, I felt so rigid, restricted, and afraid].

“Zack’s such a wet name” — Saif Ahmed, 2021. He’s recently discovered the slang meaning of ‘wet’.

Today, I watched/listened to the Zaytuna College 2021 Commencement: they call their graduation ceremony a ‘commencement’ one… the beginning of going out into the world, after their years at Zaytuna. Nice idea. The speeches were absolutely great, Masha Allah.

How is it 10PM already? This substance that we know to call ‘time’… it do be passing, though. Rapidly, though. I cannot believe that I am twenty years old.

And what a blessing it is, to be able to talk to my Lord each and every day. To feel ‘secure’: that His approval of me counts. And the approval of those whom I love counts. And, ultimately, life is a thing of fear, sometimes. Lots of learning, every day. Stupid courage, sometimes. Unexpected happenings, always. Choices.

“Will man receive anything but the actions he used to do, in this world?”

I’ve been feeling a lot of things recently. Sometimes, my feelings are not so pleasant, but that is no excuse to force myself to be distracted from them.

“Don’t be so ‘cool’ you can’t cry; don’t be so ‘smart’ you can’t wonder;

Don’t be so set on your sunny days

That you can’t love the roll of the thunder.”

And man, had the rain been ferocious today, Masha Allah!

“Sadia/Jannath smells like 100 poops.” — written on a loving note put under my door, from brother mine. Complete with a rather disturbing illustration.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Thirteen

What I have learnt, Episode Thirteen: Dragons, Fire, Swords, Things like that.

Hello. I am Muslim Bri’ish [and alive. Bad taste joke, might delete] Hannah Baker, and welcome to my thirteenth tape.

Today, I learned – from a Tiktok video that my friend Tasnim had sent me – about something called ‘positive psychological projection’. And it links rather well to some other things I have learnt, about how we are known to project ideas and such onto other people. As well as romantic crushes, there, apparently, exist such things as ‘identity crushes’. [There are also ‘celebrity crushes’. This counts as a separate category, apparently].

Positive psychological projection: ’tis something I seem to have done quite a lot. But, the truth is, they really are projections… You isolate a narrow set of traits, in a person. You become convinced that this must be the entirety of said person. The fact of the matter is: those particular traits that you, in your mind, have singled out… they say something about you. Those things spoke to something that is already within you, whether, at present, active or latent. You love the fact that this person is gentle, helpful and laconic? You can appreciate this beauty in them, and work towards doing the same. You love that this other person is vivacious and adventurous? It is yours to work towards. That this person is not afraid of revealing subtle quirks, like bringing a cake to share, to school? Dude, you can do that too.

And, to quote a snippet from a book that I had found on Pinterest: for many people, you are the ‘woman across the room’, too.

So long as we are beginning from whom we already are; whom we know ourselves to be. And then, there is always, always, always, room for development. But, still, beginning from whom you are, and not anybody else.

Today I learnt some random words. ‘Inosculation’: what a cool concept. When the parts of two trees basically merge, and begin to grow together. ‘Stilted’: pompous use of language, when it is excessively ‘flowery’ and inaccessible. I’m sure there was another one, but I can’t seem to remember it, sigh. [I’ve come back to this a bit later. The other word was ‘isomorphic’. When things have more or less the same form/shape]. I just love words so much: I can’t believe we get to have them, and know them, and use them, and learn them.

Today, I did some things. Errand-y things: there are always errands to run. I went outside, also, to use my fire mesh for the first time; I learned that, as well as the wood pieces and paper to burn [I used the British Empire worksheets I had accidentally printed too many of] you need something to get the fire properly started — today I used the brown paper bag that the woman at the ice-cream shop had put my ice-cream cup into, the other day. My parents and brother had gone out; my nan popped her head out of the window, and asked me what I am doing. “Agun,” I said [‘fire’, in Bengali]. My nan is so thoroughly used to my moments of madness (‘spiritedness’) and I think she finds it, at once, alarming and endearing. Like when Tasnim had come round, and when we prayed in the garden.

“It’s a bit cold though, isn’t it?” my nan asked, in Bengali.

“Yeah,” I smiled, and said, jokingly, also in Bengali: “Hence the fire.” My nan bloomed into laughter, as she does. She has the most ebullient laugh, the most cheerful of smiles.

