And, most of all, this world is one of darkness. Most of all, I know I am afraid. Most of all, I had all these ideas I thought I adhered to. Most of all, stormy weathers came and ravaged most of them all away.
And, most of all, I know I have been foolish. Most of all, I know I have been headstrong. Most of all, I don’t know the full picture[s] of things. Most of all, I know I meet them, truly, and once and once again, I am proven wrong.
Most of all, people are grown up versions of the worried little child. The lonely one; the one who did not like to share.
The fist-clenched little furious one; the show-off; the one who hurts because she cared.
Most of all, there is a certain sort of poetry to all this pain and all this loss. This is humanity; what we love and are aiming for, truly, comes at a cost. Darkness falls, a blanket, everywhere. I’ve been in a state of losing my trust in many things; still, in blindness, I will care.
I hope, dear readers, that we can make the most of this Arafah day. May Allah grant us whatever is best for us, in Dunya and Ākhirah, Āmeen.
Who am I; who am I trying to be; where am I going? What am I doing? Yesterday had been my last day as a teacher at Madani Girls School: an Islamic secondary school (and sixth form, and ‘Alimiyyah school) for young women, in Whitechapel. Yesterday had been our final INSET day of the academic year [the day before had been our sports day. Stand-out features: races on the roof, plates and crates of fruit, a bit of conflict and the firm grace with which it had been dealt, by Miss Masuma. Oh, and me: eating a full (veggie) English breakfast in the empty classroom downstairs, finishing off some piles of last-minute book-marking…]
Goodbyes. But: I don’t know. If there is still some place for me there, in the future, then Insha Allah, I will be back. The ‘goodbyes’ of the last couple of days did not really feel like permanent goodbyes at all: just temporary farewells… until the next time, whenever that will be. Now, I am somebody who, a) enjoys spending time at home, and b) loves receiving cards and gifts [I hope this doesn’t render me a materialist!]. On Wednesday and Thursday, my students surprised me with flowers (including a potted flower-plant!) and painted things, and written ones, Masha Allah. Chocolates, tea and coffee sachets, stationery, spa materials and such [things to enjoy on home days]. One of my students, for example, asked me, towards the end of term, what my favourite colours are. Days later: she gifted me a hand-knitted navy-and-mustard-yellow pouch… for me to put my glasses into! [I’d been having to use a suitcase to transport marked/for-marking books into the school, and for lugging gifts and such out. (Is dat me yeaa)
[Year Sevens have my heart and mind, Masha Allah. Year Eights too. Year Nines… I think I currently look like I am in Year Nine]
[Incidentally, yesterday, on the way home, my brother took my suitcase and pulled it for me. Such openly kind gestures tend to be rare, from young Saif-Jaan, towards me. So I cherish that moment, and seek to honour it, right here.] Teachers and going off on tangents, amirite?]
When I say I love my colleagues at the school, and my students, and the place: I don’t quite know how to properly explain it. It’s like… I had been waiting for just this, my entire life. I, whom many had associated with being ‘teacher material’ over the years [as a child I would sit my cousins down, make a register, play school-game] and who (I hope) love my religion. But over the years: I often did not know. It felt like — and feels like — there had been so many expectations placed upon me. To do ‘more’. And: people looking down on teaching, and I’d absorbed some of that, unfortunately. Why… would I want to be a teacher?
I think I have realised, by now, that the answers are always there, even if they are not always at the forefronts of our conscious minds. Allah has plans for us: I think my [academic] story, up until now, makes sense, in retrospect. Even the Oxbridge offers, whose grade requirements I failed to meet. I know that Allah has planned my life for me Perfectly. My only fear is: is there a possibility that I, myself, could slip up somewhere, thus barring myself from meeting some of the goodnesses that could have otherwise been mine? A big question, for me, in this mind of mine.
Slip: this whole coronavirus period. For a while, with the school, I taught online. Slip: I did not know what had been waiting for me, around the corner. Qadr is a deeply testing thing, and it is also a most brilliant and beautiful one, if we commit to waiting and seeing. What Allah has Written for you can never miss you; what He has not Written for you always will.
Madani Girls School is a school filled with exceptional people, beautiful souls, Allahummabārik. Not only are these students, and staff members, very intelligent, wise, and bright: they are kind, and contemplative, and Muslimahs. Not merely ‘in-the-making’. They pray Salāh now, and read Qur’an now, and explore the sciences now. They make du’a for you [how special!] Each day, at the school, new things happen: trite but true, schools really are ‘microcosms of society’. You get illnesses, anxiety attacks, experiences of grief. Events and celebrations [Eid, Ramadān, multi-cultural days and the like; the various happenings within each person’s individual life]. A confluence of various personalities, and events; circumstances, and tests. Exams, there, are important.
And every single day – moment – forms part of the Grander Test.
