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,
in my heart, as a Muslim, I’ll be right at Home.
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.