I miss Bangladesh quite a bit. Making little fire teepees had been one of my most favourite things to do, there.

Challenge. Every day, I come to better know of the nature of this Dunya. And how every single thing we have been told in the Qur’an is, how you say it fil ‘Arabee, Sahh [‘true’]. I have my challenges; I must be active in the face of them. [That being said, I have also been through depression, before. And depression can make ‘being active’ extremely, extremely hard. It is all about our individual circumstances, and what we are able to do, and what we then do, in light of them.]

Today began as a brand new day. With all these tasks to complete; all these blessings to uncover; all these things to feel — good and bad.

Today I met my brother’s friend Sam. He looks rather like my old, old friend Luca, and his family are (‘is’ or ‘are’? I know not) from Istanbul, Turkiyyë. Apparently, during a little school trip, Saif had pointed out our house to his friend, and then, somehow, my mum and Sam’s mum had arranged for him to come around.

The boys watched ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ (a show that I kind of secretly really enjoyed watching with my brother, last year. This one, and ‘Free Rein’, which is about horses) together. Sitting on separate sofas, silent and engrossed; I sat on another sofa, eating. Sam just would not talk to me. I tried to ask him how he is; if he wants to watch something else; if his name is short for anything. Blank, blank, blank. He just did not want to speak to me – or even look at me – at all, at first.

Then I asked him who his favourite character from ‘HTTYD’ is. “Toothless,” (the dragon) he said. And the conversation had finally commenced. I said my favourite character’s Astrid (she’s super cool and tough). Sam asked me who my favourite character from the books is: apparently, Astrid does not exist in the book series. He said that his favourite is a character called ‘Camicazi’, because she is “so cool,” and “a master escaper!”

I guess Saif didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of his friend, so when I sat next to him, he didn’t tell me to “STOOOOOP!” today. And Sam found most of the jokes made in the TV show really funny. A most endearing sound: the sound of children’s laughter, Masha Allah.

Saif’s friend had some snacks at ours, and said that he generally doesn’t have these things at home [which is a really good thing, and I keep trying to get brother mine, also, to have healthier food]. So Sam was really excited about the Krispy Kreme doughnuts my dad had brought, bless him.

In my current role as a teacher, I think about the fact that I’m teaching my students new words; about etymology; about random interesting facts… and they’ll remember me as a teacher, much like how I remember my teachers. And, in my current role as big sister to an eight-year old:

I remember going to my friend Asif’s house, and his big sister Lana spending time with us, sometimes. I also remember going to my friend Luca’s house, and his big sister Bianca, who played hide-and-seek with us, this one time. Now I’m a kid’s big sister. And said kid has friends. I want to be a ‘cool big sistah’. [‘Cool’: yesterday, after meeting Maryam’s friend Naima, I worried I had been too awkward, too… weird. According to Maryam, Naima found me “so cool and sweet”, Alhamdulillah [relief]. ‘Cool’, though: what does it really mean?]

“From what violent chasms is my most intimate intimacy nourished; why does it deny itself so much and flee to the domain of ideas? I feel within me a subterranean violence, a violence that only comes to the surface during the act of writing.” — Clarice Lispector

“There is none more conformist than one who flaunts their individuality.” — Rabbih Alameddine. Interéssant. I think I’m going to ask some people what they make of this, and whether they agree with the thought or not.

Every single day, life moves. It, to use a word that my friend Aatqa and I kept, kept, kept using, last year: it flows. Life moves; life is every day; life is struggle. There is such… what is the word… satisfaction, triumph, energy, to be found, in the struggle. The opposite of struggle, the absence of it, here in Dunya would be… (a word that I learned the other day,) ‘indolence’: just comfort, ‘ease’, nothing really pushing you to do anything at all.

I like the idea of running. And of resting. And running, again. And walking sometimes. Just moving, with life dearest.

Life: a series of conversations. With Allah, with the people whom we are lucky enough to love. With the natural/physical world, and with the self.

Things are not ‘perfect’, thank God: Alhamdulillah. There are things to do, and to learn, and to develop. People to feel inspired by; standards to be raised, by witnessing the strengths and goodnesses of others. Failures to feel; triumphs, certainly, also.

