How I Got My Cat — Saif Ahmed

                                             How I got my cat by Saif Ahmed, age 8. Cat age 1 year.

It all started when my neighbour’s cat had given birth to kittens. When the kittens got old enough our neighbours let the kittens out. Each day the kittens would come to my house. My mum and dad would spend so much money getting the kittens food.

My mum didn’t like cats much but she started to like them because one of the kittens loved me and my mum so much. After a while we wanted to get a cat desperately. Because of this we asked our neighbours if we could get a cat. They said YES! I got super happy. When we got him he ran upstairs and went under the sofa because he’s never been in my house. Days later he got used to the place, we named him Safi.

                                               and That is how I got my cat

                                                                  The End.

The attached picture is the one that Saif chose to go with this article. Please comment below if you liked this!

           

حب

“حب. In love, just like in prayer, you do not look around.”

There is something that I so love. And I think I can call what it is, love: I love it when people sit by the canal, no phones. Just… writing. Or reading. Feeding the ducks. And when women sit by their easels, in Istanbul, painting. They love painting. They are seeking “bereket” in their lives. And it does not really matter who is around, or who is not around.

This is what I think can be termed love. A pastry chef who makes his food, silently, and it is art, bleeding forth. Like there is no effort, even, involved. It is the flow of something; a symphony. Just happens. Sometimes, maybe, it is dizzying, beneath the skin. And infuriating: you just must do this.

It is: a father playing with his daughter. He is not this way with anybody else in this entire world. He zooms her up, begins to speak a whole other language in connection with her. Love is two things when they are alone. All the rest of the world quietens down, fades out of sight, a colourful blur behind raindrops: sinks away, into relative nothingness.

The thing about love is that it does not look elsewhere. Why would it need to? Why would it want to?

Effortless; not desperate for attention from external eyes, though if this happens, it… happens. Love is ailing, and it is immunising. Engrossing, a wormhole, and it propels its adherents into every single corner of this globe: it is

at once, profound and full of energy: an ocean, inexhaustible. And subtle, and quiet. Just: tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, like rainfall. And how could we ever know that we are making the right choices, in these lives of ours?

What to do; what, and whom, and where to sink into, invest ourselves in. Which options do we pick? Which ones are best?

Such a thought, sometimes, I consider to be dizzying. So I make Du’a, and if you make Du’a, you either get what you are asking for; what you want, but at a later date; something different, and better for you.

So I pray for whatever is best for me, in this world, and in the World to come. And therefore: the best options, for me, thus become inevitable. By Allah’s infinite grace.

These lives that we live: may we live them in love. Not necessarily lust, whose bases lurk beneath the murky waters of unknowing-ness. Like when we see distant stars, from down here, from afar: they only look like little twinkles in the sky, lightly glittering. And they look self-certain, while we, ourselves, know are not. They only glint, and down here, we think they are only gemstones in the sky. Get closer, though, and you could, potentially, see every star for what it really is:

not a mere dot, not ever so easily definable. But: a burning, raging explosion of all that it takes, to be. Just like you.

In Salāh, we are not meant to look around. We look at the ground. As hard as it is sometimes, our hearts are meant to be right here. Entirely. Nothing else, really, matters so much: not business, not our work schedules. Sleep can wait a little. Everything can wait a little. This is the essence of حب: wherever you plant it, garden it, it will blossom, and bloom, and grow.

Is it not beautifully interesting, that the word in Arabic itself (pronounced ‘Hubb’) is synonymous with ‘seed’? Where you plant it (and water it, and tend to it, without expending energy on looking at others’ flowers) it will grow. You’ve asked Allah for the best? Good, خلاص: you will only have the best, Bi’ithnillah (by Allah’s permission) no matter what.

How existentially comforting a thought. Breathe.

Love is fierce, fiery, jealous in protection. And it is tender, and gentle, liberal in its sharings of goodness. So very firm, and secure; so very soft, and liberating.

Paradoxical. ‘Para’, meaning: beyond. ‘Dox’, meaning: intellectual processes, including belief/opinion. Love is paradoxical: once you find it, whenever you do, it floods your being with something that is beyond belief. Like the love that my uncle describes, when he met his son for the very first time.

You exist in what you love: it makes you real. What you love exists (already) in you. And love really is tethered to what is True,

and good, and it is Beautiful. Age-old, universal. I have asked my Creator for what is best, for me, in this world: future-place-of-living-wise, university-wise, people-wise. I will, by His grace, meet them as and when they come.

“If you are grateful,” Allah says, “I will [surely] increase you [in favour]”. To look down at our own patches of land, and to realise the metaphysical value of these things. Though elements of the material may shine, sometimes, in distant skies, as they glint and reflect what might look like light:

Love is beautiful, and it is strong. It is the strongest of fences; the most fruitful of flowers. Even when there are bulldozers around, which might, in anger and in arrogance, threaten to mow them right down. Love is:

those Gazan children. Amid the rubbles of destruction, a child’s innocent smile, blooming in resistance: he’d managed to rescue his pet fish. And Allah increased them in favour: gave them, through the means of another person, more wonderful fish to love in this way.

Love feels aching, and it feels healing. You’re hurt a little; your feet pain. Walk on anyway, and hopefully, in beauty and in strength.

I live not for lusts, which seem, from way over here, half-‘perfect’. Other than what is mine, away from here, and now. I live for love, which is, by nature, star-like, stellar. Never a perfect sphere; always ferocious, spitting. Blood swishing, and sloshing, through these, our determined and alive hearts. The actual; the real and now.

I have no ‘lusts’ for this life. But I have a love for it, and for what it really is. Because I sure love, Alhamdulillah, the little boy who will not get me my charger when I ask for it. Who ‘tells me off’ like he is forty-five years old, sometimes. Who does all these things I wouldn’t expect, and he is not a perfect sphere, but why on Earth would I ever want for him to be?!

Love is not merely ‘pleasant’. It does not only bring about, in us, a mellow smile. Love makes you burn a little, out of frustration. Cackle, unexpectedly, with laughter. Teaches you all sorts of new things, all the time. There is always something a little different to learn and do, with love.

I think I can say, hands-down, Masha Allah, that my brother is the person whom I love the most in this whole world. For him, my heart swells with something I can only call love. But, for example, one of my uncles says that, looking at how we are together, sometimes, that’s not so easy to see.

And maybe it isn’t, always, to people who do not know us inside-out. But love is paradoxical: it escapes ease of definition. Escapes neat belief; is greater than minute opinions.

‘Easy’ is an interesting word. ‘Easy’ is just… too easy. I would not want a different brother for the entire world, but sometimes I wonder:

What would it, maybe, be like, to have a brother who, by cultural definitions and such, is… half-‘perfect’?

A little boy who does what he is told. Is kind, and compliments all the time. Encourages good feelings in people; is easily pleasing to the (metaphorical) eyes. And, okay, that would be good for my ol’ ego, maybe. A little brother who tells me I am the best big sister in existence, and a bunch of other nice things. It would probably also be good in an egoic sense because: people would immediately think, this is a great child. They would likely proceed to say lots of good things about our family.

My brother is a little explosion of beautiful things. Saif Ahmed is a human supernova. And (I’d like to think that) others do not know him how I do. Others don’t always need to know him the way I do. Others’ perceptions are limited; others might be looking to ‘like’ him. And maybe they don’t, based on what, exactly, they might be looking for, always find reasons to merely ‘like’ him.

But that’s okay, because he is so deeply loved, by all the right people for him. Would I rather have a little brother who would actually listen when I told him to get me something from downstairs; wash his hands when I told him to; hug me all the time and told me he loves me?

All children are beautiful in their own right. My brother is the type to not listen, quite a bit of the time. He will challenge you, hit you with witty and brilliant comebacks, and sometimes you find you can’t disagree with him. He’ll say the most hilariously alarming things. He’ll intellectually explore anything: currently, his desk is an inventor’s desk of felt-tip pens, fidget-spinners, Minecraft things, figurines, slime, Lego, a ‘Horrid Henry’ book. He loves inventing, designing, designing pranks.

He is not ‘perfect’. He is something more than perfect. Why do we think we want ‘perfect’? Because it’s gentle, pleasant on the eyes in a delicate way, ‘easy’-seeming? Saif, in particular, maybe, has taught me that I love challenge. It brings from me, parts of me unexpected. Laughter, frustration, new facts, buzzes of fun. I cannot even imagine who I would be, today and now, with a) no little brother at all, or, b) a ‘perfect’ brother.

‘Perfect’ is easy to like, isn’t it? Sweet. “Awww that’s nice”. Nice. For love, I think: I need unexpected, and, to all the wrong eyes: absurd. Buzz-giving, and quiet. Fudge an opinion. Love is something that feels so effortless, and, yet, it makes you want to put all the effort in.

Today, in the staff room, I learned from Miss Fillanda about a man who wanted to learn Qur’an from a scholar. The scholar wanted to test the seeker’s commitment, determination. Over a period of forty days, the scholar kept declining the seeker’s requests for his (the scholar’s) tutelage, to test if he (the seeker) was true. Rejection, rejection, rejection. The seeker persisted. He loved the Qur’an so much. This is love.

It is challenge, and it is beautiful growth in the face of it. Only in the face of it. Gardening a rose tree, or an olive tree, from seed is not the easiest thing in the world. You do not know what will grow from this seed, but… the potential is, quite often, powerful. You water, and are hopeful, and are uncertain. Notice changes every other day. Cut off shrivelled parts; work on the newer ones. Nourish the soil, from time to time, with new nutrition.

These inescapable roses, in these, our hearts, they take time to grow. And time in genuine presence. And then, and only then, do we move from lust – the commitment to only positive-seeming snippets of things – into love. Quiet, sometimes, and always gushing.

The human heart. How strong and subtle an organ; how determined (by the Will of Allah) and how resolute. Man. How very fragile it is, too.

Pleasantries, and what they bring, are pleasant. To me, they feel a little shallow. They just force you to smile daintily all the time, and be sweet, even when you don’t necessarily feel like being ‘sweet’. My baby brother has taught me how to have, silently, a love as deep as the oceans. It’s just something I know – just like I know how to breathe. I hope Soopaf dearest knows it too. [If I ever/when I/pass away, someone please direct him towards reading these things about him, on this here blog. He’ll probably… pretend to vomit. A recent while ago, I asked him if he would be sad if I died. He basically said, “yeah… but for maybe half a day.” Twelve hours. Better than nothing.]

Love is the colour between sky and ground. Blue: the colour of clarity and possibility. And, brown: the colour of possibility, too. And of trust. Put your feet down, finally: you can trust it.

Love is deeply energising. For, for example, the mothers and fathers who must stay up for late-night feeds: it can be exhausting, at times. It is not ‘perfect’. It is a true, up-close, and complete experience. Love is the thing with flowers: it makes houses (i.e. people, places, vocational roles and so on) into homes.

Se cosecha lo que siembra: you reap what you sow. There is no use in looking at other-than-yours. But if, for example, the opportunity for the next step comes about, then we can ask Allah: is this what is best? Oh Allah, please make inevitable for me what is best. Āmeen.

Everything in this Dunya is a list of pros, and a list of cons. And now, the question is: which pros do we want? Which cons will we accept (as energising challenges)? Will a beautiful story, perhaps, be made of this? Because I think there is a beautiful, stellar, story that has emerged from my brother and me. Would things be like this if I had a ‘perfect’ (by those externally-defined, imposed) definitions?

Nah. Not really. I’d say, I have such a nice brother. He’s so good. We don’t fight; never disagree on things. I just come home and he hugs me and he sits there and compliments me. He teaches me nothing; there are no surprises. Everything that is easily comprehensible and explicable, neatly packagable: he is. He just makes me feel nice.

Love is so much more than ‘nice’. It is more than mere surface pleasantries: it is deeper, more real, star-like, connection. Not just onlooker-to-image. You have to be with, around, immersed in, whom or what you love, to know if you truly love it.

“حب. In love, just like in prayer, you do not look around.”

You’re just too grateful to Allah; too trusting, in Him, hopefully. Too aware of the fact that this is all Qadr. Too aware that you’ve made those Du’as, and indeed, the promises of your Lord are true.

“What happens if you make your cat bald?” — baby brother dearest. Just now, at age eight. I just tried to kiss his hand and he abruptly closed my laptop. Three times in a row. I elbowed him. This is love. حب.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Keep Walking — Yasmin Mogahed

Every day I get closer to our Meeting.
I feel like I’ve been walking this path for a thousand years
towards You…
and yet I’m still not there.
So close, and yet so far still

But I keep walking,
despite the tears,
despite the wind,
despite the skinned knees and broken bones,
despite the bruises and scars that make this heart what it is today,
I keep walking…
toward You.
There’s only one direction,
one direction:
towards You.
From You, to You.
I have nothing else.
Nothing.
That is my poverty.

I keep walking
because behind every sun’s setting is a rising,
Behind every storm is a Refuge,
Behind every fall is a rise,
Behind every tear is a cleansing of the eyes.
And in every spot you’ve ever been stabbed, is a healing,
and the creation of skin stronger than it was.

I keep walking
because Wallahi, I have nothing but Your mercy.
I have nothing but Your promise
Your words
Your promise
that:

“Oh mankind, indeed you are ever toiling on towards your Lord- painfully toiling,- but you shall meet Him.” (84:6)

Today’s Khayr session had been led by Safiya. She spoke about success, and what it means, and about what we’re really doing, here. She concluded by reading the above, in such a wonderful, beautiful way, Masha Allah.

Day Thirty

What I have learnt, Episode Thirty: I think it’s crazy // how we finish each other’s (sandwiches). Concluding remarks.

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Today I got some organic honey from Tesco and mixed some of it into my water. Makes for a good, organic, energy drink. The benefits of honey: it is Sunnah to have it in warm water, I think. And honey as a remedy is mentioned, specifically, in the Qur’an.

And, to cheer myself up a little (a somewhat gloomy morning, this morning) I got some of dat ‘Little Pots’ salted caramel ganache from Tesco. So delicious skfhsjkghrgh! Made my mood go up. [I also got some for Mushfikah. And… I knew it! She loved it. It really did beat her pudding in dis fight]. And ’twas a busy day today, and a tiring one (with a lil helping of social awkwardness, massively magnified in this mind of mine, as per yush) but ‘t’had also been a day of sunshine nonetheless.

I looked around, like an egg-and-cress junkie, for an egg-and-cress sandwich at Tesco. But… they were gone! So I decided to try out the vegan version of the sandwich. And… it was not great! They managed to get it to kind of smell and taste like egg… but 0.8 out of 10, would not eat again.

So, it is the last day of this thirty-day thing. Today is Wednesday: my busiest weekday at work. Form times two, and four different classes. Alhamdulillah. It is a blessing to have a job like this, for me. Sometimes, though, I find I must drag my feet a lil, to the next place I have to be at. But then I forget any prior negative emotions like that when I, for example, have a conversation with Ar–sa, Fa-za, Ma–am F–toni.

[Yes! Siedd has made a vocals-only cover of Shawn Mendes’ In my Blood. Yeeeees]

Fortunate I am, to be alive, and to be Muslim, and to be me, and to have this life of mine. Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah. Sometimes, I might feel as though I know what is best for me. The truth is, I do not. To paraphrase something that Hamza Tzortzis (Muslim scholar) has said, fairly often, we only have a pixel, while only God has access to the entirety of the picture.

