Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Oh, what does it mean, to be human? Is it to be split, between two sides, for example when one’s cat brings home an injured budgie: attempted prey? This happened at our house fairly recently. My brother loves his cat so (Masha Allah) and the little man also loves… animals in general. We searched on YouTube to find out what this bird’s particular breed had been. White, and with a pop of bluish purple.

It had blood on its wings, and in our eyes, the cat had done a bad thing. In Safi’s [the cat’s] eyes, he had only been playing with something that had ‘meant’ to be his prey. ‘Bad cat!’ or… good cat. Your animal instincts are functioning well. [The bird was later rescued by the… I get mixed up between the RSPB and the RSPCA sometimes.]

Human beings are different, however. We have the more animalistic potential. We have those things through which we have been ennobled, Alhamdulillah, by God. We speak, and we reason. We eat fruits, among other things, yet need not engorge ourselves, so as to store nutrients. We do not go into hibernation; how different we are, from beasts and cats. And, yet: how similar we could quite be. ‘Potential’ is the word, perhaps.

A few days ago, my first cousin got married; our aunt who is a very maternal figure to us all (Allahummabārik — may Allah bless our relationships) got to walk with him and his wife through a garden. The day after, I believe, that same aunt attended a Janāzah (a funeral). One of her in-laws (her husband’s grandmother) had passed away. And, on that same day: her husband’s sister had been in labour. She has since given birth to a boy (Masha Allah).

These things take time, sure. The days can feel like they are passing slowly, and when do things ‘happen’? Yet, day in, day out, as we grow, small parts of ourselves are also in decay. It’s easy to be in denial about these things; easy to forget, and to be distracted. Life can take its time; the process of getting married can take time; being in labour… seems like it can take its time. [Here, I wish I could explain the theory of relativity in technical terms. But I think I can explain it simply: time seems like it is going excruciatingly slow when… you are giving birth.]

I really enjoy spending time at home. Recently I came across a verse in the Qur’an in which Allah advised the women of the Prophet (SAW)’s household to stay within their homes. A closer linguistic look reveals that the word used is ‘Qarnun’: from a root word meaning ‘attached’, ‘connected’, ‘with’ [it also means ‘horn’. Horns are things that are attached to the heads of animals]. It does not mean that we should not leave — when it is with purpose. But there is something so generally wonderfully feminine and… liberating, about being attached to our homes. [By contrast, during the lockdowns, it was interesting to see how much men could not stand to remain within their homes, generally].

These days, I find, sometimes when I am home by myself, and it is dark and quiet: I get this feeling. It quietly terrifies me, and yet it is reality: I think, I might just die now. My heart could be arrested; I could easily fall into that stupor that comes with that finality now. And then what? Am I ready? It’s easy to experience the graveness of these moments. And then: to sort of forget about them for any while, while this life carries on.

When, where, how, and with whom around: sometimes the specifics are not essential. The essences though: someone died, someone was born, someone was ill, and another got married.

Recently I came across something in which someone had said something about ‘makeshift beds’. Some people do sleep on mattresses; some sleep on sofas, as a result of a lack of space within their homes. Some sleep in beds that are made every single day, and with frames, and with their ways of doing things, day in, day out, and as precise-feeling-as-possible.

Our homes here are makeshift, however, no matter what. Even if we rely on these impressions of having ‘control’ over things: there is actually only so much we can ever have control over. Things turn and change so quickly. My cousin has a wife who lives with him now (Masha Allah) and their nuclear family must adapt to having a new member within the household. My uncle (Sweetie’s husband, Mama) does not have a paternal grandma anymore; his father has lost his mother, while going through a period of sickness himself. Khala (Sweetie’s sister-in-law) has a new son now: a baby brother for little baby Zidan. Nanu, Khala, Sofu (Sofia) and Zaahir had to go straight from the Janāzah, to Khala’s house, which is across the road from Mazhar’s. So: a short walk between Janāzah, incoming-baby home, and new-marital home. Life really is… something alright.

It moves quickly, and this is it. Some things, and people, help to make it all bearable, and beautiful. Like… the random bit of knowledge, for instance, that the Arabs are sometimes known as ‘Ahlul Daad’ (‘the people of the letter ‘ض’’, which represents a strong ‘d’ sound of sorts that, apparently, is specific to the Arabic language). I asked my aunt Farzana Fufu what might be specific to Bengalis, so that we might be able to call ourselves the people of ___________. She said ‘tigers’. We are the tiger people.

My new Bhabi (cousin-sister-in-law, Sadia) had an interesting dynamic at her parents’ home: their next-door-neighbours and they have lived beside one another for around sixteen years, apparently. They are like family, Masha Allah. The two girls from next door were bridesmaids, essentially, at Sadia’s wedding. It is like both homes are theirs, and like both families are one.

I think I’ve had enough of looking at things I think I might want, by way of ‘liberation’ or something. It’s like that time I’d been really looking forward to going that part of Spain. From the brochures and things: it looks amazing. Sure, parts of it had been nice, and yet… I suppose I had been looking for ‘life’ and sense somewhere, and then someone [I think they had been Moroccan] had sent his two little daughters, maybe, over to where we had been sitting, to say Salaam to us. Islam has always felt like home to me, Masha Allah, even in those less ‘direct-seeming’ ways.

When I was born, and when I have been sick. And when I might get married, and when I will die. There will be different people in this life of mine, and I will encounter different places too. No matter what though, I hope,

Insha Allah,

in my heart, as a Muslim, I’ll be right at Home.

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Journey to the Heart of Islam: ز

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

“My aunts call me an extremist. Because I wear the hijāb and support Palestine.”*

ز [an Arabic letter. ‘Z’] lives in South-East London. Born to a white British mother and an Egyptian (Muslim, but not practising) father, 17-year-old she accepted Islam earlier this year, in January. She would watch Islamic YouTube videos, and her eyes – indicative of a pure and sincere heart, Masha Allah – would start welling up with tears. The change had come as a little bit of a shock to her family members.

ز had attended a secondary school at which the majority of the populace is of Irish/traveller origin; there are also many students there who are EDL-supporters. Apparently, many of the traveller students have themselves become EDL-supporters: it is, unfortunately, frequently the case that minority groups ‘turn’ on other minority groups, if it means gaining acceptance, and having a scapegoat outside of themselves to debase.

These days, she often visits the London Central Masjid (Regent’s Park) in order to worship, talk to people, and to peruse the little bookshop on the ground floor there. She has connected with other revert sisters (via social media) and finds a lot of love and comfort at her paternal auntie (Hana)’s home; her auntie’s husband, she says, treats her as though he is her real uncle too.

ز visited Egypt once, at a young age, but has not returned since. An auntie from the Masjid (who is of Moroccan origin) has also approached her to see if she would be interested in marrying her (the auntie’s) son… ز has, however, politely declined this proposal.

To get her questions answered, ز sees the mosque’s Shaykh. She has a strong belief in the importance of compassion in Islam [after all, this is the Muhammadan way] and also believes in taking Deen seriously. For example, although her friends may casually talk to boys, she does not. She loves to pray Salāh; I think she finds much peace and joy in it.

What inspires me about ز is her (gentle-but-determined) determination, Masha Allah, and her keen generosity of spirit. She, this seventeen-year-old woman, found Islam ― or, rather, Allah had chosen her specifically. At home, for example, it must be hard: ز’s parents do not live together, and she lives with her (non-Muslim) mother, and with her mother’s partner, and with her (ز’s) sister, who is also not Muslim. In front of her mother’s partner, ز wears her headscarf. She takes Islam seriously; she is finding her place in it, Alhamdulillah.

We visited an Islamic charity shop together, and she had picked out a book of Islamic names and their meanings to buy. She also found some very nice headscarves to get, from good old Whitechapel Market. We had eaten lunch together at a Halal Korean (at least, I think it had been Korean) restaurant, and then ز had insisted on getting me some headscarves, in return for the food [a cultural thing I seem to have inherited: if you invite someone somewhere, you pay. Little battles to pay the bill tend to ensue]. I mean, she insisted-insisted on getting me those scarves. I wore one of them (blue in colour) on my mountain hike this month. I make Du’a that ز is, and becomes, one of the best of us Muslims.