It would be an understatement to say that I have learnt a lot, while at this school. I think any person, any place, is defined ‘most entirely by its ethos. I think the ethos of the (wonderful) primary school I had attended been centred upon nurture and community; secondary school: academic achievement, and seeking to make ‘working-class’ students more ‘middle-class’; sixth form: ‘ambition’, ‘perseverance’ and ‘legacy’, and in such Dunya-orientated ways. I know I love knowledge and academia, and seeking enlightenment, and yet I have often found myself in the midst of some ongoing crisis of meaning, in the midst of it. Is all this… for titles? Is it all about what people might see? What would make my efforts, here, meaningful?
In the (secular) West: the notion of ‘enlightenment’ has been attached to leaving religion (namely, Christianity) and, perhaps, focusing more on the self, and on the value of knowledge as an ‘end’ in and of itself. For the Muslim, however, everything is a means to The End; every day, moment, thus counts, and not merely some notions of some ‘future’ ones.
Perhaps: in ‘secular’ academia, the emphasis is placed on the mind, and its being challenged and expanded. In Islam, we also know to give due consideration to holism: we are not only ‘minds’. A human being is mind, and heart (emotions, and… how we remember things that made us feel things!) and body [and hence: the PE teachers at the school, who think about how many steps they’ve done in a day and such] and soul [hence: Qur’an rooms, du’as, Salāh].
Yesterday, towards the end of our INSET day [featuring: breakfast spread. And a potted flower plant, Masha Allah. Faith, food, flowers, and family. *Russian accent, here* I… like it a lot] we heard speeches from the headteacher, and associate headteacher, of the school. Stand-out ideas, for me:
We have got to try to be great women; great Muslimahs. Like the mothers of our Deen: Maryam (AS) and Fātimah (RA) and ‘A’isha (RA). Khadijah (RA) and ‘Asiyah (RA). For their forbearance, steadfastness and continuity in faith, chastity, reliance on God, courage, qualities of maternity and beauty and nurture, loyalty, deep intelligence, and how they used it. Taqwa (God-consciousness, piety).
Many of us, as we become more mature, start to think about marrying a good – or, great, even, Insha Allah – man. But the important thing is for us to seek to be great women: we are parts of wholes (families and such) and we also count, deeply, as individuals. Inspired by the great Muslim men and women in our lives, and, hopefully, inspiring them (and our sons, and brothers, and daughters Insha Allah) too.
Many of us always seek to be ‘special’, somehow: a natural human impulse, probably. To be special before Allah, and in the hearts of good people, even if this does not necessarily also translate into being ‘special’ in the fleeting (and sometimes massively inaccurate) opinions of masses of people…
The headteacher closed his speech by referring to (I think it is) a quote about how we come into this world crying, while others around us are smiling. We seek to exit this world (which we inevitably will have to do, whenever our respective times are) smiling (“well-pleased and pleasing”) while others are… crying [friends and family who read my blog… you’d better cry for me, yeah, when I go…].
I have learnt so, so much about being Muslim, and a Muslim woman, specifically. Being a student, also. Teaching, and Muhammad (SAW) had been a teacher, and mothers, by nature, are teachers too. Due consideration, I have learned, over and over again, needs to be given to both the fences (government guidelines, curricula, accreditations, planning and timetables. Constancy: clear aims, constancy, the backbones) and to the nurture of the flowers (individuality, creativity, enjoyment and comfort. Novelty: the stuff that cannot be foretold or ‘planned-for’, too).
Who am I trying to be? What am I seeking to do, here? I think my love for this school, and its people, tells me a great deal in response to such questions. And if, in the future, I occupy some other roles (maybe, in Dunya terms, ‘bigger’ ones — or, ‘smaller’ ones…) then… that will be okay, too, but as long as the right essences of things remain the same within me, the entire way through, Insha Allah.
To try to live like Muhammad (SAW). And in a Fitrah-orientated manner: in a way that will grant us admission into Allah’s Mercy, and into Jannah. “The believers are but brothers” [Qur’an, (49:10)]. And perhaps the most beautiful thing about Madani School is its evident and well-embodied emphasis on sisterhood.
Probably one of the biggest things I have learned, through experience, is that life is going to keep moving, just as it has been doing, all this time. And we have got to keep moving, and growing, learning, with it. We know, better, what the [oft-arduous nature of the] life of this world is. Certainly, it is essential for us to have good people – and places – to walk along with us, on this journey.
[To quote a display poster on the top floor hall: What’s your journey to Jannah looking like?]
(And, Alhamdulillah for everything, and for what what things are,present tense.)