Pixels versus pictures. Appearances versus reality. Appearances: a glimpse. Forgetting, or not paying much attention to, all that is behind this image. Deliberate snip-outs, very deliberate ways of presenting things, editing; of presenting oneself, even.

Today I held a copy of the recently-published Young Writers’ book in my hand: some of my students have been published in it, Alhamdulillah! I’d received packs from the competitions’ organisers in the post, at work. And quite a few of them signed up for them [there were two different competitions]. All of them received a commendation and a certificate, and an invitation to be published (save for one, who’d… plagiarised a random poem). The organisers said that this had been quite a rare thing, for any school to be invited by them to get (almost) all entrants published.

But that’s the thing: these girls are not just any students. So many of them are (Wallahi, without exaggeration on my part here) quite talented. They write very well, some of them [there is this one girl, in Year Ten, whose class I covered the other day. And I think she… could easily get a very interesting and well-written book published now]. Some of them: their Mendhi skills… professional levels. Masha Allah, Masha Allah. They even offer their artistic services to teachers, free of charge.

Baking and cooking: wow. That brownie-cake from the Eid event, which a student had made: wowowowow. Masha Allah, Allahummabārik. The painted/calligraphy arts: so many of the Year Sevens have their own calligraphy sets. Their brush-pens, the colours. Origami, too: the swans, the Ramadan advent calendar on 8S’ wall. Their senses of humour. Sharpnesses, brightnesses. And, most importantly, their Akhlaaq and Adab (morality and manners). These girls are amazing, Masha Allah Tabarak Allah. Just… all their colours.

And, yet, to many external eyes: they might just be… black-and-white. Black abaya, white scarf. Nothing else. No afforded humanness; no fairness. Just… images. Things onto which to project:

Project what you think Muslim women are, onto them. Voiceless, shapeless… whatever you choose for us to be, really, in your minds. Forgettable, or despicable. Boring, bored, or whatever else. Or, even: you feel yourself to be impure, and a Muslim girl must be faultless, and your ‘saving grace’; do the job of ‘purifying’ you, while you do little. What you might have gleaned from the media. One particular girl from Tower Hamlets stands out, for me, in particular: she had been groomed into joining a certain group, abroad. And she is probably the only Muslim girl from Tower Hamlets that many Brits have ever come across.

Before I started working here at this school (as a result of Qadr. I absolutely cannot put it down to anything else) my aunt, of course, had been here. And she would tell me about work; I would make fun of her when she had loads of marking to do [oh, how the tables have turned]. She’d told me about some anti-Muslim incidents that had taken place, while taking some of her girls on school trips. People getting their phones out, and freely taking pictures and videos of these girls, for example. Quiet though it may be, this is an act of aggression. Especially against innocent young women.

People often perceive Muslims, and Muslim women in particular, as a ‘free-for-all’ of sorts. Spat at, punched. Headscarves pulled off. Pregnant women attacked. Pushed down stairs. Go back home and

You terrorist. You’re a threat and a nuisance and oh, heh, you’re also oppressed.

And because… I think you’re oppressed… here, let me just… add to the struggles of oppression that I perceive you as being subjected to???? ‘Islamophobic’ bullies are very stupid indeed.

In their eyes, we are not granted our humanity. We are not allowed to be human. But that doesn’t stop our humanness from being true. And, very often, all one must do, in order to come to better know the truths of things is: move closer.

See the fact that one of them wants to be a structural engineer/architect in the future [this is the Italian-Bengali one, with the -oni surname!] She is determined, and she is extremely kind. She likes to read; she writes really well, Masha Allah. Books about engineering, here in Year Eight. She told me about this one time in Year Two when her teacher (whom I want to fight) told her, at Parents’ Evening, that she should… probably just aspire to be a chef, instead of an engineer. Because she hadn’t been that good at Maths, apparently. [There is nothing wrong with being a chef, but… this teacher?????] Ma–am F—oni has dyslexia. She is an incredibly intelligent girl, Masha Allah, and pretty much everybody in the staff room (passionately) agrees. Like a gifted sixth form student, sitting there in a Year Eight class. When she reads, she uses a special pink sheet thing, which assists her reading ability. And our presentations, as teachers, when teaching her class, need to have pink backgrounds. [Very often, I sillily forget… and she reminds me in a gentle and cheerful way. This girl is just… good vibes, Masha Allah.]

And this is just one student, of so many of them. You zoom in, and only then do you exchange the view[s] of mere images of them, for truths and humannesses. Muslim women are not a monolith. We are different people, with different styles, different minds, different inclinations and vocations, different senses of humour, and all the rest of it. In the staff room, by the shoe rack: shiny, heeled professional shoes. Trainers, also: some muddy, some pristine. Wellies of sorts. Clogs. Summery shoes.

But it can be easy for external eyes to come to think we are just walking black cloaks, with nothing much human about us: the media, the lack of true recognition. You don’t really see us. You might see: what the (intrinsically untrustworthy) media touts. Netflix and such too: the cool Muslim girls are the ones who… drop everything to run away with a white man. Her liberation lies with the white man; her ‘liberation’ lies in Dunya, seemingly, and in whatever is not Islam. But, prior to meeting him, and what he represents: she is made to seem… personality-less. Only a quietness, passiveness, latency. And no anything else. And have we forgotten about who our role models are: the Khadijah (RA) – wealthy and successful business-owner, who sacrificed so much of her wealth for her relatives, and for Islam; the ‘Aisha (RA) – witty genius who would race with our Prophet (SAW), the Fatima Al-Fihri, the Nusayba bint Al-Ansariyya (woman-turned-warrior, who also assisted wounded soldiers in battle)?! The Queen Bilqiis of Sheba, mentioned in the Qur’an, who ran her nation; consulted her men; humbly submitted to Allah, when she learned of the truth. Maryam (AS) who, most likely, had been beautiful (Masha Allah). But Allah was, determinedly, more important to her than mere men.

Fātima (RA) would, as a young girl, courageously go and remove the guts and meat scraps from her father’s back (which his detractors would put on him) while he prayed. She would stand up, kiss him, take him by the hand, and offer her seat to him, whenever he had come to visit her. Because this had been him as a father: this is what had been modelled to her, what he would do for her! A big part of Islam is honouring women: this theme had been a strong one, in Muhammad (SAW)’s final sermon to his people.

So what, really, is a Muslim woman? Who gets to decide who we are?

We cannot let for anybody else, in particular those who have decided that they hate us, tell us who we are. This thing is between Allah and ourselves.

Today, in the staff room, the KS4 History teacher (who is really smart, Masha Allah) started up some great discussions. And then, they veered into a discussion about… pregnancy/giving birth, again. And about how one of them needed twelve epidurals, and blerrrrrgh. How physically toiling it is to be the vessel through which another beating heart is brought into the world. Blood, (pool births), tears (in both senses of the word), and everything else.

Someone joked that one of the senior staff members would probably make for a really great birthing-partner, actually. And then we made a joke imagining her in her lanyard, doing an o b s e r v a t i o n while someone else gave birth. She – the senior staff member – also added, about giving birth, that “it’s easy”. “Just enjoy it”.

Another interjected: “Don’t listen to her!” and basically confirmed my fears that it is the most excruciating thing to ever go through; traumatic and gory and ewwwwwwww. What are the pros of this thing? What are its cons?!!!!

Something we had also spoken about today had been… mental health. Definitions, and how they are important. How much I hate the word ‘toxic’. Ultimately, this Dunya has not been designed for man’s ‘happiness’. But, when there is excessive sadness, then we need to undergo measures (considering holism) to reset the balances.

As ‘[completely] clinical’ as this stuff is sometimes made out to be, and as not-religious-but-‘s p i r i t u a l’ are proffered its solutions: ‘mental’ and religious considerations tend to go hand in hand. That is not to say that depression is a sign of low Īmān. And nor is it to say that there are no Muslims who are suffering from depressive conditions. But religion helps with understanding the entirety of this life, and what it is for. This life is not to achieve realities that look like Instagram images: this is impossible. Religion helps with the balancing act; helps with managing our expectations. Helps with giving us the avenue through which to be conversant with the One who made us, who Knows us best; helps us with being grateful.

Man, sometimes I feel like such a baby and impostor in that staff room. I’m… not a graduate (yet, Insha Allah) and apparently I look like a kid, to some. But das okay: I get free chocolate and stuff sometimes [I think some of my colleagues have taken on very maternal roles towards me], just for being alive, so I don’t mind that much.

Today I asked one of my classes who, here, enjoys writing, and quite a few hands went up. I told them that I really think they should become authors in the future, Insha Allah, and give me copies of their books to read! We need more of their voices; we need to listen to them. Maybe they won’t end up being so loud, in the face of those blaring media voices. But that’s okay: beauty is beauty, and strength is strength, even when they may appear ‘small’ in the face of loud and angry things.

What is Islam? And what do people frequently mistake it as being?

A few things: there are some who seem to sort of take the heart out of it. Make it something that is harsh, and not gentle. And, yes, a certain degree of firmness is important here: Islam is not just those parts of it that make us feel instantaneously ‘fuzzy’ and all. But, just as Muhammad (SAW) told us, gentleness beautifies, while harshness makes ugly. If a person’s religion is making them arrogant, then it is not Islam, but a failed attempt at it. Irrespective of how many fresh-white thobes one owns; irrespective of the length of someone’s beard. Islam begins from the heart (the mind, the soul) and it extends outwards, a rose tree [like the one that Faris had refused to climb the other day].

An equal but different version of such a monochromatic understanding of Islam: those who put the Deen beneath a microscope, a sort of divorced-from-heart and soul ‘academic’ lens. Without really knowing it. Investigative pursuits… but they’ve already decided on what they are looking for.

The truth is that Islam, in its true Muhammadan form, liberates. This Dunya is enslavement, attaching our hopes and desires to various things. But everything (material) leaves, and only One remains. And He is promising you the best – the most truly excellent things – in this world, and in the Hereafter, if you obey His instructions. You either accept, or you reject: your choice.

A note to myself: if Allah is making you wait for something, then wait for it. Wait for it in the best ways possible; always remember to praise Allah in the hallway. How much blessing there is, in the wait: in the opportunity to make much Du’a for it, while it approaches you. If Allah is telling you that something is not for you, then it is not for you. Don’t you know Whom your Lord is? He’s the One who gave you… Saif. And this job, here at this school. Your entire life. Your beating, beating heart. And you can pray for Hasana (excellence) for this (transient, worldly, travelling) life of yours; you can pray for Hasana for your eternity after here, also. When we chase Ākhirah (and our bond with Allah, and good bonds with the people) then Dunya… falls right at our feet, too.

[Phew, man. I thought the cat just passed away or something. He’s okay. He’s just… sitting really still, by the window, behind the blinds]

More random notes, on general health and (thus) skin: stress affects skin badly. So does bad food. Lack of sleep. Remember to apply sun-cream [according to Anteayer and Ms Maisoun: about every 2-3 hours!] Also, Balmonds’ Intensive Facial Oil (with rosehip and lavender) from Holland and Barrett: this is the one (for me, at least) Masha Allah. Drink a lot o’ water. And keep not letting anyone touch your face: bacteria affects skin badly.

Today, after work, I walked home with Sweetie again. Me, pulling my bike along [super uncomfortable. I really should stop bringing Maserati in on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays]. I’ve forgotten what we talked about today, but I always love walking home with Sweetz. Today she also gave me the other half of her chicken tikka sammich. Such an important part of my childhood: chicken tikka sammiches from F. Foods [which has very recently been renamed! Gasp! Scandal!] She asked me if I wanted to come into Nanu’s, for the Thai green and red curries she was planning on making. But this time, I just came home instead.

My dad just told me to take the electric bike instead of my own one to work… This might just be what I use, to work my way up to that imagined Vespa (Insha Allah).

“I need You, I trust You. My love is just for You.

[I can’t do without You].

My Lord I,

will ne-ver //

Put anything above You.” [Siedd]

Keep going, keep going, keep going. Keep traversing this Dunya, as a traveller, this beautiful Earth; keep finding. Projects, adventures: seek out the Khayr. Keep trying. Keep failing; keep trying again, but better. [This world is, comparatively, a prison for the believer; a paradise for those who do not believe. And:] your Lord is with you, and therefore you’ve got this. You’ve just got to really, really, focus on all that is beneficial (she boutta say it again. True, and Good, and Beautiful). And lower your gaze [your glaze. Remember that? It just doesn’t have the same buzz anymore, does it?] from a lot of other things; what is not so good for you; what does not concern you. [Priya’s voice, here, when she says, “I don’t care”. And Zahra’s too. “Just don’t care.”].

“Don’t let your food get cold watching someone else’s plate.” You take your plate, add your Nando’s sauces, put a little coriander leaf on the top, for decoration purposes. Dis be your plate: it is from Allah, designed specifically for you. What will you make of it?

God Knows, by Siedd (whose songs, quite a few of my students love. Or, perhaps, used to: one academic year, in Year Seven terms, is actually a lotlot of time).

Back when I was eighteen
We used to live in daydreams
Then woke up in our twenties
Life passed us by so quickly

Said I’d put You above me
But been so busy lately
Out all these hours daily
Been driving myself crazy


I’ve been losing myself each day
Losing my rest each day
All these things I want for me
Oh I’ve been
Caught in distractions
Oh lost in my passions
I don’t know where this road will lead


Oh God knows, God knows, God knows
Oh God knows, God knows, I’m trying
Oh God knows, God knows, God knows
God knows I’m trying.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twenty-Nine

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Nine: Big Sister Things, and Juice from Brazil.

Today I learned that that daily KRRRRT! sound from the stock-room is not as a result of the cat doing something in there, as I’d previously thought. It’s… the sporadic air-freshener thing. Good place to put it, since the kitty litter box is there too.

Today, I bought a meal deal from Tesco, having very recently rediscovered my love for… egg-and-cress sandwiches on brown bread! I got a meal deal (which is, at this moment in time, £3) and then I got an extra sandwich because… I’m self-aware and all, and knew I would get hungry again right after school.

Saif has just reminded me that Isa’s birthday is in a week. Moosa’s is, also, three days later. Isa is going to be ten years old, Masha Allah; Moosa, sixteen! Now my brother is pretending to cry like a few-month-old baby. “MAAAAAAAA”. The accuracy.

When I say I love my brother so, one thing I mean is: he was, and is, such a big part of home for me. I would be at school: classes, all those various social considerations. Outside. And then a bus home. Inside. And baby brother dearest: the smartest, coolest, funniest (and most gorgeous) little boy whom I am lucky enough to call my own. We would: read books together, scribble. Watch all sorts of TV shows (Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Thomas the Tank Engine; the list goes on and on). I taught him how to play chess, when he was four or something. And, whenever I would have exams to study for, I would have to close my bedroom door. And he would come in, and start touching all my things, throwing tantrums for attention. Ripping things, sometimes. And he was, and still is, one of my biggest sources of unbridled joy, in this here life of mine.

He is… currently trying to teach the cat how to sneeze. “Safi, Hatchoo.

