Allah Knows. Indeed with hardship there is ease.

Bismillah.

I don’t know how to begin describing it. It is paradoxical; escapes words, almost. ‘Almost’: what a word. Standing on the brink of something, and then it escapes you: the effortless dissipation of a mirage. Your Lord Knows Best, you know. So here, maybe, is the part where I am meant to part with some of my previously-held convictions. I’m still not entirely sure on the Islamic rulings on animations, but (from when I used to watch them) it’s like that perfect part of Spiderverse when Spidey jumps. Leap of faith. He’s falling. The $ickest perspective shift I have ever seen: he’s flying.

I think I was lied to, for the longest time. You will not be named; you gave me the wrong perspectives on so many things. I absorbed those dishonesties as though they were truths: your filter, my world. And I am meant to forgive, but I don’t really know how. There is just so much. And all I am left with is a lump in my throat, and it grows, and then it shrinks. And I forget for a while, and then I am reminded of who I am, here: a human being, here in Dunya. Lots of things hurt, here. Look at me: I think my hands are trembling. And we’re all half-weak, here. Half-so strong: we’re built this way.

Though sometimes my Īmān wavers: a horse that must be bridled, tamed… If I have prayed for only the best, then everything that leaves, has left. Fallen like the paper leaves of autumn, but you want to believe that they are (still?) green. And everything that arrives, enters, seemingly out of nowhere: Qadr. So Bismillah.

These are difficult times, and we find that fire is washing over our minds: yesterday, I think, I’d come across an expression that describes water as being “liquid fire”. And I quite love this idea. Liquid fire: wash, burn, things off. Make room; make space for the new. Adapt; make room; be prepared to grow. Do not grieve, or worry, even when you do. We’ll do this together; Bismillah.

I’ve been uncertain; everybody has been. I’ve been wrong; I’ve been wrong; I’ve been wrong. How much we hide; what, and how much of it, do we ever really show?

Forgiving is not forgetting. It’s discipline, in the face of truths. Sabr: taste what is bitter, and be strong in the face of it. And the ensuing sweetnesses will be yours, Insha Allah.

I’m just glad that I’m not ‘in charge’ of things, here. How foolish I can be; how wrong and naïve.

Indeed, though, Allah is with us. And: Allah Knows, Allah Knows, Allah Knows.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

In Defence of Introversion

Bismillah.

Recently, my uncle (R.M.) sent the link for the 16personalities test, on our family group chat. [Dear reader: https://www.16personalities.com/. You must.] Previously, I’d been trying to get him to take the test: certain people’s personalities can be intriguing; you find you want to know more.

This test (otherwise known as the ‘Myers-Briggs’ personality type test), I had come across maybe in Year Nine… or Ten? But when I discovered what my type had been, and that my aunt/cousin/friend Farhana is the same type as me, I became a 16personalities enthusiast, and got some of my friends, form class members, family members, onto it too. It is not the same as, or even comparable with, ‘astrology’, as some people would appear to mistakenly think at first. The Myers-Briggs system is awesome. And never had I felt so well-…understood, seen, until that time, when I had received those results.

Personally, I am an ‘INFJ’: more introverted than extroverted; more ‘intuitive’ than ‘sensing’; more ‘feeling’ than ‘thinking’; more ‘judging’ than ‘perceiving’. To understand the letters and what they stand for, better: https://www.mbtionline.com/en-US/Articles/2017/July/What-do-the-letters-in-the-Myers-Briggs-test-stand-for.

Introversion and extroversion, though: we had a lengthy (virtual) family discussion about this. I think I talked (typed) the most, then. Because as soon as somebody brings up something I am passionate about, in conversation, *cartoon sword-slice sound effect here. KHATISHHH or something like that* I can tend to talk quite a lot. Introverts are like that, I think, generally. And I find it quite wonderful.

Fourteen-year-old Samiha, for example (my Didi’s sister-in-law. Sister of my sister.) kind of reminds me of me, in many respects. The first time she’d come to my house, she’d been a little quiet. ‘Awkward’, even, as we’d both likely describe ourselves as being. She said she can get like that whenever there are so many people around. Especially lots of loud people, in one place: stimuli from every direction. So we both went and sat upstairs, in my room. I put my warm-light lamp on. And we just talked and talked. Samiha: the way she started talking, as soon as I brought up astronomy. I often hate when people use the C-word (c*te) for me, but I’m a hypocrite and I would definitely use the word, on steroids, to describe her. I showed her my astronomy-themed box of postcards. And I wrote her an Eid message on one of them. She looked at the picture on the other side, got really excited, and told me the exact (to me: confusing, alien-to-me) scientific name of what the picture was of [I, by contrast, am a very pretentious astronomy fan. I don’t know the exact names of many things. But… poetry, you know? Aestheticz].

That whole time with Samiha, to me, felt so… organic. Effortless, and wonderful, Masha Allah. Even though I am six years her senior, I felt quite ‘seen’ by her. We just… talked. Relaxedly. Moments of excitement. And she said that this had been “the longest conversation [she’d] had in a long time”. We talked about school; about science; about Islam. She, that evening, had encouraged me to go and pray Witr [a particular prayer which we are meant to close the day with]. That day, I had been really tired. But she encouraged me to overcome myself, in such a (firm but) gentle way: just do it, come on. I’ll stand right here and wait for you! So I did it, because: how could I not have done it? And now, when I pray Witr, I tend to think of Samiha sometimes: I hope she gets part of the Ajr for each time I pray it.

I really like Samiha, and Didi told me that Samiha really likes me too: apparently she’d gone home and put that Eid postcard on their fridge afterwards. I’m on her fridge! Yeeeee.

I would say, organically, authentically, I have these particular affinities towards people like Ranga Mama, his son Dawud, and Samiha. Also, in line with what the Myers-Briggs system says, the people outside of my familial networks, whom I have gotten on with relatively effortlessly, have turned out to be either fellow INFJs, or our (i.e. INFJs’) supposed ‘equal-and-opposites’: ENFPs. Very interesting stuff. Especially considering the fact that INFJs are said to be the ‘rarest type in the world’ [is that us yeah]… I’m just drawn, somehow, to fellow INFJs, and I think the same is quite often true, vice versa.

But we have to consider ‘opportunity costs’, here, too. I would say that I am someone who is very drawn to conceptual things. Themes and such, ‘the bigger picture’, instead of complete particularities. I (for some reason. Why, past me? For what?) studied Economics at A-level. A few things, I have found to have been useful from that whole course: the concept of ‘opportunity costs’ is one of them. The following line, I had to memorise. For exams.

Opportunity cost: the benefit lost as a result of foregoing the next best alternative.

The opportunity cost, then, of being an introvert: not being an extrovert. Which benefits do I necessarily lose, as a result of this? I think I lose: an ability to effortlessly be, with far more (relative) ease, before lots of (unfamiliar) people. I gain: my own ways of viewing, perceiving, the world, among other things. I think being an introvert is what helps me much with being a writer. [I’ve struggled with that word a lil, before. Do I call myself a ‘writer’? And… yeah, I write quite a lot, and I love to, therefore I think I can call myself a writer.]

The thing is, the way the world would appear to be decorated: extroversion would appear to be far more… universally valued, than introversion, no? It’s ‘exciting’ for one’s ideas of fun to be… clubbing, and being the centre of attention at parties, and loving going shopping for lots of designer makeup and clothes. Oh. But: it’s ‘boring’ for a person to love sitting with a book; with a journal and a pen, by the canal. It’s ‘boring’, also, to love, love, love, sitting with some food, and having a really good conversation with one other person, or two.

I think, what I have realised the most is that: introverts tend to have creative minds. Which means that things that others may seem as ‘small’: we — just look at that solidarity, there. We our minds, can make into ‘big’ things! Painters, writers, ‘homebodies’, little tidbits of intellectual stimuli: you take something ‘small’, a fleeting bit of inspiration, may-haps. And it becomes big in our minds.

And, as with all things in this here Dunya: there are upsides to this, and downsides. Upside: all we need to have a really, or decently, good time might be food; the right company; a place of some natural beauty. We don’t even need people: could be, a book, a YouTube video. Cleaning tasks (which I really enjoy. When I don’t feel swamped by them) with the right podcast or Nasheeds. A few things, made big, in these ‘introverted’ minds of ours, which (by nature) magnify. We need less, to do – and feel – more.

But guess what also tends to get magnified, in these here minds of ours? The bad things. The little perceptively ‘stupid’ thing we did last February. A comment that someone passingly made. Oh no! Dread. Things like that.

This is, in a way, my love letter to introversion. A thing of opportunity costs, and yes, do also remember all that stuff about images. You know what it is like to be you. Of most other people, we see only glimpses — images — onto which it is easy to project: for better, or for worse. Whatever it feels like we, and our lives, may be ‘lacking’: they ‘so evidently’ must have, somehow.

And then you get closer, and you see (closer to the) truths of things. I think I’ve realised that, yes, I struggle in certain big social situations. And, oh my goodness, ‘small talk’. Quite often, I accidentally zone out of conversations based on this stuff, and then I try to latch onto the last thing I heard the other person say, to not seem super rude. It’s a skill I seem to have honed by now.

I come from a family, (big, big extended-extended network) dominated, numerically and in terms of recognition, by extroverts. Or, maybe there are more introverts, but… they stay at home for a lot of things, who knows. What I have learned is that, yes, extroverts tend to excel in terms of how much fun they are able to have in big places, with lots of people. Lots of noise, lots of stimuli, sustained bouts of laughter at ‘most everything. And, also:

Quite a few of my relatives whom I would find myself comparing myself to, at times, in terms of certain social abilities: have told me that they are unable to be alone, at home, without being on the verge of a panic attack. They need to be online, talking to lots of people; they need people around them, to feel good. Things like this.

And then I realised: everywhere, in Dunya, there is tyranny. Sometimes, more evident, and sometimes: more subtle. The only true liberation that can be found is here: in submission to the Almighty.

‘Confidence’ before masses of people is actually… dependency. I’ve seen how many extroverts are before lots of people, and when they are, at home, in the presence of just family. Their ‘outer selves’ are contingent on others’ eyes; others do still hold social power over them.

Opportunity cost of me being the way I am: not easily being understood, accepted, socially valued, in many extroverts’ eyes. For them, shopping for bags, big parties and things might be ‘fun’. For me, let’s face it: iz torture. To many of them, I would not want to make them feel bad by pointing out that… talking about men’s heights, for example, for two whole hours is… kinda lame [and I have been given a very limited amount of time on this Earth, in this Dunya…]. But some of them feel super comfortable in pointing out that, for them, writing a poem or reading the ‘TLS’ is boring or weird.