In the future, ز would like to work at an Islamic Montessori school, Insha Allah. I reckon children would love her, Masha Allah. Like her little cousin Ibrahim: the clever little four-year-old (Allahummabārik) who watches shows like Catchphrase, at this age, and who seems to like… astutely questioning things (rather like the Prophet Ibrahim AS, who had a tendency to intelligently question things, even from a very young age, Masha Allah).

Recently, ز attended an event on the specific topic of ‘Prophetic and Productive’ mornings, where she learnt about how Muhammad (SAW) would spend his mornings, and about Salat ud-Duha.

• ز’s current status on WhatsApp: “Say Alhamdulillah <3″

*Quotations may be slightly paraphrased and not 100% verbatim, since I am writing them from memory.

Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is Most Knowing of the [rightly] guided.” — Qur’an (28:56)

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Where Pink Meets Blue

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

I have a twenty-year-old cousin who is getting married tonight, Insha Allah [at the time of writing that part]. He, one Mazhar Alam, from his home: one of the Imāms of the East London Mosque is going to be conducting it, Insha Allah. And she, his wife-to-be, Sadia Akthar: from her home.

A sacred declaration: I agree to the terms; I agree to be bound to you, in this way; to care for you, and to be true.

With Allah as our Witness,

and with these very people as our witnesses.

The atmosphere, with the gazebo in the garden, felt calm. And cute. And ‘soulful’; infused with something lovelily ‘spiritual’. Like something is happening, bloom, and yet… it’s real life continued, all at the same time. And now, pink and blue have met, and now they have, in a way, merged into one.

I would say that I am just such a romantic cynic. It is strange how the two inclinations can coexist: it seems as though the inherent romanticism in the way I think does not really seem to conflict with these more ‘overthinking’ cynical parts, and vice versa. Dear readers of this blog, I know I have spoken about marriage a lot, and for that I… half-apologise, half-don’t at all, actually.

I just know that marriage has been ‘prescribed’ for us, and that mankind has been made for it: something beneficial, something beautiful, even though it gets difficult too. Ādam and Eve, and every pair that has walked the earth since.

In a spouse, one is meant to find repose, mercy and compassion, and affection. A human being has spiritual, emotional, and physical and material yearnings, wants, needs: generally, a man is in want of a woman, and a woman is in want of a man.

I just know that it is somewhere between the uglier parts of Dunya: the sad and the empty; it is not wholly ‘fairytale‘ either, since both bride and groom are holistic human beings. To paraphrase something my uncle said (when he had been asked to do a speech at a garden party at Mazhar’s house) he said that… both of you have your strengths. Both of you (certainly) have your shortcomings. But seek the Khayr (goodness) always, and Allah is your Protector.

It’s a[nother] challenge as well as blessing: can’t have one without the other. I speak as though I have experience with being married. I do not. But based off of what the experienced have taught me.

If a man values a woman, and is committed to her, he seeks Nikkah with her, in lieu of the stuff of uncertainty, a-religion, and secrecy. [Women are allowed to propose to men they like too!].

I think my cousin Mazhar is doing quite a brave thing, Masha Allah. Others in the community seem to have been talking about it. This is Sunnah, and it’s good to go ahead when the time feels right, even in the presence of certain worries and such; keeping it simpler and easy tends to bring much in terms of good. And I know that Allah returns goodness with much more goodness. For example, even if one is concerned about lacking the financial means to get married: trust in God regardless. In Islamic history, there have been individuals who had such fears. But they did the Halāl, advisable thing; turned away from Zinaa’ and indecency. Honoured themselves, and women. And Allah was Sufficient; He boosted them in wealth, goodness, and whatever else.

I know that it is somewhat rare to hear of twenty-year-olds getting married these days, in these parts of the world. But: in spite of current institutions and modes of thinking that seek to keep us infantilised and irresponsible, seemingly for as long as possible… we hit maturity when we physically, evidently do. [Look into your history books, to see examples of nineteen-year-olds and such who have done extraordinary things, Masha Allah]. We become capable. And everything from then onwards is a constant journey of growth, development, learning: even in marriage. Maybe even especially therein. You continue to live [real] life, and now together.

It seems as though so many in my community adhere to the mentality that… people ‘must’ go through the popularly-accepted ‘stages of life’ before ‘settling down’ to get married. College, three or so years of university. Work, take your time with ‘potentials’, save up tons of money, and only then, after ‘youth’ can come the ‘more serious stuff’.

But marriage, when done right, is less end and more beginning; also, typically, when people are presented with responsibilities, we tend to adapt in order to take them on [e.g. my cousin Mazhar ― the groom ― towards his three younger siblings, Masha Allah]. There are Muslim couples who had secured their Nikkah at the ages of, say, seventeen and eighteen. Twenty and twenty. When you are ready to take care of another, and of yourself, you are ready. You will not ever be ‘perfect’, and nor will they. But the principles of Nikkah in Islam are so timelessly elegant and wise; for the right person, by God’s Will, you’ll be sufficiently ‘ready’. With your [necessary, human] insecurities, flaws, fears and all. [And your strengths. Let’s give due consideration to these too!]

Islamically, generally, the man has certain obligations — duties to carry out — towards the woman [e.g. to provide for her in terms of clothing, food, and home (although sometimes it so happens that the woman is wealthier than he, so I think we can conclude that such things are not actually requirements. Circumstances can vary). And to be kind to her: a requirement, certainly]. And while the woman has certain responsibilities towards her husband. Rights and responsibilities; the checks and the balances.

You can study together, at the same time [just as my cousin and his wife-to-be shall do, Insha Allah. Formally, he studies Economics, while she studies Creative Writing, Masha Allah. Last night, a relative of ours had (jokingly) made fun of studying English at uni, talking about what’s ‘wrong’ with it. Mazhar’s response: “I don’t care. My wife’s studying English!” And: woah. He called her his wife, and it was newly true, in that moment, Masha Allah!]. You can travel. Build things: a business, maybe. Be ‘childish’ (i.e. core-ishly human) together; be open [I’m not so fond of the word ‘vulnerable’. So: real, open]. Live this life [while remembering that… Dunya is Dunya. This is not Jannah], continued, and yet anew, together. True liberation is found in being tethered to, bound to, all the right things. Deen, family; the institution of marriage, which is family’s cornerstone. Liberation cannot be found in egoistic careerism, or in loose relationships here and there. There is liberation, and there is loneliness/the stuff that is spiritually quite empty: sometimes each thing seems like its other, but as I have learnt: things are certainly not always what they seem.

The Lead-Up

There are cultural variations when it comes to marriage. But, as Muslims: so long as we are ‘enjoining what is good; forbidding what is evil’. Bengali Muslims: first may come the courtship period. Perhaps: an initial approach. Meetings, with the woman’s Walī (guardian) present. To move further:

The families meet. Each side, in turn, goes over to the other’s, bearing food and gifts, typically. They meet, have tea and conversations; family members are introduced to one another.

If both sides would like to continue, then talks regarding the marriage. Venue, attire, maybe. Food considerations, Mahr. The bride may want to have a Mendhi party [my Bhabi – cousin-sister-in-law – had a women’s-only one, and without music. It is impressive, Masha Allah, when people determinedly stick to their Islamic principles]. And then: Nikkah, and Walīma [i.e. the gathering for… you guessed it… food!]

I am not sure if this is what is always done, but based on what I’ve seen during different family weddings this does seem to be tradition, and I quite like it: the bride’s side gifts the groom’s with his clothes for the day. Maybe: a watch, too. Shoes, and other things. The groom’s side might gift the bride: her clothes, makeup, jewellery, and some other gifts, before the big day, that moment.