Saif also has girls on his case already. A particular neighbour of ours, for instance. And once, when I picked him up from school, two little girls were behind us, talking about him, trying to get his attention, wondering aloud if I’m his sister. Little boy blanked them completely.

I can’t believe that I actually occupy this role as a big sister. I think adulthood in general is like this: you just have these roles, and you grow into them. Mushfikah did also say that teaching, for example, forces you to reach into parts of yourself you perhaps previously didn’t even know existed.

You just take responsibilities, and you grow with them; into them. But nobody alive has it ‘all together’. Not even the ‘cool’ ones who seem ‘put-together’ [at work, just like at sixth form, quite a few people have told me that they think I seem ‘very put-together’. Ma’am… I, in truth, am a mess. Because I’m human. And y’all are seeing but

g l i m p s e s.].

This is everybody’s first time being here in Dunya. Being eight years old: you get only one year as an eight-year-old. Being twenty-years-old: one year. And this is it, in my case.

Today, I annoyed Saif [this is just an organic, very important part of my life. It doesn’t even take much forethought at all: it’s just so integral to our existences] and he called me ANNOYING and said he hates me. I told him to say Wallahi he hates me. He stopped, and just smiled, and didn’t say anything more. Ohhhhhh he was lying [I’m insecure].

Fairly recently, he complained, from the bathroom, that I’m “the worst sister in the world!” And I said, though I normally wouldn’t, that “you’re the worst brother in the world”. And then he came out and tried to make out as though, gosh, he was just joking! People really can’t understand when people are jokingggg. He can dish it but… he can’t take it <3.

The truth is, we probably both annoy one another in equal measure. I really wouldn’t have it any other way though. I have this brother of mine who is just like this, and he is beautiful, Masha Allah. Some people can’t really easily understand him very well (because they have limited minds. I’m salty) but das okay… I’ll (metaphorically) beat them up. By slight contrast to Saif, I also have my little cousin-brother Dawud: the adorable-sweetheart type, Masha Allah.

My brother would freely jump on my bed [“dumping, dumping” had been his way of saying “jumping, jumping”, putting his arms up, having real fun”]. Draw on my things, sometimes. My friend Yu Zhu had gifted me a guitar before she’d left for Canada; my brother cut one of its strings. Encyclopaedia that Sweetie had gifted me: he tore some pages out. The names of various dinosaurs: he’d learned at a very young age, Masha Allah. He, for a while, liked working on maths problems for fun. He’d prank me in some… kinda brilliant ways. As a really little kid, while walking outside, I’d randomly hold his hand up, and he would pirouette through the arch. I’d teach him, sometimes, at home: he was super fun to teach, but also… very easily distracted [it’s probably genetic, you know]. I taught him, again, last lockdown, along with Isa: we made our dining room into a classroom, for a short while. Used the window as a whiteboard. I don’t know if this is what it’s like when people have kids of their own, but… I’m proud of this kid for even breathing.

Saif just called me to go and look at Safi’s (i.e. his cat’s) teeth. What the heck: cat’s teeth (save for their canines) are so… tiny and hilarious?! I wonder if being a cat dentist is an actual profession.

There are so many other hilarious stories about my brother, and I’m glad, Alhamdulillah, that I’ve managed to document many of them in the journal I’ve been keeping for him: ‘Good Luck Saif’.

Our wee lickle fights – these spirited interactions between us – just tend to be quite dumb, but I kind of quite enjoy them. I (somewhat lightly) push him sometimes, for fun. Kick him, if he kicks me. One time, he kept punching me, at the front of our dad’s mini-van. So I punched him back (equal to how hard he punched me, I hope). And then he punched me again. So I punched him again. And we just carried on like this. What even are we?

I am, at present, twenty years old. And he’s eight. And there is an eight-year-old boy part of me, certainly. And, yeah, it would appear as though he’s got this strong inner twenty-year-old too.

Today I learned why the ‘V’ sign (with one’s hand facing backwards) is sometimes given as an insult, here in Britain. It’s from back when the English had been at war with France: the French would capture the English archers, and cut off their index and middle fingers (archery fingers). The English would run around holding up their (intact) fingers as a symbol of defiance and derision.

Incidentally, while, here in Britain, a ‘thumbs-up‘ might be indicative of a positive response to something, in Bangladesh… it’s a swear, a cuss. One of my students, today, told me that when she first met someone in Bangladesh, she greeted them, and gave a thumbs-up. Much to the alarm of the other person. [Woah, literally just met this girl and she is showing me (the Bengali version of) the middle finger].

Same thing in question, but drastically different reactions, understandings of it, depending on who is looking upon it. Definitely a metaphor to be reflected upon, here.

Today, with both my Year Eight classes, we learned about women on the homefront, during WWI. Women, and labour. The ‘white feather campaign’: when women would hand out white feathers to those men who’d refused to join the army. White feathers: a symbol of cowardice, apparently because in cockfighting traditions, traditionally cockerels with a white feather in their tail were thought to have been the weakest ones.

Today I learned what ‘DORA’ stands for. Not the Mexican explorer chica. But: the Defence of the Realm Act, during WWI. The name of this law sounds quite Harry-Potter-y. Actually, quite a lot of British-in-general things are ‘Harry-Potter-y’. So, too, are lots of ‘Muslim-aesthetic’ things. The cloaks, the gold-engraved books. I would say this school is like Muslim Hogwarts, but… no. Hogwarts would wanna be us. All… actually-existent, real, and Halāl and stuff.

Women being encouraged to join the labour force, back then, though: shovelling poop, even, had been so deliberately glamorised. And, nowadays, full-time work, for example, isn’t necessarily by nature ‘liberating’. It’s not about the work, but about the essences of what we are always doin’; it is about the goodness, and the balances.

Today, some of my colleagues starting discussing, in depth and in length, cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, I had a nice nap. This conversation, to me, had been like… having a droney podcast on, which I didn’t fully understand, or want to, for that matter. Their voices just drifted away, as I sunk into my slumber.

After work, I wanted to go and sit in nature again. Last time, I went and sat by that bit near the start of the canal (right behind 21 W.L.). I just chilled, watched a CMC (Cambridge Muslim College) video, read a book, I think. ‘T’had been a rewarding experience, Masha Allah. Recollection.

Today, I didn’t walk that way. I stopped at the outdoor cafeteria thing that has caught my eye numerous times before: it’s just in front of those industrial under-train archways, on Cable Street. There are two Brazilian food trucks there, and a third: a coffee cart. The tables, there: repurposed (or, perhaps, deliberately-made-this-way) steel drums. I had a veggie skewer [it had halloumi halloumi halloumi, stop makin’ fun of halloumi in it] with chips, and some (guava, had it been?) juice. Delicious, Masha Allah! The juice: I went to the trailer and asked if they did juices. The lady there explained, “no English”. So I looked at the menu, and asked for a ‘Compal’: a type of South American juice. It was £1.50, and I said “Obrigada” to the woman (remembering an old friend of mine, Ricardo, who is from Portugal).

Eating, and reading a bit, by myself, outside: this shiz makes me feel self-conscious. I think it makes anybody, everybody, self-conscious. But it’s bearable, and you just have to find the right thing to lose your attentions in, to focus on. I think this may have been my first time eating on a steel drum. And wow, the big truck’s sauces. O.K. hand gesture.

I suppose I also learned, today, from seeing the other people there at the ‘Food Garden’ that there’s a seemingly growing Brazilian community here in this part of East London, now. Very cool indeed.

Today I reflected more on how… birth order really does seem to affect personality types. Or, better still: Allah has ordained for us to fill certain roles. I really like this big sister one, Masha Allah. I don’t think I could imagine being a little sister to anybody. I don’t like being told what to do, first of all. And… I don’t know. I like feeling more independent, and depended on; I like growing into the responsibilities of being Fuldi. Makes me want to ‘be a better me’ and all.

Today I learned, again (to my annoyance. What does pointing it out even do?) that people think I look really tired recently. Probably because I quite often am, these days. But ugh: “You look really tired today. It really shows, on your face”. Okay….. what do you want me…. to do?! Except… feel kinda bad for the rest of the day, conscious that I look tired.

The comments that I keep receiving are: “you look tired”. “You’ve lost so much weight.” “You look tired.” “You’ve lost sooooooo much weight!!! Oh my gosh Sadia. *Stares and stares, without restraint*”. What the heck do I even do/say, in response? “Okay”. “Thank you”. And it very much annoys me, and part of me wants to just say, in response to those weight-y ones: “no, I really haven’t. Stop exaggerating and let’s talk about something more meaningful.” Part of my reason for being annoyed is that they say it every time. Like a chosen greeting of sorts. So… am I just getting progressively thinner, in their eyes? If they’re right each time, then should I not be… a breadstick, by now?

Ah, man, my brother is just so cute, Masha Allah Allahummabārik. I just looked to see that we’d been sitting on the sofa in the exact same manner: with one foot tucked under the other knee. Him, sitting on my dad’s kurroh (Bengali for ‘lap’) though.

I’m feeling kind of fed up today. Probably feminine-cycle things. Almost indubitably. Existential discomfort, a quietly-powerful kind of rage.

Today, I’m not liking the fact that I often feel infantilised by certain people. But that’s probably because… a lot of them are a lot older than me. When people my own age do it though… I just don’t know. In one way it’s nice: the cute, cute, CUTE, people feeling like they need to treat you like how children are. Protected, pitied, almost. But sometimes people think they can just freely say whatever, and I don’t like it. I’m just being moody today on account of internal reasons. Womanhood is amazing, isn’t it, but it has its necessary downsides.

I swear, if someone comments on weight/tiredness tomorrow, I will…./.g,.g,lrwjglkrgjrghkwg

say that I really don’t like those comments, and that they don’t help me in any way. Or, I could just spend more time alone instead. That’s probably better: for me, and for other people. Taking time out, in times of anger. I doubt anybody has ever regretted doing this.

To end, somewhat abruptly and in a way that is not particularly harmonious with the parts that have preceded it:

A reminder-note to my current, and future (Insha Allah), self: in this life of mine, I am trying to not escape Reality; the truths of me, of my life, of this world, this existence. I am trying to be here for all of it. And the things I enjoy: I want to ensure that they are always good parts of reality, and not attempts at denying it for any while.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twenty-Eight

Subhan Allah.

I have got to write about this day.

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Eight: I don’t even know what to call this one. A great big salad bowl of various things, I suppose.

Bismillah.

Today. Monday 7th June 2021. I woke up. Cherished those last few minutes of half-slumber. Got ready real quick. Normally, if I leave before 7:30 am, then I arrive at work early. Today, it had been 7:38 am, and on days like this, I tend to resort to taking an Über. I really must stop spending money like this, but alas…

Über. Mask on. A kind-seeming driver with a Spanish accent. I love it when the drivers don’t try to engage in small talk, because I just love staring out of the window and not having to exert myself with anything. In the car today, I opened the window. As a Muslim woman, you’re not meant to sit with non-Mahram men in secluded places. I thought, hopefully, opening the window would invite a sense of openness into the car.

Cars. How strange it is to think about the fact that… if they had not been invented, then… we would still see horses and carriages everywhere. Imagine… an Über horse-and-carriage service [and… a Rikshaw one]! They should do this anyway, I think. They have a Thames boat service already. 10/10, I would call horse Übers just for fun.

Today, I learned the word ‘quisquilious’ from Dr. Susie Dent’s Twitter [she’s the awesome woman from the ‘Dictionary Corner’ on Countdown, which I, along with my cousins (albeit, separately) used to love watching]. The word means: ‘worthless’, ‘trivial’, ‘rubbish’.

“We are humans helping other humans deal with their humanness.”

Right now, before attending university-university (like, the legal robbery institutionalisation kind) I am attending, so it would seem: el universidad del Twitter. Y del YouTube. I… am learning a lot, here.

At work, some staffroom conversations. I don’t know, today I felt quite cheerful, Alhamdulillah. Something in the sunshine, maybe. And when I’m happy like this, conversations with (certain) colleagues of mine just (to quote Farhana, in describing… pasta) hit differently. Like today, when I’d been trying to get Mushfika to try Tesco’s salted caramel chocolate pots [they are… peng. And when I called them peng, one of the others said something like, we’ve got to try this thing that made you call it PENG!]. I told her that my chocolate mousse could easily beat the chocolate mousse she’d been eating, in a fight. And she asked me if this mousse is really that good, to make me talk about it like this. I said yes, and if it isn’t, I’ll give her her money back. Now, this is perhaps quite literally one of the lamest jokes in the whole entire world, ever made. But… my own joke made me cackle, quite unexpectedly, today.

But, still, I know I need to work on my morning routine (again). Waking up at Fajr time, and staying awake, por ejemplo. Slower mornings = better mornings, in my opinion. With many of these mornings before work, though: I’ve really been living life on the edge.

I like it when things maybe work for a while, and then they stop working for a while. And then you are left with a new project to work on: a new venture through which to explore and develop. My morning routine which I will (Insha Allah) make for now will necessarily look different to, say, that of last year. New times, new requirements and considerations.

Today, while teaching 7M (History), I asked how everybody’s holiday went. Before going into the classroom, M–yam M.’s smile met mine: a distinctive remember-when-I-saw-you-at-Nando’s-the-other-day,-Miss? smile. And then I heard about some stories re what they got up to. Laser tag, Nando’s, seeing cousins. M–ryam M. described her half-term holiday as being a bit… “HOO-GA BOO-GA”. No idea what this really means, but I quite like the phrase. Does it mean… eventful? Outlandish? Hoo-ga boo-ga knows?!

And, in the staffroom, I met the KS4 History teacher whom Mominah had been covering for, while she (this teacher) had been on maternity leave. She gave me some guidance, today, on how to design the KS3 girls’ end-of-year-assessments.

Today I began designing the Year Sevens’ English lessons on non-fiction writing. To plan these lessons, you need: a Starter, a Main, an Activity, and a Plenary. Generally, we use certain textbooks (Ignite). Resources from TES are also unbelievably useful, generally. TES: the site onto which I used to upload my own revision materials, in KS4. And teachers would use them!

When the A-level Psych teacher (Anj–an. I don’t know why I semi-blank-out some colleagues’ names, while freely writing others’) entered the staff room, we spoke about the Freshly Grounded cards. She was intrigued, as one would expect a Psychology teacher to be, with these, and picked them up to have a browse through them. Today I learned that, a lot of these questions, people find very intimidating. e.g.

“WHAT’S WEIGHING HEAVY UPON YOUR HEART, RIGHT NOW?”

I find these questions just so interesting.

“Will you share

your soul, with me?

Unzip your skin, and let me have a seat.” [Dodie]

When Anj–an happened upon the card that read,

“WHAT’S STOPPING YOU FROM COMPLIMENTING PEOPLE MORE?”

she said something along the lines of, “we’re not really meant to do that anyway.”

“What? Compliment people?”

And then a very interesting and engaging conversation (from my perspective, at least) had been born. A Psychology teacher (whom I frequently see, in the staff room, reading Psych book after Psych book. Apparently, inspired by her father’s reading habits) who doesn’t ‘believe’ in compliments.

Compliments. Our discussion on this quickly revealed that Anj–an looks upon compliments as being, by nature, exaggerations. Not useful; not beneficial for growth. I asked her if she compliments her children [she has two little sons] and she said, yeah, because they’re her children.