In line with the idea that everything in Dunya is part-‘upsides’ and part-‘downsides’:
Pages from the summer publication by the ‘Alimiyyah department:
In Islam, ‘Jihād’ is very much a thing. But we don’t abide by externally-imposed definitions of this notion that are outside of the truths of our Deen. ‘Jihād’ refers to struggle: internal, against the immoral callings of the Nafs/Shaytān, and external… If you are being attacked, you are allowed to retaliate. Combatants against combatants, without harming non-combatants, trees/crops, innocent people. And to slaughter one innocent human life is, in Islam, equal in weight to taking the lives of all of mankind.
There are more questions I have, regarding the rules of war, in Islam. There is a big book on the subject, which I have purchased, in order to learn more, Insha Allah. I might post notes on the topic as I do so: I hope they may be of some benefit to some who read.
[I sometimes wonder if I am ‘sharing too much’ of what I learn. But: the believers are in this together; we share goodness, by nature, right? I hope to continue to learn, Insha Allah, and to teach. A constant flowing process, this learning thing, Masha Allah. And I would greatly appreciate comments – or emails (email@example.com) if you have anything to add, or any ideas, on anything of what I post].
Here it is, and here is the thing. Dunya is shiny and seemingly ‘everything’. The eyes see; the eyes want. Dunya is ego; its alternative is soul.
Dunya is: being destitute, even if we might think that we are ‘wealthy’. These plots of land; these sand castles, which we are building here. Moment after moment, and then the wind comes, and they are all gone.
Dunya – ego – would like, for example, attention. Would like to feel superior, or ‘cool’, in these ways or those. Dunya is ice-cold, and it beckons for your warm hands to reach out and touch it. Know it; become addicted to it. Drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll.
Dunya is: ‘casual’ and wasted time. Lies, and lies, and lies. Appearances; putting up fronts so that ‘they’ finally approve of you, somehow. The life of Dunya is: vain pursuits. Allowing ourselves to be deceived, usually by things whose truths are so very far away from us. Dunya is boasting, and boasting, picture-films, concealing only hot air. Lying to ourselves, and to others. For ‘approval’, among other egoic things.
We get caught up in the cheapness of ‘money-making’; in wanting to ‘impress’ with images. Of ourselves: our faces, and our ‘accomplishments’. Our lives; our families. What are we putting first?
So we can either stand upon mountains of truth. Or, we can stand upon mounds of deception. Illusion, decay. Mirage, vanity. When everything else goes away, only the stuff far, far better than Dunya shall remain.
You have all these faculties — Nafs (ego, lower-self), ‘Aql (intellect). We can make intelligent choices, out of them: ones that do not bring about, within us, lifetime regrets, followed by eternal ones. Or, we can be of the Losers. Always, always, always: we choose.
“Know that the life of the world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller, but afterward it dries up and you see it turning yellow, then it becomes straw. And in the Hereafter there is grievous punishment, and (also) forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure, whereas the life of the world is but matter of illusion.” [Qur’an, 57:20]
Everything from Islam – the way of life recommended by the One who created us – is best for us. In Dunya – where we need shelter, sustenance and repose – and in the Eternity to come. That life is far better for us, and it is the one that is actually lasting: whose gorgeous-seeming adornments are true.
So, and this is a reminder to myself, mainly, for now and forever: grand-seeming sand castles, decorated with shiny-seeming shells? Or iron-grade, mighty rock castle-castle, with the roses, and the swords: the truths of Dunya, and the gorgeousnesses of Jannah?
What is mirages; a hungry and powerful need for ‘more’, until it necessarily makes dizzying, nauseous; morally wrong: ugly, but caked beneath colours that may magnetise me towards paying attention. A temporary greenness, there, whose true nature proves itself to be mere straw. Or
what is always-noble. [Disapproved of, by others, often, though]. ‘Simple’ and elegant. Beautiful:
Gardens beneath which rivers flow.
Sometimes, I find myself worrying about those who might disagree; disapprove; look upon me, and these values I hold to be true, with rejecting eyes. I will never be ‘enough’ – or I will necessarily be ‘too much’ – for those who have more Dunya-aligned values. But then again, who are they? Did they create me? Will they not also be standing there, naked, quaking, terrified, on That Day, when there will be no shade anywhere, save for His?
[I hope I can graceful-flex my Pegasus on them, then…]
This Dunya-based journey, battles, mountain-climb uphill, will prove to be arduous, no matter where in it we are, or look. Different sets of blessings; different sets of tests. But then again: what true sweetness, triumph, has ever really come, here, from mere ‘pleasantries’ and ease? Where is the impetus for things, in times of mere indolence and ‘ease’? Know that we’ll be tested to our very limits, here. But we are not going to be weak, or liars or cowards, I hope. Death: release is coming. I hope we’ll have wealths of good things to show for ourselves, when it does.
In this world, I am seeking elegance, truth, beauty, (the Best Ways) and peace, Insha Allah. For Ākhirah: I would like to have, and from the Perfection of my Lord, Bi’ithnillah, Everything.