My ‘extroverty’ friends and cousins are very, very active on Snapchat and Instagram. And… I suppose I used to be, too. But I would often feel over-stimulated, restless and stuff, as a result of notifications, and from all that s c r o l l i n g. To them (my extrovert-y cousins) the idea of staying at home for three days in a row sounds abysmally terrible. To me: my gosh. I love the idea of, for instance, cleaning my space; reading; annoying my brother; making food; eating food; doing Islamic things; sleeping. Bonus times ten if it rains. And some people hate their jobs. I think, although this gets tiring and stressful at times, I love designing lessons; marking, even. Making dad jokes; going to Tesco for lunch. With the right people around; in the right places and such. Everybody has to live through the ‘mundanity’ of this mundane world. Why not choose to locate the beauty in it, rather than making one’s enjoyment always contingent on [notions of] escape?

So, who is living this life ‘right’, and who is ‘wrong’? Who should aspire to be more like whom? I think, there are merits to each way of being, of living. There are always other things to learn from other people. A lot of things I know about being, in social situations, for example, I would say I have learnt from my friend Tamanna.

‘Introversion’ and ‘extroversion’: to explain these concepts better, on my family gc, I told them about the ‘X-box analogy’. Introversion and shyness are not the same thing. Extroverts can be extremely shy. Introverts can be quite socially confident [I would say, Alhamdulillah, I can be. Whenever my ‘social battery’ is fully charged.] It is all about where you get the majority of your ‘energy’ from.

Introverts are more like wireless X-box controllers. You charge them; you use them for a while. Then: they need charging again! Introverts tend to ‘recharge’ through ‘alone time’: sitting in nature; reading; Googling lots of random things, feeling ‘travelled’ and stimulated, in these ways, with a cup of tea on the side. Extroverts, by contrast, are more like original X-box controllers: for them, socialising is being charged. This is where they get their energy from: they don’t need ‘time out’ to recharge, in the same way.

The other day, I saw my friend Tasnim [again. Why do I keep seeing her? Why?! Jk.] and she reminded me of the story of how she realised that extroversion isn’t necessarily freedom in the same way that it might, prima facie, seem like it is. Tasnim and I had attended the same sixth form together, although we didn’t have any classes together. And at our school, there was a particular girl whom we both (i.e. Tas and I) knew to have been quite an ‘extroverted’ person; very ‘socially confident’. But one day, in a conversation with Tas, this girl had explained that, no. She isn’t actually ‘confident’ like that: she feels she needs attention from people like this. In fact, in her eyes, introverts are the ‘freer’, ‘lucky’ ones: more secure-seeming and all.

Also reminds me of when, when I had first started at sixth form, how terrible I would make myself feel about myself when… in my History class, I saw how seemingly-effortlessly everyone was, towards one another, from the get-go. Laughing so much with one another; jumping on each other’s backs. I thought, gosh, I must either be really… boring, or… not confident? In truth, I think, the answer had been neither. They were (seemingly) very extroverted in that sense. I… can only be like that with, say, three people in this entire world.

At this school, I had also been the editor for this school’s Journalism Club: I would receive submissions for the school paper/blog. Once, a girl whom I had seen as being a very socially confident ‘party-goer’ randomly sent in a feelings-piece, about how she ‘really felt’ about things. Super duper ‘appearances versus reality’. And experiences like this, hearing about others’ realer thoughts, have been eye-opening for me, to say the least.

P e r s p e c t i v e s.

See, you might be under the impression that ‘quiet’ people are… the ‘boring’ ones; ‘no life’, or whatever. Or, that the always-‘louder’ ones… have ‘more’, and ‘better’, to say; ‘what a life‘, admirable and want-able. Not necessarily always true: remember this much.

And why should I deny myself of who I am? Looking back on the ol’ teen years, the truth is that my best memories are not from things like school trips to Thorpe Park and stuff. I can’t help it, and why should I? They really are things like, when I got a sandwich, some crisps, and a drink, and sat in front of the TV to watch a Disney movie. And, when a book I had reserved at the library right near my secondary school had come through. Getting my ideas down for writing competitions: pencil on notepad, by candlelight. Things like that. So why should I deny myself of myself?

Just because of these comments, comments, comments. [Downside of having a massive Habee Gushtee (Bengali expression to describe everyone you know): the comments, comments, comments. “Why is she like that?” “Boring” “Come on, live a little.” “Old lady.” “You intellectualise things too much.” Etc. Value judgements. That feeling of actively, vocally, being put into a box. And what do you even do, in response to this? The thing is, this mind of mine frequently comes up with some pretty-good-I-cannae-lie comebacks. But I tend to leave a lot of those things unsaid: bite my tongue, bite my tongue. Because why would I say them (except for my own ego’s satisfaction, in the moment)? Ultimately, they have their values, schemas, ideas on what a ‘good life’ is; I am allowed to retain my own! I’m… not a child anymore. I need not look upon myself and this life of mine via how they have chosen to look upon me.]

Today, as an introvert, I want to say that the best parts of my day have been: finding the tuna pasta at Tesco. Some guy had taken the (seeming) last one, and he proudly told someone working there that yes! He’s got the last one. And I’d been on the side, looking at it, waiting to get it, actually. But then! A bit further into the shelf: another one, waiting for me to buy it! Does it make me a ‘boring’ person, to have loved this moment so darn much? I don’t, at all, think so.

[When I told some of my colleagues in the staff room about this, they, at first, had thought that the guy had celebrated his taking of the pasta to me. To be mean. But, no. And I know that if he’d done this, I would’ve said “good for you, I bet you’re proud of yourself” or something like that. Sometimes, I speak before I think, and the meanness just comes out.]

Sweetie had brought in a homemade lemon drizzle cake today. She sat next to me, and I had some of it, while the staff meeting went on. And, today: outside one of the school’s Qur’an rooms, I’d seen a big cardboard box filled with books, a couple of times. Today I asked one of the Islamic Studies teachers what they’re for. She said, the school is looking to get rid of them. I could take them if I wanted. I could take them if I wanted! I now have a stack of good books, Masha Allah, Alhamdulillah, beside me. Summer reading, Insha Allah. I just don’t know how I’m gonna take them all home today.

Summer reading: summer. Quite a few people have asked me what my plans are, for this summer. I don’t really like having ‘plans’ for summer. But I know that my time gets filled, one way or another. Some of the members of my extended family are quite spontaneous, adventurous in that sense. Randomly: get packed, we’re going to Scotland next week [after hearing about it, over and over again, from me!] Camping in Kent. Things like that. And I know that this is the stuff that people expect to hear about, when they ask about ‘plans’. Truly, though, I really want a homebody type of summer this year, Insha Allah. Running all these various errands I need to get done, seeing a friend once or twice a week. Sitting outside on the steps, to eat and/or read, while that whole ongoing theatre play of Faris, Saif, Sara, Sadika, and Safia goes on, on the stage. How do I explain this, though? Do I tell the truth, and let them think I’m ‘boring’, as a result?

Hmmmmm. Yes. Let others’ eyes be others’ eyes; let my own be my own. And I want to always respect other people, Insha Allah. But I am not living for them!

And even when we do go travelling and stuff: my favourite parts tend to be arriving at the hotels/apartments/such, going to cafés, going to museums, drives through cities. ‘Boring’ to some, because their minds need ‘more’. And they are they; I am I. Wherever we go, we take ourselves with us; introversion/extroversion, included. *’Spiritual hippie’ moment, here. You find yourself, suddenly, dear reader, wearing a white cotton tunic shirt, standing on a mountain. Welcome to the tribe.*

I think I have tried this before, though: having a very jam-packed summer or two. Saying yes to lots of things: night-time rendezvous[es] down the river; meet-up after meet-up; stays with family; things like this every day. Wasn’t really good for me, though it made my Instagram gallery pop for a while.

The things that I know I find great joy in: others are looking upon from their own eyes, and what they like/dislike. And what they think they want for their lives. To a lot of people, domestic chores are absolute tyranny all the time. Being at home with just family: unbearable. Sitting by yourself in a park: why would yeh? How could yeh? Having two close friends you see sometimes, in lieu of ten friends you see all the time? Why?! We’re just all different, I guess.

I love putting my earphones in, in the morning, ready for my bike ride to work. I do love those moments of speed; I’m glad I’m not overly concerned with looking ‘pretty’ in these moments. This joy from putting hand-cream on, after doing Wudhu. And! Writing blog articles in the staff room, when I have other things to be doing. Productive procrastination!

Just must accept truths, and find the good and beauty in them. Dunya remains Dunya, the whole entire way through. What I think we frequently do is this: mistake images as being truths. Like when celebrities – actors, musicians – are admired so much. They’ve got fame, money, realised talent, attentions from their opposite genders. And the thing is, we also know of their experiences’ downsides: all the myriad mental/spiritual health issues and such, which are part-and-parcel of such lifestyles. And, yet, we continue to think we want holistic life experiences that more mirror theirs.

It reminds me of a particular scene in ‘HIMYM’ (How I Met Your Mother) when Lily is lamenting the fact that she isn’t, can’t be, like Robin: ‘free’, beautiful in the same way, ‘cool’ in the same way. At the bar, flocks of men seem to approach Robin, but not her. Lily begins to feel bad about herself, and about her life. But then, Robin explains: can’t you see? Women like us want what you already have. A lifelong partner who loves us deeply and dearly: that security, that truth. Each woman had been seeing the other from afar, and thus not focusing their energies on the blessings that they, themselves, (necessarily already) have! [Okay, they’re fictional characters from a TV show. But, still. Life lessons that fifteen-year-old I had extracted from it.]

The other (other) day, also, at Nando’s, Tasnim had asked me the following question: do you know anybody who’s really, actually, confident? And… no. I don’t think it’s possible to be extremely self-certain, always, unless one is a… narcissist. How can we trust ourselves entirely, when things are always so entirely unpredictable, for example? I have learned this time and time again: that some people think me to be super confident. That I, instead, have looked at some others and thought: that must be ‘confidence’. And then these very people tell me about how, for example, they cannot walk outside alone, or without makeup: they feel too insecure. I have my own particular insecurities; they have theirs. Strengths, we both, all, have, in our own varying ways, also. Alhamdulillah.

Dear Reader,

What are the unique upsides of your particular Dunya-based existence? And, what are your downsides?

Who is someone you do, or have, compare[d] yourself to, wanted to be (‘most entirely) like? What might their upsides be? And, do you know, (yet, perhaps) of their downsides? [Some of their downsides, for example, might truly be a lack of whatever some of your upsides are. You might entirely just be taking your upsides for granted!]

Whatever is good about your experience: some, or perhaps even many, may choose to frame as being a ‘bad’ thing. Whether out of their personal insecurities, boredoms, ignorances, or whatever else. This does not make their judgements true. Truth is between Allah, and you.

I think I have more to say, but I find I don’t have the time or the energy, right now, to say them. But ultimately: Surah ‘Asr, and what it says. “Indeed, mankind [in terms of Time] is in loss. Except for those who have believed, and have done righteous deeds, and have encouraged others towards Truth, and have encouraged others towards patience/perseverance”. Our purpose[s] here are to be in submission to Allah; to be excellent, Insha Allah. Neither introverts nor extroverts ‘have it all’, and we are surely being tested.

Introversion, extroversion, and everything else: blessing. And test. Time, also, as well as everything else, here. Tools. What will we do with them?

