What I have learnt.
Today I have not seen a single other human being in the flesh. I got up briefly, to message work that this plague of mine had remained. I sent over today’s cover work for my two English classes. Teaching English is extremely fun for me, Masha Allah: I get to teach about the intricacies of language, and about the more ‘psychological’ sides of things, and I get to link it all back to the Islamic weltanschauung [I know, I know: I could just say ‘worldview’. But it sounds better in German.]
I got up to complete that brief task, then went back to sleep. Today I learned that there was leftover Turkish food in the fridge: while I had been at my nan’s, eating chicken strips with chips, father mine had ordered Turkish for here. Turkish pide (flatbread) is delicious. Compare to: Desi ‘pita’. And, Bengali ‘fita’. “Ehhh fita khaiteni?” Classic[ally stupid] joke.
Today, I learned, from an article that Mazhar had sent on the family group chat, that the water level of the Euphrates river has dropped. Which is terrifying: this is one of the signs of Yawm-ul-Qiyamah.
The only living creatures I have physically interacted with, today, have been my plant Al-Iskandar, and the cat. My dad keeps joking that I am the cat’s big sister [“cattor boin”]. He treats the cat like it is a baby. Which is cute, but it gets a little weird at times; I refuse to say that a cat is my brother.
I have also learnt that I really miss the smell of sandalwood. Such an earthy scent: I think Nanu’s bathroom had a sandalwood-scented soap bar in it, once.
I love the fact that there exists different forms of femininity. Different expressions of the same thing. And I love that one type of femininity would appear to be the kind that is fascinated with things like essential oils, natural remedies, the feel of the earth beneath one’s fingers.
Masculinity and femininity. Themes that would appear to come up in my life over and over again. Recently, I have been discovering more and more about the differences between the masculine essence, and the feminine one. Of course, both men and women are human. Same thing, expressed in different ways.
There are many different types of masculinity. There are many different types of femininity, also. They are essential things; it matters not how much one can befit any particular stereotype, any narrowly defined archetype of what men should be like, or what women should be like.
Men who love steaks, hittin’ the gym [why would you love hitting the gym??????? Masochism], and modifying their cars are masculine. Men who love Ertugrul, learning about Islamic history, and spending lots of time with their baby daughter… equally masculine, and in a different way.
Usually, it is the case that these diversities bring about beauty. As cliché as the statement is: imagine if we were all the same…
Femininity is makeup, a soft heart, and being great with babies [M]. Femininity is also having one’s room walls painted black; loving fried chicken; having a penchant towards the gothic aesthetic [P].
One of my aunts [can you tell that I have a mahoosive extended-extended family yet?] recommended a book to me called ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. And maybe not everything that is said in this book is necessarily always true. But my aunt and I had been discussing the general gap of understanding, between the male kind, and the iron-male [get it?] kind.
This gap is something that Tamanna and I had discussed once, on one of our walks. “Isn’t it crazy how there’s a whole other half of the human population, walking around, seeing the world in a different way to how we do?!”
This ‘gap’ became even more apparent to me very recently, in light of a particular situation [ref: intuition tingz]. I got to hear one perspective, and the other perspective.
Men and women really do see the world differently. We are the same where we are the same; certainly, also, we are different where we are different. Women cannot think exactly like how men do, and vice versa. But we can at least open up dialogue and try to see things from the other’s eyes.
There are differences between groups, when one considers things from an aerial viewpoint: all (or, most) men, in contrast with all women. And, of course, there are differences between individuals, also.
Admittedly, I used to worry that I am not ‘feminine’ enough. The idea of pressing fake nails onto my nails, the idea of walking into Mendhis holding Taals, the idea of politely laughing at men’s jokes when they are not really funny… I can’t do it. My aunt jokingly remarks that I often think and argue ‘like a man’. I have also worried that because I have thick eyebrows, that they are ‘masculine’. But now I realise that… I am a woman, and in my own way. Every human being: formed deliberately, and uniquely, Masha Allah. Everything I do and have and am is womanly, but womanhood is not some mere cheap collection of image-based considerations. Everything a woman is, a woman is. Tall, short. Thick eyebrows, thin eyebrows. This is one of those things that just ‘is’. If that makes any sense at all.
I don’t really agree with that too-‘perfect’ ‘pink-blue’ divide, though. I really want to explore gender from the Islamic perspective far more, Insha Allah.
Today, at 06:30PM, we had our Khayr sesh. ‘Khayr’ is a weekly Zoom group that a friend of mine from sixth form and I had put together. The word itself means ‘goodness’. I went to a sixth form in Central London; its student body had been made up of people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds and such, from all different parts of the city.