“Those are the bounds of Allah; and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will cause him to enter Gardens from beneath which Rivers run, eternally (abiding) therein; and that is the magnificent triumph.” [Qur’an, (4:13)].
‘Secrets’. What you don’t know, veiled, enigmatical, and beneath murky waters, versus what appears, in iceberg-like isolation, to be.
There are ‘good’ secrets: things you share with other people, whose beauty is only augmented by the fact that… they are only between you and another. The unassuming exterior of a particular building, maybe, and the knowledge that only those who hold its keys, are allowed to be privy to.
‘Bad’ secrets, too: each man and his individual burden, for example. We never know what others are going through, but we know that we all are. Never quite know the full picture. Today I came across an analogy that the Muslim scholar/poet Rumi talked about, apparently:
Like the ant who walks across a mosque floor, confused by the messy obstacles of all the crags and bumps and loops while on his journey. Only the Carpet-Maker sees the holistic picture: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Perfection. The tips of the icebergs; all that other eyes, and sometimes our own, cannot see. But Someone does, and in Islam, we know to accept how fundamentally limited we, as beings, are.
I hope I, somehow, and in spite of all of my limitations, worries, shortcomings and more:
I hope I matter truly to the ones whom I love. Brother, friends, students, and all. I hope we really mean beautiful things to one another. I know that nobody, and nothing, at all, deserves to be placed on pedestals.
Only Allah has the Right to be Worshipped.
From afar, for example: skin can look ‘perfect’, and not cragged with character. Social media can seem… ‘larger-than-life’, and ‘better’. Rock-faces: the way we must all climb, sturdy. Rock-climbers, and all the other possible metaphors, through Dunya life.
I hope I matter to the ones whom I love: not in a way that makes them look ‘down’ upon me. Via lenses of pity, and/or derision. For my takes on things; for the way I am, and not for what I am ‘expected’, or ‘wanted’ to be. Mind, heart, soul, and (face, physical presence, i.e.) body. And: not in any way that makes them put me on some pedestal. Nobody — not even on account of the wealth in one’s pocket; the symmetry woven gracefully through one’s face; not on account of the titles we can claim to hold, or anything else — deserves to be placed ‘above’ us somehow. Nobody is, at their very cores, ‘superior’.
I want to be looked at, eye-to-eye, ‘on a real’: on the same human level, where we all are, and belong. Seen for all that I am, and loved for all of it. And if we are to love: we must love whom people are, now. Not: our ideas of them, concocted in these imaginative minds of ours, from far away. Not notions of their ‘potential’, in terms of religion or anything else. Human eyes, to human eyes. The necessary ‘good’, and the not-so. And if they are truly a friend, and you love them, then you will take all of it, with honour.
‘Friend’: okay, nooooo: I am very much a nerd, so it would seem, for etymology. ‘Friend’, as I have known, is derived from an Old English word that is related to love. And: the word comes from a Proto-Indo-European root (‘Pri-‘) which means to love. Like my cousin Priya’s name: a common name from the Indian subcontinent, and it means ‘beloved’. ‘Pyaar’ means ‘love’. [source: etymonline.com]. Oh, language. How much I love thee, language.
[Interestingly, it would seem as though the ‘Proto-Germanic’ peoples also understood that any time a ‘friend‘ is non-Mahram and of the opposite gender… they’re more of a ‘lover‘, actually (or… you want them to be). The Proto-Germanic ‘frijōjands‘ can mean, apparently, either ‘lover’ or ‘friend’. ‘Love’, in the inter-gender ‘romantic’ sense, is not solely a thing of physicality. It’s a thing of friendship. And, to paraphrase Tamanna who quoted Oscar Wilde on that Eid card she gave to me last year, ultimately, the basis of all friendship (including marriage) is conversation. I’m going to be annoying and carry on with this whole etymology thing: earlier this academic year, I discovered that the linguistic roots of ‘conversation’ mean: turning towards [one another].
Two beings turning towards one another, communicating, connecting, through language, falling in love and that. I knew I was right to flirt with my (female) friends! Why wouldn’t I?!]
‘Amigo’, too. [‘Friend’ in Spanish]. It just occurred to me very recently that this word sounds an awful lot like ‘amor’, which means ‘love’ in Spanish. Amistad: friendship. The Latin ‘amicus’ (‘friend’) is related to ‘amare’: ‘to love’. We love whom our friends are: humans can be so terribly adorable, no?
Now, back to the point, hopefully: I am I. You are you. We are we: for all that we are, and in contrast with all the negative spaces, of all that we are not. Alhamdulillah. They are they. I do not want to be anybody’s second choice as a friend; I shall be, hopefully, nobody’s mere ‘antidote to loneliness’. I want to be a ‘first-choice-friend’, and I want for all my friends to be this for me too. A world of people to choose from, and I choose you. And how do we know that we are each other’s firsts, lasts, always?
