Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.
Today I am using my blog as a journal again. Paper journals: I am currently between paper journals. My ‘current one’ is a little too chaotic, now, for my liking, filled with scribbles of: Hey! Remember to give this student a merit! Remember to write this blog article you want to write! Remember to sort out this student’s reward for her History project!
Some things I would like to remember, from this particular time in my life: my brother Saif. Human light of my life, Masha Allah. He made this ‘dance’ thing, fairly recently: picks up the remote for the tower-fan in the living room. It makes a distinctive BEEP sound when you press it. He would press it — BEEP — and then do this spin-and-jump thing, his hair flipping, to press BEEP again, this time from behind himself. Spin, BEEP. Spin again, BEEP. And I could not stop laughing. I love this child so, so much, Masha Allah.
The other day: “Muuum, my pyjamas are on the wrong way round!” And sometimes I think he gets a little buzz out of getting himself into trouble.
Yesterday, while I had been sitting at the table trying to mark books, he decided to flip through some of them… and correct some spellings.
The other, other day, he asked if he could ride on the back of my dad’s electric bike, which I borrow sometimes. So I let him. Me riding the bike, him on the back. Me, telling him to “Hold on tight!” and him… being his usual rebellious self, letting go, probably to get a rise out of me.
My brother has a thin physique, and the cutest, most cheeky smile. And he is, Masha Allah, a very handsome young chap. Or am I quite biased, here? Well, do my eyes not count, here? Some ‘popular vote’ on whether or not this kid is adorably handsome — and his ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ — would neither add to nor detract from how gorgeous I think – nay, know – he is, Masha Allah. In physical being, and in all the rest that he is. Attempting to ‘democratise truth’ – like when it comes to standards of beauty – is always dangerous.
But the truth is that sometimes people, whether ‘as a joke’ or not, attempt to make him feel bad… for being more ‘thin’ than ‘muscular’. And me, being the annoying older sister that I am: I tried to direct him towards the vase of flowers on our table, yesterday. It’s got roses in it, as well as pink flowers, and lilies. Does the presence of beauty, in one of them, do anything to detract from the intrinsic and specific beauty of the others?
[He basically told me to shut up. But then when he wants to show me all his bottle-flips (“Didimoni! Didimoni! LOOK!” reminiscent of him as a baby: “Dannat [he couldn’t pronounce ‘Jannath’ properly], Dannat! YOOK! I do noh-maz [and he pretends to pray, while standing on one end of my bed. And then he starts jumping on the bed]”) I have to… stop anything I am doing, pretty much, in order to look.]
Saif and I, during lockdown last year, would watch certain TV shows together, including one called ‘Free Rein’, on Netflix. It’s about horses, and both little brother and I love horses. In this show, there is a character called Pin. Now, as Muslims, we are meant to ‘lower our gazes’ (and not stare unrestrainedly, lustfully) but… he’s a handsome guy, Masha Allah. And me, trying to explain that: see this guy? Is he handsome or not?
Saif: I’m not gonna comment on that.
Me: Well, he is (Masha Allah). And having a thin physique suits him. Being ‘muscular’ would probably not suit him, and would probably take some of his beauty away.
Saif: *gets annoyed, but oh well*
Maybe the most ‘popular’ thing (these days. These standards ebb and flow, and vary considerably, between times, and places) might be: being ‘muscular’ and tall and whatnot. But, also: it matters that there is much diversity, here, actually, and that different people find beauty in different things. It is not necessarily a thing of numbers. But a thing of: having the right eyes look at you, and think, dang. [In terms of physical and metaphysical being, Masha Allah: what beauty!] Another’s preference of, say, a rose, and even if a rose is the most ‘popular choice’, will (I hope) do nothing to diminish my preference of… I still don’t know what my favourite type of flower is. But… that.