Generally, the day after the wedding/Walīma, the bride’s side (in Bengali tradition) takes food over to the groom’s. Breakfast platters: enough for everybody. My aunt (Sweetie) does such an amazing job with these things, Masha Allah Allahummabārik. Homemade food, exquisite gift/food hampers. And that next night, I think: ‘Nayor’. When the bride and her husband return to the bride’s family’s home, to stay over.

Oh, and, traditionally [Bengali, not necessarily a universally ‘Muslim’ thing:] the homes of the bride and groom are decorated; inside, sometimes, and also outside, with fairy lights, and a gate (a decorated archway) sometimes. And when someone comes to another’s house for the first time, they get a cup of milk. Married couples entering a relative’s house as a married couple, for instance: you tend to get milk with rose-y syrup mixed in it. Today, post-‘Akht’ (Nikkah declaration) Mazhar went over to Sadia[not I but the other one]’s house, where he and his ‘boys’ he’d been accompanied by gave their family Mishti (Bengali sweets) and were given crystal glasses of milk to drink. Mazhar spoke with Sadia. We ate with the women; I was super awkward (in my own head at least), and at one point sought to fill the ‘awkward silence’ by explaining that when I (Insha Allah) get married, since Mazhar has declared that ‘initiation into this family for men is dependent on their ability to beat him in a physical fight’, I’d prefer for my person (Insha Allah) to verse Mazhar in chess instead. True strength is up here *points to brain. Or at the mind in general*.

Sadia’s brother did a fireworks display outside; some families stood outside on their balconies, and on the street, to watch. One woman, standing with her family, thanked us for the display, and yelled out her enthused congratulations. [Another woman had not been happy about it though… Admittedly, understandably so: ’twas quite late.]

Mazhar and I

‘grew up together’. He is three months older than I, and he was my ‘best friend’ and my first ‘brother’. We had twin highchairs, twin toys, matching clothes sometimes. I have been hospitalised at least three times as a child [1. plastic sword in the eye. 2. ‘Spider-Man stair climb’. 3. golf ball in the eye] because of him. Apparently, once [when we were much younger] I punched him in the face and busted his nose, but I have no real recollection of that. It’s strange that now we are older, and we sort of naturally drifted apart. We were at the same school together and, for the most part, in the same classes — from Nursery to Year Eleven. Strange times (in such a good way, Masha Allah), to see him get married. We — Mazhar, Tamanna, I, and the rest — are older now. [Are we wiser though? I think I am still kind of the same…]. We’re living these lives of ours, and with adult-y autonomy and all. Those days are long-gone, memories. Strange: whom do we become, from these points onwards? [A big part of whom we end up becoming, growing into being: whom our spouses end up being, no doubt.]

The Big Day

The bride’s side wore pink: a sort of light-dusty pink, for the most part at least. Our side wore navy blue (for the most part, at least). In the morning, we gathered at Mazhar’s. Outside, there had been a quite-big cluster of Mazhar’s friends: two from our primary school, two from our secondary school, a few from Youth Council, and a few presumably from his sixth form [in terms of being at the same school, after Year Eleven, we parted ways. In the kindest way possible, I felt I… had to experience school without my first cousin being there.]

Family members gathered at the house. We took our cars: some hired [Mazhar had hired a GTR]. Some: my dad’s mini-van. But with a navy blue ribbon at the front. Not quite a sports car [my brother Saif took my space in the back of the GTR. Insha Allah, on his wedding day, I shall firmly request a space in the Lambo or whatever else, reminding him of that time he took my space in a sports car] but… it did the job of comfortable transportation, Masha Allah.

I spent time with Fifa (Nazifah, my good friend Tamanna’s sister. Tamanna had grown up alongside Mazhar and me too, but she had other commitments today, so here I am, writing a blog article about it for her to read Insha Allah) and with my paternal cousins Priya and Alisha. And with my maternal second cousins, later on, in the marquee: Jameelah. Ibrahim, Ayyub, and my first cousin Moosa: entertainment, no doubt. My goodness, how similar they are. Daneen: what a sweetheart, Masha Allah. She has my heart. Today I discovered that Jameelah and her siblings are actually… half-Bengali, a quarter Palestinian, and a quarter Sudanese.

A big thing from today, Masha Allah, amid quite a bit of… awkward standing around: talking to Daneen [what a beautiful name too, right?]. She’s seven years old currently. Ibrahim took flowers off of the walls of the marquee; I made some flower crowns out of them for the younger girls: my little flower-crown ‘stall’. Princess Daneen (who wants her siblings and she to have a family mansion in the future. Insha Allah. ‘The Naeem Mansion’) has little icons of Princess Mulan on the sides of her glasses. Her favourite princesses are Mulan and Merida. She is so adorable, Masha Allah, Allahummabārik. Today she complimented my scarf and called me “really pretty”. I record this because it was so sweet: my seven-year-old cousin, I love her. And it means something additional because in much of Bengali culture, the beauty ‘standard’ is: being quite fair, having a ‘white’ complexion [to the idiotic point where people unfortunately see ‘dark’ as being the opposite of ‘pretty’. It disgusts me so], having a soft ‘baby face’, and… being of medium height, maybe. Neither I nor she quite meet these standards: we’re just… us. And things can be looked at through different ways of looking. I hope Daneen grows up knowing that she is beautiful, inside and out, Insha Allah; as her big cousin, I feel I have this love-driven duty towards her.

Furthermore, people can be cruel, and… drama-instigating. For seemingly no worthy reason whatsoever; the best thing for us to do, maybe, in response is to be quite polite and firm at the same time. Jameelah told me today that it isn’t necessarily a ‘Bengali thing’: there’s quite mean stuff that goes on in the Arab side of her family too. Depends on individual people: depends on our choices.

The venue had been one Ariana Gardens in Essex; ‘Sultan Event Caterers’. Complete with a nice garden (as its name accurately indicates) and a pond. Two floors: conservatory-like. There is such elegance in simplicity, Masha Allah. Tall glasses of juices; music-less. Delicious food. Walked around; prayed upstairs. Said Salaam to various extended family members. Watched as Mazhar and Bhabi walked together, now intertwined. They fit together like a glove, Masha Allah: Allah’s Wisdom.

Flowers, and glass that let the sunshine stream in. Children playing, in their Sherwanis and dresses [oh my goodness, seeing my brother in his navy Sherwani… my heart. Practically on the floor: I could melt: an overwhelming cuteness, Allahummabārik.]. A good day, all in all, Masha Allah.

As the cars streamed in, one of Mazhar’s friends distributed blue-coloured smoke bombs, so the drivers did those from their windows. Including my dad, who is quite timelessly young at heart, Masha Allah. I liked that there was a pretty designated women’s section, upstairs. I liked how… bronze and elegant the big mirror had been, facing the stairs.

And for the first time [in forever] I didn’t wear any makeup to a wedding. Not even a touch, and I firmly believe that Allah created womankind beautiful. But there are forces at play, which seek to convince us that… whatever we are, or have, we should seek other than that, mask and present a different face. One might want… eyes like yours, perhaps, so makeup is used to ‘achieve’ them. While you ‘should’ seek eyes that no longer look like yours anymore. I promise you, made by the Best of Creators, you are beautiful, and now all we have to do in that regard is take good care of our health and beauty.

This morning, I made a concoction using a green-teabag and some honey [remnants from tea. Zero waste, or as little as possible]. Some olive oil. And some rosehip scar oil serum [by Balmonds]. And I think: some Holland and Barrett’s sunflower Vitamin E oil too. Mixed it all together, and applied. Think it worked, Masha Allah. ‘Natural makeup’. Perhaps the chemicals in makeup-makeup end up seeping into, and gradually destroying, our skin in the long-run, forcing us to ‘rely’ on it even more.