Hmm… I think you think about them a lot, even when you’re not particularly ‘bored’ or not doing anything. Things they would perhaps like. Think about them. Muslim: you find yourself just… making Du’a for them. It just comes to your heart. The soul just knows, no?
And I think we care, more deeply, about whom we are, in their eyes, perhaps. Some people, maybe, we want for them to ‘like’ us, i.e., our style, appearances, intelligence, and more. Others, we crave their love.
[Well, I just had some ‘banana bread’ that I made, using ready-made bread from Waitrose (Wai’yyyy’s). It was… not great. Last time it was nice though, because I used egg. This time, sans egg, since we’d run out. But I put Galaxy chocolate on it, and those parts were good.]
Here are my ideas on this: there is a particular significance to everything that has happened, to get us to where we are right now. Where there is a will, and a possibility, and a Du’a, absolutely: there is a way. Where there is Qadr, there is no denying; no escaping. Only meeting it, as and when and how it comes; as and how we are.
‘Sadeeq’: one of the words for ‘friend’, in Arabic. Linguistically linked to one of the Arabic words for ‘truth’: ‘Sadq’. People can, and do, for example, have mood swings; failures; not feel like talking, for a while; difficult stories from our pasts; fears; negative thoughts; past mistakes, and all the rest. Now, who is truly worth taking the ‘bad’ with the good, for? Whose beauty will you commit to seeing, Insha Allah, over and over and over again?
I’m tired of thinking I maybe want to try to be things I simply cannot be. I’m tired of imagining things that are more likely than not… simply projections of my own mind. What I ‘want’, to be there, and not necessarily… what is. For whom? For WHAT? Nobody is worth losing the truths of we, over; no ‘image’ is worth compromising on Deen, and the rugged charm of these ongoing journeys of ours, for. I’m already ‘enough’, and so are you: to all the right eyes, and to all the right hearts, minds, and souls. We are ‘enough’, finally: and we’ll also help one another to grow, Insha Allah. Your soul’s lock, and their soul’s key. ‘Effortless’, and ‘organically’.
With the right people: never will you have to fight to be heard. They’ll see you for all that you are, present tense, and without unfair pitying, and/or pedestalising. Eye-to-eye. And, Insha Allah, you will be loved right there. Not as an idea; not as a concept. But: look in the mirror (and smile). For all that. [If you’re female, here is where I say: dang. Masha Allah]
WE’RE GÖN’T TE BE OKAY, Insha Allah. “Cos I’ve got you to live it with me.”
Further indulging in my inner eleven-year-old, since I have been pretty much surrounded by eleven-year-olds this academic year:
“We’re gonna put one foot in front of the other. //
Get tripped up, and step on ‘ne another. // We move ahead, and try to keep it on track.
But we know that we’ve got each other’s back. // No need to fight it, no need to deny: that it’s a crazy life, a random life, a
And if you believe in it – be it a friendship, or whatever else – then it is worth praying Tahajjud for [Tahajjud. Miracle Salāh: trust me on this one].
Strange. Because you are so far away from me, I find I am not entirely sure, these days. And what is known to fill these gaps? Right now, I have marking to be doing. Age-old ‘mundanity’, but ‘to live some super-human reality here’, ought not be my goal. I think, upon closer view, my eyebrows are somewhat wild: never two perfect lines. Yet, from afar, how neat they could easily look. Why am I talking about eyebrows? I don’t quite know. My thinking faculties may have been affected by this tall mug of green tea. I don’t even like green tea that much, but it seems to have this effect of making me feel like I am ‘detoxing’, somehow.
And sometimes we are afraid to walk outside. ‘What people might think’: let us never confuse this with reality. These two realms are often, quite, worlds apart. It’s okay to seek to bridge them, more, together. Not ‘super-human’ in any attempted way. Just… real. ‘Pathetic’, by some standards, even, and everybody is, and has to be. It’s very much in our blood. And everywhere we look: it’s there.
Humility, and self-respect. Honouring others, as well as oneself, before God. It becomes a lifelong struggle: to maintain the balance. Trying not to slip into idiotic complacency; trying not to slip into putting anybody or anything on a pedestal.
Only God is Worthy of such Praise. And it is an honour to be an ennobled creature of His: it is an honour for you to be you; who you are.
You deserve the best in life: I promise you, you do. Don’t be fooled by cheap and unfavourable, though ‘shiny-seeming’. Take a nap, may-haps. Rest your burdened mind. Your world will be here, for you, and waiting. You will be endeared to beautiful truth; there is a sweetness to these middles, as I hope we will always come to find. A sweetness to these middles; a gorgeous universe, colouring, being filtered through, our very minds; where is your soul?
