A Muslim is…

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 (hello@sincerelysadia.blog) if you have anything to add, or any ideas, on anything of what I post].


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

The Arduous Struggle; The Magnificent Triumph.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem.

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)].


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

A Very Important Picture.

‘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.

So in God we must learn to trust.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Insert some Bollywood line that has the word ‘Pyaar’ in it. For reasons that you will hopefully discover if/when you read this piece.

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

wonderful life.”

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].

They are eating lettuce:

My Tasnim Jaan says that she is afraid of me:


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Sweetness to these Middles

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?

“You are you. And don’t you forget it”


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Contrasts

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

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 contrast between 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.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Tamanna Islam

Bismillah.

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].

Climbing Roses

Bismillah.

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


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Gender is… on the a-gender

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Talking to Boys

Today, gender is on the a-gender. Writing really helps me to reflect on things, Masha Allah. Namely, for instance, on how planned this life of mine is. Qadr. Today, I had been thinking about gender interactions (again. Do I ever stop thinking about such questions?)

I grew up as a little girl who played, for the most part, perhaps, with boys. Football, insects, construction. I think I have therefore tended to find the male kind rather easy to talk to. Maybe the lines are a little blurred, in this mind of mine. Back when I had male friends (prior to knowing better) I suppose those friendships had mainly been rooted in humour. Now, I don’t know: those friendships are no longer.

But today, for example, at the DLR station, I saw a former friend of mine: one I used to play football with and such. On a day on which I had already been thinking more about how to go about interactions with men. Perhaps it is ‘nothing much’ to many, but when a +44 number appears on my phone, on WhatsApp, and it’s from an ‘old [male] friend’ of mine, I sort of struggle on what to do. I find I cannot ignore them completely, and nor can I indulge in casual conversation with them, as though they are my friends.

In this modern world, anything seems to go. Friendship is not seen as being a sacred thing: anybody can be your friend. ‘Anything can be anything’. Boundaries? What on Earth are they? You don’t talk to boys? ‘Bo-ring’! Extremist.’

This former friend of mine (whom I can be friends with again, perhaps, in Jannah, Insha Allah) did that whole ‘pretend-he-hadn’t-seen-me-at-first’ thing. And then that tense moment of ‘did he see me? Should I acknowledge him?’ I am the sort of person, I often find, who cannot do the whole ‘so what if we’ve both seen each other? Pretend neither of you have’ thing.

Conversation. I think my new thing, in this regard, will be: imagining my nanu (nan) is there with me. [My nan, the other day, when her sister asked if I’m married ‘yet’, said… “my granddaughter doesn’t like boys.” Dear Reader, LOL!] The ‘3 Ps’, according to Ustadha Kaamilah, of non-Mahram gender interactions: keep it Public, Professional, and Purposeful.

Public, tick. But not tick when it comes to WhatsApp. ‘Professional’, i.e. not very relaxed and casual. I suppose I struggle with this one because I don’t think I’m very ‘professional’ with anybody, save for… my line manager at work, maybe. Dear Reader, I call so many people, and even my Khala (maternal auntie), “bro“. And this mind of mine seems to resort, very quickly, to humour to deal with most things. Happiness, sadness. Discomfort, awkwardness.

Today Fahimul said that he’s just finished his second year as a Mechanical Engineering student (Masha Allah) and the almost-instant response my mind came up with: saying he’s a “brown parent’s dream.” [What else do I say? “Masha Allah, that’s really good.” Yes, probably better. Pretend Nanu is there with you.]

Islam is a Deen (Way of Life) of middles. Muhammad (SAW) did, for instance, speak to non-Mahram women. But when it concerned a need. He did so properly and respectfully. So, I need to find that place between extremes: blanking people completely (being too ‘cold’), and freely engaging in conversation, like how I would do with, say, my best friend (being too ‘warm’). Be lukewarm. And it’s okay if they end up thinking I’m ‘dry’ or ‘too serious’ or whatever. Not everybody should know us like how certain people know us: this is precisely what earns our personal relationships value.

We live in a modern world in which, as aforementioned, ‘anything goes’. ‘Anything can be anything’. The entire outside world, as indicated by how people dress, and act outside, these days, is confused with… private bedrooms. Where are the boundaries between… inside and outside? ‘Friendship’ and ‘more-than-friendship’?