I also [properly-ish] met my little cousin Badr. And baby Khalilah. I had a brief conversation with Mazhar’s friends: the quick ‘catch-up’ stuff. I sat with Nabeelah and her sisters; with Jameelah. Jameelah: strange how I never knew that she is this wonderful, Masha Allah: her name means ‘beautiful’, and she just is, Allahummabārik. She called me a creep today [turns out she has a mean sense of humour like Maryam and…me sometimes too]: I completely am. Turns out that she doesn’t really think I’m ‘weird’ in a bad way: she said she thinks she vibes with me well. Previously, I’d known she’s nice and all, but today I think I properly got to know her better. And I realised that beyond my silly insecurities that she and those cousins of mine would think me… off-puttingly weird somehow… everyone has their insecurities, in various, generally-hidden and often-surprising ways. Because things, generally, are not what they, without adequate investigation, consideration, listening ears and hearts and minds, granted to them, seem. And everyone is ‘weird’; quite a bit of it is masked away, before various social groups. Turns out Moosa (who knows both of us pretty well I think) thinks Ibrahim is actually weirder than I am [what?!]; today I sort of got a glimpse as to why… I do think higher expectations are culturally placed on girls though… to be more ‘proper’, and less… ‘talk-about-able’. Cyclical ‘toxicity’. And while boys can be a little more openly ‘strange’, without much in terms of social consequences.

Either way: this generation is the adult one now. We can change things! ‘Be yourself’ (within moral boundaries, of course). Best thing to do, and then others might feel more comfortable to do the same, in their own ways, too.

Being in love

is not being in lust. ‘Love’ is when you see somebody’s holistic humanity far better: how they are, say, right when they wake up. What they’re like when they feel angry; when there are natural pauses, silences, between you. When you are far better-acquainted with their necessary flaws [yet, you, hopefully, still determinedly seek out, commit to, the Khayr, which is hopefully there].

To love is… first, to know, and see. Deeply, and widely. And then: to smile upon, and to know you love. To see, and smile at. Not just a glimpse, and not just a shallow smile. Love is something that runs deep, and thus I can not blame the people who hold that there is no ‘love before marriage’ for thinking so. If love were trees: maybe lust is only a bough of green, green leaves. Love: the strength and effectiveness of all the root networks, which run deep beneath.

Love sees your goodness even when you do not. Encourages you to be better, also.

Did you know, for instance, that every single human being is essentially… pitiable, weak, unsure, grieving and afraid? Men, and their weaknesses, and what they cannot do; women without makeup [literal and figurative] on. And that a spouse is someone who comes to know your ‘pitiabilities’, pathologies, particularities and preferences, and personal goodnesses, best, and a good spouse is one who will guard your secrets, and who will beautify your character; be a good representation of you, before others.

Me: I’m going to try to not think about marriage or anything. Until someone nice nicely asks for my Walī’s details, maybe (or will I be the proposer? It remains to be seen). The main things to seek: good Deen and good character. [Being handsome, smart and funny and interesting might be useful qualities too though!]. In a human ― and not in any ‘super-human’ ― way: you have your flaws, and they have theirs too. Sigh. Between a-trusting cynicism and excessive romanticism. Somewhere quite in between.

Also: “you’re [actually] single until you get married”; you don’t know them until thou liveth with them.

Incidentally, I seem to have had certain ‘ideals’ in terms of my place in social spheres. To do things ‘right’; to be super comfortable in crowds, but I scarcely ever am. To be more outgoingly ‘elegant’, and to ‘care less’. ‘Be okay’ ‘all the time’. For whose eyes, though? Because yet: I think I care much, and much prefer those individual ‘small’ interactions, which are quite big not necessarily by way of ‘social reputation’ or anything else. But they end up being quite big in my heart, if that makes much sense at all. I so love it when people are ‘low-key’ and Islamically-inclined, among other things, so why not afford a similar sort of approval to myself? Shukr lillah: for these things. I just need to cultivate better ways of looking upon them. Upon how Allah has made our faces, and within what comes together to construct our personalities: there is Khayr, and I must learn to determinedly seek it.

After the wedding meal, at Mazhar’s house, we had to stand outside to throw rose petals at the arriving bride and groom. They were given milk, and some Mishti [AKA Mithai, AKA Desi sweet treats], and went and sat on the stage seat (which Sweetie had DIY-ed and then spray-painted, I believe. It’s already been used for another wedding, or maybe two). We ate cake, and there was chit-chat.

Bhabi went to her new room to relax a little, maybe. Last night, Sweetie had decorated it for them (as per tradition). Rose petals and things. We barely did anything, but she had still given the credit to us.

Nikkah is something solemn, and beautiful. Freeing, and binding, and where Pink meets Blue. Value, honour, and commitment; “it is bloody hard” at times. It is very real, and the Dunya is cold, and while Allah describes spouses as being like clothes for one another, in the Qur’an.

Now, I am tired and in the process of processing things more, I guess. Khala (Tamanna’s mum) ended up dropping me off home in her car. We had a good conversation about things. I love that I’m growing up, and with the right people with me, Masha Allah. I hope to pray Tahajjud more, inspired by this conversation. That things can get quite hard at times, and do not forget to seek the Khayr in all things.

What is Truth?

What is Beauty?

What is Goodness?

Such important questions, and their answers are everything, and Nikkah is done before Truth, in Beauty, and it is a Good thing. Reminds me of flowers and nice clothes and hearty embraces, you know?

[May Allah bless my cousin and his wife, and put much Barakah into their marriage, Āmeen.]

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

At The Airport

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

At the airport, there are open cafés and sitting areas; people lined up, sitting on horizontal metal poles, since so many of the chairs and benches are already taken up. WH Smith sells sandwiches; magazines; books. Some people have brought with them their Kindles. Others buy books for £9.99 or so. Water. Toiletries from Boots: those mini ones. Somewhat extortionately priced, here at the airport.

Burberry scarves, and bags. Duty-Free Toblerones, and perfumes, and all the rest. You get: one bag, on your back. And another bigger one, perhaps to roll along. Some people do this ‘travel’ thing so often that they seem to have perfected the art of rolling their suitcases along. Dressing for the role: stylish-but-comfortable clothes, coffee flask, neck pillow. Faces that say: “I’m kind of really tired, you know? A little disorientated, but… I’ll get there.”

She posts another picture onto Instagram anyway. In it, she looks energised. Off it, she seems disgruntled as she tries to locate the perfect filter for it.

Everywhere you look, pretty much, there are people. All sorts. Two-year-olds, maybe, talking to their big siblings. Babyccinos. The elderly, and wheelchairs. There is a prayer room; flights being announced, on blinking screens overhead. Plane to Russia; Thailand; China; France. Criss-crossing paths.

Some: returning, with souvenirs and memories in tow. Some: going, with expectations, and goals. To see grandma, or to spend a week or two at the family farm. Airports: the wannabe-philosopher within me yearns to say how they are such… liminal spaces. Between origin and destination.

Human beings conversing, over coffee, maybe. Bleary-eyed, and in waiting. Keeping busy; eating; knowing that they are Elsewhere-bound. Some ‘let loose’ a little; act like this place is sort of less ‘liminal’, less airport, and more ‘home’. “We’ve got ages to go until the plane comes,”

might say the person who is not yet aware of how quickly the time is passing. Under these white lights, and amid all the chatter. Plane to __________ boarding now. And he has to up and leave. Higher and higher, and most of it, he finds, he must leave behind.

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Warm Hearts

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

I have a friend who is accepting Islam, on her own terms, Insha Allah; her mother is Muslim, and she (my friend) fasts during Ramadān and such. And maybe now is her time. I do think that it is powerfully through people – guided by the One who Guides – that we find it. And sometimes, trauma — negative experiences associated with ‘religious people’ — can threaten to get in the way of this. The fact of the matter is: people can be abusive. People can claim to have religious authority; use the books of Hadīth they have memorised, as reasons to bolster their own egos. And for themselves to feel more powerful, more ‘legitimate’ in the ostensible ‘monopolies over religion’ they seem to have built for themselves:

Some people need to be ‘kept out’. How are you Muslim? You don’t even know how to read the Qur’an!

The key word there, my friend, might just be yet. Yet. There is so much that I, and you, do not know. Don’t we so hope that the missing word there is yet?