Today, Farhana called me during one of her (home-uni, self-given) study breaks, to play the F.G. game. So I learned more about her. And I learned that she thinks my greatest strength is how I am brave enough to be myself; to be ‘weird’. I wonder if people see me as being unpleasantly weird. Or, pitiably so. I hope not. But, yes, even in spite of when my Nafs, for example, brings me to compare myself (the truths of me) to (impressions of) others: I know I would rather just be me, and carry on. Develop, beginning from whom I already know myself to be. Alhamdulillah: Allah made me.

I have just planned some lessons, for my Year Seven History class, on the history of Ireland. I cannot wait to tell them about the not-particularly-enthralling lots-of-Irish-people-in-my-area story. I do believe in having and maintaining a helpful and healthy helping of ‘professionalism’, but ultimately, human beings connect with other human beings. Students and teachers. Not obedient, silent rule-followers, and robotic, authoritarian rule-dish-out-ers.

This half-term’s unit for Year Seven English has been: autobiographies. And here I am, writing my own autobiographical works. Subhan Allah: everything is connected.

Words and ideas I am really liking, right now: courage. Security. [Strength. Beauty. Trust. Faith. Hope.]

I also really want a sword. Not to actually use or anything. Just to play around with [sometimes, when I am home alone, I pretend knives are swords. Once, before Ranga Mama and Suto Mami put window stickers up in our kitchen, a stranger outside saw me…… doing this……]. But swords are so… gorgeous, sometimes.

[Incidentally, I had been the one to have picked my brother’s name. ‘Saif’. It means ‘sword’ in Arabic, but I’m not sure if I’d known that before calling him it…]

I love the idea that ‘courage’ and ‘security’ are not the absence of their seeming ‘opposites’. Having ‘no fear’ would be insanity. Having no doubts or insecurities; not at all caring about what others would think… would be arrogance/insanity. It is all about the fact that we have these human intellects. To feel the doubts, fears, and all the rest of it. To be able to reason; make choices. Weigh up our options, and act. Sometimes, for example, there are things that are more important than fear. And I think, ultimately, what defines us is the choices we make.

To be secure enough to really want to share goodnesses; to be courageous enough to always (try to) be kind.

I love the idea of balance. For example, of strength, and gentleness. In men, and in women, alike. The fences, and the flowers, and how, with both, there is such quiet power, such beauty.

I have just learnt that baby brother mine is “the fastest kid in Year Four and Year Three”. And, since I’m faster than him: I’m faster than all these eight- and nine-year-olds. Yeeeee boi. Adult woman ego boost, jk.

“We came as rebels, and found ourselves to be heirs.” Someone, on British Islam: native Brits, becoming Muslim. I love: the idea of a form of Islam that is quintessentially British.

How weird, and alarming, and burning is it, to realise that we will never, ever be here again? This thought makes me want to do some courageous shiz.

Today, I am glad that my clothes smell of fire. “Fire. Won’t you // put out the flames?”


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twelve

What I have learnt, Episode Twelve: Fire

Bismillah.

Today has been another sacred home day, Alhamdulillah. My sandalwood oil arrived, and I put it everywhere: pillow, prayer mat, candle, hair. What a scent, Masha Allah.

Today I learned that Didi… has ducks, now. Well, ducklings. She’d asked, on the group chat, if anybody knew of anyone giving ducks away. “Like, live ducks?” I asked. Yes, live ducks. About an hour later… ducklings located and acquired! [I told her to please not kill them and eat them. Trauma: once, in Bangladesh, my grandad had bought me a goat. Greatest goat of all time. I forgot what I had named him, but it was a pretty name. I bonded with him, you know. And, a couple of days later: he was Qurbaaned…

Also, when I had a hamster, everybody would always joke about making it into Biryani. I was an emotional kid: this would make me cry.]

Incidentally, today I learned, again, that I am truly, truly, truly, and so deeply, not-perfect. I am deeply, deeply flawed. And — as childish and borderline-melodramatic as this may sound — I cried, in light of this fact, today. I have done wrong; it feels like my imperfections are ablaze. Something hurts, and I feel sorry.

It’s a line that I had heard, once, during a spoken word poetry event: “Forgive me, for being me”.

What a feeling this is. To feel so very snowed in, under one’s own humanity. If that makes any sense at all.

At present, lots of things do not make sense to me, and I am trying to unravel things; learn things; keep walking.