Conversations like this: I feel physically excited, when somebody starts them. They come by rarely, maybe. Or a lot, Alhamdulillah, with peopledem like Tasnim.

I argued that, really, we’re all grown-up children, aren’t we? And, complimenting someone by saying “[I think] you have a nice sense of style” is different from exaggeratedly (in a way not rooted in truth) saying something like “OMG YOU ARE A SUPERMODEL WHY ARE YOU ALLOWED TO WALK OUTSIDE WITH YOUR FACE SHOWING OMG QUEEEEEN XOXOXOXO”. I think compliments, when they are true, can be wonderful.

What if no-one has told this woman, for a while, that her being is calming and strong? Or, this man that he is inspiring in the way that he is raising his son. If it’s true… then why not say it? Why withhold that from people? [Dear reader, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, if yeh have any particular ones: hello@sincerelysadia.blog].

[We interrupt this entry with the fact that I’d just spilt some coffee on the table. What even am I?! Okay, we’re returning to normal-ruminator-voice in 3…2…]

We are, by nature, emotional beings. Can’t leave people starving of the recognition, in our eyes, of the goodnesses that they are, in my opinion.

A. said that she feels uncomfortable, generally, when complimented. I asked A what if somebody complimented, say… the colour of her scarf. Or, her style. She said it wouldn’t sit well with her: would just make her feel a little uneasy. But then she said that she would appreciate it if somebody reassured her that she’s doing a good job with raising her sons. She would also appreciate compliments about her efficiency, productivity: how she works.

So, at the end of the day, it might just be about what people value. I, for one, know that I value… emotional intelligence, for example. So, if somebody – especially if it were somebody whose character I am fond of, and therefore whose opinions I hold to a particular high regard – were to compliment me by saying they think I’m emotional intelligent… that would make me pretty happy! I would be like, dang girl. That reassures me, and now I want to work on it even more. And, with writing: it’s quite encouraging for me to know when people feel they have benefitted from my work.

I really do think that encouragement, rooted in genuineness, encourages… a smile. And growth.

Equally, though, as Anj–an pointed out, it needs to be constructive. So, a good friend, for example, is not solely your hype-gyal. She… tells you when you are doing something wrong. She helps you towards your development. Honesty is honest with the ‘good’, and with the not-so-good (but, the latter, still in a healthy, non-destructive way).

Confidence comes from how others have reflected whom we are, back to us. I think maybe, some people – people who have had secure and healthy bonds with parents, in childhood, are less prone to feeling over-affected by compliments. Or, indeed, by criticisms. Securer bases.

But, still, being completely deprived of any positive attention is… unbearable for any human being, no? When people are deprived of any positive attention… some begin to adhere to that maxim that ‘any attention, including negative, is better than no attention’. I guess, this is true especially when it comes to those whom we love, and whose validations [look at me! Smile at me! Love me!] we are in need of, the most.

[“Didimoni, the candle’s out.” My brother has just blown out the candle that I had lit, here, for a m b i e n c e purposes. He then proceeded to hold a little plastic panther figurine over it, maybe to see if it melts. Now… he’s making his new slime (from the zoo) fart. When I say I love this kid… And… I just realised that his tiny hands aren’t going to be this tiny forever, and suddenly I want to cry].

Today, Doli Khala gave me a chocolate bar. So sweet. We also rearranged our English-Bengali exchange lesson thing for this Thursday, Insha Allah. DLR adventurez.

Today, today, today… I discovered that somebody had seemingly replaced the box full of prayer mats (Musallahs) with… white linen mats. So, today, I prayed Dhuhr (the noon-prayer) on a white linen mat. Which is particularly interesting because:

White linen. The fabric that we Muslims, when we are (inevitably, eventually) buried in the ground, are buried enshrouded in. The white shrouds. Three pieces for men; five for women. A while ago, Tasnim had told me that a scholar she had come across, in some way, carries around white shrouds with her, in her bag. Memento mori, of the most grave and fitting degree.

Tasnim and I, for a while, especially this academic year, have discussed much about existentialism and death together. Via emails, voice notes. And I kind of had this idea: that I wanted to go to the textile shop in Watney Market, and get a symbolic piece of white fabric of my own. Maybe, to wear (hidden) on my arm or something. Maybe: for use as a prayer mat…

[Nim – another of her nicknames from me – and I tried to go to the market after our farm-Nando’s date, to locate some white cloth. But, by the time we’d gotten there, the market had been closed.]

I think somebody had taken the staff room prayer mats to be washed or something. A while back, Mushfikah told me that those mats are kinda icky… they hadn’t ever been washed. So, I’d resolved to stop using them to pray on… I started praying on the inside of my jacket, and on my Kheta, sometimes (Bengali-style embroidered quilt) instead.

Work, today: form, times two. A lesson. Some planning. Lunch duty. And that one hour of ‘PPA time’ after student dismissal. Anj–an — ya know what, lemme just say her name. It’s Anjuman. — and Samaiya looked through some more F.G. cards. One of the questions:

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?

And today I really discovered that quite a few people find questions like this quite intimidating. Some people picked up cards, to look at them, and then gasped. Mushfikah, I think, called one of them “brutal”. In my eyes, they are only extremely fascinating. And, in response to that question, there, about crying: according to Anjuman, women’s tears around the time of el period are constitutionally different, compared to during other times. During this time, crying really is catharsis. Feels weirdly nice sometimes.

After work, I decided I would go to the burger place near the school [which I’d discovered as a result of randomly going with Saajidah one day. Previously, I’d never even known this place had been there]. I wanted to get my dad a buttermilk chicken meal: my dad is a massive foodie, like me. I’ve eaten at so many different restaurants, tried so many different types of cuisine, thanks to him. And, when I tried this place’s buttermilk burger, I told my dad I’d get him some too.

Rafi had been there again today. Rafi is a boy – or, man, now – who went to the same secondary school as I did. Just fifteen minutes away from my current place of work. The memory of him that is most prominent in my mind is this one: in Year Seven, he had decided to steal my phone from my hands and run away with it. So I ran after him. And then… I fell. In the mud. Had mud all over my uniform. The embarrassment.

Now, though: deliberate amnesia with things like this. The first time I had taken Sweetie (my aunt) with me to this burger place, Sweetie said that it seemed like the person behind the counter recognised me. He said Salaam to us. And he asked, “are you Sadia?” He said it how I low-key hate for my name to be pronounced: SAD-ia. It’s *Hermione voice, here* Saaadia.

And then it clicked. It was Rafi. Everyone just looks the same but different: it’s amazing. We had a brief conversation, and then he offered Sweetie and me a really big discount. Then he gave us three free drinks.

I look after my people,” he explained.

This is something that I really like about many of the now-men whom I went to secondary school with. At school, many of them had been the very boisterous types. The types to… always, always, always make (kinda pointless) comments about things. [Once, I came into school with a checked yellow scarf around my neck. Those boys: hahahaha, why do you look like you’re in the Taliban?]. But they knew, also, their limits. And it wasn’t malicious stuff.

According to some of my friends from Khayr, at their schools, boys would: pull up skirts. Pull girls in, to sit on them (ew ew ew). Pull headscarves off. Make sexual comments and gestures about them, while they passed by. Shocking, outrageous stuff.

At my (very heavily Muslim-populated) school: the most they would do is… take a girl’s water bottle or something. I mean, one exposed his (disgusting, jungle-like) leg hair to me once, and asked if I could shave it for him [???????]. Boys can be disturbingly weird sometimes, and I think single-sex schools (and especially Islamic single-sex ones, like the one I am currently working at) might just be the answer.

On Fridays, though, the school (whose make-up had been a ratio of 1:3, girls to boys) would seem like it had been emptied, almost, of male students. They would go to Jummah (congregational Friday prayer). The Khutbahs (accompanying speeches, giving advice and stuff) would be led by certain teachers. Like by Mr R—t, the ardent (so ardent, in fact, that he would, seemingly in earnest, threaten to give detentions to people who said anything bad about his team) Arsenal fan. Dr. Shah, medical-doctor-turned-teacher with a newborn child (back then). The type of teacher to put up pictures of the stir-fry his wife had made for him, the previous day, on the board before our lessons.

Today, I said hello, while Rafi said Salaam in response (Masha Allah, man. Without intent to sound patronising here, I’m just so proud of so many of the people I went to school with) I asked him if he knows about Mazhar’s upcoming Nikkah (Insha Allah). He said yeah: as I learned today, Mazhar only lives a minute away from him; he said that his parents had told him about it. He said something about how… everybody’s doing their own thing now. Mazhar’s photography business. Jahid’s chauffeuring company [which I’d discovered while absent-mindedly walking home from work one day, down C. street. A car stopped beside me — a really nice one, actually. A Jaguar or something. Window rolling down, to reveal that it had been… a boy from form N?! Whaaaat? A road-side catch-up then followed.]

So, here I am. I think I pretty much look the same as I did in secondary school. I became a secondary school teacher at nineteen years old [sometimes it’s still super hard to explain to people. It’s just… a long story]. I own… a bike, as my regular mode of transportation; I call her ‘Maserati’. And… there are people my age who have Jaguars. Working part-time at a burger place. Photography business, getting married real soon. I find myself quite loving the range.

Today I asked Rafi if I could have the buttermilk-chicken-wrap chicken in the burger. When I’d been there with Saajidah, they’d run out of burger patties, and so they put the chicken they usually put in the wraps into my burger. ‘Twas delicious, Masha Allah. The next time I went though, the burger just… wasn’t all that. The key difference: the wrap chicken. The missing piece. Deliciosa.

Today I learned that it’s just the sauce that they change, between the wraps and the burgers, really. They have the ‘Algerian-style’ sauce, and the ‘Moroccan-style’ one. The company that produces these ‘special sauces’: they’d actually hired Mazhar to film an advert for them, a little while ago. And Sweetie and Mama, having become somewhat addicted to them, found the range of these sauces (‘Nawal’, I think, the company is called) at Quality.

So I dropped the food off to father mine, at his shop. I then headed to the market, for some white material. I learned that really good material can actually be really inexpensive, you know: I got one mat for Tas and one for me; they came to only 75p each!

Friends who pray togeva

Stay togeva. That is how it is.

At the textile store, I’d also seen the cutest baby in the whole wide world, in his pushchair. But then again, I kind of say that about every baby I see. But this kid was cute, Masha Allah Allahummabārik. I said hello, and he just stared, how babies do. And then, when it had been time for me to go, he smiled at me! I live for the validation of babies. And if they don’t like me… then that becomes the definition of

rejection.

At the market, also, I’d found, at a particular stall… my headscarf for Eid (which is next month). It is navy blue, and has white embroidered patterns on either end of it. The stall-runner asked me if it’s for my mum or something, and he also gave me a 50p discount, but kept adding that he’s really not making much profit, as a result of it. [I didn’t ask for it though! I felt somewhat guilty… do I just… decline the discount or…?]

And, today, I got another waft of a distinctively Bangladesh-like scent: it smelt much like my Dada (grandfather). At once, sweat-like, and… musk-like, in a way. My Dada is… a motorbike-riding farmer (Masha Allah). He must be about… in his late sixties, perhaps, now. And he still works his farm, with the boys who help him. And he still drives his motorbike (which I’ve been on, a couple of times, sitting behind him once maybe, and a few times sitting behind my dad. Cliff-side. I miss Bangladesh so much.)

Today I learned that, much like my brother, Siyana likes cheese-flavoured sweetcorn (‘Magic Corn’) too. I prefer the Mexican chilli flavour. I also think that having spicy food makes people’s skin look nice for a lil while.

I also learned, from Sweetie (re those Palestinian-made gift boxes) about a poet called Zirrar. His blog looks amazing, Masha Allah. The idea of being a Muslim traveller, writer. Explorer, in a Meaningful way. I love. In this world in which we dwell, we are all but travellers.

Today, after having come home from Nanu’s, we discovered that the latch, from inside, had fallen down. So my mum tried to go behind the house, to the garden, to try to get in via that way. Saif and I waited on the doorstep. Suddenly, the door opened and, standing in the doorway, wearing a white thobe with (I think) trainers…

Dobir Mama???!!!!!

[Dobir Mama is my friend Tamanna’s uncle. He lives a few doors down from us.]

Turns out, my mum had enlisted his help — as well as Sayeed [distant-ish neighbour, who had also been a TA for mine and Mazhar’s class, at primary school]’s — to climb over the wall and get into the house. Dobir Mama just has such a funny personality. He opened the door for us, smiling, and silently, as though inviting us in to his home.

[And… I haven’t told Tamanna about this yet, so she’ll just – hopefully – read this entry and find out this way, LOL]

Furthermore, I have decided that I will not take this… possible arranged marriage thing seriously, for now [dear some readers, ‘arranged‘ marriage is not the same as ‘forced’ marriage. Arranged marriage: you basically let yourself get ‘set up’ with people, and you go on (chaperoned) dates with them, and then – after however many meetings it might take – you can decide if you wish to take things further]. The reason being: I find myself, in my heart, still feeling very deeply attached to a particular person. And it would not be fair on some other person for me to pursue a Nikkah with them at all if I know that I am being disingenuous: I cannae do it. So, even if it means waiting until I am twenty-five or something… I would only like to eventually marry, Insha Allah, a person who can have my whole heart.

Incidentally, today I came across a post on… the bird app. My current uni and dat… based on the confessions of a woman whose husband had done this. Still felt attached to somebody. Pursued marriage with another anyway. And… it’s life-breaking stuff. I could not do that to another person.

Even if people begin to talk about how Mazhar’s already married, and how I’m still a bike-ridin’ spinster. Das okay: I would want to do things in truth, and not merely for appearances’ sake.

Today, when asking the cousins’ group chat about which team Mr. R supports, Didi started typing… and then Moosa did too. And then it dawned on me that we all know Mr. R because… Ranga Mama had been to that school. Sweetie too. Then Didi. Then Mazhar and I. Maryam. Moosa. My paternal cousins Tanbir and Fabiha, also. Family tingz, Masha Allah.

WHAT IS WEIGHING HEAVY UPON [YOUR/MY] HEART, RIGHT NOW?

Dear reader, I will tell you.

I will always care, so very deeply, inside. And it’s a wonderful thing, to be alive, and to feel things. But yes, sometimes it consumes me a little. Sometimes, it really does weigh heavy, doesn’t it?


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twenty-Seven

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Seven: A bit of a rant. A random Sunday in June.

Bismillah.

Just a random Sunday in June. My holiday from this half-term holiday. I have much to do, before I go back to work tomorrow. Please, TES, don’t fail me today. Today I did some random things. I read a passage from the Qur’an, which reminds me that I should always seek to strive for excellence. Take what is Khayr from things; leave the noise, the deception, the whatever-is-of-no-value, benefit.

You know, no matter what you do, nobody gets to tell you who you are. The Truth only comes from Allah; there are these truths of you, too. Your life: between you and Allah. And with your fellow beloved companions: fellow-travellers, with whom you walk in love. There is a seven-year-old you to really impress, and there is (possibly) a seventy-eight year old you to really impress, too.

Your beating heart. Mind, soul, body. Tethered, on-goingly, to the One who made you.