This friend had been the first fellow hijabi I had noticed there, I think. On our first few days there, we’d both decided that we need to work on our Deen. So we would pray together. Doing Wudhu in the bathrooms, though: très awkward. But awkward things are always far easier – and more fun – when you have a friend to do them with you.
Last year, also, (pre-COVID) we both decided that we wanted to set up some sort of Muslim women’s group. S wanted to hold an event, also. That thought had to be put on hold for a while. But then, during COVID, and while we had completely forgotten about those ideas we had generated back then, we set up a Zoom group: the Khayr Circle. S got many of her friends into it; I got some of my own, also.
And then: something very cool happened. I found out that some of S’s friends – old and new – are close friends with some of my old good friends, from secondary school! Reunion tingz. One of these lost-and-found secondary school friends is a really tall girl called Zulaika, but we used to call her ‘Zulu warrior’.
Today’s Khayr sesh had been led by someone who had attended our school. Today’s topic had been: Post-Ramadan Reflections. It got me thinking, as these sessions do.
I love how Somali Muslims, it seems, commonly refer to Allah as ‘Ilaahi’, which literally translates to, ‘My God’. So beautiful, and something I have chosen to pick up also. Referring to one’s Creator as ‘my’ God.
Well, it is nearly 10PM and I can hear my family outside. My day of isolation comes to an end.
In ‘Khayr’, I think I am the only one who is not at uni (yet, Insha Allah). Oh wait, there’s Tamanna also. But it is pretty clear that certain words tend to popularly be used in uni discussions: terms like “piggyback”, “nuances”, “caveats”, “just to build on/springboard off that…”.
While discussing the experience of fasting while having to do exams, today’s speaker, Sitra, casually said, “my uni’s Islamophobic, you know.”
Also, something I have come to realise recently is that some while some names are specifically boy’s names in certain ethnic ‘cultures’, these same names are girl’s names in others. And vice versa. For example: Ayaan, Zayaan and Rayaan are Somali girls’ names. But… they’re Bengali boys‘ names.
In my Habi Gushti (a term to describe, basically, everyone you are even in the tiniest of known ways, related to) we have a Zayan (first cousin), a Rayan (distant), an Ayan (distant), Shayan (mum’s first cousin. He’s ten years younger than me), and a Kayan (second cousin).
Today in Khayr, we happened to have discussed the Day of Judgement, and death, more. A lot of things in this world are simply not worth it. We are going to die, and so much of all of this will simply turn to dust, and the doors of eternity: we must walk through them. We have also democratically decided that we are going to use the F.G. cards during our sessions: a few at the start, a few at the end. The cards I picked out for use today: “What’s your routine, when you’re angry?” and “What are you most grateful to Allah for, this week?”
Subhan Allah, truly, this week, I am very glad for the fact that it feels like I live in a village. Walk around, do my thing. The world itself is too big, while home is big – and small – enough. To quote that little trespasser and thief Goldilocks: in the middles of things, everything tends to feel “juuust right”.
I need to learn that not everything requires my attentions. To focus on what concerns me, and to focus on true, earthy, connections: I need to get better at streamlining my energies. And home (which I did not even leave once, today) is a sanctuary. Where there should be peace. For me, being away from social media while at home is important, though I keep doing the opposite, quite a bit.
Today I came across a Shaykh Hamza Yusuf video entitled, ‘Dunya: a low-security prison’. Nice way o’ putting it. I shall listen to it on my way to work tomorrow, Insha Allah.
I also learned that swans have these in-built filter mechanisms, near their eyes, to filter out the salt from saltwater! In the canals around here, there are always swans, Masha Allah. And then they have cygnets. And then those cygnets grow up, and the circle of life begins anew. We have cygnets again! They are très très cute.
Furthermore, today I really, really realised (or, acknowledged, finally) that I am not a sit-at-desk kind of person. I tried sitting at my desk today (which opens up to be a dressing table. IKEA, ya lil Scandinavian geniuses) to see why I can’t sit at tables to work. Is it because these chairs and tables aren’t designed for short people? I propped myself up using a pillow, to check. Still, nope. Who am I kidding? I love working on the floor, and can’t sit still and focus on chairs, generally. Maybe I might have (what could be classified as) ADHD. Or maybe we should not seek to pathologise personalities and stuff.
Finally, fire is very interesting; absolutely mesmerising to stare into. “Watch the flames burn over // the mountain side”. [E.S.]
In Turkish, then, while (conceptually) wearing Ertugrul-style battle gear: mücadele hayattır! THE STRUGGLE IS LIFE.
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.