Currently, I am procrastinating from my procrastinating-anyway, by looking up flowers. Agapanthus [‘star of Bethlehem’] is quite pretty. Allim roseum [onion, garlic] too. Alstroemeria [those colours!] and aquilegia [‘Granny’s Bonnet’]. And that’s just out of the As. Is it even possible for me to pick and choose a ‘favourite flower’? Each flower is trés beautiful in its own right, but perhaps when I meet my (at present, latently) favourite ones, I will simply know.
Standards of beauty. Away from objectivity, subjectivities can be some of the most unstable, confusing things ever. What’s ‘in’ right now? Being extremely thin? Or being bigger, ‘curvy’? [In Mauritania, rather like, apparently, in nomadic Arabia, being very big, having tummy rolls, even, is/had been a beauty standard. To the extent where, in Mauritania, women tend to be force-fed lots of food, in order for them to gain lots of weight]. Contrast to here, where ‘fat’ is seen as being synonymous, often, with ‘ugly’. A lot of South Asians, also: if ya ain’t milk-white in skin tone, and tall, with ‘Arab [Persian, I suppose] features’, then how could you be beautiful? While, here, they tend to spray-tan themselves, yearning for more ‘South Asian features’, and while, in Portugal, being ‘short’ is a beauty standard.
Historically, still: bigger nose, smaller lips. ‘The most beautiful woman’, according to olden-days France. Mughal India, I believe: unibrow, beautiful. Here, thick eyebrows used to be, apparently, some of the ‘ugliest’ things, ‘beastly’, even: pencil-thin brows had been ‘in’. And now: it is all about that ‘bold’ thick-brow look, no?
So maybe I need to sink comfortably into the fact that, for instance… I am ‘short’. Small, height-wise. And I think it adds something [maybe this is why people have always tended to say that I’m ‘really fun to annoy’]. Allah has made me, and you, in the best of proportions.
It’s that immature ‘secondary school’ mentality of: singling out, in others, something that is most immediately apparent, of them. And framing it in a negative light, sometimes. Is the aim, then, to ‘sand’ these things down, and for us all to fit neatly into one set of ‘standards’ of beauty? Why would we seek to homogenise something as broad and irreducible, beautiful and beautifully diverse, as human beauty to ‘just one’: some attempted human version of ‘the red rose’?
What we may have been taught to hold as ‘insecurities’: perhaps these are merely things that make us special. Trite but true: we must let ourselves be ourselves — be true before the Almighty, and as ourselves. Like that moment my heart almost cried: a Year Seven student of mine who has vitiligo referred to it as the “butterfly design” on her face: it’s artwork. All of your features, in terms of physicality and character: they fit so wonderfully, upon your face, and as part of your being, body (mind, heart,) and soul.
The way your eyebrows sit, two arches, atop two window-frames. Eyes blue as the ocean, or as dark, as my brother would say, “as my soul”. The way your nose dips a little, and then flicks right off your face. What, exactly, you look like when you are absorbed into the world that sits amid your hands, on your phone.
We are never going to be quite ‘enough’ for this big, wide, spinning, uncertain world. One day: they may claim to ‘love‘ you, and your face and physique, and what you have to offer in terms of who you are. The next day: bigger foreheads are in! Hollow cheeks are out! Be thinner. Be ‘thicker’. Be this, and that: but you will never be enough.
But, for your own world [perhaps, for you, it is: two sisters, a hamster, your grandma, parents, and three friends at work] you are a light of their life, even when you forget it. So long as we are loved within our own worlds, things, we find, are frequently a bit too ‘mad in this Dunya‘, ‘beauty standards’ and all.
Allah made you, Dear Reader, you… work of Divine art [I’m only fake-flirting with you, here, if you’re female].
And didn’t He make you beautiful?
Next: more things I would like to remember.
Recently, I walked into school wearing my Turkish-style blue dress, and the bottom of it goes above my feet. I didn’t realise until being approximately halfway there. We tell our students that their trousers have to cover their ankles; their socks shouldn’t really be on show. And yet… that day… I would have been being a little hypocritical, perhaps, if I’d told anyone that they need to wear longer trousers. Just embarrassing. I walked into the school as quickly as I could, into ye olde staff-room.