I know for a fact that there are some non-Mahram male people I know (of) whom I think I could perhaps get along very well with. Maybe if I were a guy. Their personalities seem great, Masha Allah. And we are Muslims: the only ‘male friends’ I will have, moving forward, Insha Allah are my dad, uncle, brother, [nephews, Insha Allah. Oh I hope Saif has mini-Saifs in the future, Insha Allah! Just the thought of that…] and my (Insha Allah) husband. Everybody else: triple-P. Even if, in theory, they are able to see me as a completely de-feminised ‘just 1 of the guyz’. Nay, nay, nay. I must reassure myself that, in Islam, the sacrifices are always worth it, Alhamdulillah.

I would like to be, Insha Allah, towards non-Mahram males how I would like my future spouse (Insha Allah. Unless I end up dying alone. Sad, but I hope, God-Willing, that I’ll have nephews and nieces at least. The idea of Mini-Saifs, AWWWWWWWWWWW. I want to be ‘Cool Aunt™’) to be towards non-Mahram women. No private messaging; no private meeting; no ‘casual’ connecting. The more I learn, the more I realise that the guidelines pertaining to gender, in Islam, exist for a reason. The evidence is almost everywhere. Non-Mahram men and women can never ‘just’ be ‘just friends’ [and if they can, then, ooooooh he just lowkey said you’re ugly and that he sees you as a boy. Jk].

‘Male friends’, for example, tend to go to their ‘female friends’ for emotional/spiritual comfort and guidance; men are not with women how they are with their male friends. The closer they get, it’s like being in a sexual relationship, but simply sans… the more-physical. ‘Female friends’ tend to rely on ‘male friends’ for… attention, reassurance, and to do things for them. It’s quite interesting to observe. And it’s like the actual spousal relationship, too, has been desacralised: reduced to… a thing of mere convenience and physicality, in this world of modernity [“eh. She’s good enough. Put a ring on it. Still flirt, technically, with my ‘girl best friend’ when she’s not around though. Confide in ‘girl best friend’ whenever wifey and I get into an argument. Seek comfort in her (‘girl bestie’s’) arms. No problem!”] Hug, kiss, confide in, be comfortable with, whomever. So long as nominally, mainly, and most frequently, we are ‘each other’s’. Yikes.

Thank Allah for Islam, and for the fact that things actually mean things. Alhamdulillah.

The Public Space

Today I came across a part of a Hadīth, which I quite love: “Let your home contain you.” Excellent advice for we, who are trying to make it through this Dunya (spiritually) alive.

Home is an important thing, and Islam emphasises the soul-centric value of the home. The outside world tends to be a place of Fitna (tribulation) and dizziness and distress. Islam also teaches that, for example, we should seek to ‘desexualise’ public settings. In public: we’re human, and not reliant on sexual ‘plumage’ and resultant validations, so to speak, in order to feel we have value. Walk humbly; walk to and from places with honour, hopefully, and purpose and value.

Masha Allah: “let your home contain you.” I don’t think I am in need of ‘male friends’. I love whom my current friends are, and if I seek a man to have A1 banter with and for me to confide in, spiritually/emotionally/mentally, then… let it be my Mahrams, whom I love. [Saif, if you grow up and realise how w i s e your sister actually is (jk) and start reading my blog, then… I love you homie ❤ I ain’t ever gonn’ stop loving u homie <3]

Gender-Specific Spaces

‘The Women’s Section’. Girls’ schools. Feminine spaces: so important, Masha Allah, for our nurture and growth. I think it is very obvious that women tend to thrive in women’s-only spaces; we develop a sort of confidence that is not contingent on our sexuality. The same is probably also true for men, and men’s only spaces.

“What is sufficient is enough.” // Leave what does not concern you. [Hadith]


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Some Things

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Today I am using my blog as a journal again. Paper journals: I am currently between paper journals. My ‘current one’ is a little too chaotic, now, for my liking, filled with scribbles of: Hey! Remember to give this student a merit! Remember to write this blog article you want to write! Remember to sort out this student’s reward for her History project!

Some things I would like to remember, from this particular time in my life: my brother Saif. Human light of my life, Masha Allah. He made this ‘dance’ thing, fairly recently: picks up the remote for the tower-fan in the living room. It makes a distinctive BEEP sound when you press it. He would press it — BEEP — and then do this spin-and-jump thing, his hair flipping, to press BEEP again, this time from behind himself. Spin, BEEP. Spin again, BEEP. And I could not stop laughing. I love this child so, so much, Masha Allah.