Today is the first day of the rest of my life. It is always like this. And I think I have come to understand that this is how we come to understand things: via contrasts.
Whom, how, had I been, before… this experience, or that one? Before arriving at this place; before coming to know that person? Contrasts:
Like when things ‘just are’. But then you are made to meet something fundamentally different. Maybe: the calm after the storm. The slowness after an academic year of fast-paced ‘doing’. And then you realise, in retrospect, what those things had been. Value is recognised via contrasts.
A lot of things, we find, cannot truly entirely be captured via only words. They… just ‘are’, or just ‘have been’. Words are like mirrors, and they can only reflect so much. I think, for example, I can only come to know myself via knowing (as much as I can) my Creator, and other people.
Didi, Maryam, Priya, Tamanna, Farhana, Aatqa, Samaiya: roughly-my-age people, within this life of mine. And my being bears similarities with each of them, and I suppose we are drawn to people who, in some ways or others, remind us of ourselves. And we also learn much through all the contrasts. They actually help to strengthen whom we know ourselves to be.
And in some places, as a result of certain things, we ‘blend in’ more. Ethnic backgrounds, religion, values and such. And those things that are ‘different’ help us to be… somewhat distinguishable, also, as individuals. I, for example, seem to have been, over and over again, seen as an ‘academic’ and ‘religious’ person. At my East London secondary school, I was ‘the’ academic, ‘outspoken’ person. At my sixth form, which had been an academically selective one, I suppose I had been one of ‘the’ academic-religious people. Muslim, East-London. And now: here at this school, everyone is Muslim, and ‘academic’ (teaching, by nature…) and so, I suppose I have come to know myself better, Alhamdulillah. I am those labels, and in spite of some people’s disapprovals, they are big parts of myself, and of my life. I am also… whatever I am. It’s just shown in what I (‘organically’) love and do.
I like, for example, that one of my students wrote in her journal, the other day, that she likes my style. How sweet! I think, to many eyes, I am somewhat ‘eccentric’ in nature. I think life is brighter this way. I love people who love to think ‘deeply’ and widely, and discuss things from a range of fascinating perspectives; people who can be silly and uniquely ‘weird’ sometimes; people who are very ‘soft’ and sensitive. I [hope I] am what I love, too, Masha Allah.
What it means to be a woman. I suppose I can only know this by knowing other women, and by knowing femininity, in contrast with masculinity. What it means to be Muslim: by surrounding oneself with good company, and by recognising that others hold different values and such. What it means to be Bengali, and to belong to the beautiful (Masha Allah, Allahummabārik) family that I do.
How much I love my people, and my ‘ends’: augmented by the times in my life when I had been away from them, for whatever while, for whatever reasons.
What others may say about me does not necessarily define me. I think my own choices, for instance, define me more.
Today I saw my future (Insha Allah) Bhabi’s (sister-in-law’s) family again. I really like her sister Samia, and their neighbour-friends Maisha and Raisa. Samia actually recognised me from when she saw me at my aunt’s friend’s mum’s house, some… five years ago or so! She said I have quite a distinctive face (and she complimented me, and I am something of a validation junkie, I find); reminded me that, back then, I had told her about my volunteering at the farm, about meeting that actor from ‘Tracy Beaker Returns’. [Yep, sounds like me].
I do worry that I am ‘too weird’; that people thus won’t like me. But I know I must trust that I love a touch of ‘spiritedness’ in other people; others’ notions of what ‘should’ be the case, I do not necessarily have to align with very well at all. So why must I think it is somehow ‘detestable’ in me? It’s okay if some people don’t understand me, or where I am coming from. There is a contrastbetween myself, and those who do not necessarily approve of me. It’s okay: they are not necessarily my ‘ideals’ either. So long as I can continue to respect them, hopefully: this, as I have decided, is a value of mine.
Today I got way too… spirited… about the desserts’ table. Moosa said something like, “We eating yeah? Sa-a-a-y nothing!” I seconded that. These things we do, and our interactions, are so effortlessly ‘normal’ for us. We don’t put words to them. We just do, and are, and this is proof, I suppose, of how ‘real’ these parts of us are. Little forethought; we aren’t ‘engineering’ images. I think something of our essences is shown in everything that we do.
[And who are we, when away from people, social media, alone?]
Today Dawud Biyya and I stood at the door and observed some cars. Siyana climbed the gate. Maryam started talking to Didi’s (yet unborn) baby. Ranga Mama told me he’d read my article on Kibr, and we discussed the nature of human logic, and its limitations before our Creator. Īmān-boosting stuff, for me, Masha Allah. Sweetie pranked Moosa. A Mama (uncle) I hadn’t seen in a while asked how I am, and he called Dawud “Chachu”, which is sweet.