Introverts, though: we do not need ‘saving’. We are… Dunya-traversers, just like you… who can handle, and enjoy, solitude [I recently read something about how many people cannot handle any solitude at all. Apparently, some see it as being indicative of you being a ‘very deep thinker’ if you are able to handle solitude without going crazy?!]. Introverts can make entire canvases, in our minds, of just a couple, or trio, of colours; some people need far more for those same mental artistic effects. Introverts are like superheroes. I’m not sure if this analogy makes sense, or how, or why, but:

Introverts Assemble!!!!!! [Six exclamation marks there, because six is my favourite number below ten. Above ten: it’s probably 42. I should just be quiet now. 6 x 7 is just so perfect though.

Why am I still typing?]


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

How Things Happen.

Recently my friend Aatqa, over FaceTime, told me the story of how a friend of hers met her current husband-to-be. It is an endearing and interesting story, and one that shows me that Allah rewards those who put their trust in Him. You sacrifice: you are returned with better. You exhibit good character, Hayaa’, follow Islamic rules: you win. In Dunya and in Ākhirah. And indeed, the promise of Allah is true.

Boy meets girl. They are family friends. They often go on holidays and such together. They are both religious. The girl feels in her head that perhaps she is a little shy; a little ‘bland’. The boy is known as being very handsome, intelligent, and good in religion and in character; he attends a highly prestigious university.

The boy liked the girl – deeply – all along! He makes plans to go ahead and speak to her father. All along, she had no idea: in her eyes, why would he like her?!

He maintains Hayaa’ (modesty) when it comes to speaking to other women. Others want him, but he only wanted her. He came to her and explained that he wanted to be the first to propose to her, before anybody else did. Currently, they are still maintaining those respectful boundaries prior to the Nikkah. They only communicate via letters; they’re in their official courtship phase. Imagine how much Barakah this marriage will (Insha Allah) come to have. Whew.

I believe it is the case that Allah makes inevitable the best, for whoever exhibits due trust and faith in Him. Who shows this, in their speech and in their actions. And He matches certain hearts and souls, with other hearts and souls, with incomprehensibly

beautiful,

brilliant reason.

Even if you had no idea that it would be him [him?!]; you could not have seen these Divine plans coming.

So: whatever you do, do not compromise on your principles. Ya hear me? Do not.

Allah’s Plans for you are surely, surely better. And Islam will save you from the decaying (though, at times, shiny-seeming) things of this world. Only Islam, and nothing else.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

At the Florist’s

Words say so much, don’t they? and

flowers – Earth’s own little penned poems, everywhere – do too.

The yellowest of sunflowers, happy and unmissable, might say: hello. I’m very happy that you are in my life. Sunflowers’ petals make sense, though their centres are somewhat… confusing. A great big pit of brown seeds. Spirals, spirals.

The purplest of hyacinths, wrapped in light bronze sheets, and a deep purple ribbon. To say: friend, this flower might seem a little strange upon first glance. And I will always, Bi’ithnillah, be here.

And for when you cry, and you feel less-than, and lost, and lonely: a bundle of beautiful white tulips, neatly-cut. It will take time, dear friend, and it will get better: in ways, at present, unknowable to you. It’s okay to cry alone, in your room, sometimes. “Behind every tear is a cleansing of the eyes”. And I hope that you will not feel alone, what with these tulips standing in a nice vase somewhere, in a corner.

You are not alone. You are never alone:

Purple aster, bursting forth: things will be okay again, in some new kind of way. And there is intrinsic good in you, and there are always downsides here too. Aster will remind you of what is more worth focusing on.

Vibrant pink azaleas: bloom, bloom in the Spring. Forget your troubles for a minute or two, and

get lost in this one blanket colour.

If you forget, I’ll get you a Basket of Gold: a flurry of yellow pom-poms. Forget-me-nots. Bellflowers: all fairy-tale-like. Royal blue little lanterns; veins filled with blood black.

Bloodroot, white petals. As much as it hurts, sometimes, or confuses. Perplexes, makes heart swell with sweetness. Tender. Aches, makes blissful. Perhaps a flower might just say it best.

Their different colours, and shapes, and sizes. The ways in which they each grow towards the sun… but in such varying, and fascinating, ways.

It is so easy, for me at least, to idealise working at a florist’s. With a spectrum of dim lights, hanging overhead. Small groups of people entering, each different, at a time. Seas, basket-fulls, of twisted-up purple flowers; blue ones; pink hues, ombre. New conversations to be had; new things to be learnt.

The interactions with each bunch: the cutting of stems and leaves. Neat and prolonged slices through brown paper, and silkier ones. Ribbons of all sorts, and tags.

“I’m looking for a bunch of flowers to say congratulations: my cousin is getting married!”

“What’s his favourite colour? What is he like, as a person?”

“My friend is going through a particularly hard time right now.”

Ten white tulips, their stems neatly-cut at the bottom?

“My heart hurts. I feel left behind, and in a way, I feel I always deserve to be here.”

Yo. That’s dark. Here’s some sunflowers!

Flowers for the young man who feels himself to be in love. He is working extensively on his body, he says, and on his mind. To quote him to the best of my ability: “Not because I think she’s shallow like that or anything. But because the best of women deserve the best of men.”

“When I talk to her I feel like the rest of the world stops moving and everything is still and peaceful when I hear her voice.”

Flowers for the little boys outside, who now find themselves to be good friends. “Faris lives in Paris! Hahahaha.” And flowers for things like football,

and food, and flowers. Cups of tea, and Salāh, shoulder-to-shoulder. The universality of a smile, and our shared tears:

Which, by Allah’s Will and grace, make these beautiful, and true, and good, things possible.

I promise you, you are more than ‘good enough’, dear reader. And if you do not believe me yet, then, here, a (virtual) red rose for you. The most cliché, perhaps: and, also, the most beloved, blood-red, of them all.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

How I Got My Cat — Saif Ahmed

                                             How I got my cat by Saif Ahmed, age 8. Cat age 1 year.

It all started when my neighbour’s cat had given birth to kittens. When the kittens got old enough our neighbours let the kittens out. Each day the kittens would come to my house. My mum and dad would spend so much money getting the kittens food.

My mum didn’t like cats much but she started to like them because one of the kittens loved me and my mum so much. After a while we wanted to get a cat desperately. Because of this we asked our neighbours if we could get a cat. They said YES! I got super happy. When we got him he ran upstairs and went under the sofa because he’s never been in my house. Days later he got used to the place, we named him Safi.

                                               and That is how I got my cat

                                                                  The End.

The attached picture is the one that Saif chose to go with this article. Please comment below if you liked this!

           

حب

“حب. In love, just like in prayer, you do not look around.”

There is something that I so love. And I think I can call what it is, love: I love it when people sit by the canal, no phones. Just… writing. Or reading. Feeding the ducks. And when women sit by their easels, in Istanbul, painting. They love painting. They are seeking “bereket” in their lives. And it does not really matter who is around, or who is not around.

This is what I think can be termed love. A pastry chef who makes his food, silently, and it is art, bleeding forth. Like there is no effort, even, involved. It is the flow of something; a symphony. Just happens. Sometimes, maybe, it is dizzying, beneath the skin. And infuriating: you just must do this.

It is: a father playing with his daughter. He is not this way with anybody else in this entire world. He zooms her up, begins to speak a whole other language in connection with her. Love is two things when they are alone. All the rest of the world quietens down, fades out of sight, a colourful blur behind raindrops: sinks away, into relative nothingness.

The thing about love is that it does not look elsewhere. Why would it need to? Why would it want to?

Effortless; not desperate for attention from external eyes, though if this happens, it… happens. Love is ailing, and it is immunising. Engrossing, a wormhole, and it propels its adherents into every single corner of this globe: it is

at once, profound and full of energy: an ocean, inexhaustible. And subtle, and quiet. Just: tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, like rainfall. And how could we ever know that we are making the right choices, in these lives of ours?

What to do; what, and whom, and where to sink into, invest ourselves in. Which options do we pick? Which ones are best?

Such a thought, sometimes, I consider to be dizzying. So I make Du’a, and if you make Du’a, you either get what you are asking for; what you want, but at a later date; something different, and better for you.

So I pray for whatever is best for me, in this world, and in the World to come. And therefore: the best options, for me, thus become inevitable. By Allah’s infinite grace.

These lives that we live: may we live them in love. Not necessarily lust, whose bases lurk beneath the murky waters of unknowing-ness. Like when we see distant stars, from down here, from afar: they only look like little twinkles in the sky, lightly glittering. And they look self-certain, while we, ourselves, know are not. They only glint, and down here, we think they are only gemstones in the sky. Get closer, though, and you could, potentially, see every star for what it really is:

not a mere dot, not ever so easily definable. But: a burning, raging explosion of all that it takes, to be. Just like you.

In Salāh, we are not meant to look around. We look at the ground. As hard as it is sometimes, our hearts are meant to be right here. Entirely. Nothing else, really, matters so much: not business, not our work schedules. Sleep can wait a little. Everything can wait a little. This is the essence of حب: wherever you plant it, garden it, it will blossom, and bloom, and grow.

Is it not beautifully interesting, that the word in Arabic itself (pronounced ‘Hubb’) is synonymous with ‘seed’? Where you plant it (and water it, and tend to it, without expending energy on looking at others’ flowers) it will grow. You’ve asked Allah for the best? Good, خلاص: you will only have the best, Bi’ithnillah (by Allah’s permission) no matter what.

How existentially comforting a thought. Breathe.

Love is fierce, fiery, jealous in protection. And it is tender, and gentle, liberal in its sharings of goodness. So very firm, and secure; so very soft, and liberating.

Paradoxical. ‘Para’, meaning: beyond. ‘Dox’, meaning: intellectual processes, including belief/opinion. Love is paradoxical: once you find it, whenever you do, it floods your being with something that is beyond belief. Like the love that my uncle describes, when he met his son for the very first time.

You exist in what you love: it makes you real. What you love exists (already) in you. And love really is tethered to what is True,

and good, and it is Beautiful. Age-old, universal. I have asked my Creator for what is best, for me, in this world: future-place-of-living-wise, university-wise, people-wise. I will, by His grace, meet them as and when they come.

“If you are grateful,” Allah says, “I will [surely] increase you [in favour]”. To look down at our own patches of land, and to realise the metaphysical value of these things. Though elements of the material may shine, sometimes, in distant skies, as they glint and reflect what might look like light:

Love is beautiful, and it is strong. It is the strongest of fences; the most fruitful of flowers. Even when there are bulldozers around, which might, in anger and in arrogance, threaten to mow them right down. Love is:

those Gazan children. Amid the rubbles of destruction, a child’s innocent smile, blooming in resistance: he’d managed to rescue his pet fish. And Allah increased them in favour: gave them, through the means of another person, more wonderful fish to love in this way.

Love feels aching, and it feels healing. You’re hurt a little; your feet pain. Walk on anyway, and hopefully, in beauty and in strength.

I live not for lusts, which seem, from way over here, half-‘perfect’. Other than what is mine, away from here, and now. I live for love, which is, by nature, star-like, stellar. Never a perfect sphere; always ferocious, spitting. Blood swishing, and sloshing, through these, our determined and alive hearts. The actual; the real and now.

