Sabr and Shukr

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Outside, a spotlight of sunshine shines upon a woman sitting on the steps by the canal, with (who seem to be) her two young daughters. The elder one: her hair frizzy and branching outwards in wisps, like it wants to know things; does not want to stay in one place, still. She seems a little excitable, and maybe they are (maybe half-?) of Moroccan origin; I think her mother (who, also, may not be her mother) is teaching her something, or telling her about something. And the girl seems inquisitive, and the growing cygnets, not quite snow-white just yet, are gliding along the emerald green, as they do.

Motherhood, for instance, as I have learned, through talking to quite a few mothers: it is an unmatchable blessing. Blessing, and joy, after blessing and comfort and joy. And it is also test: pain, unease, tribulation after tribulation.

A mother is one who: soothes, and stays up at night. Makes food, to nourish. Resolves conflicts. Listens. Cleans up messes. Supports, helps, with various things. Teaches and guides. Plays with. A mother is so heavily relied upon [yet, in this often-muddied-by-base-values world, a mother who commits to her role, choosing not to go into full-time economic (paid) labour can often be looked down upon. Yet, in actuality, motherhood is the most demanding and beneficial ‘job’ there is. And it concerns me how thinly women are being stretched these days. In the name of what? For what purpose, and for whose actual benefit?]

There is, additionally, so much about London, and its various pockets: East and West, and the easts and wests of both East and West. Different sides; different stories, and secrets. There is a calmness in the understanding that every human privilege, including the very privilege of being human, comes inextricably with its own unique tasks and burdens. It is not continually characterised by pleasure and enjoyment, which we all seek, for anybody.

“Every good quality entails certain duties and responsibilities that are commensurate with its nature and value.” — Adnan Zarzour

The bigger the blessing, the bigger, also, the test. The greater the test, also, the greater the blessing. This is how it works. With hardship comes ease [Qur’an (94:5)].

To be human means to be higher in (God-given) status than being… an ape, or a pig. To be human is hard.

[To be a Londoner means, Masha Allah, having access to various things: food, views, things to see and do and learn; many people to know. To be a Londoner is… expensive. Choice paralysis, sometimes, FOMO, susceptibility to spirit-destroying distraction, and mental overloads.]

To be Muslim means… everything wonderful that it means, to be Muslim. And: it is hard. Tests, trials, battling desires, being rejected, scoffed at, scorned.

In this world, we are known to desire such things as: money; intelligence; health; comfort/ease of living; friendship; romantic love; beauty; being ‘special’; social status. Each thing, if you have it: a blessing. And each: by nature, acquired with their unique associated tests, tasks, burdens.

Instead of wanting to be somebody else, or in some other place, or something else:

thank you Allah, for who I am, and for what my life is like.

[You can’t really want what you don’t really know.]

“And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself.” — Qur’an, (27:40)

“If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour].” — Qur’an, (14:7)

Always, there are tensions at play, and conflicts, and tuggings. This is central to humanity: dichotomies. Sometimes, life’s hardships can feel… almost biblical — Qur’anic — in nature and in weight. The important thing is to try to have Sabr, and to be steadfast. Recently I have learned that, apparently, some derivative words from ‘Sabr’ had been, in classical Arabic, used to refer to mountains: firm and steadfast, unwavering. And to the weights that would be put on boats: to help them stay balanced, and afloat. And to cattle, in their continued continuity: returning to a particular place, at an expected time. Repeatedly, and steadfast and consistently.

To be grateful for who we are, sure and certain that we love our Deen, and whom Allah has made us; these roles, which make up these lives, of ours, with a mountainous weight. Unwavering. To love, and to thank Allah, for what is ours, and for what we have. It is one of the highest ranks of faith: to be grateful. Even when the Nafs might beckon us towards desire and ingratitude: the Nafs must be fought against. The Nafs: those desires get hungrier the more we go to feed them. The soul: the more appreciative we are, the more it is nourished.

It takes the cultivation of strength and might, by God’s grace. And it is more than worth it;

we should seek to find the Khayr in all things.

Today I read the following line in a newspaper: “Each new meritocracy has a way of hardening into a new aristocracy.” And there is much to be gleaned, from this. Like how easy it is, to become complacent, and then indolent and haughty. Tests and trials humble us, keep us in a state of constant effort and attempts at renewal, and meaningful activity.

We have our own blessings, and we cannot keep others out, from being able to share in the goodness. Our talents and wealth and knowledge and such: we have got to keep them active, and beneficial (warm, and illuminated), and not merely as egoic things, greedy collections, which will help us to enact ‘superiority’ over others. ‘Keep it real, keep it humble’: on the ground, connected to Truth, and moving. Worship Allah, serve His creation [thus exhibiting Sabr and Shukr] unfailingly, and goodness will be returned to you, in multiplied and augmented ways, Insha Allah.

[Sabr: sour, sometimes, like lemons. Shukr: sweet like nice oranges. And my (eight-year-old) brother Saif, who writes little notes on my things sometimes… Masha Allah, these wise annotations are kind of very apt:]


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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