If only you knew how badly she had been mistreated. What her heart has felt; what girls who seemed ‘religious’, perhaps, no less, had said to her, upon wrapping a headscarf around her head. I know it can feel mountainous. Like there is a whole… classical Arabic to learn, maybe. Books, upon books, upon books. Matters of jurisprudence, one after the other. [And we rely on Allah, to direct us towards our answers.]

I say: it really is blessing, when you think about it enough. This life — journey, no doubt — only ends for us when it does. Like the eighty-something-year-old who memorised the Qur’an, at that noble age. Or: the seventeen-year-old who is trying to pronounce those Islamic terms in Arabic better. The twenty-year-old who got her own mat to pray on yesterday. Deep green, and Allah cares about the hearts that care. Whether your journey, at this point, is looking like: learning the Arabic alphabet. Or analysing Sahih Bukhari. Or that one Islamic saying that is playing on your mind over and over.

How exciting: how much there is, to be found. ‘Drop by drop’, and moderately, and we will be guided if Allah so wills; may the rewards from our efforts be multiplied, as the stuff of goodness often is (Masha Allah).

Joining the ISOC, even though you might be scared; even if there are some who seem like they may not ‘approve’ of you [who are they?!]. A pound given to charity; a smile at your sister. Visiting someone who is unwell, with a bag of fruits.

Quality and warmth over ‘quantities’ and cold-hearted little battles of the ego, surely. What use is reams upon reams of knowledge if it is, in the end, demonstrating no benefit towards your heart? Is it making us more humble before Allah, or less? Will you accept that you, too, had been lost without Islam once?

Allah guides whom He wills. At age forty, eleven, twenty-five or sixteen. Jamaican, Egyptian, Bengali, English. Rich; poor, whether in good health or not. Things can become quite lonely for us, and for them. The best we can do is offer help to people where we can, extend love and warmth, hoping that similar (and Better, from Allah) shall be offered in return to us;

actions are but by intention [Hadīth] and Allah looks at the states of our hearts.

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Sam: Religion and Social Anxiety

Hello Sam; Assalamu ‘alaikum.

Thank you for your kind words about my blog. Interestingly enough, I’ve been thinking about deleting it recently… in order to ‘start anew’. But perhaps I’ll keep this one. I sometimes worry that my articles — sometimes an avalanche — are something of a mess.

I understand you on the religion front. Alhamdulillah, at this point, at the age of twenty, I am certain that Islam is the Truth. But, although I was born to religious parents, I did struggle with questions and such. Quite a lot, actually. If eighteen-year-old I were to read my current writings, I think she’d find them quite hard to relate to, too. I’m quite inclined towards ‘abstract, philosophical’ thoughts and ideas. I also very much love language; these things brought me to Islam. As I’ve mentioned in a previous piece of writing: if and when it happens, it has to speak to your mind and heart specifically. I was truly lost and confused for a while; full of questions. And I truly believe that Allah guides anybody who sincerely asks.

I too struggled with notions of religious community. It took a great deal of ‘finding myself’ to get to where I am now, Alhamdulillah. For example: fearing judgement, and things like this. And now I just think: other people don’t ‘own’ Islam. But good friends, and a good community helps. I’d say these points are linked to the following:

Once you start coming into, or in a way returning to, your authentic self, more authentic connections tend to ensue (Alhamdulillah).

Social anxiety. I’ve struggled with it too. It was hyper-sensitivity for me. Being so hyper-aware of things; of changes in tone, facial expression; noticing people looking, even from far away. Feeling very tense and self-conscious. Sensitivity, surely, has its pros and cons. I’m almost sure that your sensitivity, for example, is what has also led to your being a writer.

At points of major stress in my life, my social anxiety became very, very bad. Allah has got me to where I am now, Alhamdulillah. One thing that helped was this: noticing that there are little children who remind me of myself at that age. I think about their personality traits, and about how… my first instinct is never to disapprove of them for being whom they are. I really think our original selves are shown in our first seven years. Who were you then? And why, perhaps, are you not okay with being him anymore?

On the sensitivity note, I felt overwhelmed in bustling ‘office-like’ environments. Yet, when I worked in a less ‘corporate’ place, things got easier. Favouring less over-stimulating places. It took time, of course. A Moroccan proverb I quite like: “drop by drop, the river rises”.

Furthermore, I’ve found it rather interesting how people I never really would have thought experienced ‘social anxiety’… actually do. Some people are just tremendously good at hiding it, or at redirecting the anxious energy towards… coming across as being quite confident, Masha Allah.

I hope you get to take part in more schemes like that. I’ve realised something about the notion of ‘belonging’: you really don’t have to be ‘just like’ other people. You’ve got to be you, and seek to forge ‘bridges’ between you and others. And nobody is ever quite fully ‘confident’, but it’s important for us to know ourselves better, come to feel more secure therein, and then look at what roles and such we can play within communities. You’re already you: what had little you been like? Are there parts of you that you are yet to accept?

When you’re feeling [socially] overwhelmed, are there some particular things that you do, which help?

I hope this helped in at least some sort of way.

Submissions / Ask

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

فَصَبْرٌ جَمِيلٌ

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Insha Allah, in five days, my cousin Mazhar (who is three months my senior) is getting married. Strange times — in a very good way, Masha Allah. This life is intrinsically hard; day after day, some moments, we find… they are just ablaze, almost, with possibility.

Mazhar is marrying a woman called Sadia. Yes, my future Bhabi-Insha Allah (Bhabi = Bengali for brother’s wife / cousin’s wife) and I share the same first name. We also share, apparently, a love for writing, as well as a tendency towards introversion. The defensive side of me feels inclined, here, towards explaining that introversion does not mean being wholly averse to social interaction and such. I really do just… like the quiet, the ‘simple’, and therein I find elegance; I tend to talk when I feel inclined to, and ‘small’ things are often quite satisfactory to this mind and heart of mine.

So much has happened in recent days/weeks/months/years, perhaps, even. I wonder what on Earth to do about them. Write about them, furiously, desperately, almost? As if to seek to contain them within bottles in the form of articles? Process them somehow? Sit and reflect?

We go through traumatic happenings — on the larger scales, and on the ‘smaller’, i.e. more personal ones. Things we think about, day in, day out: how strange, that these tend to be the things that we scarcely really talk about? We go through beautiful, wonderful happenings too. On the larger scales, and on the ‘smaller’, more personal ones. Perhaps others won’t easily understand all of them, not even if we tried.

Why seek to capture, in little bottles, things that only really come and go? And if it’s important, and valuable, and means something, then I hope that it will stay. In my own memory; in my heart. If my memory begins to fade: then, in others’. And, even after that: in my Book, which I hope shall be placed in my right hand.

There is just so much. And the days ebb and flow, and come and go, like a needle and thread bobbing up and down, through some tapestry piece. Oh, what happens next?

I just know that all this happens: frantically, frenetically. Energetically, sometimes, and there is a dullness of pain, day in, day out, at other points. All of this comes to an end, too, and only Allah remains.

So, whatever, whenever, whoever, however: فَصَبْرٌ جَمِيلٌ. The ups and downs, and knowing the ins and outs. Exhibit a beautiful patience/steadfastness/perseverance/balance. Life is an adventure, no matter what, and I so wish you well on yours, dear reader.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

At Your Janāzah

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Time spent idealising; putting things on strange super-Dunya pedestals. Weddings, marriage, university, professions. These things are ‘real life continued’, really, aren’t they? And:

You might think a little, here and there, about whom, say, you would like to invite to your wedding. Who, perhaps, would be invited to sit at the ‘main tables’? ‘Bridesmaids’? And all the rest. You might think about getting some property in that area you find that you are particularly fond of.

And, yet: only one life happening is certain, from here onwards, and that is the End of it. Who will be at your Janāzah? Will people make an effort to come? What will they say to Allah, about you, while they remember you?

Time is running out. In a gentle way, I hope, I say this with urgency. We cannot mark these things into our calendars; there are no ‘Save The Dates’, since we do not know the dates. Will your Janāzah be in forty years? Or in two? Next Tuesday, or next January?