Nobody gets to make you feel like you are ‘too religious’. Or too ‘bookish’. Or that your feelings are invalid.

Today, I am (finally getting the time to write about, and am) thinking about the idea of ‘cool’: something that we all, in one way or another, try to be.

Early adulthood brings with it an intense self-consciousness. Suddenly, you’ve got this emergent self-identity to reckon with; this entire other friggin’ gender to think about all the time. You’re growing, mentally and physically. Things don’t quite make sense, all of the time. You are no longer a mere extension of your parents; you move from ascribed places in the world, to achieved ones.

Growing pains.

Hyper-aware of what others might be thinking. A need to be smooth, be pretty, be ‘cool’, be ‘cool’. ‘Popular’. ‘Liked’, liked, liked.

We are beings who require others here, as mirrors for us: to tell us whom we are. Our places in the world. How we are going to challenge ourselves, and better ourselves, and grow. This is in our nature. [leaf emoji, mushroom emoji, sunflower sunflower].

Seeking validation from the world: what a recipe for ongoing heartache. Everybody comes with their own views – informed by such things as family, the media, friends – about what is ‘pretty’, what is ‘smart’, what is the best way to live one’s life. Wallahi though: pinning our ways of looking upon ourselves to what everybody in the world might make of us. We would hunger for the rest of these (limited) lives of ours.

Bismillah. I am Muslim, and I am me. Over time, I have reached a better understanding of what and whom I am. What I want, from this world. What I do not want, from this world. For some, my ‘what I want’ is their what they do not want. And mutatis mutandis, the other part.

Over time: I’ve had high energy. Well, not always physical energy. But I would get excited over things like straws, and Young Journalists’ club, and doing homework. And then, for a while, I tried to quieten it down. ‘Fit in’, ‘be cool’. And now, I feel as though the people whom I maybe tried to emulate… tried to emulate me. Being excited over the ‘small things’. Being really, really excited.

Annoying, even. Weird, even. Crazy [problematic word. ‘Spirited’] even. A massive nerd (as Isa keeps saying) even. The fact of the matter is, if these are what I get from being me, and living the way I love to live… then these are all badges of honour.

My religion is ‘too much’ for some. My ways of seeing things do not sit well with some. The way I live my life; the way I would like to continue to live my life.

But they sit very well with all the right people: with the Tamanna, and the Tasnim, and the Sarina and… the Saif. When he is not deliberately annoying me.

There are always things, here, for me to try to work on; to seek to improve. But the ‘point’ is never to seek to prove anything to anyone. Never to begin from ‘standards’ that are outside of whom I am: whom Allah has made me.

Something I am really fed up of is when people freely make negative comments, which I (being quite sensitive to these things, admittedly) end up ruminating over afterwards. Comments on whether I ‘have a life’ or not. I don’t know: generally, I don’t really say much back by way of retaliation. I think insecurity is indicated by such defensiveness.

As I’ve been thinking about more, recently: true security is shown when people are happy (not continuously euphoric. That isn’t possible, in this temporary abode) and are happy for others; happy for others to be happy, also. Trying to make other people jealous; trying to alert them to one’s blessings in loud ways; being mean to people… indicative of a lack of security. Security is wanting to share goodness, and being aware of one’s weaknesses, flaws, humanness — not in denial of them. Insecurity is needing to come across as being ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ than others.

I must try to be compassionate to others, while also being very compassionate to myself. They say I’m ‘boring’ for reading a book? I say, I’m sorry it takes so much more for you, to feel stimulated. They say I’m weird: I say, sorry you’re generic. In the same tone that they say it.

I need to realise that people only see glimpses of me. They see, outside: a girl in Hijāb, holding a book, maybe. And all these ideas then come into play: projections. I am not who near strangers might say, think, I am. And this is true for the compliments and the criticisms alike.

I did worry that I’m too ‘weird’. Maybe ‘zany’ is the word: one cannot be ‘zany’ and ‘cool’, at the same time, probably. Then: too academic. The pursuit of knowledge; of mind-stimulating experiences. Things simmered down a bit: I guess I found something of a middle way, in Year Nine. My purple SuperDry bag, with badges over it. Black jacket, boots [both of which, teachers never flagged me up on, because they saw me as being a ‘good student’], Mockingjay pin (which Mazhar had gotten for me). And I was quiet, because I guess I was often sad.

And then: exams, exams, exams. And a sense of self that felt so lost, a lot of the time. A desperate need to find. I guess it happened eventually, at exactly the right time. Alhamdulillah.

Where we go,

Nobody knows,

With guns hidden under our petticoats.

[Dear government, just because I’ve referred to guns, here, please don’t assume I’m ISIS.]

The numerous phases of early adulthood [which, in the Islamic tradition, begins as soon as we hit puberty. But it’s said that, between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, we are in need of a lot of good advice. And friendships with parents/parental figures].

I know that I have my personal strengths: gifts from God. For example: writing; making people feel comfortable; making people think about things, and making them laugh. My intuition strong, too. Masha Allah: sometimes she scares me a little. Weaknesses: a w k w a r d n e s s, for example [the other day, I saw Mazhar on C. Street, near Quality, and I said hello and asked him what he’s doing there. He said he’s picking Isa up. And then I basically said something like, Oh, cool. Okay, well see ya and then nearly got run over by a car, which I had put my hand out to stop. Mazhar saw everything: he made that same smiling ‘what even are you’ face he usually does, shaking his head. My awkwardness is… something else.]. A certain sort of chaotic-ness. Anxiety. Hyper-sensitivity: necessary downsides of the upsides.

Everybody has their personal strengths and weaknesses. Blessings, tests. Would I give up my unique holistic set of these things, for another’s? Never. With others, we don’t even see the full picture anyway. Only glimpses, images. Everybody is blessed; everybody isalso in, as Allah puts it in His Qur’an, Kabad.

I quite like how things can always be better understood in retrospect.

I despise how people can feel so free to treat certain people however they want. But as soon as the same energy is returned to them: they’re disgusted, appalled, outraged. Yeah, I just think: they need to learn. For example, when people say things about my brother. I want for them to see the crazy [‘spirited’] in my eyes. I’ll (metaphorically) kill them.

I’ll gladly be a black sheep, a scapegoat, reject, or whatever else, in certain contexts. As long as I am not a coward or a liar, who let bad things happen because I was scared of what some fellow mortal human beings might ‘think of me’.

I am tired of feeling boxed in by others’ expectations; by others’ assumptions. I need to learn to disarm them, and the power they hold over my identity, in my head. I am who I am, and not merely what another might, based on two or three external things, glimpses, see.

And if I am ‘stoosh’ and ‘too academic’ and ‘too religious’ for not dressing a certain way and for not deliberately dumbing myself down for random men [I mean, sometimes I am just dumb. But that shiz is… o r g a n i c]: then awight, I should be glad to be these things. [“I thought you only cared about school!”] Definitions matter. If I am ‘boring’ for dressing a certain way, while outside, and not going to clubs and such, and for caring about pursuing knowledge: I need to accept that their definitions of ‘fun’ are one thing; their ways of seeing things, of processing… me. Life, too. Mine are another. To quote the Qur’an: you have your way of life; I have mine.

We will never be (truly, deeply, really, and for who we really are) accepted by everyone in the world. It’s good to be rejected by certain people, for the right reasons: *Northern accent, here* you ain’t trynna be like them!

If I always remember Allah, and always reason: Allah won’t let me lose myself, or my way.

“I’m sorry I don’t fit your views. 

I was never made for you.” [K.S.]

‘Seem’ versus ‘is‘, also. A super important ongoing theme here.

I just realised that I love how Farhana speaks Bengali: in such a distinctive British accent. Really shows her… dual cultural identity.

And I also learned, from some journal article I found online, that testosterone stimulates fat deposits to the abdominal region. Beer bellies = *deep voice* testosterone bellies.

Everybody needs a ‘safe space’ or two. Much of the world is very hard for us. But there are safe spaces: homes, for us, here. To open up, and to be, beautifully, and to grow. [Darn it, stop with the floral metaphors already!]

‘Cool’

tends to be, at secondary school, the girl whose power is derived from the fact that she is, a) pretty, and b) mean. She may rely on ‘friends’ who are actually scapegoats, to feel superior above: to make fun of, to get them to do things for her. To feel small, so that she can feel ‘big’. And she is ‘cool’ because she does not really show emotions. She seems ‘self-certain’, unbreakable, stylish. What might the equivalent be, for boys? Probably, the guy with the athletic physique, who gets the gewls. [Nando’s dude voice: the GEWLs]. The other boys want to be him, because they want the gewls too.

‘Cool’ is not being weak: it’s being, in a way, mighty before the people. Just… mysterious, faultless-seeming. Nobody is really ‘cool’, here. Everybody has versions of themselves, which they present to others. Everybody is born messily; everybody exists here in what Dunya is. And then we come home, to the right places, and to the right people, and we’re real. Not cool: that would be boring and miserable. We’re warm.

The truth is, we can’t connect with people whose humanity we aren’t seeing. On images, we can only project. 

Claire from Mod Fam: I’m sorry. I’m being ridiculous.

Phil Dunphy, my soul animal: Don’t apologise. I love you when you’re human!

When the makeup comes off; when the phones are put away. When we are left with only the truths of ourselves, and our existences. What then?

We have these hearts that beat: a finite, actually, number of beats. And all this loss, and all this pain, and all these doubts and uncertainties and all the rest of it. It’s a very hard but worthwhile, I think, thing to do: to come to really know our suffering.

We were helpless, red-faced, screaming babies, once. And everybody really wants to be held like that, again.

And the whole world will not approve of us; will not, cannot, love us. But… our worlds will. I’m trying to act all deep and everything but I just ate all the chocolate from that icing tube that I’d purchased yesterday. It is good chocolate; would 10/10 continue to have, as a snack.

You spend so much time trying to be liked, liked, liked. By all these people who are approaching the world, and you, from their own schemas, forged over time, by parental voices, by media influences, by allllll the rest of it. And then, suddenly: you feel – and are – loved by all the right people! For the very human thing that you are: even the parts that you tried to keep hidden for a while. And it’s the best thing in the whole wide world. It’s secure; it’s nurturing. You think you’ll slip up, and it’ll just go away: but it doesn’t, because it’s durable.

Love sees you, determinedly, in beauty: through the best eyes, in the best way. And it makes you want to (not in an obsessive way that makes yeh feel inadequate) do better, be better. Love, love, love. In contrast to neutrality/dislike/’like’, based on image-based things that we don’t really have control over.

Furthermore, did you know that, while some might, for example, call your skin colour ‘pale’ and undesirable… quite a few Desi women are spending money to bleach their skins, to look more like you? On the flip-side: in South Asian communities, they might tell you you are not ‘Shundor’ (pretty) because your skin isn’t that fair. And, this, while some women are spending a lot of time and energy on fake tans, to look like you. Perspectives.

Personality-based things too. We take the merits of we for granted. I need to thank Allah every day. For the good that makes me me, and for the struggles – the tests – which remind me that I am not at Home just yet. I’m a traveller here: adventurer. Sleeping-bag, roaming around. A regular brown Muslim female Jack Kerouac, mey. Minus the lots-of-casual-encounters-with-the-opposite-gender.

Also, for example, my friggin’ nose, which is slightly-upturned in shape: two particular people outwardly did not like when I was young, and told me to keep pressing it down, to get it into ‘proper shape’. Bro, not in an arrogant way, but in a finally-appreciative one: people have surgery to have a nose like this. It’s everything that you might doubt about yourself: somebody else wants.

You are ‘liked’ on account of the shapes of your facial features. On account of a funny joke you made once. On account of what your bank account might be sayyin’. Which school you go to. Your postcode. On account of where you are ‘from’. Things like that. You could just as well be disliked on account of such factors too, but it isn’t… true. This stuff: it’s all cheap.

You are loved on account of everything you are. They see your good; they see your necessarily weaknesses. They know more about where you have been; who you are. And love is the thing with comfort, which brings tranquility to the soul.

I know of some people who seem like they are very ‘loved by the world’, ‘respected’, based on more ascribed things, than on character-based achieved ones (beginning, most usually, with physical appearance). Super ‘cool’, and some of them seemingly always have been. But then it becomes a fight to keep being liked, for the reasons that they are, and by all the people. Must be exhausting. I’ve seen whom they are, when they are at home, and comfortable. It can be a beautiful contrast, because this is what earns our interpersonal relationships value: with different sets of people, you must be different versions of yourself. All our various masks: to hide parts of ourselves, or to make ourselves seem less flawed or whatever. And then, at home, you’re you [unless you, unfortunately, are currently living in an abusive household or something. You might be in ‘survival mode’ right now, but Insha Allah, one day you’ll feel home again].

Who are we, at home? Crying to escape all the time, or content?

As I keep saying, I need to stop projecting anything onto people I don’t even know that well, and onto places. For a while, I kept saying that I wanted to move to New York, Cambridge, Scotland. Apartments; organic food shoppin’. Autumnal rainfalls, farm-y stuff. It’s all already around me: I just have to be appreciative, and then I am consequently increased in favours. That is how it works.

Moving forward: I am Muslim. And a Fuldi [older sister, basically. F l o w e r sister]! And a teacher/writer/learner. And to the best people: a friend. Alhamdulillah.

I really want to learn how to play the duff drum properly. I’ve got one, from Morocco, in my garage. I can’t wait for Mazhar’s Nikkah preparations, Insha Allah: when Maryam, the kids, Sweetie and I are together… we shed everything we are, to external eyes, and we have so much fun. It’s strange, stupid, and funny and awesome: some of my cousins are the sort of people (or, have been ascribed with certain personas) that would likely have made me reluctant to be friends with them, if we went to school together or something; they probably feel the same about me. How glad I am that we are basically forced to like each other, on account of being related! [Jk.] I want to write out poems (or Post Malone lyrics) on people’s arms with Mendhi, for Eid or for the Nikkah.

“I sometimes see the grey and I sometimes see the rain,

But I’ll see the colours of the cotton-candy sky again.” [Z.B.]

Random, but I can’t believe I wanted to be like certain people (my impressions of them, based on a few fleeting images, projections), and not myself, way back when. They’ve got their merits, in terms of how they are; they’ve got their necessary struggles. I’ve got mine too. But the mean girls: it’s only indicative of insecurity if you need to make others feel small, rather than big, in order to hold ‘power’. Pafettic mate.

Grrrr. It’s when people I find to be, but secretly, hidden-ly, extremely boring and shallow in what they say, and in their senses of humour, and their ideas of fun… openly say things about me. Gotta bite my tongue. Or maybe I should, in a secure kind of way, say something. Gives me a wee lil adrenaline rush, deez fings.

Or, perhaps I should be more like Ranga Mama. Just… fully secure. So, if someone makes unsavoury comments… just smile and agree. “If it makes them happy to make comments about you, let them be happy!” That shows that you’re really secure; enough to accept that you weren’t even doing certain things for others’ attention or approval anyway. You’re just happy.

No, I feel I must use my sarcasm. Use it or lose it! But, sarcastic comments in a tone that makes it seem like I’m being genuine. “Do you even have a life?”

“Nah, not really. Won’t you liberate me from this existence, please?”

