“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. A sword, which is what his name means in Arabic: when you love him, the love cuts deep. He’s kind of unforgettable, but maybe I’m quite biased. 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’ (one of his role models) book. He loves inventing, designing, designing pranks.
He is not ‘perfect’. He is something better than mere 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 – potentiality – 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 that 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, here at age eight. I just tried to kiss his hand and he abruptly closed my laptop. Three times in a row. I elbowed him (relatively gently). This is love. حب.
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.