I have no ‘lusts’ for this life. But I have a love for it, and for what it really is. Because I sure love, Alhamdulillah, the little boy who will not get me my charger when I ask for it. Who ‘tells me off’ like he is forty-five years old, sometimes. Who does all these things I wouldn’t expect, and he is not a perfect sphere, but why on Earth would I ever want for him to be?!

Love is not merely ‘pleasant’. It does not only bring about, in us, a mellow smile. Love makes you burn a little, out of frustration. Cackle, unexpectedly, with laughter. Teaches you all sorts of new things, all the time. There is always something a little different to learn and do, with love.

I think I can say, hands-down, Masha Allah, that my brother is the person whom I love the most in this whole world. For him, my heart swells with something I can only call love. But, for example, one of my uncles says that, looking at how we are together, sometimes, that’s not so easy to see.

And maybe it isn’t, always, to people who do not know us inside-out. But love is paradoxical: it escapes ease of definition. Escapes neat belief; is greater than minute opinions.

‘Easy’ is an interesting word. ‘Easy’ is just… too easy. I would not want a different brother for the entire world, but sometimes I wonder:

What would it, maybe, be like, to have a brother who, by cultural definitions and such, is… half-‘perfect’?

A little boy who does what he is told. Is kind, and compliments all the time. Encourages good feelings in people; is easily pleasing to the (metaphorical) eyes. And, okay, that would be good for my ol’ ego, maybe. A little brother who tells me I am the best big sister in existence, and a bunch of other nice things. It would probably also be good in an egoic sense because: people would immediately think, this is a great child. They would likely proceed to say lots of good things about our family.

My brother is a little explosion of beautiful things. Saif Ahmed is a human supernova. A sword, which is what his name means in Arabic: when you love him, the love cuts deep. He’s kind of unforgettable, but maybe I’m quite biased. And (I’d like to think that) others do not know him how I do. Others don’t always need to know him the way I do. Others’ perceptions are limited; others might be looking to ‘like’ him. And maybe they don’t, based on what, exactly, they might be looking for, always find reasons to merely ‘like’ him.

But that’s okay, because he is so deeply loved, by all the right people for him. Would I rather have a little brother who would actually listen when I told him to get me something from downstairs; wash his hands when I told him to; hug me all the time and told me he loves me?

All children are beautiful in their own right. My brother is the type to not listen, quite a bit of the time. He will challenge you, hit you with witty and brilliant comebacks, and sometimes you find you can’t disagree with him. He’ll say the most hilariously alarming things. He’ll intellectually explore anything: currently, his desk is an inventor’s desk of felt-tip pens, fidget-spinners, Minecraft things, figurines, slime, Lego, a ‘Horrid Henry’ (one of his role models) book. He loves inventing, designing, designing pranks.

He is not ‘perfect’. He is something better than mere perfect. Why do we think we want ‘perfect’? Because it’s gentle, pleasant on the eyes in a delicate way, ‘easy’-seeming? Saif, in particular, maybe, has taught me that I love challenge. It brings from me, parts of me unexpected. Laughter, frustration, new facts, buzzes of fun. I cannot even imagine who I would be, today and now, with a) no little brother at all, or, b) a ‘perfect’ brother.

‘Perfect’ is easy to like, isn’t it? Sweet. “Awww that’s nice”. Nice. For love, I think: I need unexpected, and, to all the wrong eyes: absurd. Buzz-giving, and quiet. Fudge an opinion. Love is something that feels so effortless, and, yet, it makes you want to put all the effort in.

Today, in the staff room, I learned from Miss Fillanda about a man who wanted to learn Qur’an from a scholar. The scholar wanted to test the seeker’s commitment, determination. Over a period of forty days, the scholar kept declining the seeker’s requests for his (the scholar’s) tutelage, to test if he (the seeker) was true. Rejection, rejection, rejection. The seeker persisted. He loved the Qur’an so much. This is love.

It is challenge, and it is beautiful growth in the face of it. Only in the face of it. Gardening a rose tree, or an olive tree, from seed is not the easiest thing in the world. You do not know what will grow from this seed, but… the potential is, quite often, powerful. You water, and are hopeful, and are uncertain. Notice changes every other day. Cut off shrivelled parts; work on the newer ones. Nourish the soil, from time to time, with new nutrition.

These inescapable roses, in these, our hearts, they take time to grow. And time in genuine presence. And then, and only then, do we move from lust – the commitment to only positive-seeming snippets of things – into love. Quiet, sometimes, and always gushing.

The human heart. How strong and subtle an organ; how determined (by the Will of Allah) and how resolute. Man. How very fragile it is, too.

Pleasantries, and what they bring, are pleasant. To me, they feel a little shallow. They just force you to smile daintily all the time, and be sweet, even when you don’t necessarily feel like being ‘sweet’. My baby brother has taught me how to have, silently, a love as deep as the oceans. It’s just something I know – just like I know how to breathe. I hope Soopaf dearest knows it too. [If I ever/when I/pass away, someone please direct him towards reading these things about him, on this here blog. He’ll probably… pretend to vomit. A recent while ago, I asked him if he would be sad if I died. He basically said, “yeah… but for maybe half a day.” Twelve hours. Better than nothing.]

Love is the colour between sky and ground. Blue: the colour of clarity and possibility. And, brown: the colour of possibility – potentiality – too. And of trust. Put your feet down, finally: you can trust it.

Love is deeply energising. For, for example, the mothers and fathers who must stay up for late-night feeds: it can be exhausting, at times. It is not ‘perfect’. It is a true, up-close, and complete experience. Love is the thing with flowers: it makes houses (i.e. people, places, vocational roles and so on) into homes.

Se cosecha lo que siembra: you reap what you sow. There is no use in looking at other-than-yours. But if, for example, the opportunity for the next step comes about, then we can ask Allah: is this what is best? Oh Allah, please make inevitable for me what is best. Āmeen.

Everything in this Dunya is a list of pros, and a list of cons. And now, the question is: which pros do we want? Which cons will we accept (as energising challenges)? Will a beautiful story, perhaps, be made of this? Because I think there is a beautiful, stellar, story that has emerged from my brother and me. Would things be like this if I had a ‘perfect’ (by those externally-defined, imposed) definitions?

Nah. Not really. I’d say, I have such a nice brother. He’s so good. We don’t fight; never disagree on things. I just come home and he hugs me and he sits there and compliments me. He teaches me nothing; there are no surprises. Everything that is easily comprehensible and explicable, neatly packagable: he is. He just makes me feel nice.

Love is so much more than ‘nice’. It is more than mere surface pleasantries: it is deeper, more real, star-like, connection. Not just onlooker-to-image. You have to be with, around, immersed in, whom or what you love, to know that you truly love it.

“حب. In love, just like in prayer, you do not look around.”

You’re just too grateful to Allah; too trusting, in Him, hopefully. Too aware of the fact that this is all Qadr. Too aware that you’ve made those Du’as, and indeed, the promises of your Lord are true.

“What happens if you make your cat bald?” — baby brother dearest. Just now, here at age eight. I just tried to kiss his hand and he abruptly closed my laptop. Three times in a row. I elbowed him (relatively gently). This is love. حب.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Keep Walking — Yasmin Mogahed

Every day I get closer to our Meeting.
I feel like I’ve been walking this path for a thousand years
towards You…
and yet I’m still not there.
So close, and yet so far still

But I keep walking,
despite the tears,
despite the wind,
despite the skinned knees and broken bones,
despite the bruises and scars that make this heart what it is today,
I keep walking…
toward You.
There’s only one direction,
one direction:
towards You.
From You, to You.
I have nothing else.
Nothing.
That is my poverty.

I keep walking
because behind every sun’s setting is a rising,
Behind every storm is a Refuge,
Behind every fall is a rise,
Behind every tear is a cleansing of the eyes.
And in every spot you’ve ever been stabbed, is a healing,
and the creation of skin stronger than it was.

I keep walking
because Wallahi, I have nothing but Your mercy.
I have nothing but Your promise
Your words
Your promise
that:

“Oh mankind, indeed you are ever toiling on towards your Lord- painfully toiling,- but you shall meet Him.” (84:6)

Today’s Khayr session had been led by Safiya. She spoke about success, and what it means, and about what we’re really doing, here. She concluded by reading the above, in such a wonderful, beautiful way, Masha Allah.

Day Thirty

What I have learnt, Episode Thirty: I think it’s crazy // how we finish each other’s (sandwiches). Concluding remarks.

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Today I got some organic honey from Tesco and mixed some of it into my water. Makes for a good, organic, energy drink. The benefits of honey: it is Sunnah to have it in warm water, I think. And honey as a remedy is mentioned, specifically, in the Qur’an.

And, to cheer myself up a little (a somewhat gloomy morning, this morning) I got some of dat ‘Little Pots’ salted caramel ganache from Tesco. So delicious skfhsjkghrgh! Made my mood go up. [I also got some for Mushfikah. And… I knew it! She loved it. It really did beat her pudding in dis fight]. And ’twas a busy day today, and a tiring one (with a lil helping of social awkwardness, massively magnified in this mind of mine, as per yush) but ‘t’had also been a day of sunshine nonetheless.

I looked around, like an egg-and-cress junkie, for an egg-and-cress sandwich at Tesco. But… they were gone! So I decided to try out the vegan version of the sandwich. And… it was not great! They managed to get it to kind of smell and taste like egg… but 0.8 out of 10, would not eat again.

So, it is the last day of this thirty-day thing. Today is Wednesday: my busiest weekday at work. Form times two, and four different classes. Alhamdulillah. It is a blessing to have a job like this, for me. Sometimes, though, I find I must drag my feet a lil, to the next place I have to be at. But then I forget any prior negative emotions like that when I, for example, have a conversation with Ar–sa, Fa-za, Ma–am F–toni.

[Yes! Siedd has made a vocals-only cover of Shawn Mendes’ In my Blood. Yeeeees]

Fortunate I am, to be alive, and to be Muslim, and to be me, and to have this life of mine. Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah. Sometimes, I might feel as though I know what is best for me. The truth is, I do not. To paraphrase something that Hamza Tzortzis (Muslim scholar) has said, fairly often, we only have a pixel, while only God has access to the entirety of the picture.

Pixels versus pictures. Appearances versus reality. Appearances: a glimpse. Forgetting, or not paying much attention to, all that is behind this image. Deliberate snip-outs, very deliberate ways of presenting things, editing; of presenting oneself, even.

Today I held a copy of the recently-published Young Writers’ book in my hand: some of my students have been published in it, Alhamdulillah! I’d received packs from the competitions’ organisers in the post, at work. And quite a few of them signed up for them [there were two different competitions]. All of them received a commendation and a certificate, and an invitation to be published (save for one, who’d… plagiarised a random poem). The organisers said that this had been quite a rare thing, for any school to be invited by them to get (almost) all entrants published.