Sadia’s (my future Bhabi, Insha Allah. We have the same name) family would appear to be far more, in Sweetie’s words, “sensible” than ours. We are “Where The Wild Things Are”. Their overall essence would appear to be, Masha Allah, more sweetly quiet. Their elder brother is like this; Samia, too; their uncles, even. I quite like it. And now our families have met: two seas. At the wedding, Insha Allah, we are wearing navy blue, while they plan on wearing pink. A lovely contrast, and it’s interesting:
If I were to try to put words to this, I do have parts of myself that remind me of Moosa. And of Isa and Saif. Maryam, Didi. The secondary school I went to; the sixth form. Tamanna, Tasnim. I also have parts of me that make it easy for me to get along with Samia, Masha Allah. It’s nice to feel nurtured through feelings of ‘home’, wherever we find them. It’s also nice to feel a little challenged, grow, through those feelings of ‘adventure’. New people to meet; new parts of ourselves, to be actualised, met, via new experiences.
Within my family, I suppose I’m comparatively more of a ‘bookish introvert’. But by contrast with others, I’m probably more of a bit of a ‘wild thing’. The contrasts between how we are, at different times, stages in our lives, with different people, and in light of different people, places, situations, roles: awesome, very nice. Masha Allah.
You know, a part of me is so ‘sensitive’ that it translates to quite a bit of internal social anxiety. One of my good friends from work [ref: Tenzing energy drink gang. Population: two] says she experiences the same thing. But she actually comes across as a social butterfly, Masha Allah, and people have said the same about me. I suppose my sensitivity in these regards show that I care, about making people feel comfortable and such. And as long as I care, I’m happy with myself. I care; I’m trying; I’m learning lots, as I am meant to.
Teaching, this academic year: I’ve really just been doing, and only now, towards the end of this academic year, have I been able to truly ‘deep’ it. It’s the same for a lot of things, isn’t it? We come to know things, and ourselves, via contrasts, and through similarities. Cool stuff, Masha Allah.
And although I’m scared about what the next parts of my life might be sayyin’, I am also comforted by the fact that I have a Lord. He has told me that this life is intrinsically challenging; that I will experience fear and grief, and people will come, and go, and such. And, in retrospect, I realise that I have also been growing the entire way through, Masha Allah. Maybe I’ll never fully ‘understand’ it; maybe I, who find myself obsessed with words and linguistic expression, will never quite be able to pin this whole ‘life’ thing down. But that’s okay. I am, and am going to be, okay.
Because I have a Lord: Most Knowing, Most Exalted, Most Kind.
Twenty years ago, today, something — someone — very beautiful, Masha Allah (and intelligent. And kind. And funny. Oh, dang, she’s got the generic four criteria!) had been born. Her name is Tamanna Islam, although there had been, somewhere during these past two decades, a dramatic change in surnames for her.
Yesterday had been Tamanna’s last day being nineteen years old, upon this Earth. And I got to spend (a part of) this final nineteen-year-old day with her. I, this veteran twenty-year-old. I’ve been twenty for seven months, and this friend of mine is a BABY. [I have a right to infantilise her, because yesterday she patronised me by saying the things I do are “endearing”, with my “little” bags and such. Heightism.]
Yesterday, Tamanna wanted to go outside for a walk, but I wanted to sit down to talk. [She: somewhat flighty. I: somewhat lazy]. We ordered some food. Good stuff, good stuff, and it arrived late by around twenty minutes. On the conversation menu for Tamanna’s final day of being a nominal teenager: gender interactions, including what Daniel Haqiqatjou and his wife’s current thoughts are, on certain matters; her current legal internship (Masha Allah) and my teaching year; notions of the ‘future’. Things like this.
And then we went to Waitrose, since I had to do my weekly food shop, and since she wanted to buy… bananas. Khola, in Bengali. Los plátanos, en español, y, fil ‘Arabee… الموز (‘Al-Mooz’) apparently.
And yesterday, we discussed ethnicities. Because we had been eating Iranian food, and Tamanna decided that I could easily pass as being Iranian, Egyptian, and/or Columbian or Brazilian. ‘Broadly Middle Eastern’. Tamanna, by contrast, looks… white. Maybe Iranian too. Half-Japanese, half-white. And, somehow, we also both look like we are Pakistani [Zindabad!] It’s pretty cool, I think: to seem like we are from many places. We are… positively Muslim-ly cosmopolitan, we are, Masha Allah.
We are both Bengali. Our families are intertwined in interesting ways, Masha Allah. Khala, Tee’s mum, will be helping to make some food for my cousin Mazhar’s family – and for their guests (his in-laws to be, Insha Allah) – today. My nan and her nan. My uncle and her uncle. Our aunts, and their connections with the same mosque.