Today, I had to have a difficult conversation [ref: Year Six and Seven]. And I learned something that did not sit well with me, and I said sorry, and I meant it; I am left with this knowledge. What to do about it? The best I can do is deeply acknowledge, review what can be done, try to choose the best things to do from here onwards, Insha Allah.

There is also somebody, in this life of mine, whom, when I interact with them, my throat is known to seize up with anxiety. I used to shake; I felt weak, and I blame[d] myself. Cutting, constant criticism. I believed it all, I think, for a while: every single thing. In a way, I think I still do. They have told me such things as that I would be better off dead; I make excuses for them each time. But who are they, to decide such a thing?

Allah made me.

This all sounds dramatic, I know. But not everybody in our lives will be the most kind and loving towards us.

“Forgive me, for being me.”

I just do not think that secure people are so unkind to other people. And I think that power is a very different thing from strength: this may sound cheesy, but it’s in line with the Islamic idea, that true strength lies in one’s ability, for example, to control one’s anger, and to extinguish it before it causes harm to others. And, “verily, gentleness is not in anything but that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything but that it disgraces it”. [Sahih Hadith].

To feel ‘enough’. And not merely in a settled-for sort of way. Enough, as in… everything that you are. No need, for example, to compare fleeting and engineered images of others, and their lives, with our realities. No need to feel frighteningly inadequate. Just be, and let it be beautiful, somehow.

I am filled with regrets; I am made up of flaws. But I hope that my intentions, in the present moment, are good. Yesterday, in the staff room, one of my colleagues (such a beautiful person, Masha Allah), in a discussion about reading Qur’an in front of people, said, in her usual kind way: it is about your intentions. And if you feel your intentions morphing into something not so good, take a moment to change them, and carry on.

This colleague of mine has such kind eyes, and such a genuine smile, Masha Allah. When she speaks to you, she sort of puts both her forearms on the table, and leans in, speaking so softly, and with such thought behind each word.

Talking to one’s Creator: a language we are already fluent in, even if it has not yet been realised. He made us; He knows us. There is nothing you cannot speak about, with Him. Every single thing about you: He is your Creator. Written on a postcard my artist friend Faaizah sent to me: “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” [40:60]. I have just learnt – from Google – that pretty much the same idea exists in the Bible: Jeremiah [33:3]. [I love looking closely at the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity. We believe that they had been born of the same tradition – that of Pure Monotheism. The only difference is… the whole worshipping-a-human-being-thing…] I love ‘Christian’ things with a Muslim twist: hence, my love of the Halāl version of Hallelujah. And, of Church buildings, which have been converted into other things. And, certain Biblical quotes: just beautiful, Masha Allah.

With certainty: when you speak to Allah… you will be answered. When you make du’a, and when it is from your heart, you either: a) get exactly what you asked for (Alhamdulillah); b) get this thing you have been asking for, but a bit later — at a better time, for you [ref: bus analogy]; c) you don’t get that exact thing, but you do get something better, for you. And who knows what is good – better – best, for you, but Allah?

Man, this world is so happy-sad. There is pain, which aches. And things can quickly cross between bittersweetness, and beauty. Every man his burden[s]; every woman has hers. I know I will not be here forever. Tangential point: when I die, I would like to be smelling like sandalwood, Insha Allah. [Also, my will is currently under my bed (middle drawer).]

“This life’s a test; Insha Allah we’ll make it.” [Khaled Siddique]

If you have been brought to make a du’a, then it necessarily means that the door is open. A Muslim must be hopeful. Have faith; make your Du’as; do your part, and put your effort in. Your Creator will not let you down <3.

When Prophet Zakariyya (AS) had reached old age, he still longed to have a son and heir. His du’a, which you can just feel the beautiful emotionality of, through the words:

He said, “My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white,

and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy.

And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren, so give me from Yourself an heir

[Qur’an, (19:4-5)]

In spite of all the factors seemingly against him: He knew of his Lord’s Ability.

More on this Du’a (the imagery it includes – for example of Zakariyya (AS)’s hair being ablaze with white! – and ‘lessons in making Du’a’).

Every day: to collect our essential weaknesses, our pains, our inadequacies. To bring them right to the ground, and to converse with the Lord of the Universe, with them.