But that’s the thing: these girls are not just any students. So many of them are (Wallahi, without exaggeration on my part here) quite talented. They write very well, some of them [there is this one girl, in Year Ten, whose class I covered the other day. And I think she… could easily get a very interesting and well-written book published now]. Some of them: their Mendhi skills… professional levels. Masha Allah, Masha Allah. They even offer their artistic services to teachers, free of charge.

Baking and cooking: wow. That brownie-cake from the Eid event, which a student had made: wowowowow. Masha Allah, Allahummabārik. The painted/calligraphy arts: so many of the Year Sevens have their own calligraphy sets. Their brush-pens, the colours. Origami, too: the swans, the Ramadan advent calendar on 8S’ wall. Their senses of humour. Sharpnesses, brightnesses. And, most importantly, their Akhlaaq and Adab (morality and manners). These girls are amazing, Masha Allah Tabarak Allah. Just… all their colours.

And, yet, to many external eyes: they might just be… black-and-white. Black abaya, white scarf. Nothing else. No afforded humanness; no fairness. Just… images. Things onto which to project:

Project what you think Muslim women are, onto them. Voiceless, shapeless… whatever you choose for us to be, really, in your minds. Forgettable, or despicable. Boring, bored, or whatever else. Or, even: you feel yourself to be impure, and a Muslim girl must be faultless, and your ‘saving grace’; do the job of ‘purifying’ you, while you do little. What you might have gleaned from the media. One particular girl from Tower Hamlets stands out, for me, in particular: she had been groomed into joining a certain group, abroad. And she is probably the only Muslim girl from Tower Hamlets that many Brits have ever come across.

Before I started working here at this school (as a result of Qadr. I absolutely cannot put it down to anything else) my aunt, of course, had been here. And she would tell me about work; I would make fun of her when she had loads of marking to do [oh, how the tables have turned]. She’d told me about some anti-Muslim incidents that had taken place, while taking some of her girls on school trips. People getting their phones out, and freely taking pictures and videos of these girls, for example. Quiet though it may be, this is an act of aggression. Especially against innocent young women.

People often perceive Muslims, and Muslim women in particular, as a ‘free-for-all’ of sorts. Spat at, punched. Headscarves pulled off. Pregnant women attacked. Pushed down stairs. Go back home and

You terrorist. You’re a threat and a nuisance and oh, heh, you’re also oppressed.

And because… I think you’re oppressed… here, let me just… add to the struggles of oppression that I perceive you as being subjected to???? ‘Islamophobic’ bullies are very stupid indeed.

In their eyes, we are not granted our humanity. We are not allowed to be human. But that doesn’t stop our humanness from being true. And, very often, all one must do, in order to come to better know the truths of things is: move closer.

See the fact that one of them wants to be a structural engineer/architect in the future [this is the Italian-Bengali one, with the -oni surname!] She is determined, and she is extremely kind. She likes to read; she writes really well, Masha Allah. Books about engineering, here in Year Eight. She told me about this one time in Year Two when her teacher (whom I want to fight) told her, at Parents’ Evening, that she should… probably just aspire to be a chef, instead of an engineer. Because she hadn’t been that good at Maths, apparently. [There is nothing wrong with being a chef, but… this teacher?????] Ma–am F—oni has dyslexia. She is an incredibly intelligent girl, Masha Allah, and pretty much everybody in the staff room (passionately) agrees. Like a gifted sixth form student, sitting there in a Year Eight class. When she reads, she uses a special pink sheet thing, which assists her reading ability. And our presentations, as teachers, when teaching her class, need to have pink backgrounds. [Very often, I sillily forget… and she reminds me in a gentle and cheerful way. This girl is just… good vibes, Masha Allah.]

And this is just one student, of so many of them. You zoom in, and only then do you exchange the view[s] of mere images of them, for truths and humannesses. Muslim women are not a monolith. We are different people, with different styles, different minds, different inclinations and vocations, different senses of humour, and all the rest of it. In the staff room, by the shoe rack: shiny, heeled professional shoes. Trainers, also: some muddy, some pristine. Wellies of sorts. Clogs. Summery shoes.

But it can be easy for external eyes to come to think we are just walking black cloaks, with nothing much human about us: the media, the lack of true recognition. You don’t really see us. You might see: what the (intrinsically untrustworthy) media touts. Netflix and such too: the cool Muslim girls are the ones who… drop everything to run away with a white man. Her liberation lies with the white man; her ‘liberation’ lies in Dunya, seemingly, and in whatever is not Islam. But, prior to meeting him, and what he represents: she is made to seem… personality-less. Only a quietness, passiveness, latency. And no anything else. And have we forgotten about who our role models are: the Khadijah (RA) – wealthy and successful business-owner, who sacrificed so much of her wealth for her relatives, and for Islam; the ‘Aisha (RA) – witty genius who would race with our Prophet (SAW), the Fatima Al-Fihri, the Nusayba bint Al-Ansariyya (woman-turned-warrior, who also assisted wounded soldiers in battle)?! The Queen Bilqiis of Sheba, mentioned in the Qur’an, who ran her nation; consulted her men; humbly submitted to Allah, when she learned of the truth. Maryam (AS) who, most likely, had been beautiful (Masha Allah). But Allah was, determinedly, more important to her than mere men.

Fātima (RA) would, as a young girl, courageously go and remove the guts and meat scraps from her father’s back (which his detractors would put on him) while he prayed. She would stand up, kiss him, take him by the hand, and offer her seat to him, whenever he had come to visit her. Because this had been him as a father: this is what had been modelled to her, what he would do for her! A big part of Islam is honouring women: this theme had been a strong one, in Muhammad (SAW)’s final sermon to his people.

So what, really, is a Muslim woman? Who gets to decide who we are?

We cannot let for anybody else, in particular those who have decided that they hate us, tell us who we are. This thing is between Allah and ourselves.

Today, in the staff room, the KS4 History teacher (who is really smart, Masha Allah) started up some great discussions. And then, they veered into a discussion about… pregnancy/giving birth, again. And about how one of them needed twelve epidurals, and blerrrrrgh. How physically toiling it is to be the vessel through which another beating heart is brought into the world. Blood, (pool births), tears (in both senses of the word), and everything else.

Someone joked that one of the senior staff members would probably make for a really great birthing-partner, actually. And then we made a joke imagining her in her lanyard, doing an o b s e r v a t i o n while someone else gave birth. She – the senior staff member – also added, about giving birth, that “it’s easy”. “Just enjoy it”.

Another interjected: “Don’t listen to her!” and basically confirmed my fears that it is the most excruciating thing to ever go through; traumatic and gory and ewwwwwwww. What are the pros of this thing? What are its cons?!!!!

Something we had also spoken about today had been… mental health. Definitions, and how they are important. How much I hate the word ‘toxic’. Ultimately, this Dunya has not been designed for man’s ‘happiness’. But, when there is excessive sadness, then we need to undergo measures (considering holism) to reset the balances.

As ‘[completely] clinical’ as this stuff is sometimes made out to be, and as not-religious-but-‘s p i r i t u a l’ are proffered its solutions: ‘mental’ and religious considerations tend to go hand in hand. That is not to say that depression is a sign of low Īmān. And nor is it to say that there are no Muslims who are suffering from depressive conditions. But religion helps with understanding the entirety of this life, and what it is for. This life is not to achieve realities that look like Instagram images: this is impossible. Religion helps with the balancing act; helps with managing our expectations. Helps with giving us the avenue through which to be conversant with the One who made us, who Knows us best; helps us with being grateful.

Man, sometimes I feel like such a baby and impostor in that staff room. I’m… not a graduate (yet, Insha Allah) and apparently I look like a kid, to some. But das okay: I get free chocolate and stuff sometimes [I think some of my colleagues have taken on very maternal roles towards me], just for being alive, so I don’t mind that much.

Today I asked one of my classes who, here, enjoys writing, and quite a few hands went up. I told them that I really think they should become authors in the future, Insha Allah, and give me copies of their books to read! We need more of their voices; we need to listen to them. Maybe they won’t end up being so loud, in the face of those blaring media voices. But that’s okay: beauty is beauty, and strength is strength, even when they may appear ‘small’ in the face of loud and angry things.

What is Islam? And what do people frequently mistake it as being?

A few things: there are some who seem to sort of take the heart out of it. Make it something that is harsh, and not gentle. And, yes, a certain degree of firmness is important here: Islam is not just those parts of it that make us feel instantaneously ‘fuzzy’ and all. But, just as Muhammad (SAW) told us, gentleness beautifies, while harshness makes ugly. If a person’s religion is making them arrogant, then it is not Islam, but a failed attempt at it. Irrespective of how many fresh-white thobes one owns; irrespective of the length of someone’s beard. Islam begins from the heart (the mind, the soul) and it extends outwards, a rose tree [like the one that Faris had refused to climb the other day].

An equal but different version of such a monochromatic understanding of Islam: those who put the Deen beneath a microscope, a sort of divorced-from-heart and soul ‘academic’ lens. Without really knowing it. Investigative pursuits… but they’ve already decided on what they are looking for.

The truth is that Islam, in its true Muhammadan form, liberates. This Dunya is enslavement, attaching our hopes and desires to various things. But everything (material) leaves, and only One remains. And He is promising you the best – the most truly excellent things – in this world, and in the Hereafter, if you obey His instructions. You either accept, or you reject: your choice.

A note to myself: if Allah is making you wait for something, then wait for it. Wait for it in the best ways possible; always remember to praise Allah in the hallway. How much blessing there is, in the wait: in the opportunity to make much Du’a for it, while it approaches you. If Allah is telling you that something is not for you, then it is not for you. Don’t you know Whom your Lord is? He’s the One who gave you… Saif. And this job, here at this school. Your entire life. Your beating, beating heart. And you can pray for Hasana (excellence) for this (transient, worldly, travelling) life of yours; you can pray for Hasana for your eternity after here, also. When we chase Ākhirah (and our bond with Allah, and good bonds with the people) then Dunya… falls right at our feet, too.

[Phew, man. I thought the cat just passed away or something. He’s okay. He’s just… sitting really still, by the window, behind the blinds]

More random notes, on general health and (thus) skin: stress affects skin badly. So does bad food. Lack of sleep. Remember to apply sun-cream [according to Anteayer and Ms Maisoun: about every 2-3 hours!] Also, Balmonds’ Intensive Facial Oil (with rosehip and lavender) from Holland and Barrett: this is the one (for me, at least) Masha Allah. Drink a lot o’ water. And keep not letting anyone touch your face: bacteria affects skin badly.

Today, after work, I walked home with Sweetie again. Me, pulling my bike along [super uncomfortable. I really should stop bringing Maserati in on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays]. I’ve forgotten what we talked about today, but I always love walking home with Sweetz. Today she also gave me the other half of her chicken tikka sammich. Such an important part of my childhood: chicken tikka sammiches from F. Foods [which has very recently been renamed! Gasp! Scandal!] She asked me if I wanted to come into Nanu’s, for the Thai green and red curries she was planning on making. But this time, I just came home instead.

My dad just told me to take the electric bike instead of my own one to work… This might just be what I use, to work my way up to that imagined Vespa (Insha Allah).