And do you know what had been waiting for me, in that staff-room? Miss Kulsuma, whom, the previous day, I had a nice conversation with, over chai and aloo naan and chips [the advice she had given me on things: Masha Allah. Ref: Keep talking to Allah] had brought for me a present, out of the blue. A light blue overcoat, and it fit perfectly, and matched the dress I had been wearing that day… and covered my ankles [the Hebrew version of ‘Alhamdulillah’, apparently: Hallelujah!]
Miss K told me she thinks I have a “beautiful smile”, and I feel like I’m being a bit narcissistic for blogging about this, but no… This made my entire day, and I say it requires documentation!
Next: playing the ‘Freshly Grounded’ cards in the staff room. I learned that [what?!] people don’t actually find me… off-puttingly weird and awkward at all, apparently. Saadia (many people, in this world, share my first name with me) told me she thinks I can connect with anyone, and said that I make everyone feel comfortable. Shareena said she thinks my personality is “Masha Allah” and did an Ace sign. And I realised: how could they see me as off-puttingly weird and awkward when… all the people at that table like to talk to me, and I to them? This mind of mine can be quite wrong in its ‘convictions’! And I should seek the Khayr in all things.
Today, also, I got called aside, into the other office, by one of my supervisors at work. I thought it had been something to do with this data upload that we have to do. But, no:
She, this Assistant Principal with a strong (Masha Allah, in terms of stature and command) presence [when she enters a classroom or a hall, everybody there tends to fall silent. And I know that if I had been a student there who, for any reason, had been shouted at by her… I would probably start crying there and then] had prefaced the conversation with:
“Sadia. You’re a strong woman…”
Long story short, there had been a slug on the carrier bag of the Turkish food that she had ordered into the school, for lunch. And last time, when there had been a spider on someone’s jacket in the main office, lots of people screamed and ran away. I’m not so scared of spiders. Although, when I approached it, I felt a bit apprehensive: what if it suddenly scurried away? [That’s what I’m scared of: the… scurrying. Even the word itself is imitative of how unpleasant the whole sort of motion is.] I asked for a cup (though they gave me a small glass) and a piece of paper. Spiders, upon closer view, are such noble lil creatures, I think.
Slugs, also: harmless, fascinating, and gentle. Kind of graceful, actually. Today, I cut out the patch of carrier-bag it (gender unknown. Hence ‘it’) had been resting on, and took it outside, releasing it into the small flowerbed just before the main foyer of the school. The food: thrown away. I: treated like an actual hero upon walking out.
“So brave!” My other supervisor, while checking in on me while I dealt with the little creature, gave me a nickname today, which I actually quite like. “Saadi”. I mean, I would love for it to stay [nicknames and I. I love nicknames that emerge seemingly out of nowhere, ‘organically’. Nicknames are next-level endearing. Humans are ‘baaaare cute fam’] however, alas… this would appear to be my penultimate week there.
This has been my third time being… pest control [list of roles: teacher, form tutor, Learning Support assistant, and… de facto pest control] at this school. ((Insect whisperer)).
There is goodness — Khayr — in whatever God chooses for us, facial features, height, physique, educational/professional occupations, friends, family, personal skills, and all; what He gifts us, often through other people. Like the truckloads of fruits from our dads, and the conversations with our brothers. Even in things that we would not necessarily have chosen for ourselves, prior to knowing the goodnesses that lie within them. Equally, there is goodness in the fact that Allah stops some things from becoming ours. For reasons that will become clear soon enough. There is Khayr in the waits for things, too. Remember, young-old Sadia Ahmed / whatever your name, dear reader, is: between door and door, remember to praise Allah in the hallway. Good things be coming, Insha Allah. We just absolutely need to trust in the fact that we have a Lord: Most Wise, Most Subtle, Acquainted (and all His other Attributes) Who has our best interests at (metaphorical) heart.
TW if you don’t like looking at slugs:
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.