Today, I still could not find my watch anywhere. I thought I had probably left it at Nanu’s house. My wrist feels bare without this watch, now: my aunt (who, incidentally, is from Lithuania) got me it at the start of the academic year. She said the things she associates with teachers: neck-scarves, coffee flasks, watches. It is a beautiful watch, Masha Allah. I found it, Qadric-ally, under a scarf, in my wardrobe, today. ‘Twas never lost: only hidden. For me to find, at the right… time. [Merit if you spotted the temporal imagery, there].

I went on a walk: an ‘Olio’ user was giving away a… wooden spoon. I don’t necessarily need a wooden spoon, but I thought: a reason to have a mini adventure, and my plan is, Insha Allah, to use it as a ‘talking spoon’ for my form class: for when we use the ‘Freshly Grounded’ cards… You can only speak if you are holding the spoon, and anybody who speaks out of turn gets detention. I guess I have a couple of teaching methods that could be deemed a little weird, ‘eccentric’… but, it is an idea I came across somewhere online recently: you literally get back 0% of the time you spend stopping yourself from being ‘weird’. And I would rather be a teacher with a talking-spoon than a teacher without one, you know? [Plus, I know even apathetic-seeming teenagers secretly find things like this at least somewhat entertaining].

The Olio user asked if we could meet at the highway corner shop. I walked, the canal way, to there. On my way, there had been a drunken Irish dude, who, in spite of the wiiiide pavement, walked right behind me. “Surr,” he said (‘sorry’, in an Irish accent). I turned around, previously having been unaware that anybody had been around me. “For walking behind you.” And then, as I waited outside the shop, he had come out. “Surr,” he said again, and walked away. Iz okay, my drunken Irish brother: you are forgiven.

There had been many Irish people about: I wonder what is happening. In our area, we have a big venue space (T.D.) and there are always random events happening. Beer festivals; motorcycle conventions; gaming conventions; a Halāl food festival; a massive Eid event, once or twice.

When the woman from Olio arrived, she gave me the spoon, and I wonder what all those people who didn’t know about Olio, and about my wooden spoon plans and such, thought had been happening: a random woman, handing a wooden spoon, to a random hijabi woman, and engaging in the smallest of polite small talks.

On my way home, I saw some little kids throwing a pair of balloons from their window. The sky had been quite ‘gloomy’: just how I like it. I sat in the part of our area which is known as the ‘woods’ — although there are not that many trees there. I just sat there, listened to the rainfall, tried to collect my thoughts. The natural world is healing, connecting.

When I asked Isa what immediately comes to mind when he looks at the spoon, he said “singla”. [A ‘singla’ is when a stick is used, in order to… discipline children.] “And cooking”. I asked him to help me come up with a name for this initiative: we couldn’t decide on one. But, in any case, it is time for… us to reclaim the ‘singla’ spoon, and to make it into a ‘dialogue-encouraging’ one.

Currently, I cannot find the darn wooden spoon. But it’s in my house somewhere, and I hope I’ll be able to find it before le Monday, Insha Allah.

[It is currently Sunday, and I am adding to Saturday’s entry…] Yesterday, another Palestine protest took place. I did not go to this one, but two of my cousins from my dad’s side – Ravzster and Priya – (and an aunt) came all the way from Kent, to. And, separately, two of my cousins from my mum’s side – Moosa and Maryam – also went. Moosa and Maryam came to my house, to pick Isa up. I opened my bedroom window, which is on the second floor, to speak to them. Maryam looked up. She was talking… but her mouth wasn’t moving. Was I going insane?!

Turned out: Maryam had brought her friend Naima with her. They are so very similar — in how they do their hijābs, in some of their mannerisms. When I had opened my window to speak to them, I had been looking at Naima, while Maryam had been hidden from view, talking to me.

Naima seems like such a wonderful friend, Masha Allah. I started jokingly calling her my “real cousin”, while Mareeham is my “fake” one. Naima also said that I look like I am twenty-one years old… This puts the whole insecurity about looking way, way older than I am, to rest.

I have also been thinking about the issue of ‘free-mixing’. Looking back, I have always, always, always, found it very easy to be friends with boys. My first ‘squad’ ever, from Nursery onwards: five boys, and me, who did not really know the difference between I and they [insert embarrassing story involving toilets, here]. I find it easy to be towards boys — well, the males my age are now ‘men’ — much like how I am towards my cousins, sometimes. Jokingly mean, brotherly.