“I need You, I trust You. My love is just for You.

[I can’t do without You].

My Lord I,

will ne-ver //

Put anything above You.” [Siedd]

Keep going, keep going, keep going. Keep traversing this Dunya, as a traveller, this beautiful Earth; keep finding. Projects, adventures: seek out the Khayr. Keep trying. Keep failing; keep trying again, but better. [This world is, comparatively, a prison for the believer; a paradise for those who do not believe. And:] your Lord is with you, and therefore you’ve got this. You’ve just got to really, really, focus on all that is beneficial (she boutta say it again. True, and Good, and Beautiful). And lower your gaze [your glaze. Remember that? It just doesn’t have the same buzz anymore, does it?] from a lot of other things; what is not so good for you; what does not concern you. [Priya’s voice, here, when she says, “I don’t care”. And Zahra’s too. “Just don’t care.”].

“Don’t let your food get cold watching someone else’s plate.” You take your plate, add your Nando’s sauces, put a little coriander leaf on the top, for decoration purposes. Dis be your plate: it is from Allah, designed specifically for you. What will you make of it?

God Knows, by Siedd (whose songs, quite a few of my students love. Or, perhaps, used to: one academic year, in Year Seven terms, is actually a lotlot of time).

Back when I was eighteen
We used to live in daydreams
Then woke up in our twenties
Life passed us by so quickly

Said I’d put You above me
But been so busy lately
Out all these hours daily
Been driving myself crazy


I’ve been losing myself each day
Losing my rest each day
All these things I want for me
Oh I’ve been
Caught in distractions
Oh lost in my passions
I don’t know where this road will lead


Oh God knows, God knows, God knows
Oh God knows, God knows, I’m trying
Oh God knows, God knows, God knows
God knows I’m trying.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twenty-Nine

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Nine: Big Sister Things, and Juice from Brazil.

Today I learned that that daily KRRRRT! sound from the stock-room is not as a result of the cat doing something in there, as I’d previously thought. It’s… the sporadic air-freshener thing. Good place to put it, since the kitty litter box is there too.

Today, I bought a meal deal from Tesco, having very recently rediscovered my love for… egg-and-cress sandwiches on brown bread! I got a meal deal (which is, at this moment in time, £3) and then I got an extra sandwich because… I’m self-aware and all, and knew I would get hungry again right after school.

Saif has just reminded me that Isa’s birthday is in a week. Moosa’s is, also, three days later. Isa is going to be ten years old, Masha Allah; Moosa, sixteen! Now my brother is pretending to cry like a few-month-old baby. “MAAAAAAAA”. The accuracy.

When I say I love my brother so, one thing I mean is: he was, and is, such a big part of home for me. I would be at school: classes, all those various social considerations. Outside. And then a bus home. Inside. And baby brother dearest: the smartest, coolest, funniest (and most gorgeous) little boy whom I am lucky enough to call my own. We would: read books together, scribble. Watch all sorts of TV shows (Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Thomas the Tank Engine; the list goes on and on). I taught him how to play chess, when he was four or something. And, whenever I would have exams to study for, I would have to close my bedroom door. And he would come in, and start touching all my things, throwing tantrums for attention. Ripping things, sometimes. And he was, and still is, one of my biggest sources of unbridled joy, in this here life of mine.

He is… currently trying to teach the cat how to sneeze. “Safi, Hatchoo.

Saif also has girls on his case already. A particular neighbour of ours, for instance. And once, when I picked him up from school, two little girls were behind us, talking about him, trying to get his attention, wondering aloud if I’m his sister. Little boy blanked them completely.

I can’t believe that I actually occupy this role as a big sister. I think adulthood in general is like this: you just have these roles, and you grow into them. Mushfikah did also say that teaching, for example, forces you to reach into parts of yourself you perhaps previously didn’t even know existed.

You just take responsibilities, and you grow with them; into them. But nobody alive has it ‘all together’. Not even the ‘cool’ ones who seem ‘put-together’ [at work, just like at sixth form, quite a few people have told me that they think I seem ‘very put-together’. Ma’am… I, in truth, am a mess. Because I’m human. And y’all are seeing but

g l i m p s e s.].

This is everybody’s first time being here in Dunya. Being eight years old: you get only one year as an eight-year-old. Being twenty-years-old: one year. And this is it, in my case.

Today, I annoyed Saif [this is just an organic, very important part of my life. It doesn’t even take much forethought at all: it’s just so integral to our existences] and he called me ANNOYING and said he hates me. I told him to say Wallahi he hates me. He stopped, and just smiled, and didn’t say anything more. Ohhhhhh he was lying [I’m insecure].

Fairly recently, he complained, from the bathroom, that I’m “the worst sister in the world!” And I said, though I normally wouldn’t, that “you’re the worst brother in the world”. And then he came out and tried to make out as though, gosh, he was just joking! People really can’t understand when people are jokingggg. He can dish it but… he can’t take it <3.

The truth is, we probably both annoy one another in equal measure. I really wouldn’t have it any other way though. I have this brother of mine who is just like this, and he is beautiful, Masha Allah. Some people can’t really easily understand him very well (because they have limited minds. I’m salty) but das okay… I’ll (metaphorically) beat them up. By slight contrast to Saif, I also have my little cousin-brother Dawud: the adorable-sweetheart type, Masha Allah.

My brother would freely jump on my bed [“dumping, dumping” had been his way of saying “jumping, jumping”, putting his arms up, having real fun]. Draw on my things, sometimes. My friend Yu Zhu had gifted me a guitar before she’d left for Canada; my brother cut one of its strings. Encyclopaedia that Sweetie had gifted me: he tore some pages out. The names of various dinosaurs: he’d learned at a very young age, Masha Allah. He, for a while, liked working on maths problems for fun. He’d prank me in some… kinda brilliant ways. As a really little kid, while walking outside, I’d randomly hold his hand up, and he would pirouette through the arch. I’d teach him, sometimes, at home: he was super fun to teach, but also… very easily distracted [it’s probably genetic, you know]. I taught him, again, last lockdown, along with Isa: we made our dining room into a classroom, for a short while. Used the window as a whiteboard. I don’t know if this is what it’s like when people have kids of their own, but… I’m proud of this kid for even breathing.

Saif just called me to go and look at Safi’s (i.e. his cat’s) teeth. What the heck: cat’s teeth (save for their canines) are so… tiny and hilarious?! I wonder if being a cat dentist is an actual profession.

There are so many other hilarious stories about my brother, and I’m glad, Alhamdulillah, that I’ve managed to document many of them in the journal I’ve been keeping for him: ‘Good Luck Saif’.

Our wee lickle fights – these spirited interactions between us – just tend to be quite dumb, but I kind of quite enjoy them. I (somewhat lightly) push him sometimes, for fun. Kick him, if he kicks me. One time, he kept punching me, at the front of our dad’s mini-van. So I punched him back (equal to how hard he punched me, I hope). And then he punched me again. So I punched him again. And we just carried on like this. What even are we?

I am, at present, twenty years old. And he’s eight. And there is an eight-year-old boy part of me, certainly. And, yeah, it would appear as though he’s got this strong inner twenty-year-old too.

Today I learned why the ‘V’ sign (with one’s hand facing backwards) is sometimes given as an insult, here in Britain. It’s from back when the English had been at war with France: the French would capture the English archers, and cut off their index and middle fingers (archery fingers). The English would run around holding up their (intact) fingers as a symbol of defiance and derision.

Incidentally, while, here in Britain, a ‘thumbs-up‘ might be indicative of a positive response to something, in Bangladesh… it’s a swear, a cuss. One of my students, today, told me that when she first met someone in Bangladesh, she greeted them, and gave a thumbs-up. Much to the alarm of the other person. [Woah, literally just met this girl and she is showing me (the Bengali version of) the middle finger].

Same thing in question, but drastically different reactions, understandings of it, depending on who is looking upon it. Definitely a metaphor to be reflected upon, here.

Today, with both my Year Eight classes, we learned about women on the homefront, during WWI. Women, and labour. The ‘white feather campaign’: when women would hand out white feathers to those men who’d refused to join the army. White feathers: a symbol of cowardice, apparently because in cockfighting traditions, traditionally cockerels with a white feather in their tail were thought to have been the weakest ones.

Today I learned what ‘DORA’ stands for. Not the Mexican explorer chica. But: the Defence of the Realm Act, during WWI. The name of this law sounds quite Harry-Potter-y. Actually, quite a lot of British-in-general things are ‘Harry-Potter-y’. So, too, are lots of ‘Muslim-aesthetic’ things. The cloaks, the gold-engraved books. I would say this school is like Muslim Hogwarts, but… no. Hogwarts would wanna be us. All… actually-existent, real, and Halāl and stuff.

Women being encouraged to join the labour force, back then, though: shovelling poop, even, had been so deliberately glamorised. And, nowadays, full-time work, for example, isn’t necessarily by nature ‘liberating’. It’s not about the work, but about the essences of what we are always doin’; it is about the goodness, and the balances.

Today, some of my colleagues starting discussing, in depth and in length, cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, I had a nice nap. This conversation, to me, had been like… having a droney podcast on, which I didn’t fully understand, or want to, for that matter. Their voices just drifted away, as I sunk into my slumber.

After work, I wanted to go and sit in nature again. Last time, I went and sat by that bit near the start of the canal (right behind 21 W.L.). I just chilled, watched a CMC (Cambridge Muslim College) video, read a book, I think. ‘T’had been a rewarding experience, Masha Allah. Recollection.

Today, I didn’t walk that way. I stopped at the outdoor cafeteria thing that has caught my eye numerous times before: it’s just in front of those industrial under-train archways, on Cable Street. There are two Brazilian food trucks there, and a third: a coffee cart. The tables, there: repurposed (or, perhaps, deliberately-made-this-way) steel drums. I had a veggie skewer [it had halloumi halloumi halloumi, stop makin’ fun of halloumi in it] with chips, and some (guava, had it been?) juice. Delicious, Masha Allah! The juice: I went to the trailer and asked if they did juices. The lady there explained, “no English”. So I looked at the menu, and asked for a ‘Compal’: a type of South American juice. It was £1.50, and I said “Obrigada” to the woman (remembering an old friend of mine, Ricardo, who is from Portugal).

Eating, and reading a bit, by myself, outside: this shiz makes me feel self-conscious. I think it makes anybody, everybody, self-conscious. But it’s bearable, and you just have to find the right thing to lose your attentions in, to focus on. I think this may have been my first time eating on a steel drum. And wow, the big truck’s sauces. O.K. hand gesture.

I suppose I also learned, today, from seeing the other people there at the ‘Food Garden’ that there’s a seemingly growing Brazilian community here in this part of East London, now. Very cool indeed.

Today I reflected more on how… birth order really does seem to affect personality types. Or, better still: Allah has ordained for us to fill certain roles. I really like this big sister one, Masha Allah. I don’t think I could imagine being a little sister to anybody. I don’t like being told what to do, first of all. And… I don’t know. I like feeling more independent, and depended on; I like growing into the responsibilities of being Fuldi. Makes me want to ‘be a better me’ and all.