As I have learned, things like marriages and uni come, and they may bring with them some comparatively beautiful moments and days. And, still, people are people; places within Dunya are places within Dunya, and real life continues, as it does.

On the day of my death, whenever this will be, I will be washed, and enshrouded in white, I hope. I hope I will have lived a good life, and right now, I have time. And some things matter, and other things do not. Am I worthy of the farewells I wish for, and what will be remembered of me, and where will I end up, in the End?

How remarkably strange: that people will come, and some will want to keep items of your clothing, and people will remember how you said ____________ that one time, when ___________________. And remember when you __________________, and the way you ______________________ when ____________________. Things that, perhaps, had long faded from your memory. At your Janāzah, the ways in which you touched others’ lives and hearts, even briefly, even ‘lightly’: you will be remembered.

There are births, and weddings, and there are graduations, and moves, and doings, happenings, surprises and good news. Life goes on, as it does. And then, finally: at a Janāzah, materially what is left is a body, too cold to hold anymore. Life stands still; ends in the blink — the closing — of eyes. And life makes sense again, then and there: that is where you are headed, though you know not when.

Are you ready?

“Hasten towards Success.”

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

حiking حelvellyn [Sorry, I حad to.]

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

*ح is the Arabic equivalent to a strong ‘h’ sound.

Yesterday I went with a group, organised by the charity Human Aid UK, to climb my first [literal, since we are all climbing figurative mountains in our lives, aren’t we] mountain, Alhamdulillah. Her name is Helvellyn, and my oh my, is she gor-geous (Masha Allah). Green, and hilly; coniferous, evergreen trees [I had been hiking with my friend who is a Geography teacher; here I am, trying to show that I have at least some ‘Physical Geography’ knowledge…].

My dad dropped me off at the meeting point just before 4am, I believe; my mum came along to drop me off too. Geography teacher (Samaiya) and I waited around for a bit; prayed Fajr, and then boarded the coach. A while ago, during Ramadan (so, April) I had come to yesterday’s meeting point area, in order to see some of my second cousins and aunties and such, at a charity dessert stall they had been running, after Ifthar. That evening, I had mistakenly thought that one of the sisters there (who had her face covered) had been my cousin Jameelah, so I’d greeted her enthusiastically as such. That… was not Jameelah.

Yesterday I got to properly meet the woman whom I’d thought was my cousin. Her actual name is Faika; ethnically Bengali and having grown up in France, Faika had come here at the age of eleven. She is a key volunteer with Human Aid, Masha Allah, and has completed her BSc in Psychology. She had sat, drinking her coffee, at the side, in the Human Aid office, while I prayed.

The coach journey there had been nice, Masha Allah. Restful. We stopped at two service stations. One had been somewhere in Lancaster I think. The people there had been really nice (based on our interactions with a couple of them). You know the sort: apologising for walking in front of you, saying thank you for little things. Niceness is nice.

At the site of the climb, one of the (Mancusian) men in charge explained some things to us, and he and his wife, and her sister, helped to distribute lunch to everyone, with the intention of eating it once we reach the summit [the other two people who had been in charge there had been my aunt (Jeba Khala) and her husband. They’d gotten married quite recently, Bārak Allah ‘Alayhum, and had a ‘COVD wedding’. And what better way to nurture a spousal bond than by… climbing a mountain together, for example?!]

Naturally, I chose a tuna sandwich. And I also got a packet of cheese-and-onion crisps, with the intention of putting the crisps into the sandwich, for added crunch [if my aunt’s friend Nazia’s little son Hishaam were there, he might have laughed at me and called me the ‘crisps girl’ again, after seeing me sprinkle crisps on my pasta a couple of times. ‘Tis my honour to be the weird crisps girl. I eat my crisps weirdly with honour!].

At approximately 12PM, we set off, up a particular trail, to the top. But then! About five minutes in to the journey, it turned out that we had been taking the wrong route. So we turned around, and started over. Just a little taster, before the real thing.

Probably less than twenty minutes into the actual hike, I genuinely thought I could not make it to the summit. But as the Mancusian brother had told us, this is mostly mental work: a thing of mindset. Someone else had said something similar, while on the climb. Now, normally, I am someone who is tragically out-of-breath after climbing up two flights of stairs, but Subhan Allah, Alhamdulillah: yesterday I walked and climbed, for roughly, apparently 4km on the way up, and the same on the way down.

That trite but true saying, I guess: “if you put your mind to it…” I think I have really realised, by now, that, Subhan Allah: Allah really does not “burden a soul with more than it can bear” [Qur’an, (2:286)] and if there is a possibility to do something beneficial, even if it seems mountainously difficult… this is your Lord, who can make entire seas split for you, if you have due trust in Him [an idea that is echoed in my cousin Moosa’s amazing GCSE English Lang speech, Masha Allah]. We absolutely can do it, but our beings are always, always, always, reliant on the Most Merciful, The Subtle, Able, All-Knowing, All-Wise.

Well I learned a lot, going up that mountain. I learned more about my friend Samaiya, whom I love, to quote my little cousin Dawud, “big much“. This might sound cheesy, but I knew I loved Samaiya from the moment I saw her. Something about her heart, Masha Allah, and about mine, which loves her. I learned about Faika, and bits about the other climbers with us. We also came across a number of solo hikers [how cool, to sit with a book, with your legs dangling, on the edge of a mountain, for example?!] and couples, and families. I must admit, I had been proud of myself and Samaiya for doing this – our first mountain – at the age of twenty and twenty-two… until, that is, we’d come across a five-year-old kid doing just the same thing. [Cliché motivational message here, about how there is no comparison! Your journey is your journey!]

I think the first twenty minutes had probably been the hardest. And then: it probably did not get easier, but we likely adapted. Is the human body, and the mind, not remarkable (Subhan Allah) in how it learns to adapt to situations?

For a while, about every five minutes or so, I would sit down. Have some juice; some snacks. Recuperate. These breaks had been extremely useful, Masha Allah. Getting weary and achey; then sitting down for a while. Good bursts of energy ensued, I think.

“It’s hard. It’s bloody hard, but it is so worth it,” to quote (or perhaps paraphrase, since I am writing from memory. This is usually the case, with these articles of mine) what a (perhaps sixty-something-year-old) man with a very classically British accent had said. Me being me, I said that this is what mothers tend to say too, after giving birth. He said he has nine children and grandchildren in total, so yes, that’s true: he knows it to be. He had also been intrigued by the T-shirts some members of the group had been wearing, advertising what we had been doing there [Human Aid’s campaign for solar-powered water wells in Yemen] and he and his family had been interested in contributing towards it.

He also told us that he is a member of the ‘Lions Club’, and that he was in Qatar for a while I think. That thing about people trying to communicate warmth and friendliness, and establish connections by trying to figure out who you are, while saying things from who they are. Ah, humankind, thou dost continue to continually fascinate and endear me. [On the (long, winding, kind of quite achey) way down, an auntie who had been walking with Samaiya and me had been talking about her elder brother, who had passed away from COVID in December, Allahu Yerhamuhu. She had been talking about how charitable he, a businessman, had been. Suddenly, we had heard a voice talking about his grandma, I think it had been. How charitable she had been, and the work she would do with the church. It had been a man lying on the mountainous grass, on the side].

The ‘Lions Club’: I’ve just researched it a little. A charitable organisation, some of whose tenets are: to foster a spirit of understanding among the peoples of the world; unselfish service to others. Their motto: “We serve“. Apparently, entry into the club is by invitation only. [Somebody invite me!]

Some of the people we’d crossed paths with during the hike had been extremely kind and friendly. Others: not so much. [This is life. But doesn’t the presence of the a-little-less-than-lovely people mostly serve to augment the value of the wonderful ones? I think so.]

We’d come across, for example, a lovely group of originally-Polish people. A woman who seemed to really love the colour blue. People who told us how long we’ve got left to climb, roughly. People encouraging us to keep going! Remember why you’re doing this! In Northern accents, no less. Imagine ‘accent classes’ were a thing, like language classes are.