I, for myself, would like to smile more. And to be warmer. ‘Weirder‘, even, according to certain definitions. Sink into who I am, and my purpose here [the pursuit and embodiment, as much as I can, of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness]. Even though, sometimes, being ‘warm’ rather than ‘cool’ tends to translate as… embarrassing myself in front of people sometimes. Being super awkward! [Tas thinks I over-exaggerate how ‘awkward’ I really come across as being. When I die about how ‘awkward’ I am in conversations, she insists that she thinks I seem ‘super cool’. In fact, she said that when she first saw me at school, she thought I was ‘too cool’ to be friends with. Appearances versus Reality. LOL]

Whose eyes actually matter, to me? Who holds the keys to truths? What is happening, here and now? Who are we, truly and organically?

Dear Dunya. You exhaust me, a lot of the time. You seem shiny; want-able. If I chase after you though, you will destroy my soul, and my eternity which follows this.

I have got to really appreciate what Allah has given me. Including, who I am, and the sum of my personal stories. All of it. While deeply acknowledging that Dunya is not the happy place: this place was not made for man’s happiness. It’s meant to leave us feeling, always, a little hungry.

You know, for a while, I had felt myself absolutely drowned, drowning, in greyness: in anxiety and depression. I was lost; He guided me. I’m so glad to be back, Alhamdulillah! In Islam; as myself!

Blessings:

  • Having enough money, Subhan Allah, for necessities and for luxuries
  • Going grocery shopping. I’m a paper brown bag enthusiast
  • Making food
  • Eating food
  • Rain
  • Checked wellington boots
  • Writing
  • Fire. Candles, campfires.
  • Laughing about things that probably should not be laughed about
  • Children! Their ways of seeing the world
  • Structure and novelty, from work
  • The freakin’ farm, man
  • Tasnim
  • Tamanna
  • Saif
  • Aatqa
  • Qur’an
  • Fridays
  • Sundays
  • Flowers
  • The way the sunlight peers through things, sometimes
  • Handwritten things
  • Emotionally adorable things. I just think of that scene in ‘Wonder’ when Auggie is feeling outcast and self-conscious at lunchtime, and Jack sits with him. When they are laughed at, Jack deliberately eats messily, hilariously. His friendship with Auggie is more important. And they have so much fun together! If I ever have a son, Insha Allah, I would want him for be like this Jack Will kid
  • Etc.

With all this, the things I suppose I am necessarily foregoing are: dressing in certain ways to go outside; being easily uproarious; listening to music all the time; loving designer-clothes shopping; drinkin’ and drugs; extramarital relationships; hitting the beauty salon every week, for lots of different treatments. Nothing wrong with some of these things. It’s just not for mey. And, it’s just that, when you choose certain things, you start thinking about what you have foregone. Is the exchange worth it? For me, heck yeah.

So much of the media touts these ideas that if you do not live your life a certain way, then you are boring and pathetic. But, yah: my Lord tells me that I’m not missing out. So I’m not missing out.

Hardships: everybody has a distinctive and unique list of these. We don’t want others’ tests: they weren’t designed for us.

Today’s song that will play in my mind pretty much the whole day, probably: ‘I see the light’ from Disney’s Tangled.

All those days, watching from the windows
All those years, outside looking in
All that time, never even knowing
Just how blind I’ve been

Now I’m here, blinking in the starlight
Now I’m here, suddenly I see
Standing here, it’s, oh, so clear
I’m where I’m meant to be

And at last, I see the light
And it’s like the fog has lifted
And at last, I see the light
And it’s like the sky is new
And it’s warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted

All at once, everything looks different
Now that I see you

All those days, chasing down a daydream
All those years, living in a blur
All that time, never truly seeing
Things the way they were

Now she’s here, shining in the starlight
Now she’s here, suddenly I know
If she’s here, it’s crystal clear
I’m where I’m meant to go

And at last, I see the light
And it’s like the fog has lifted
And at last, I see the light
And it’s like the sky is new
And it’s warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted

All at once, everything is different
Now that I see you

Now that I see you.

[Merit if you sang it how it’s meant to be sung].

Finally, to quote Peppa Pig [the lads shall be returning from her World very soon, Insha Allah]:

Bing bong bing,

Bong bing boo.

Bing bong bingly bongly booo.

This 1111111

Our perspectives make it so.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twenty-Six

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Six: Blood Orange, Daylight Robbery, Roses, horse sh**, and a sparkly purple straw.

Today, ‘t’had been some messages from Tasnim, which had really motivated me to get up and properly start my day.

I went to Waitrose, for my weekly shop. Today became ‘arm day’ because the two bags I came back carrying were heavy. Today I bought food that is in line with my current diet goals [again, not to lose weight or anything. Simply in pursuit of goodness].

When I go food-shopping, I tend to have the following in mind: finding Halāl and Tayyibāt (permissible and wholesome) food. I came up with this acronym: POMGR. [A bit like ‘pomegranate’]. It stands for: Produce-heavy, Organic [as much as possible], Moderation [I very much, so it would seem, have a sweet tooth], Gluten-free, Range [i.e. a good range of fruit and veg colours, for example]. I think about: breakfast; lunch; dinner; snacks. Finally, I get my produce stuff, my protein stuff, and some carbs: three parts of the plate, generally.

Now, this may make it sound as though I am a responsible eater, dear reader. But, nay: I know it’s not super cute for food to be a personality trait but… it’s certainly one of my personality traits. When I see burgers, chips, chocolate… something within me activates. In my head, I tell myself: this is going to be the last time. It rarely ever is. But… I am a changed woman now.

A changed woman, I tell thee. [Alhamdulillah, though, for my ‘high/fast metabolism’: without it, I’d probably be a bit obese by now. It does have a downside, though: I’m pretty much always hungry.]

Today I got some ingredients for stir-fry: for myself and for Tamanna, whom I will be seeing later today Insha Allah. I found some vegan chicken tikka sauce, which I intend to eat with brown rice, Insha Allah, and some salad. I also decided to get some… tofu. To pretend it’s chicken. Sigh. My love for chicken might just end up giving me heart disease, you see. Maybe I’ll begin to have it only once a month, and I’ll really cherish it each time. Maybe. But after mine and Stomami’s Korean food date next week Insha Allah [I say ‘Insha Allah’ quite often because we’re not really meant to speak of the future without acknowledging that it is all ‘God-Willing’].

When I go food-shopping, if I need certain things, I make a list. But, generally, it makes for a nice adventure when I don’t. I didn’t know that I would get baby carrots and granola in a jar today, but I am glad that I did.

From Twitter, I learned who voiced Tommy Pickles from the Rugrats. She’s a woman called EG Daily (stage name) and she dated Brad Pitt for a while, in the past, apparently.

I also learned from Twitter (which I need to ease my way out of, into moderation. But it’s just so filled with amazing and interesting people; knowledge; humour; aesthetics) that if you Google ‘Florida man’ followed by a random date – say, your birthday – wild things come up. Murder stories involving alligators; iguanas; women beating their boyfriends up with frozen pork chops. “Homeless man with no arms charged with stabbing tourist”. He used scissors, apparently. Things like that.

Today I came home with my heavy bags to witness an opposite-of-sorry sight: Sara (spirited little girl from next door. She has stars in her eyes, Masha Allah) riding Faris’ bike, speeding through one of the brick ‘tunnels’ (archways with homes above them) and Faris, chasing after her. “Give me back my bike!

A later remark from him [paraphrased a little, probably, since I find I can’t always remember things word-for-word]:

“It’s terrifying. I could leave my bike for two minutes, and it would get robbed!

I used to see Faris playing outside by himself quite often. On this year’s snow-days (February 2021, I believe) I’d seen him going around with a little plastic sled. I tried to get Isa and Saif to play with him. They were shy at first, avoidant. But what I love about some friendships is that… all it takes is a snowball, to become friends. Faris had thrown snow at me, too: I think I look like a kid, sometimes, to kids.

Now, it seems like Sara, Safia and Sadika from next door are his friends too. He’d brought deck chairs, from his house, and had set them up right outside mine. He had his bike; they had their scooters. I decided to pour myself a bowl of (newly-bought) granola (in oat milk) and sat outside, on the steps, to eat.

The kids kept coming up to me to ask what I was eating. “Cereal,” I explained. “But it’s basically rabbit food.” They marvelled at the fact that there’d been seeds in it. I asked Sadika if she wanted some: I could go and get her a spoon. She said she’s okay, and crinkled her nose in absolute disgust.

Today, from Waitrose (‘Wai’yyy’s’, for when Tamanna and I suddenly morph into wannabe roadmen) I also got a ready-made cake. Ready-made, because I have no time to make it from scratch, although I wanted to. It had some really nice iced flowers on it. I also got a tube of chocolate icing: a special sort, which you have to put in hot water for a while, for it to melt and be usable.

My plan: to ice a cake for next-door (No. 8). To put, ‘The SA family’ on it. When they’d brought that cake of theirs to our house, for us, the other day, Sara had explained to me that she wants to call her family the ‘S.A.’ family. Her dad’s name is Sadiqul; her mum’s name is Salma. Her name is Sara. Then, there’s Safia, Sadika, and baby Sakina. Their names all begin with S and A.

I had to snip the top of the icing tube, like how you do with Mendhi ones, and then started icing. I think I’d cut off too much, because the writing ended up being quite thick. Didn’t exactly look like a masterpiece, but das okay: cake is cake.

When I took the cake to their house, Salma Khala really liked it. I really like Salma Khala: she’s soft-spoken; she’s gentle, she’s good vibes, Masha Allah. Sadiqul Mama too: he just does his thing, and enjoys it, and seems like a genuine person. Once, in lockdown, I saw him feeding the pigeons by the canal, while sporting an Ertuğrul-style hat. The pigeons even ate from his hand.

While outside, I also met Faris’ mum. Her name, as I later learned, is Catherine. She is extremely nice, and gentle (and I just love the word ‘unassuming’) too. She had just come back from a run, and had been doing some things in her garden, I guess. We spoke for a while, about random, various things. [She asked me how come I hadn’t gone with my family to Peppa Pig World. Faris finds it really funny that my brother had been looking so forward to it: my brother’s defence had been that there are ‘big rides’ there too!]

We spoke about Chessington [‘Vampire’ had been my first ever rollercoaster, back in Year Six. And I was terrified. I think I only opened my eyes once while on it, but had to act all ‘cool’ in front of my friends] and about Itsu, and about those neighbours who would bass ‘Hey There Delilah’ at those crazy hours. Things like that.

Sara, Safia and Sadika are very familiar with our house: my nan and their grandma had been next-door neighbours when they’d first moved here, some thirty years ago. The girls come around to play with Saif, and for snacks, sometimes [and this just reminds me of a particular scene in ‘Call the Midwife’. East London: spirited kids, finding comfort and jam sandwiches in one another’s homes]. Today, they had chocolate. And Faris isn’t really allowed sweets and chocolate, so I offered him an Itsu yoghurt rice cake instead (and hence the conversation about Itsu), which he then took and shared with his mum. The girls then said that they wanted rice cakes too. So… gone are those snacks that I’d planned to keep for the week.

Catherine told me that, by profession, she is a hairdresser. And, before the first lockdown, I think she’d said, she had also started training to become a children’s counsellor. She’s just so lovely: I kind of want to do a cake thing for her family, too. But I don’t want to seem like that overenthusiastic, overly-‘spirited’, neighbour. Might wait until Eid Insha Allah: the next Eid is… next month! I’ve already ordered my outfit: I found it on SHEIN.

Catherine told me that her sister-in-law is called Sadia too. I think Faris’ dad is of Pakistani origin. Faris did tell me last time: either Indian or Pakistani.

I asked if Faris is an only child: he seemed like he is. And yes, he is. I told them that I used to be an only child too: for almost twelve years, before Safeefatee (one of my old nicknames for Saif – pronounced ‘Sigh-iff’) had been born. Being an only child: interesting experience. Lonely, sometimes. But the spaces often get filled with the stuff of the imagination. And Faris, like me, has lots of cousins too. Part-time siblings: you see them, you put them away, before they get on your nerves too much, and before you get on theirs.

Today, Sara and the others stood on the white bench by one of our neighbours’ garden walls. They were looking over the wall together, for Sara’s cat Chase, who had gone for a little adventure through the gardens, via a small gap in one of the wooden fences. Faris climbed the lamppost in front of our house, and then Sara and Safia tried to do the same. These girls are brave. I love this: they come out wearing dresses, and with their hair nicely brushed. Then they start… ‘robbing’ neighbours of their bikes [I told Faris to just go ahead and take Sara’s scooter in retaliation, and he did] and climbing lampposts and walls and shiz. They’re going to have great childhoods to look back on, Insha Allah.

Sara asked Faris if he could get her a rose from the red-rose tree that is right opposite our house. Faris’ response: “No.

I mean, I could, but… I don’t want to.” Poor kid. Getting robbed, you see, can really affect one’s willingness to climb walls to get roses for one’s robbers.

While I’d been speaking with Catherine, I’d also been highly aware of the fact that I’d left some spring rolls on the pan, in the kitchen. They were probably going to burn if I didn’t run and turn the stove off. But I didn’t want to end the conversation really abruptly. What to do?! [Edge out, slowly.]

I ended up just cutting off the parts that had been burnt. The rest still tasted great. There’s a m e t a p h o r to be found in that, probably.

I find it interesting just how much inner turmoil I have experienced, with this fighting need, so it has felt, to ‘define myself’. To feel ‘neatly package-able, into words and such’, even though I know that humans cannot be. When people, for example, ask me what my hobbies are, what do I say?

Chilling with a bowl of ‘rabbit food’ outside, while the neighbourhood kids play. That is such a hobby of mine, even if it isn’t neatly explicable to everyone; even if they do not deem it to be particularly exciting/desirable for themselves or whatever. I don’t know: I just like doing what I like doing. My hobbies are… doing ‘stuff‘.

Children are just so cool and fun and cute and pure, Masha Allah. I mean, yes, there are kids who are actually… little brats… out there. But, until they hit the age of maturity [puberty], they aren’t really to blame.

Children don’t seek to define themselves like how we do: they ain’t got no CVs, no Twitter and Instagram bios to decorate. They just are, and without the self-consciousness that we all seem to develop, come the cusps of adulthood.

Children can take two deck-chairs, a bottle of bubbles, a bike and some scooters, and all the time that they have. And, suddenly, there’s a whole world of possibilities, there. To make a lot, out of whatever is before you, out of a ‘little’: the basis of gratitude. Not want, but have, have, have! Allah increases in favours, according to the Qur’an, whomever is grateful.

I think we should be more like children — like our (true,) childhood selves, definitely. But in all these developed ways. Children really are closer to Fitrah. Muhammad (SAW) used to love hanging out with little children too. He said that people who aren’t compassionate towards children aren’t from the Muslims.

While getting rid of a couple of things, I put some things on Olio. And the person coming to collecting them called me. This might sound mean, but I swear, it sounded like a woman on the phone. So, in going to the door to give the things, I hadn’t been wearing my scarf. And then I ran upstairs and grabbed one.

From doing this thirty-day thing, I guess, I’ve realised how extraordinary this world is, Subhan Allah. How much there is, in each day. Just all the ‘little’ things, which come together, and suddenly there is a tapestry made out of each individual day.