Today I learned, again (to my annoyance. What does pointing it out even do?) that people think I look really tired recently. Probably because I quite often am, these days. But ugh: “You look really tired today. It really shows, on your face”. Okay….. what do you want me…. to do?! Except… feel kinda bad for the rest of the day, conscious that I look tired.

The comments that I keep receiving are: “you look tired”. “You’ve lost so much weight.” “You look tired.” “You’ve lost sooooooo much weight!!! Oh my gosh Sadia. *Stares and stares, without restraint*”. What the heck do I even do/say, in response? “Okay”. “Thank you”. And it very much annoys me, and part of me wants to just say, in response to those weight-y ones: “no, I really haven’t. Stop exaggerating and let’s talk about something more meaningful.” Part of my reason for being annoyed is that they say it every time. Like a chosen greeting of sorts. So… am I just getting progressively thinner, in their eyes? If they’re right each time, then should I not be… a breadstick, by now?

Ah, man, my brother is just so cute, Masha Allah Allahummabārik. I just looked to see that we’d been sitting on the sofa in the exact same manner: with one foot tucked under the other knee. Him, sitting on my dad’s kurroh (Bengali for ‘lap’) though.

I’m feeling kind of fed up today. Probably feminine-cycle things. Almost indubitably. Existential discomfort, a quietly-powerful kind of rage.

Today, I’m not liking the fact that I often feel infantilised by certain people. But that’s probably because… a lot of them are a lot older than me. When people my own age do it though… I just don’t know. In one way it’s nice: the cute, cute, CUTE, people feeling like they need to treat you like how children are. Protected, pitied, almost. But sometimes people think they can just freely say whatever, and I don’t like it. I’m just being moody today on account of internal reasons. Womanhood is amazing, isn’t it, but it has its necessary downsides.

I swear, if someone comments on weight/tiredness tomorrow, I will…./.g,.g,lrwjglkrgjrghkwg

say that I really don’t like those comments, and that they don’t help me in any way. Or, I could just spend more time alone instead. That’s probably better: for me, and for other people. Taking time out, in times of anger. I doubt anybody has ever regretted doing this.

To end, somewhat abruptly and in a way that is not particularly harmonious with the parts that have preceded it:

A reminder-note to my current, and future (Insha Allah), self: in this life of mine, I am trying to not escape Reality; the truths of me, of my life, of this world, this existence. I am trying to be here for all of it. And the things I enjoy: I want to ensure that they are always good parts of reality, and not attempts at denying it for any while.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twenty-Eight

Subhan Allah.

I have got to write about this day.

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Eight: I don’t even know what to call this one. A great big salad bowl of various things, I suppose.

Bismillah.

Today. Monday 7th June 2021. I woke up. Cherished those last few minutes of half-slumber. Got ready real quick. Normally, if I leave before 7:30 am, then I arrive at work early. Today, it had been 7:38 am, and on days like this, I tend to resort to taking an Über. I really must stop spending money like this, but alas…

Über. Mask on. A kind-seeming driver with a Spanish accent. I love it when the drivers don’t try to engage in small talk, because I just love staring out of the window and not having to exert myself with anything. In the car today, I opened the window. As a Muslim woman, you’re not meant to sit with non-Mahram men in secluded places. I thought, hopefully, opening the window would invite a sense of openness into the car.

Cars. How strange it is to think about the fact that… if they had not been invented, then… we would still see horses and carriages everywhere. Imagine… an Über horse-and-carriage service [and… a Rikshaw one]! They should do this anyway, I think. They have a Thames boat service already. 10/10, I would call horse Übers just for fun.

Today, I learned the word ‘quisquilious’ from Dr. Susie Dent’s Twitter [she’s the awesome woman from the ‘Dictionary Corner’ on Countdown, which I, along with my cousins (albeit, separately) used to love watching]. The word means: ‘worthless’, ‘trivial’, ‘rubbish’.

“We are humans helping other humans deal with their humanness.”

Right now, before attending university-university (like, the legal robbery institutionalisation kind) I am attending, so it would seem: el universidad del Twitter. Y del YouTube. I… am learning a lot, here.

At work, some staffroom conversations. I don’t know, today I felt quite cheerful, Alhamdulillah. Something in the sunshine, maybe. And when I’m happy like this, conversations with (certain) colleagues of mine just (to quote Farhana, in describing… pasta) hit differently. Like today, when I’d been trying to get Mushfika to try Tesco’s salted caramel chocolate pots [they are… peng. And when I called them peng, one of the others said something like, we’ve got to try this thing that made you call it PENG!]. I told her that my chocolate mousse could easily beat the chocolate mousse she’d been eating, in a fight. And she asked me if this mousse is really that good, to make me talk about it like this. I said yes, and if it isn’t, I’ll give her her money back. Now, this is perhaps quite literally one of the lamest jokes in the whole entire world, ever made. But… my own joke made me cackle, quite unexpectedly, today.

But, still, I know I need to work on my morning routine (again). Waking up at Fajr time, and staying awake, por ejemplo. Slower mornings = better mornings, in my opinion. With many of these mornings before work, though: I’ve really been living life on the edge.

I like it when things maybe work for a while, and then they stop working for a while. And then you are left with a new project to work on: a new venture through which to explore and develop. My morning routine which I will (Insha Allah) make for now will necessarily look different to, say, that of last year. New times, new requirements and considerations.

Today, while teaching 7M (History), I asked how everybody’s holiday went. Before going into the classroom, M–yam M.’s smile met mine: a distinctive remember-when-I-saw-you-at-Nando’s-the-other-day,-Miss? smile. And then I heard about some stories re what they got up to. Laser tag, Nando’s, seeing cousins. M–ryam M. described her half-term holiday as being a bit… “HOO-GA BOO-GA”. No idea what this really means, but I quite like the phrase. Does it mean… eventful? Outlandish? Hoo-ga boo-ga knows?!

And, in the staffroom, I met the KS4 History teacher whom Mominah had been covering for, while she (this teacher) had been on maternity leave. She gave me some guidance, today, on how to design the KS3 girls’ end-of-year-assessments.

Today I began designing the Year Sevens’ English lessons on non-fiction writing. To plan these lessons, you need: a Starter, a Main, an Activity, and a Plenary. Generally, we use certain textbooks (Ignite). Resources from TES are also unbelievably useful, generally. TES: the site onto which I used to upload my own revision materials, in KS4. And teachers would use them!

When the A-level Psych teacher (Anj–an. I don’t know why I semi-blank-out some colleagues’ names, while freely writing others’) entered the staff room, we spoke about the Freshly Grounded cards. She was intrigued, as one would expect a Psychology teacher to be, with these, and picked them up to have a browse through them. Today I learned that, a lot of these questions, people find very intimidating. e.g.

“WHAT’S WEIGHING HEAVY UPON YOUR HEART, RIGHT NOW?”

I find these questions just so interesting.

“Will you share

your soul, with me?

Unzip your skin, and let me have a seat.” [Dodie]

When Anj–an happened upon the card that read,

“WHAT’S STOPPING YOU FROM COMPLIMENTING PEOPLE MORE?”

she said something along the lines of, “we’re not really meant to do that anyway.”

“What? Compliment people?”

And then a very interesting and engaging conversation (from my perspective, at least) had been born. A Psychology teacher (whom I frequently see, in the staff room, reading Psych book after Psych book. Apparently, inspired by her father’s reading habits) who doesn’t ‘believe’ in compliments.

Compliments. Our discussion on this quickly revealed that Anj–an looks upon compliments as being, by nature, exaggerations. Not useful; not beneficial for growth. I asked her if she compliments her children [she has two little sons] and she said, yeah, because they’re her children.

Conversations like this: I feel physically excited, when somebody starts them. They come by rarely, maybe. Or a lot, Alhamdulillah, with peopledem like Tasnim.

I argued that, really, we’re all grown-up children, aren’t we? And, complimenting someone by saying “[I think] you have a nice sense of style” is different from exaggeratedly (in a way not rooted in truth) saying something like “OMG YOU ARE A SUPERMODEL WHY ARE YOU ALLOWED TO WALK OUTSIDE WITH YOUR FACE SHOWING OMG QUEEEEEN XOXOXOXO”. I think compliments, when they are true, can be wonderful.

What if no-one has told this woman, for a while, that her being is calming and strong? Or, this man that he is inspiring in the way that he is raising his son. If it’s true… then why not say it? Why withhold that from people? [Dear reader, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, if yeh have any particular ones: hello@sincerelysadia.blog].

[We interrupt this entry with the fact that I’d just spilt some coffee on the table. What even am I?! Okay, we’re returning to normal-ruminator-voice in 3…2…]

We are, by nature, emotional beings. Can’t leave people starving of the recognition, in our eyes, of the goodnesses that they are, in my opinion.

A. said that she feels uncomfortable, generally, when complimented. I asked A what if somebody complimented, say… the colour of her scarf. Or, her style. She said it wouldn’t sit well with her: would just make her feel a little uneasy. But then she said that she would appreciate it if somebody reassured her that she’s doing a good job with raising her sons. She would also appreciate compliments about her efficiency, productivity: how she works.

So, at the end of the day, it might just be about what people value. I, for one, know that I value… emotional intelligence, for example. So, if somebody – especially if it were somebody whose character I am fond of, and therefore whose opinions I hold to a particular high regard – were to compliment me by saying they think I’m emotional intelligent… that would make me pretty happy! I would be like, dang girl. That reassures me, and now I want to work on it even more. And, with writing: it’s quite encouraging for me to know when people feel they have benefitted from my work.

I really do think that encouragement, rooted in genuineness, encourages… a smile. And growth.

Equally, though, as Anj–an pointed out, it needs to be constructive. So, a good friend, for example, is not solely your hype-gyal. She… tells you when you are doing something wrong. She helps you towards your development. Honesty is honest with the ‘good’, and with the not-so-good (but, the latter, still in a healthy, non-destructive way).

Confidence comes from how others have reflected whom we are, back to us. I think maybe, some people – people who have had secure and healthy bonds with parents, in childhood, are less prone to feeling over-affected by compliments. Or, indeed, by criticisms. Securer bases.

But, still, being completely deprived of any positive attention is… unbearable for any human being, no? When people are deprived of any positive attention… some begin to adhere to that maxim that ‘any attention, including negative, is better than no attention’. I guess, this is true especially when it comes to those whom we love, and whose validations [look at me! Smile at me! Love me!] we are in need of, the most.

[“Didimoni, the candle’s out.” My brother has just blown out the candle that I had lit, here, for a m b i e n c e purposes. He then proceeded to hold a little plastic panther figurine over it, maybe to see if it melts. Now… he’s making his new slime (from the zoo) fart. When I say I love this kid… And… I just realised that his tiny hands aren’t going to be this tiny forever, and suddenly I want to cry].

Today, Doli Khala gave me a chocolate bar. So sweet. We also rearranged our English-Bengali exchange lesson thing for this Thursday, Insha Allah. DLR adventurez.