Oh, and kids: kind of fearless, Masha Allah. Practically running up the more ‘treacherous’ parts. One boy, I think, had asked his mum for five hundred pounds if he makes it to the top. I told her my brother’s like that too. Just casually, randomly: “Get me a PS5!” and charging me five pounds for a hug, and things like this.

I’m kind of sure I also saw a YouTuber whom my brother used to watch, while on that mountain. Or perhaps the mountain air had been making me a little kooky.

Some things I found to be quite adorable, Masha Allah: a brother had accompanied his little sister on this trek. There were some families there too, including a couple (married twenty-five years, I think she said, Masha Allah) who had stayed in the Lake District for the weekend. And their son and daughter had come with this group, meeting them there; they all climbed up the mountain. There was a family with a Turkish father and a Bengali mother [I think I find mixes like this inordinately cool, Masha Allah. This family: apparently the sons of the owner of their local Turkish grocery shop contributed £150 each towards the wells in Yemen, Masha Allah. “They treat us like family and are so proud of us”. How lovely, Allahummabārik!]. A sister who had been accompanied by her son and nephew, I think they’d been. Two sisters, also, and their brother, and one of the sisters’ husbands: gang. Family tingz. And I had with me my friend who is my sister:

Together, we make up Sam-dia, and we are thinking of starting up our own (monetarily-free-but-spiritually-valuable) Asian matchmaking service, since one of the aunties (the one who’d been spending the weekend in the Lake District) asked us to ‘look for someone’ for her (23-year-old, Bengali, Haafidh) son, but apparently he has better things to be doing than ‘chatting up girls’, so she’s looking for him, even though he probably doesn’t quite trust her individual judgement on this. [If you, dear reader, would like to help Samdia kickstart our introduction services, then… do get in touch Insha Allah! I’m not sure if we’re joking or not, but if it happens it happens].

Well, the higher and higher we climbed, the more gorgeous the view became, Masha Allah. There is just this incredible sort of… silence, up there. The God-given grandeur of these mountains and hills, converging by ways of streams. And forests, dotted about, here and there. And majestic, majestic shades of green, and blue, and browns. And patches of purple – from the thistles – and of grey – from the slate [‘Physical Geography’. As aforementioned, I’d been hiking with a Geography Teacher: the Pakistani from Jhelum whom I’d spent Pakistani Independence Day, so I’d learned, with]. Aside from a subtly profound silence, you could only really hear the intermittent rustling of things, footsteps on ground, the bleating of mountain sheep. Uphill conversations. Catch-ups, and nice-to-meet-yous.

Just keep climbing, just keep climbing.

A while into hiking, I’d assumed that there it is: I can see the peak! Turns out: this had only been a jutted-out rocky part of the mountain, past which you have to keep going, and going, to actually get there. About a third of the way in, I’d assumed we were almost done. But, alas, alas, alas.

Faika let me use the hiking stick she had been walking with. “Is it helping?” I wasn’t sure. But placebo effect, maybe. So, in turn, I think it did work, if not as a distraction, and with its secondary functions (as a sword, or a sniper. But not when there were other people around. What if they’d… assume certain things about me?)

Inarguably a rewarding experience though, Alhamdulillah. After a certain point, Samaiya had hurried ahead with some others, while Faika and I had sort of been struggling. We thought we were the last ones in the group, but we weren’t. We kept carrying on, then sitting. Talking for a while, Capri-Sun and stuff. Samaiya had reached the summit about twenty minutes before I [traitor!]. We sat together to eat (my beloved tuna sandwich) somewhere on the way down. We saw some people who had been running down the mountain paths; mountain-biking, also.

“Why would you do that?!” Samaiya exclaimed something like this (not at them), I think. Like Aya, when she’d seen those… ordinary runners (not to them) … “Why are you ronning?!

Admittedly, there were a number of small occurrences that could have, perhaps, led to injuries on this hike. Like the almost-slips on the way down [hence why it was advisable for us to have brought a Mahram with us. I would have liked for my uncle (Ranga Mama) to have come with me, however it had been his and Suto Mami’s anniversary (Allahummabārik) yesterday. Next time, maybe I’ll encourage my dad to come along]. Whenever I would almost-slip, and be propelled forwards a little, Samaiya would shout, lovingly(!), Speed!

The way up the mountain was struggle, and beautiful: Azwājā. And I am in love with Islam, and with people who love Islam and Allah, and with these values of family, and brotherhood/sisterhood. The marvels of this universe, which Allah has created; the minds with which we have been gifted, to begin to make sense of it all. To quote what is on the shirts we’d been given yesterday:

“We can’t move mountains. But we can climb one.”

The way down was tough, and we kept shaking (probably from slight over-exertion). We walked, for instance, with that auntie, who is a nurse for patients who have breast cancer. She has this wonderful mentality of (maintaining boundaries, and yet still) being friends with her children. They tell her things; her daughter thinks she might want to be a nurse, like her. At the bottom of the mountain, after having climbed it, I saw how she comforted her (maybe fifteen-year-old daughter), asking her if she wants a hug. On the outer levels, perhaps, we outgrow babyhood. But, still: ‘small’ shows of love like this are essential, and may Allah bless their beautiful family, Āmeen. Just the way the brother had been looking after his little sister, as well: the fragrance of this family’s essence can quite easily be sensed, Masha Allah.

The mother of the family also said something which I so loved. It melted my heart, basically. She said that she and her siblings would meet up to eat, without their partners or children. The sibling bond, chronologically, came first. Siblings are a part of you, she said. How cute; how special; how amazing!

Some of us did Salāh outside. At times, admittedly, I would be self-conscious about doing Salāh in front of certain people, strangers. But: so what. I’m standing before my Creator, and that is what matters.

Yesterday, I found myself reassured at the fact that… it’s possible to, for example, memorise the Qur’an. Like Miss Maryam did (Masha Allah) at the age of twenty, in Egypt, I think. You can be, as some members of the group are, a quiet, gentle, kind Muslim. You don’t have to be the centre of attention, for example. The way you are: some will perceive it as the best, most desirable, things, while others may see something of the opposite, on the whole. May you always have people who see the things that make up you, specifically, through the most beautiful eyes/ways of looking: Āmeen. Your ‘peaks’ and your ‘troughs’. May this be part of the beautiful things that encourage you to… just keep climbing. Āmeen, Āmeen.

I think people’s essences shine through, especially when they’re just doing their thing, without showing much consciousness of who might be around, or looking. Our essences matter; what we do and say might be our petals, while our hearts are at their centre.

Well, after the climb, I thought I’d lost my watch. And my glasses. The glasses: it turned out that someone in our group had seen them, and had left them on the side, on a fence. I asked if I could go back to get them, but two of the men in the group kindly said they’d go [I felt bad, but also I’d done too much exercise in one day already. One is weak]. As for the watch, ‘t’had been… in my pocket all along, as I’d later discovered.

On the way home, we stopped at the services. We came across a rowdy group of (a lot of drunken, so it very much seemed) men. A football game had just happened, I think. “You all right, girls?” said one of them. “They’re everywhere,” it sounded like another had said, while I prayed Maghrib on the side of our table at the open service-station Costa.

Someone had thrown a food item at my Jeba Khala, while she had been turned around, and while her husband had been praying. A teenager, maybe. She being she… called them a coward, and told them to be braver, and throw it at her face next time. We had a random conversation, some of us, on the coach, after this. At certain schools, for example, South Asians who are in a populace’s minority might be seen as the ‘meek, studious’ ones, and treated as though they won’t do anything to defend themselves from things. I’d say with speech, it might be better to not say anything, or to just say “you too”. With direct acts of physical aggression: if they attack you, you can retaliate in equal measure, although to forgive is likely better.

Mountains: it’s a metaphor for life. I said this, on the way up Helvellyn, I think. And a woman who’d crossed paths with us had laughed at this, and I do quite love it when people appreciate my dad jokes.

