What I have learnt, Episode Twelve: Fire
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”
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 gold, silver, 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.
Won’t you //
Put out the flames?
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.