Today, today, today… I discovered that somebody had seemingly replaced the box full of prayer mats (Musallahs) with… white linen mats. So, today, I prayed Dhuhr (the noon-prayer) on a white linen mat. Which is particularly interesting because:

White linen. The fabric that we Muslims, when we are (inevitably, eventually) buried in the ground, are buried enshrouded in. The white shrouds. Three pieces for men; five for women. A while ago, Tasnim had told me that a scholar she had come across, in some way, carries around white shrouds with her, in her bag. Memento mori, of the most grave and fitting degree.

Tasnim and I, for a while, especially this academic year, have discussed much about existentialism and death together. Via emails, voice notes. And I kind of had this idea: that I wanted to go to the textile shop in Watney Market, and get a symbolic piece of white fabric of my own. Maybe, to wear (hidden) on my arm or something. Maybe: for use as a prayer mat…

[Nim – another of her nicknames from me – and I tried to go to the market after our farm-Nando’s date, to locate some white cloth. But, by the time we’d gotten there, the market had been closed.]

I think somebody had taken the staff room prayer mats to be washed or something. A while back, Mushfikah told me that those mats are kinda icky… they hadn’t ever been washed. So, I’d resolved to stop using them to pray on… I started praying on the inside of my jacket, and on my Kheta, sometimes (Bengali-style embroidered quilt) instead.

Work, today: form, times two. A lesson. Some planning. Lunch duty. And that one hour of ‘PPA time’ after student dismissal. Anj–an — ya know what, lemme just say her name. It’s Anjuman. — and Samaiya looked through some more F.G. cards. One of the questions:

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?

And today I really discovered that quite a few people find questions like this quite intimidating. Some people picked up cards, to look at them, and then gasped. Mushfikah, I think, called one of them “brutal”. In my eyes, they are only extremely fascinating. And, in response to that question, there, about crying: according to Anjuman, women’s tears around the time of el period are constitutionally different, compared to during other times. During this time, crying really is catharsis. Feels weirdly nice sometimes.

After work, I decided I would go to the burger place near the school [which I’d discovered as a result of randomly going with Saajidah one day. Previously, I’d never even known this place had been there]. I wanted to get my dad a buttermilk chicken meal: my dad is a massive foodie, like me. I’ve eaten at so many different restaurants, tried so many different types of cuisine, thanks to him. And, when I tried this place’s buttermilk burger, I told my dad I’d get him some too.

Rafi had been there again today. Rafi is a boy – or, man, now – who went to the same secondary school as I did. Just fifteen minutes away from my current place of work. The memory of him that is most prominent in my mind is this one: in Year Seven, he had decided to steal my phone from my hands and run away with it. So I ran after him. And then… I fell. In the mud. Had mud all over my uniform. The embarrassment.

Now, though: deliberate amnesia with things like this. The first time I had taken Sweetie (my aunt) with me to this burger place, Sweetie said that it seemed like the person behind the counter recognised me. He said Salaam to us. And he asked, “are you Sadia?” He said it how I low-key hate for my name to be pronounced: SAD-ia. It’s *Hermione voice, here* Saaadia.

And then it clicked. It was Rafi. Everyone just looks the same but different: it’s amazing. We had a brief conversation, and then he offered Sweetie and me a really big discount. Then he gave us three free drinks.

I look after my people,” he explained.

This is something that I really like about many of the now-men whom I went to secondary school with. At school, many of them had been the very boisterous types. The types to… always, always, always make (kinda pointless) comments about things. [Once, I came into school with a checked yellow scarf around my neck. Those boys: hahahaha, why do you look like you’re in the Taliban?]. But they knew, also, their limits. And it wasn’t malicious stuff.

According to some of my friends from Khayr, at their schools, boys would: pull up skirts. Pull girls in, to sit on them (ew ew ew). Pull headscarves off. Make sexual comments and gestures about them, while they passed by. Shocking, outrageous stuff.

At my (very heavily Muslim-populated) school: the most they would do is… take a girl’s water bottle or something. I mean, one exposed his (disgusting, jungle-like) leg hair to me once, and asked if I could shave it for him [???????]. Boys can be disturbingly weird sometimes, and I think single-sex schools (and especially Islamic single-sex ones, like the one I am currently working at) might just be the answer.

On Fridays, though, the school (whose make-up had been a ratio of 1:3, girls to boys) would seem like it had been emptied, almost, of male students. They would go to Jummah (congregational Friday prayer). The Khutbahs (accompanying speeches, giving advice and stuff) would be led by certain teachers. Like by Mr R—t, the ardent (so ardent, in fact, that he would, seemingly in earnest, threaten to give detentions to people who said anything bad about his team) Arsenal fan. Dr. Shah, medical-doctor-turned-teacher with a newborn child (back then). The type of teacher to put up pictures of the stir-fry his wife had made for him, the previous day, on the board before our lessons.

Today, I said hello, while Rafi said Salaam in response (Masha Allah, man. Without intent to sound patronising here, I’m just so proud of so many of the people I went to school with) I asked him if he knows about Mazhar’s upcoming Nikkah (Insha Allah). He said yeah: as I learned today, Mazhar only lives a minute away from him; he said that his parents had told him about it. He said something about how… everybody’s doing their own thing now. Mazhar’s photography business. Jahid’s chauffeuring company [which I’d discovered while absent-mindedly walking home from work one day, down C. street. A car stopped beside me — a really nice one, actually. A Jaguar or something. Window rolling down, to reveal that it had been… a boy from form N?! Whaaaat? A road-side catch-up then followed.]

So, here I am. I think I pretty much look the same as I did in secondary school. I became a secondary school teacher at nineteen years old [sometimes it’s still super hard to explain to people. It’s just… a long story]. I own… a bike, as my regular mode of transportation; I call her ‘Maserati’. And… there are people my age who have Jaguars. Working part-time at a burger place. Photography business, getting married real soon. I find myself quite loving the range.

Today I asked Rafi if I could have the buttermilk-chicken-wrap chicken in the burger. When I’d been there with Saajidah, they’d run out of burger patties, and so they put the chicken they usually put in the wraps into my burger. ‘Twas delicious, Masha Allah. The next time I went though, the burger just… wasn’t all that. The key difference: the wrap chicken. The missing piece. Deliciosa.

Today I learned that it’s just the sauce that they change, between the wraps and the burgers, really. They have the ‘Algerian-style’ sauce, and the ‘Moroccan-style’ one. The company that produces these ‘special sauces’: they’d actually hired Mazhar to film an advert for them, a little while ago. And Sweetie and Mama, having become somewhat addicted to them, found the range of these sauces (‘Nawal’, I think, the company is called) at Quality.

So I dropped the food off to father mine, at his shop. I then headed to the market, for some white material. I learned that really good material can actually be really inexpensive, you know: I got one mat for Tas and one for me; they came to only 75p each!

Friends who pray togeva

Stay togeva. That is how it is.

At the textile store, I’d also seen the cutest baby in the whole wide world, in his pushchair. But then again, I kind of say that about every baby I see. But this kid was cute, Masha Allah Allahummabārik. I said hello, and he just stared, how babies do. And then, when it had been time for me to go, he smiled at me! I live for the validation of babies. And if they don’t like me… then that becomes the definition of

rejection.

At the market, also, I’d found, at a particular stall… my headscarf for Eid (which is next month). It is navy blue, and has white embroidered patterns on either end of it. The stall-runner asked me if it’s for my mum or something, and he also gave me a 50p discount, but kept adding that he’s really not making much profit, as a result of it. [I didn’t ask for it though! I felt somewhat guilty… do I just… decline the discount or…?]

And, today, I got another waft of a distinctively Bangladesh-like scent: it smelt much like my Dada (grandfather). At once, sweat-like, and… musk-like, in a way. My Dada is… a motorbike-riding farmer (Masha Allah). He must be about… in his late sixties, perhaps, now. And he still works his farm, with the boys who help him. And he still drives his motorbike (which I’ve been on, a couple of times, sitting behind him once maybe, and a few times sitting behind my dad. Cliff-side. I miss Bangladesh so much.)

Today I learned that, much like my brother, Siyana likes cheese-flavoured sweetcorn (‘Magic Corn’) too. I prefer the Mexican chilli flavour. I also think that having spicy food makes people’s skin look nice for a lil while.

I also learned, from Sweetie (re those Palestinian-made gift boxes) about a poet called Zirrar. His blog looks amazing, Masha Allah. The idea of being a Muslim traveller, writer. Explorer, in a Meaningful way. I love. In this world in which we dwell, we are all but travellers.

Today, after having come home from Nanu’s, we discovered that the latch, from inside, had fallen down. So my mum tried to go behind the house, to the garden, to try to get in via that way. Saif and I waited on the doorstep. Suddenly, the door opened and, standing in the doorway, wearing a white thobe with (I think) trainers…

Dobir Mama???!!!!!

[Dobir Mama is my friend Tamanna’s uncle. He lives a few doors down from us.]

Turns out, my mum had enlisted his help — as well as Sayeed [distant-ish neighbour, who had also been a TA for mine and Mazhar’s class, at primary school]’s — to climb over the wall and get into the house. Dobir Mama just has such a funny personality. He opened the door for us, smiling, and silently, as though inviting us in to his home.

[And… I haven’t told Tamanna about this yet, so she’ll just – hopefully – read this entry and find out this way, LOL]

Furthermore, I have decided that I will not take this… possible arranged marriage thing seriously, for now [dear some readers, ‘arranged‘ marriage is not the same as ‘forced’ marriage. Arranged marriage: you basically let yourself get ‘set up’ with people, and you go on (chaperoned) dates with them, and then – after however many meetings it might take – you can decide if you wish to take things further]. The reason being: I find myself, in my heart, still feeling very deeply attached to a particular person. And it would not be fair on some other person for me to pursue a Nikkah with them at all if I know that I am being disingenuous: I cannae do it. So, even if it means waiting until I am twenty-five or something… I would only like to eventually marry, Insha Allah, a person who can have my whole heart.

Incidentally, today I came across a post on… the bird app. My current uni and dat… based on the confessions of a woman whose husband had done this. Still felt attached to somebody. Pursued marriage with another anyway. And… it’s life-breaking stuff. I could not do that to another person.

Even if people begin to talk about how Mazhar’s already married, and how I’m still a bike-ridin’ spinster. Das okay: I would want to do things in truth, and not merely for appearances’ sake.

Today, when asking the cousins’ group chat about which team Mr. R supports, Didi started typing… and then Moosa did too. And then it dawned on me that we all know Mr. R because… Ranga Mama had been to that school. Sweetie too. Then Didi. Then Mazhar and I. Maryam. Moosa. My paternal cousins Tanbir and Fabiha, also. Family tingz, Masha Allah.

WHAT IS WEIGHING HEAVY UPON [YOUR/MY] HEART, RIGHT NOW?

Dear reader, I will tell you.

I will always care, so very deeply, inside. And it’s a wonderful thing, to be alive, and to feel things. But yes, sometimes it consumes me a little. Sometimes, it really does weigh heavy, doesn’t it?


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.