But: in Islam, we believe that men and women cannot be ‘just friends’. Friends are friends; Mahram men are Mahram men. Whenever there is a ‘friendship’ between a man and a woman, if you are Muslim, then it is not it.

And, I thought: what should my boundaries be?

I still struggle with this one. Former friends ‘pop up’ on WhatsApp from time to time, and I don’t want to be cold, but I also don’t want to be so… ‘warm’, you know?

According to one of the ‘Alimiyyah teachers at work, when interacting with men who are non-Mahram [‘Mahram’ = brothers, uncles, sons, husbands, father-in-laws, grandfathers, nephews, very-old men, children who are not yet mature] we should maintain the ‘three Ps’: keep it ‘professional, purposeful, and public’. [‘Public’, i.e. you cannot be in ‘Khula’ (seclusion) with a non-Mahram person, without some sort of third party there].

Three Ps. Sigh, RIP the days of friendships being based on exchanging ‘ISIS’ insults for ‘Mussolini’ ones, and ‘short’ jokes for (retrospectively, kind of very-mean) ‘I-have-more-facial-hair-than-you’ ones. And a hilarious joke about the way I walk, in exchange for one about… Parkinson’s Disease. [Various sources have informed me that I am very fun to annoy, and that I am ‘c*te’ – which is now a swear word, for me, and I see it as a euphemism for ‘incredibly small’ – and ‘savage’.] RIP RIP RIP. Well, actually, some of my current friends enjoy this sort of humour, so there’s that. Plus, I hope that, in the future, I can marry someone who can be (to take an idea from cringeworthy social-media-relationship-displays) my male best friend. Insha Allah, Insha Allah.

Random, but, with all that I find myself learning, each day: I love this thing my friend Aatqa had mentioned, in one of her own blog articles: that the knowledge you come across… it is part of your Rizq (provision, sustenance). Food is Rizq, and material possessions are Rizq. And what you learn, and come to find and know… that is Rizq also, Subhan Allah.

A random thing I must always remember: I must never, ever feel ashamed to be Muslim. Sure, in some places, with some people, being religiously-inclined may make me stick out like a sore thumb. And so what? I know for this Deen to be true, and I know that I am being tested. People can make comments; random people can look at me with non-accepting eyes [today, a woman walking along with her daughter, speaking in… French… looked at me like I am terrifying and unacceptable. Or perhaps I am just assuming things…]

‘Taqwa’: God-cognisance. [‘Cognisance’: a word that I had learnt after a phone call with my aunt’s friend, who is a lawyer, a while ago.] On the ongoing theme – the motif – of ‘appearances versus reality’: Taqwa is not necessarily always very ‘visible’. You may think that the man with the longest beard, the thobes, the seas of Islamic knowledge… is the one with Taqwa. You may think that the woman who covers herself outside; who prays all her five daily prayers; reads Surah Kahf every Friday; is the ‘best Muslim’.

Hypocrisy, in Islam (Nifāq) is defined as when the outside – what you deliberately present to people – does not match what is in the heart. And, as I learnt from an assembly delivered by Ustadha S.: true Taqwa is truly shown in how we are towards people. [And other living creatures.] Children, the elderly, neighbours, family, friends. That is where true Taqwa is shown. And if there are numerous signs of outward ‘religiosity’ that are not coupled with gentleness and compassion towards people… sounds a little more like Nifāq.

Nobody really knows if you are a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Muslim, but Allah. And no human being; no Muslim is perfect. We each have our struggles, our sins. Where we, as individuals, are coming from; where we are necessarily going. [You are going to die. Not ‘if’, but ‘when’. Smelling like sandalwood, Insha Allah.]

Appearances versus reality; our outermost parts, which we deliberately show, to various parts of the world. And our truths, which lie within: within our homes, within our own souls. Dunya-based life: such a fight, a losing battle, to be ‘enough’, and then some, to compete with everybody else. Oi. You are already ‘enough’; I wish there were a better word for it. You are… [whatever your name is, dear reader, insert it here]. You are you, and every part of it: human, beautifully created, full, (and if only the word ‘enough’ could be ‘enough’).