Today I learned lots of random things. As always, too much to get it all down into these entries. But, just some things:

Vocal mimicry in birds is actually amazing. How on Earth?! Why on Earth?!

My nan likes drinking coffee. Never had I known that. Until today.

There was a box of sparkly straws in the kitchen. Probably for Saif, Aana and Dawud. I wanted one too: between a yellow one or a purple one from the box, I chose… purple. In anticipatory celebration of Mazhar’s Nikkah, Insha Allah [his chosen colour code is black and purple, and I think he’s actually being serious about this. And I hope he’s consulted his wifey-to-be about this, also]. And purple is my brother’s favourite colour too.

This straw: I love it. It’s really helped me to want to drink enough water today. I also had a bottle of (‘organic’) blood orange soda [Fever-Tree]. Chug, chug, chug, like the pseudo-alcoholic I am, according to my friends. I… am a simple woman. I see the words ‘organic’ and/or ‘blood‘ and/or ‘vegan-friendly’ on food packaging, I become intrigued. This drink – which, bonus, comes in a glass bottle, with tree designs on it – is really nice! I think I’m going to get it again next time, Insha Allah, and I want to call it ‘sangría’, like the alcoholic drink that is named after the Spanish word for ‘blood’.

Today I saw Tamanna, and we had another one of our super important meetings. About our lives and everything. Today I learned that Tamanna has gotten her new iPad. And, even though she’d asked for my advice on whether she should get a rose-gold one or a sky-blue one and I said rose-gold, she went rogue I guess and chose sky-blue.

I think it is amazing how the people in our lives live their own lives: have their own experiences; know their own people. And then you come together again, after some time has passed since the last time, and you share.

While walking back to Tamanna’s house, we noticed that there were lots of horse trailers outside the events venue where we live. We asked someone what’s happening there. A ‘horse drive’. I didn’t even think to ask just what that is. A ‘horse drive’. As Tamanna pointed out, some of the men there seemed a little ‘standoffish’; not really wanting to disclose what they’re doing. But then she said they seem like they’re all members of the Romanian Traveller community: unfortunately, they must be sort of used to not feeling very welcome in places.

The children of the big group seemed very friendly though. One told us, enthusiastically and confidently, that he owns one of the horses: his horse’s name is Kelly-Brooke. Horses: what majestic creatures, though, Masha Allah. Their poop do smell really bad, also, though.

While stroking one of the horses (having asked its attendant first) Tamanna explained that when one of the horse’s legs go up a little, it means that they’re relaxed. She’d learned this tidbit of information from when she’d been given a tour of some stables, on her sixteenth birthday.

I told Tee that I could imagine her being one of those very upper-class horse-riders, with those black caps, and in jodhpurs and boots. If I ever became a horse-rider: I think I would be kind of rogue. With mud on my clothes, and with wellies on, probably.

The idea of grooming horses, wow. In Bangladesh, my Dada (paternal grandfather) has three cows. When I was eleven, I named them ‘Eeyore’, ‘Caramel’, and dang it, I’ve forgotten the third one’s name. I’ve got it written down somewhere, in one of my old journals. I used to love feeding them leaves; stroking them.

Memories of Bangladesh: I keep… smelling smells, recently, which remind me of it. The smell of Dettol, for example, and distinctive food smells. Bangladesh is a country of fields and lakes. Tea gardens: lots and lots of them. Fire, to make food over. Varieties of fruits; banana trees. Fishing. Monsoon rains; the sound of rainfall on tin roofs. Small lizards, climbing up walls [they terrify me]. Playing board games until crazy hours. I quite miss Bangladesh, even though I’ve only ever been three times. It’s the people, mainly, that make places, though.

The cat is currently sitting on me and he kind of terrifies me a little. He has claws. Sometimes he mistakes movements for… a mouse moving or something. And he attacks. He is way too comfortable right here. Move him to avoid being scratched, but this, at risk of being scratched by him? This is what one might call a double-bind: a word I learnt from planning a History lesson at work [Guy Fawkes]. difficult situation in which, whatever action you decide to take, you cannot escape unpleasant results.

Real-time: he just flexed his claws. I’m being warned.

Okay, I moved him. That wasn’t so scary. I would make a really funny cat-pun joke here about myself but I will not.

Today, I learned from Tas that I’m right at the top of her ‘friends pyramid’. And, boy, am I gassed and honoured. ❤ “Complete openness + banter + loyalty + ride or die”.

“It’s this comforting companionship, and feeling of ease and acceptance… and I ONLy feel it when I’m with you.” You know, one of my biggest honours in this WEWLD is being Tasnim’s friend. Best friend. Soul sister. Fellow chicken enthusiast. “Wa miizajuhuu min Tasneem,” from Al-Qur’an.

I guess, maybe, I had to lose a Yu Zhu, in Year Six. A Tasnim had been waiting for me, for six/seven years later. Not necessarily ‘better’, but ‘different’; better for me.

For dinner, I made Khalamoni and me some butternut-squash-andtofu-tikka-masala, with brown rice and salad [I’ve… previously struggled with my attempts to properly cook rice]. It was actually… not too bad, you know? Not at all like that ‘tofu fish’ and chips that I’d had at the vegan café that Tamanna and I had tried to study at a few times. That was like prison food. ‘Vegan English breakfasts’ should maybe be made illegal, for the safety of the general public. But this curry: I think I could actually get used to this.

[Oh no, I think this cat is thinking my arm is food. And I’m just writing about it. Mood: feeling calmly terrified.

Okay, he just scratched me. Nobody told him to sit on my lap in the first place. And then he almost slid off, and then he scratched me.]

On Friday, also, Suto Mami told me that she is just three days older than Sweetie [they’re sisters-in-law]. Their mothers had been at the same hospital: the Royal London Hospital, where I’d been born too. Suto Mami wondered aloud if the two to-be mothers – one of husband, one of wife – had passed each other by, at the hospital, at any point. Absurdly cool to think about, no? Subhan Allah.

Farhana:


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twenty-Five

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Five: I didn’t go to Peppa Pig World (Al-Baladul-Khinzeer) and… ‘Low Latent Inhibition’.

Well, today, guess what? I woke up. Sometimes, waking up for Fajr (and going downstairs to do Wudhu) is especially hard. But it is very worth it — the prospect of being able to sleep until whenever you want, afterwards.

This morning Siyana’s family, and Dawud’s, came to ours. They all got ready to go to Peppa Pig World. Apparently it’s in Southampton.

Siyana: we call her Aana for short. Hackerman, also.

Dawud: sometimes Saif calls him ‘Duh-woood’. Saif’s best friend at school is also called Dawud, and apparently their teacher mispronounces it ‘Duh-woood’.

Dawud asked Alexa to play ‘Gangnam Style’, but Alexa misheard it as something… really dark. Something like ‘Die in Style’. Dawud then watched his new favourite show, so it would seem: ‘The Fox Family and Friends’: a bunch of cartoon anthropomorphised foxes who talk nonsense. Or, as Sweetie might put it: they “chat breeze”. Dawud abbreviates the show’s name to ‘Friends’; this is extremely cute, especially since both his parents are ardent ‘Friends’ (i.e. the American sitcom, which just released its reunion episode) fans. Ranga Mama loved this show so much that he had CDs of all the episodes, and has basically memorised every line. He then got Stomami into it. And then Moosa got into it also.

‘New Girl’ is also a shared favourite sit-com between Ranga Mama and me [I relate to Jess quite a lot]. ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’: Moosa, Maryam, Ranga Mama and me. ‘Modern Family’ as well.

I just learnt that ‘Hal antum bi khayr?’ means “are you [plural, I’m guessing] okay?” This would probably sound great when you’re jokingly disagreeing with people on things. “Are you guys okay?” I am really very excited to learn Arabic Insha Allah. And if I am to start properly, then I need to do so as soon as possible. Conversational Arabic: Ms. Maisoun did say that she would happily teach me. But I’m really shy to actually take her up on the offer: I don’t know why. Right now, I have a really good app (‘Arabic Unlocked’. Amazing for learning Qur’anic Arabic) and two workbooks that tend to be pretty highly-recommended by scholars I think.

What about that other language that I sort of know — Spanish? I love the Spanish language: it is one that feels like it just flows. Makes sense. Sounds… salsa-like. It’s a wonderful feeling, to be able to decode things written in other languages: like you hold the keys to something that not everybody else does. I don’t want to neglect learning Spanish better, but Arabic is my priority. The Qur’an is in Arabic. Hadiths also. Exegetical works. So much of the Muslim world. I do not want to feel like a tourist in my own religion.

This weekend, while my parents and brother are away, I’m here with Nanu and Khalamoni. So I can basically do whatever I want. I have some work-related things to do: planning for the coming half-term. Some of the things I believe in, for encouraging as part of the ethos of the school:

  • Educating them on such things as colonialism
  • Informing them that they should not be anti-Semitic in criticising Zionism
  • Encouraging true security – flourishing – in their Muslim and (for a lot of them, at least) Tower-Hamlets-ian identities
  • Encouraging personal development; the nurture of their individual personalities and strengths
  • Promoting curiosity and wonder, and critical thinking
  • Encouraging emotional intelligence
  • Muslim values, such as those of home and family
  • For them to be challenged, to grow and develop. And, also for school to feel like a second home; not merely, or solely, some means to some imagined ends. Presentism.

From el top of my head [‘el’ and ‘al’ meaning ‘the’: who did it first? The Arabs, or the Spaniards? Seems like the Arabs did it first. This is so very cool.] these are some of the things I would like to always, piece by piece, drop by drop, day by day, work on, with Allah’s Help and Permission:

  • Prayer. I would like to pray my Sunnah prayers more often. And, Witr and Tahajjud. Such a rewarding prayer.
  • Knowing Arabic. To understand the words of the Qur’an; to know and feel what I am reading, when I read.
  • Reading books. Developing my mind; my vocabulary; my ways of expressing things and such
  • Writing. Articles. Books, perhaps, Insha Allah.
  • Diet! Diet! Diet! Not to lose weight or something. But goodness generates more goodness. Halal and Tayyibāt tingz. Good for energy levels; for skin; for mood. A lot of things.
  • [Drink water, woman.]
  • Morning and evening routines. I need to re-design mine.
  • University. I need to make some choices about that ASAP.
  • El español
  • Tidiness. I need to tidy things up [mentally, and in terms of things I have ‘put away until later’], and work on keeping them that way.
  • I always feel I want to be the best teacher I can. These students are absolutely amazing, Masha Allah. Such potential, and Allah has chosen me to help them nurture it! I find making presentations quite fun; I find marking fun (when there aren’t one-hundred-and-eighty books in total to mark. Like last time). I find presenting fun; writing on the board.
  • I want to be the best Fuldi/friend/everything else, I can. Not in an obsessive sort of way. Just, organically: I am always going to be developing, Insha Allah, and there are always things to work on.
  • I have so many questions about myself, and about life, which I feel I must ask Allah. And Tahajjud is probably the best time in which to ask them.
  • Life is a lot of things. It is worship, and it is maintaining bonds with people. It is maintaining your living space; your body. Working, paying bills. Errands and that; tasks. Food. Weaknesses, strengths.

If I want to do these things above, then I need to fix. Up. Now. Work on it every. Day. Not over-industriously. But still, determinedly and hopefully. Moving, actively, with life.

I just learnt the Spanish word, ‘hispanomusulmanes’. Meaning: Spanish Muslims, ‘moors’. So, my friend Aya es una hispanomusulmana. Might go ahead and change her current nickname from me — Anteayer [meaning: ‘the day before yesterday’] — to this. Ayyo chica, hispanomusulmana!

An observation: people tend to love a) eating cake. Little bites of it. Sometimes, almost entire cakes in one sitting. And, b) people also really love to nap. But perhaps these are not always the most ‘Instagrammable’, flashy and fiery, of hobbies.

“If you see beauty in someone, speak it”. I believe in giving people flowers – literal, figurative – as much as we can; as much as is true. Give them their flowers while they are alive; while you are able; while they are able to receive them. Even if it feels a little embarrassing in the moment, or whatever else. What, really, do we have, to lose?

I can’t believe that it is Friday already. I just have this weekend left, and then it is back to work, Insha Allah. For what may just be my last half-term there. [Nooooooooo

ooooooooooo

oooooo

oooo

o.] Now I’m craving cake. Tomorrow: Waitrose bakery section, Insha Allah. Or maybe not. I want to try out an ‘anti-inflammatory diet’, maybe. ‘Twill take willpower. But, for example, writing these blog entries every day is taking willpower. And it feels extremely rewarding, Masha Allah. The struggle, the sweetness. Like the cake I am currently craving.

Dear reader,

Have you ever felt so filled with an intuitive sort of hope about things? It’s not tangible; you don’t know exactly what will happen, and when. But putting my trust in the Almighty: I have never done a better thing, and I know this for certain.

I do love it when I think I know certain things. And I just don’t. I’m on this journey, encountering things that have been Written for me: I have not written them for myself. [R.M. pointed out that I tend to go off on tangents a little. Or a lot. It’s true: I do. I think it’s sort of integral to my personality. ‘Ordered chaos’.].

Two big questions that I am truly enthusiastic about finding the answers to, moving forward: those of free will and determinism. And those pertaining to the links between (what is termed) autism, ADHD, creativity/intelligence, dyslexia and dyspraxia. It all fascinates me so much; there really are distinctive connections between these things. Anxiety, social anxiety, depression.

Sensitivity. People on the autism spectrum tend to also have digestive conditions associated with sensitivity. Food intolerances and insomnia as well, apparently, according to this girl’s book [the one who sent me a copy!]

And, with things like chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. This is all very, very interesting. What a mystery to be further unravelled over time, Insha Allah.

My personal view is that it is all about sensitivity. I think that intelligence is sensitivity though. People who are especially good at maths, for example: it’s perceptiveness, isn’t it? Being sensitive to, being able to pick up on, the patterns that others aren’t really able to, in the same way.

Sensory overload. ‘Low latent inhibition’: something I heard from ‘Prison Break’, while Maryam had been watching it next to me, last year. It’s the idea that some people notice and register aspects of their surroundings far more than others, more quickly and all at once. The constant processing of lots of stimuli.

“If a person has a high IQ, probably 130 and above, his low latent inhibition can manifest in creativity, while people whose IQs are lower than average can undergo psychosis [as a result of it].” [Source: ‘InfoBloom’].

When Tas and I went to Nando’s (ChickenLand) those three days ago, she asked me whether I think intelligence is learned, or innate. I think it is innate. Exam skills and such can be taught, but high intelligence, to me, seems to be in-built. A gift from God, to certain individuals. It does need to be nurtured well, for it to flourish, though. And I do think it is linked to the ‘autism gene’, but I would like to learn more about that, Insha Allah.

While we were at Nando’s, also, there was a couple sitting at a table near us. And when the waiter asked the guy what he wanted, the guy also ordered for the lady, and said, super exaggeratedly, “my GEWL would like…”. And I just thought, it’s cute that you seem so outwardly proud that she’s your GEWL, but… it’s okay, my brother: the waiter probably does not think that she is your sister.