Insha Allah, this is my (and Samdia’s) first mountain of a few, or of many. Doing enjoyable things, and with Purpose. Another thing I love about Islam: there’s room for different sorts of people, with different sorts of hobbies, dispositions/personality types, and inclinations. Alhamdulillah.

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

I have a daughter who is Palestinian.

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

[Does that clickbait-y title warrant an Unsubscribe? On that, you, dear reader, can decide.]

Today my friend Jemima and my ‘school daughter’ Rehab came over to my house, for catch-ups and conversations. These are… formative times, as these times always are. The makings of us. What has changed since, and what is still the same.

Jemima is Nigerian, and the daughter of two Pentecostal pastors. The “jollof rice” to my “Biryani spice” [one of the titles she has given me]. She currently attends Princeton University (yes, Masha Allah, the big Ivy League one in America) and we had met during a summer scheme we had both taken part in, in that bridge-summer between Year Eleven and sixth form. We had our first proper conversation at a Nando’s: a big (mismatched, arguably disorganised) group of us had decided to go out to eat. We ended up visiting, I think, two different Nando’s branches that day, before finding one with enough seating capacity and all.

That day, I had been sitting in the waiting area [the interior design at Nando’ses: I so love. Portuguese-African-y, with bursts of colour and character here and there]. And Jemima had come and sat next to me, holding in her hands a book about Economics, no less (‘Freakonomics’).

Well, today (some four years after meeting Jemima, that Qadric day) I found out… that she had been pretending to read that book, and I find this kind of hilarious. She recalls how, apparently, I thought she was so smart back then. All it really takes to ‘look smart’, apparently: hold a book in your hands.

As Qadr would have it, we didn’t know, but we were also actually going to be attending the same sixth form as one another, after that summer. We were going to be in no classes together, save for…

Economics (Subhan Allah. Qadr never fails to amaze me).

And then, we had both met Rehab during our time at sixth form: she had been the third person in a debate competition trio we had formed. Rehab: my ‘school daughter’, and… I am so proud of her, Masha Allah. She is ethnically Palestinian, and an aspiring medic (Insha Allah) and, after completing one ‘gap year’, she is planning to embark on another [I, too, have taken two ‘gap years’. But I see them less as ‘gaps’, and more like… real life, continued, really. Investing in real life might entail: developing bonds with one’s family, learning how to take care of one’s, say, hair better. ‘Self-work’. Learning how to cook. These things happen, Masha Allah, when there is adequate space allowed for them].

It really is wherever and to whomever Allah takes you, and whatever and whomever He brings to you, too. It is all so profoundly, subtly, delicately and beautifully, perhaps-at-present-incomprehensibly, intentional and meaningful. One day you’ll understand.

And some people come, and then they have to go: there are other stories for them to experience and to shape with their (God-created) hands. And your story is going to continue too. Like it always has. Some people stay, in whatever (interesting, in how things develop, over time) ways. Some people come for a determined time, and then go.

A friend who had much to teach me, through her being. She was security, and humour, joy, and calmness and peace. And now, I see her about twice every year: once during Summers, it seems. And once again, during Winters. She matters to me, and she is experiencing her life, and I mine, and then sometimes we come together again, as part of each other’s.

A ‘school daughter’, who has grown up a little; changed, in subtly noticeable ways. Still, though, I think her essence has remained the same. She’s a wise little one. Do I have the right to infantilise her? Probably not. But today they’d pointed out how I, by contrast to them, am ‘old’, now. Since I am (strangely enough) already in my twenties. While Jem is still nineteen, and I think Rehab[ilitation] is eighteen.

Naturally, we ate biryani and roti together. Asian household: I had to give them Asian food. A random double-occurrence from today: when I left the room to do things, I re-entered right when they mentioned ‘South Asians’, and then, the second time, later: ‘South Asian girls’. Walking in, right on cue, as if to say, “yep, that’s me”.

And Rehab, who has had time and space to think (and, there, to grow a little more) taught me some things, I think. What is it, to, for instance, love a person? To not love, per se, what they can give you: a momentary cure to loneliness and/or fear of silences, and/or financially, or in terms of attention, or material things, which can come and go.

To know that you love another — be they a friend, a family member, or a person whom you like romantically — is to know that you love them. Separately, even, to you. These days, I worry. People can say they care for you, yet:

Some people nurture ‘bonds’ with others, merely for the sakes of themselves. Just to avoid loneliness; things like this. It can hurt, but perhaps it is better to be without these, than with. While still being nice about it; while still caring about them, as human beings. How can you tell, though?

To love someone’s being; their soul, heart, mind, and character. To want goodness for them. To (try to) feel what they feel. And, yes, I think it is the people whom your heart knows to make Du’a for. In their absences, without them knowing. Perhaps at Tahajjud time in particular: I think you will just know. Goodness for them, even in the absence of you. A willingness to value precisely whom they are, and to overlook the faults and flaws they necessarily have, hoping that they will offer the same sort of Rahma to you.

To love people, as people, and not merely what they can do for you. The truth is, I don’t know. Yet, those clichés are likely true: a true friend’s goldenness is shown, most strongly, during your worst times. This is when the majority will up and leave: they only ‘liked’ you on account of x, y, and z anyway. Maybe something shinier, in their eyes, came along, and that is okay too.

A true man, to a woman: his colours may be shown in, say, her times of sickness, and/or self-doubt. A true woman: in his times of, say, financial difficulty, and/or acute mental distress. When they cannot give you things. Will you stay? Whom have you stayed for? Who has stayed for you?

Who has left? What did they leave on account of? A change of… circumstances? A change in jobs or schools? What evidently matters to people, and what matters to you?

It’s true what Rehab said today: you can be different to others, and disagree on certain things. But what matters is that you share… values. What is valuable, to you? Neither insecurity nor unknowingness nor ‘settling’ should be the things through which we make our decisions.

Furthermore, the things people say are pretty much always ‘projection’. Something from within themselves. People who… immediately comment on your weight for example: are likely insecure about theirs. People who immediately see ‘uglinesses’ and faults in people and in things: what does that say, about the states of their selves?

[Very proud of adoptive daughter mine, for being so wise, Masha Allah. Perhaps this is prep (a Harris Westminster Sixth Form trigger word: we had to do ‘prep’ work for lessons, on top of homework) for the half-Arab kids I just may end up having someday, Insha Allah. Today I learned that cake rusks with tea are an ‘Arab thing’ too. And that Rehab has a white cat: his name is Phil.]

Anyway, without any irony in what I am saying: I think I am ready to be a trad wife. One was not made to be any sort of ‘high-flying career woman’. I am a Muslim, and a woman, and someone with my own interests (‘intellectual’ and ‘creative’ and whatever else) and family-and-community-based pursuits. And things to be done, always, at home: a home to be made, primarily, by the feminine soul that nurtures it; guests, family, a self to be taken care of, Insha Allah, inside and out. My values, as I hope, are not about pride, or about meaninglessness and vanity. I don’t believe that the monetary/economic numbers of things is what earns them value. And there is an ardent longing, in me, from my core, to love, and to be, in return. As and how me; as and how they, and can we begin from right there. I seek the beauty of Deen and good character, and beauty, and nobility as firm and cragged-with-character as the mountains are. Not as a ‘place-holder’ or ‘casual’ anything of any kind. What many of the norms of ‘modernity’ will, perhaps, refuse to value: that’s okay, because as Muslims, we have Islam.

For you, dear reader: I hope, for you, wishes come true, in the form of people, perhaps which you didn’t even know you had been making. And Āmeen, Āmeen, Āmeen. A girl who comes and sits next to you at Nando’s, for example. And then something similar, albeit developed, some four years later, at your house. All the Signs. I’m telling you right now: whether it is concerning your academic/professional journey, or a friendship, or a man/woman you ‘like’… Allah Knows, and we do not. That is, until the time comes when we do. Until (it will make sense. Because: have you noticed yet? It’s by Design) another piece of the puzzle clicks (more perfectly than we can even comprehend) right into


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.