On the way to the Wait of the Rose, we passed by that strange roadside ‘secret garden’, and noticed a poster about birds. Tamanna stopped at it. “So which type of bird would you be?” and I burst out laughing.
She decided that I would be a dunnock. She, by contrast, would perhaps, in my eyes, be a cross between… robin (classic, Bri’ish) and another one with a… slightly unfortunate name. Ebullient.
She found her bananas. I found my food. She told me to get “oats“, in some roadman/Cockney accent.
“I didn’t know you could read!”
She said that, when she goes to uni later this year (Insha Allah) she will likely miss, out of her three at-home family members, her cat (who, incidentally, is our cat’s biological brother). Apparently, during our shopping trip, she had been hitting the bananas a little, here and there.
“Just wait until we get home,” through gritted teeth. To make banana bread with, of course. A call from her sister (Nazifah, whom I like to still call ‘Fifa’, and who is something of a champion chef, Masha Allah) regarding that thing we all love: food.
Chocolate section: my then-nineteen-year-old friend had been in the mood for a chocolate bar. Specifically, a chocolate bar with just the right amount of hazelnuts in it. She found one with 37% hazelnuts, and had been satisfied. Corporate law: Tamanna looks forward to the day that she, perhaps, will be able to grab any of the more luxurious chocolates from Waitrose (‘Wai’yyyyys’) without even thinking about it. A hedonist in the making.
Yesterday I learnt about Jan the Czech lawyer, David (was it?) the clever and eccentric-seeming dude, and more about Tamanna’s cousins [many of her cousins are older than her, while I… am one of the elder ones, on both sides of my family].
And she wishes she could have met her future husband (Insha Allah) before the age of twenty. “What is he doing right now?!” And the first thing she has bought for her dorm-to-be (Insha Allah) is… a pillow (was it? The details… they escape me sometimes). Alas, though, she cannot replace the curtains there…
Everybody needs particular friends to bring out particular sides of them and such. I think I can see how Saif, for example, brings out a particular funny/silly side in Isa, perhaps. I see how it tends to be friendship, which brings people closer to the Deen, to goodness. In Tamanna, I have a very good friend, and a very beautiful one, Masha Allah. A gift from Allah.
A good friend is one with whom your soul feels comfortable. Guides you towards Deen and beauty, and this is what she has done for me over the years. There are parts of me, which have been realised via my knowing her. And I know that I have often had the tendency to review things in terms of the past: nostalgia, bringing up so many old memories. But: presentism. We have all those stories from days gone, Masha Allah. Ustadha Selina (whom I saw the other day) and such.
What matters even more, perhaps, is this moment. I now have a twenty-year-old beloved friend who has probably just made some really nice banana bread, and who has something of a (severe) chocolate addiction these days [get help <3].
You don’t need for someone to see it, for it to be real. Often, mirages are made,
Upheld only by others’ eyes. Don’t let these things fool you.
And, do try to extinguish any signs of hate, in that heart of yours.
There is no point at all. There is only vanity, and then there is
Truth. Quiet: listen, and learn;
Err, tumble, and get up again. Others’ words are not necessarily gospel truths.
Qur’anic messages, though: undeniable. I quite love the idea of appreciation and
elegance. Graceful wit;
Excellence of manners. Eyes that know how to cry, at all the right – and ‘wrong’ times.
What do we fear, here? Which mirage-like truths do we then try to engineer, here?
Authenticity: I love the word. Courage, including: the courage to be disliked — loathed, even:
If it is for all the Right reasons. Left behind. But your Lord is with you. “In God’s eyes, you are precious” [Hadith].
It feels somewhat messy. The narrative is always there, but how could it ever be so neat? We have only
So much time, here. A life to get through, in the best possible ways. The answers await us, somehow.
And I love it whenever and wherever the stuff that we can easily call Beauty mixes, meshes, with all that stuff that we call Strength.
Reminds me of mountains, and boulders; swords, and the most luscious, resistant, of roses. They might look a little out-of-place. And this is what it is, to find pieces of Jannah-destined beauty, here in the abode whose essence is actually-quite-ugly.
Pick Truth; learn, over and again, to be secure in it. Exhibit due Trust and Faith in it. Beautiful things will be returned to us.
We’re a little scared of the dark, and we know we have to leave what is behind us. And all these fears of ‘not being enough’. Whatever the moment might ask of us.
“As many times as it takes. Until you meet your Lord.” That’s what we’re doing here: biding our time. Until we reach that Inevitable End.
Roses growing, mountain-side, and the warmths of rugged-clay-held cups of chai. And hands to hold, and things to do. Scars to meet, and stars to gaze, in awe at. What weight might other human beings’ words really hold, when Allah’s Words are the Truest, most Final?
Book Recommendation, also, dear readers: ‘Muhammad: His Character and Conduct’, by Adil Salahi