This evening, I had my final meal of the day by candlelight. And then I put a knife over the fire, and the metal burned a little. But in a really cool charcoal-like way: I just wiped the black marks right off, afterwards.

Ay, you: whomever you are; whatever it is you may be going through. At this moment in time: 01:11 AM, and while I should probably… get ready to pray Tahajjud… it is Qadr for you to be reading this, right now. It is going to be fine.

“I don’t know what //

You’re going through,

But there’s so much life, ahead of you. And it

Won’t slow down, no matter what you do.

So you’ve just gotta hold on.” [to be sung just like how Shawn Mendes sings it].


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twenty-Four

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Four: Mazhar’s Marriage Talks, and Declined Pizza [Dang!]

Bismillah.

Yesterday had been day six times four of this thing. You know how I keep pointing out that, a) my life is a sit-com, b) that everything is connected, and that c) I don’t believe in ‘coincidences’ and ‘serendipity’ per se: I believe in Qadr?

Well, after randomly writing about Mazhar’s upcoming Nikkah (Insha Allah. Just two months left!) and about Sadia [still super weird to write my own name in reference to the-cousin-I-grew-up-with’s to-be-wife] I received news that we were all invited to Lal Mama’s, for Maat*. I thought Sadia would have been there, but no — apparently talks with her had already taken place, before.

I could have stayed at home and not have gone for this meeting. But I wanted to see what happens: Mazhar is my cousin who is three months my senior. We were in nappies together; we lived in the same house for a while, in early childhood; we played Power Rangers together. He was a dork when I was ‘cool’ [he used to snitch about me all the time, after school], and now I am a (proud) dork, while he is ‘cool’. ‘Cool’. Interesting word, which I want to explore more in my next entry, Insha Allah.

So, to satisfy my curiosity, and my wish to be there for all this, I decided to put my scarf and abaya on; I was going to walk (or cycle) it, while the others went in Mazhar’s car. But Mazhar said he wouldn’t mind taking one person extra [please don’t find this, dear government] so I got in to what is usually a death trap (e.g. 50 mph on 30 roads). Saif had to sit on Khalamoni’s lap: poor him.

At Mazhar’s: random conversations. I said something along the lines of how everything is going to change now! Mami (Mazhar’s mum) said: no, not really. Still her house; still the same pretty-much everything.

But I really do think everything is going to change: as everything always does. To welcome a whole new person – a whole new world in and of herself – into our lives. I wonder how her presence will change us; I wonder if our presences will change her world, too. Well first of all: I announced that I would no longer like to be called Sadia in the family. Sadia is my government name, for government things. In the family, I’m Jannath [it means ‘garden’ in Urdu/Arabic]. Time to disassociate myself from so many years of being called ‘Sadia’ by them, completely.

Yesterday, when they made reference to ‘Mazhar and [his] Sadia’ it just felt so weird for me. Yeesh.

Maryam had texted Mazhar to ask if anybody wanted bubble tea: she works at the local (very hipsterrrr) bubble tea shop. She gets us drinks quite often. And, sometimes after work, I look into the window to see if she’s there. She never is, when I go there.

The brown sugar bubble tea from her workplace is probably the best one. And the taro one is pretty nice too [the taro one, she had gotten for me once by accident. I’m glad she did though: it was peng. Brown and peng like taro tea. And then I looked up what taro actually is: it’s a root vegetable, rather like a tropical potato!]

I enjoyed a mug o’ hot chocolate in the garden, while being subjected to extraordinary meanness by Isa and Saif [they just flip from kindness, and wanting to talk to me about everything, to rejecting me completely]. Although I do love socialising, sometimes: I guess, when the conversations at hand aren’t really ‘for me’ — I feel extremely awkward. In these moments, I have found that it is just best for me to be alone for a while. The garden is a nice place in which to be by oneself: the sky looked amazing yesterday. And, background music: Saif and Isa in an argument with the kid from next door, who hid behind the fence (and tried to deepen his voice and talk like a roadman, bless) to act all tough.

Yesterday I saw Bilal again. Bilal is one of Maryam’s neighbours’ cat. A big cat, a ginger-coloured one. His real name is Blake. Apparently, he sort of gets neglected at home. He spends a great deal of time at Mazhar’s: they’ve even got grooming materials and snacks there for him. It is pretty much only when he needs to relieve himself, and when he sleeps at night, that he returns to his ‘actual’ home.

Yessssss it’s raining right now. This is why I love Bri’ain.

Yesterday, the entirety of the Ahmed-Ali-Alam family had been there, save for Didi and her family. Dawud Biyya had come, wearing a Jurassic Park T-shirt, and stripy trousers. Siyana had come too, wearing a pink ballerina outfit. Hackerman has range.

I think Dawud is a little like me, I suppose. I think, whenever there are so many people in a place, his mind maybe gets a little overwhelmed, and he goes a little quiet. 10/10, little brother: can relate.

Yesterday I stupidly (sillily. What?! That’s actually a word?!) had that mug of hot chocolate, thinking Maryam would get home way later. But when she arrived, and gave me my cup, I… just drank it. I felt sick afterwards: milk often has this effect on me. Like when I made that milkshake in Ramadan, thinking it would power me through all the work I had to get done. But, no: it gave me vertigo for like a day straight.

Yesterday, while we were all playing, Maryam decided to put me in a headlock on the ground, and kept telling me to “TAP OUT”. And gone are the days when I used to be stronger than her. Dawud came and punched her on the head. She eventually let me go, and then I acted like I did that. I’m Hulk.

The talk itself: very relaxed. I loved that I was really invited to sit down with them all. I guess it’s because I am, technically, one of the ‘kids’… but I am also an adult now. And this is Mazhar’s Nikkah talks. And first I sat on the counter. Then on Maryam. Then I got my own chair.

They are thinking of having the ceremony at a restaurant — maybe the Sudbury one. I thought they’d be doing it in their garden: they have these really nice sage green chairs there, which would look great with satin bows and flowers behind them.

Mazhar wants for the colour theme to be black, with hints of purple. I don’t think the extended-extended clan will be there. Safwan probably will be though — Mazhar’s wife before having a real wife. The Shawn to his Cory.

What did I learn yesterday? What did that day — the third of June, two fousand and twenty-one — have in store (through Qadr) for me? Well. I learned that I love people who are deeply emotionally intelligent. And they are probably also generally the ones who talk less. They are known to speak words of value.

Incidentally, I hate it when people make unfiltered, pointless comments. About how tired others look; about how skinny they are. Little pointless comments. And there is a way of saying things, if you are genuinely concerned about someone, about something. e.g. rather than an abrupt, “you look TIRED!” in front of everyone: “…hey, you look a little more tired than usual. You okay? Did you get enough sleep last night?” and in private. Pet peeve: when people run their mouths so freely, and without consequences, and why would they “put certain things out into the universe” [to quote R.M.] like that?

Yesterday, after a while of sitting around the table (and trying to cajole Mazhar into telling us what Sadia’s other name is — he just wouldn’t tell us) I went to the front room. Mazhar had brought pizza – five or six boxes, maybe – for everyone. And I didn’t want pizza: generally, the idea of it sounds real good in my head. And then a few bites, and I know it’s bad for me, not-that-great-tasting-anyway [pizza in Italy, though. That’s a whole ‘nother thing], and not especially good for my skin. Somebody (M), yesterday, looked at me as though I’d just committed arson, by (quietly, politely) refusing pizza.

Stomami and I also made plans to go out for Korean food next week, Insha Allah. I love drives with her, and she tends to pick the best restaurants. Apparently, this one is riverside and really nice. A treat for Jeba Khala, who is also getting Nikkah’d soon Insha Allah. I asked if Tanjin and Jannah Khala (Stomami’s sisters) could come too.

After the Maat, Ranga Mama came to the front room and said they’d all reached an agreement: that they’re all going to start ‘looking’ for me. Not even as a joke anymore. Sounds so strange. But I’m at the point in my life where it isn’t a joke anymore: they are literally going to start ‘looking’ for a person for me. I trust Ranga Mama’s judgement the most, probably.

I asked him which three traits he would immediately associate with a man who is meant for me. He said, “self-confident, humble, and grounded”. An “anchor” for me. Somebody who is very passionate about what he does, but is not a ‘careerist’, in the sense that the value of the work itself matters, and not necessarily the ‘next career marker’. Somebody deeply emotionally intelligent. I agree. And it is in the nature of women to pursue hypergamy: some women are really attracted to height; money; social status; older age. These are natural inclinations: nothing ‘wrong’ with it. For me… it’s intelligence. 150%. And moral/emotional intelligence, I think, is probably the foremost marker of true intelligence.

I think, because I love words so much: maybe my ‘person’, Insha Allah, is somebody who loves… numbers… so much? What I seek [in line with Ustadha Kaamila’s advice — that I should try to deeply consider who I want to be, and whom I want for them to be, in general terms] is:

Security. To be secure in myself, and who I am, and where I come from. In my pursuits; in my relationships. And for my person – my man-wife who makes me sandwiches sometimes – to be secure in themselves also. And for our lives, individually yet deeply together, to be filled with security. And with comfort. And with learning, discovery, and adventure: things we could never have seen coming. Islam: how we begin the day. Matching yin-and-yang rings (which I’ve already got saved, in my Etsy ‘Favourites’).

I like it when people pay attention to things. I love it when people are grateful: making a lot (of goodness and beauty) out of a ‘little’. Shakoor. Those things that people obsessed with distraction and ‘plenty’ and noise tend to call the ‘little things’: I feel very much in my heart that those are the biggest things; the best, most beautiful and worthwhile ones. A round of Freshly Grounded cards, over mugs of hot chocolate and homemade cake. That is one of my ideas of a really well-spent evening. Visiting places like Turkey, and Palestine. Going to cafés there, speaking with people. Seeing mosques.

Somebody who does not seek to escape life, but dwells right within it. Who sees the world through beautiful eyes. And, yes, is secure, and humble, and really intelligent, and grounded (because whew, I sure am not). I know I am not someone who appreciates the idea of going to Dubai for shopping; loud clubs/parties, loud places, and such. I would like someone who really appreciates the value of home. There are some people who live pretty outward-facing lives, at the expenses of their home-based, truer, ones.

I love, love, love the idea of home being the crux of things. Where one can be most free, and most nurtured. Have the most fun. Wear what yeh want; do want yeh want. A beautiful home life, as opposed to utilising home as a kind of sad place in which to quickly eat and sleep, before work. Use our phones all the time.

I have learned how to live, how to be in the world and of the world, and not just to stand aside and watch. And I will never, never again run away from life. Or from love, either.” — Audrey Hepburn.

I am a whole, in and of myself, and I also have my other half, somewhere out there in the world. Self and Other. Self within the Other; Other within the Self. Similarities, Differences. Didi has found hers, Masha Allah. Mazhar, too. I guess I am *Bengali auntie voice, like how they do at weddings* next. Unless there is literally nobody for me and I end up dying a spinster-hermit who sits in her cave and just writes all the time. Ha, ha… ha.

Yesterday I received a really nice email, some of whose lines: “Your blog posts have also been a great help in trying to navigate spirituality. Do keep up the good work. There’s a lot of value in what you write, and I’m sure there are many who benefit from reading your blog. If you wanna talk about any of this in your blog, I don’t mind. You deserve to get at least some blog material out of this.” And I did get some blog material out of it, so thank you for that. It is nice to feel as though I am not merely writing into some void, and that some people find benefit in these: Jazakallah Khayr.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” — Robin Williams. And, part of this spark of madness I have will translate into me asking for a sword as my (eventual, Insha Allah) Mahr! Swords can be gorgeous, and I want a really nice one for its aesthetic and symbolic value. And to use when nobody else is around. Yes, I would rather be a sword-owning dork than a non-sword-owning dork. Here I am, Masha Allah, being all s e c u r e about it. [Mazhar, also, is ‘cool’ now, but he told me yesterday that he has a Harry Potter Marauder’s Map notebook, which he bought for himself — once an ardent HP fan, always… — but doesn’t know what to do with it. I told him he could use it as a guest-book at his wedding].

Yesterday, Tas had sent me a (really offensive, actually!!! Jk) TikTok about… being short, and having the experience of being ‘normal-sized’. I really don’t think I would have been insecure about my height if it had not been for a) the boys at school pointing it out and making disgusting jokes about it and b) the boys at school pointing it out and being *colourful word here. Will not use*s.

Yesterday, while the boys played on the PlayStation, I saw that there was a user saved called ‘Ridhwaan Saeed’. I asked Isa if Ridhwaan comes around sometimes, and he said yes, he does. Ridhwaan had been a member of our OG gang at school: from Nursery onwards. Me, Mazhar, Luca, Thomas, Foyzul, and Ridhwaan… Ridhwaan, whom I’d punched really hard once, in Nursery [and then lied and said that I’d been playing ‘The Incredibles’, and he was just in my way while I’d been running]. And then another time, I kicked him, in Year Six, for ‘being annoying’. I really feel I need to apologise for that at some point… … … … … … …

I feel guilty but also humoured about this stuff, now. In Year Seven, a boy who kept annoying me even though I told him not to: I threw his exercise book out of the window. I didn’t expect to do that, I don’t think, but… Year Six: the boy I kicked because he started on me and Tamanna. Year Nine, I think: another boy, same. And he would keep using an ‘Indian’ accent whenever he spoke to me. I warned him a few times… and then threw hand-gel over his blazer. I miss being a bit wild — but only when it is necessary. Boys wouldn’t do this stuff to other boys: they’d be afraid of being beaten up. So sometimes, as a gewl, you have got to act.

[I learned, afterwards, to use my words instead. Ref: History, when the whole class went silent, and everybody looked at me. English: when the boy who kept making racist jokes and then suddenly being nice, and then going back to making racist jokes tried to sit next to me. I reflexively flipped on him, and felt really guilty about it afterwards. But at least I got an apology from him. And I hope he doesn’t make lots of racist jokes towards the next brown girl he comes across, with the memory of this].

The above: he was the one who’d made those comments about Tunisia, and about ‘caramel skin’. And… racism. And ‘exoticisation’. Yucky.

It is terribly strange to see, again, people whom you once knew so well. The other day, I saw Foyzul. He was standing outside No. 8’s garage [he’s next-door’s nephew] while I was going into my garage. I said hello and he basically blanked me. A while later, at work, his cousin F—iha (whom I teach, in Year Seven) told me that he’d asked about me. But… he’d forgotten my government name, and only remembered my home one. Strange, because I still remember things like, for example, how when he’d moved houses from London to Birmingham, he’d found a spider in the bathtub, and named it ‘Percy’.

On our way back to the mini-van, I saw, through the darkness, a group of boys – or, men, now – walking. Hoods up, I think. One of them had been… Amran! Mine and Mazhar’s ‘best friend’ in Year Six. He said “hello” to me, yesterday, with a smile, and I said “hey” back. I think I get a bit overexcited when I see people from my childhood, sometimes. But it is truly, truly nice when the energy is matched. And I wonder if my dad thought I was just saying hello to a random person.

People look the same, and are the same, over time. But, grown, and developed, and different. Mazhar is (Insha Allah) getting married in two months [???!!!]

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; for a slim figure, share your food with the hungry; for beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” — Audrey Hepburn.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.