Could you be deeply loved, exaccccctly as you are? For sure, Insha Allah, I promise you. Love is something that will see all your (necessary, human) flaws, Insha Allah. And love will turn them into flowers. You don’t gotta be anything other than you, and it will be revolutionary, extraordinary. Quiet, powerful, and beautiful: like rain.

The Japanese art of Kintsugi: something I came across fairly recently. Copied and pasted from its Wikipedia: The art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered goldsilver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

The stories that make us, us. The character. The ‘rugged charm’. I have a plant whom I have Kintsugi’d. I promise, I didn’t break the pot on purpose just to do it: I am just really clumsy sometimes. This plant, I had purchased after Year Eleven, from IKEA. I called him Adam. I dropped him while at Ikea: the pot he had formerly been potted in has some tiny cracks on it. But I did not exchange him for another one, less cracked, and more ‘perfect’. This was (going to be) my plant [whom… I dropped. I am a terrible mother.] This year, one of his parts snapped off; I sent some of my friends a picture of the poor fallen part of the plant. And then: a short while later, a new part grew. Sort of from the same place, and… sort of all anew.

During the last lockdown – when I had been online-teaching, for a couple of months – I swapped Adam from one plant pot into another. I am going to make myself sound like the biggest klutz ever, here, but I dropped that pot, by accident. It broke. For some reason, the concept of Kintsugi had been brought up, in my life, again. And my brother and I had, to save ourselves from dying of inactivity and boredom, done ‘evening activities’ together, during that lockdown period. Martial arts, cooking, crafts… When this pot had broken, I took it down to the garage – where we had been making… birdhouses! – and mixed some gold paint with some craft glue. Adam’s pot has been repaired, Alhamdulillah. Where he had once been broken, he is now golden; there is a story there. And maybe it is not ‘ideal’, but… it has uniqueness, character, a happy-sad and hopeful aspect to it. Texture, a deeper sort of beauty. This is Dunya. The stuff of idealism is for Jannah; here, we have the gold paint that we can mix with the glue. The jokes about ROME HAVING FALLEN when parts of our plants snap off. The amazing and (unexpected, perhaps) new growths that take place.

Also, tangential point: I really think cats have their own language, and can communicate with one another, and can direct one another towards other people’s houses, for food… [Year Four memories of reading ‘Varjak Paw’ with one of the best teachers in existence, Masha Allah, Jo. A few years ago, she had found me on Twitter. She said, “What a force you are now. I still remember you when you were a little feminist”]. [Ref: Chase and his father, whom I am going to name ‘Darth Vader’. And Bilal and his new friend].

Since, for this thirty-day documentation thing, I am not writing in my private journals, but on my blog: I feel I must include some things… People love, often ‘quietly’. In ways that are not necessarily the most ‘grand’ or ‘showy’. My brother does not like hugs. If I am about a metre near him, he shouts, “STOOOOP”. And, yet, on the car journey home from the restaurant, he’d gently rested his head on my lap, while he slept, and I did not want him to ever move. People often show their love (powerfully,) quietly.

Ranga Mama, also: we are not the sentimental-hugging sort of uncle-niece duo. I say I am too awkward to express it properly. He says (on WhatsApp), “we express it perfectly between us alhamdulilah <3. It’s not what we see or show, it’s what we know. And I know. And I know you know <3.” And I do know, Alhamdulillah. People are people; we love in our own ways. People tend to love (powerfully,) quietly.

And I believe in the Day of Judgement, sin duda, 2000%. I so believe in Justice. I believe, for example, that the children of Gaza are alive and well; their Lord knows well.

Gaza is burning. And we can often find ourselves feeling quite detached from it all. But recently, for example, I came across a video on Twitter, of a little boy who reminds me so much of Isa. And he spoke about how, during an airstrike, he had run and hid behind a hospital: Al-Shifa Hospital, in Gaza. This also happens to be the hospital that Isa and Saif had been fundraising for. Up close, each of these children is an individual child, complete with everything that makes up a person: a brother, a son, a cousin, a characteristic gentleness, a particular sort of smile, a belief that cats should be treated “humanely”. And their loved ones will never, here in Dunya, be able to hear the sound of their voices, feel the warmth of their bodies, the melodies of their laughter, again. Until Ākhirah, Insha Allah.

Fire.

Won’t you //

Put out the flames?

[Siedd is basically Muslim Ed Sheeran, and this nasheed made me cry.]


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.