Bismillāhir Rahmānir Raheem.
Today, after the final bell rang — after those seas of white-headscarfed, black-coated students had dispersed through the door to the stairs – on one side, at the back of the hall — all that had been left had been the wooden floors, the motivational displays plastered across the walls. The three large Victorian sash windows, lined up: a row. A single Qur’an on each sill. Stillness. And a good amount of sunlight — not too much, and just enough — streaming right through.
02:55 PM is home-time (for now, during Ramadān, at least). Freneticism, the joys of final release. Magnetically joining each of their own friend groups. Ridiculous fun, under heavy bags, and at least a hundred different conversations going on at once. Buzzing, humming. And then, roughly 03:03… stillness.
Quiet. I tend to do it unintentionally, but I prefer to leave my last classroom of the day once the noise dies down, and there is no one left. Nobody to bump into; no groups to sidle through. A penchant for silence. And for all that I can learn, through its noble presence.
Today, as I left the D.T. classroom on the middle floor, I met that sacred silence once again. And all had been still, save for… two students standing at the third window. One of them: a gentle and protective arm locked around the other. The other: she had been crying, her eyes red, her face all puffy.
I don’t know their names: I only teach Year Sevens and Eights at this school, and these girls are in Year Nine, I think. But the comforting friend — she taught me much about friendship, today. And about the value of quiet: something I have found myself thinking about quite a lot, lately.
I asked the girl who had been crying if she wanted to talk about it, or if she just wanted to sit in a classroom for a while, before rejoining the masses of people exiting the school. She decided to go to a classroom. The comforting friend, so gently and determinedly, asked me if she could sit with her friend.
They sat together, at the back of the classroom. One friend, crying helplessly, but silently: tears just rolling from her eyes, one by one. The other friend did not ask her “what’s wrong”. Did not ask for an explanation; offering ‘solutions’ seemed such a non-consideration for her, for now. The comforting friend simply sat there, in stillness, a gentle and concerned look across her face, and facing her friend completely, being there, (subtly,) entirely. And here is the part that caused my heart to melt: as the upset girl’s tears fell, and as she sniffled and tried to collect herself, the other friend, part of her hand concealed beneath the sleeve of her black puffer jacket, softly wiped each tear away, as they did. One, by one, by one. Wordlessly. Until her friend felt ready to leave.
She had sat there, with her friend, without question. No rush for answers; no rush to go home. Just a gentleness, and an unwavering presence. And I think this is what love reminds me of: those three Victorian sash windows, and the golden light streaming in. Quietly – seemingly just blending in with all other things – and powerfully. Strongly, and subtly. The best things, I think, reveal themselves in the Quiet. Silent, and unassuming, profundities.
Sometimes, when we speak, it is more like noise. And other times, it is more like melody, like song. Muhammad (SAW) had advised us to “Speak a good word. Or remain
Silent”. [Sahih Hadith]
Good words are beautiful, and they are virtuous. And silence can also be a thing of beauty, and of virtue. Sometimes, speech is not really needed. Sometimes, the grounding weight of silence is what holds our words together. And love is a thing of presence.
I think, also, when we find ourselves at the mercy of more negative emotions: resentment, bitterness, anger. It is probably better to be still. And silent. And to know: the ‘upper hand’ is not everything. And rage can drive us to say the worst of things to another person: carving, in them, wounds that may never heal. Silence is probably the better option. If they are right, then they are right. If they are wrong, then although they may have injured you a little, with incendiary insults and exaggerated blame: Allah will sew your heart right back together, Insha Allah, and you will have lost nothing. The other person may have to deal with the consequences of their actions for a lifetime, and then for an eternity.
In silence, there is so much power. There is space enough, to reason, and to reflect. And to decide on one’s options, and on what is more valuable.
And what about Maryam (AS)’s silence, when she had been accused of that dire crime, and when Allah directed her towards merely pointing at her son – baby Isa (AS) – and the justice that her Sabr and her silence had surely earned her, in the end? What about Ibrahim (AS), when his own father had sent him into a blazing fire? He showed no rage; no indignation. Uttered words of peace, to his father, and then Allah made the fire “bardun wa saleem”: cool, and tranquil, for him.
Our words hold so much weight: for better, or for worse. And, what is there to lose, in not speaking, sometimes? An explanation, so as to appease our egocentric curiosities? A moment or two, of self-contented pride, the upper hand?
With our words, and with all of these necessary spaces in between them: we can beautify, or we can ruin. On an undeniable day on which there will be no shade but His: these words, and these silences, will either stand for us, or against us. Like a series of mountainous and destructive flames. Or, like a beautiful friend, with her arm locked around our shoulders: a sign of Divine love. And the rest of the world, even when it burns with the stuff of intense intolerance and hatred, falls bardun wa saleem.
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.