The other day: “Muuum, my pyjamas are on the wrong way round!” And sometimes I think he gets a little buzz out of getting himself into trouble.

Yesterday, while I had been sitting at the table trying to mark books, he decided to flip through some of them… and correct some spellings.

The other, other day, he asked if he could ride on the back of my dad’s electric bike, which I borrow sometimes. So I let him. Me riding the bike, him on the back. Me, telling him to “Hold on tight!” and him… being his usual rebellious self, letting go, probably to get a rise out of me.

My brother has a thin physique, and the cutest, most cheeky smile. And he is, Masha Allah, a very handsome young chap. Or am I quite biased, here? Well, do my eyes not count, here? Some ‘popular vote’ on whether or not this kid is adorably handsome — and his ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ — would neither add to nor detract from how gorgeous I think – nay, know – he is, Masha Allah. In physical being, and in all the rest that he is. Attempting to ‘democratise truth’ – like when it comes to standards of beauty – is always dangerous.

But the truth is that sometimes people, whether ‘as a joke’ or not, attempt to make him feel bad… for being more ‘thin’ than ‘muscular’. And me, being the annoying older sister that I am: I tried to direct him towards the vase of flowers on our table, yesterday. It’s got roses in it, as well as pink flowers, and lilies. Does the presence of beauty, in one of them, do anything to detract from the intrinsic and specific beauty of the others?

[He basically told me to shut up. But then when he wants to show me all his bottle-flips (“Didimoni! Didimoni! LOOK!” reminiscent of him as a baby: “Dannat [he couldn’t pronounce ‘Jannath’ properly], Dannat! YOOK! I do noh-maz [and he pretends to pray, while standing on one end of my bed. And then he starts jumping on the bed]”) I have to… stop anything I am doing, pretty much, in order to look.]

Saif and I, during lockdown last year, would watch certain TV shows together, including one called ‘Free Rein’, on Netflix. It’s about horses, and both little brother and I love horses. In this show, there is a character called Pin. Now, as Muslims, we are meant to ‘lower our gazes’ (and not stare unrestrainedly, lustfully) but… he’s a handsome guy, Masha Allah. And me, trying to explain that: see this guy? Is he handsome or not?

Saif: I’m not gonna comment on that.

Me: Well, he is (Masha Allah). And having a thin physique suits him. Being ‘muscular’ would probably not suit him, and would probably take some of his beauty away.

Saif: *gets annoyed, but oh well*

Maybe the most ‘popular’ thing (these days. These standards ebb and flow, and vary considerably, between times, and places) might be: being ‘muscular’ and tall and whatnot. But, also: it matters that there is much diversity, here, actually, and that different people find beauty in different things. It is not necessarily a thing of numbers. But a thing of: having the right eyes look at you, and think, dang. [In terms of physical and metaphysical being, Masha Allah: what beauty!] Another’s preference of, say, a rose, and even if a rose is the most ‘popular choice’, will (I hope) do nothing to diminish my preference of… I still don’t know what my favourite type of flower is. But… that.

Currently, I am procrastinating from my procrastinating-anyway, by looking up flowers. Agapanthus [‘star of Bethlehem’] is quite pretty. Allim roseum [onion, garlic] too. Alstroemeria [those colours!] and aquilegia [‘Granny’s Bonnet’]. And that’s just out of the As. Is it even possible for me to pick and choose a ‘favourite flower’? Each flower is trés beautiful in its own right, but perhaps when I meet my (at present, latently) favourite ones, I will simply know.

Standards of beauty. Away from objectivity, subjectivities can be some of the most unstable, confusing things ever. What’s ‘in’ right now? Being extremely thin? Or being bigger, ‘curvy’? [In Mauritania, rather like, apparently, in nomadic Arabia, being very big, having tummy rolls, even, is/had been a beauty standard. To the extent where, in Mauritania, women tend to be force-fed lots of food, in order for them to gain lots of weight]. Contrast to here, where ‘fat’ is seen as being synonymous, often, with ‘ugly’. A lot of South Asians, also: if ya ain’t milk-white in skin tone, and tall, with ‘Arab [Persian, I suppose] features’, then how could you be beautiful? While, here, they tend to spray-tan themselves, yearning for more ‘South Asian features’, and while, in Portugal, being ‘short’ is a beauty standard.

Historically, still: bigger nose, smaller lips. ‘The most beautiful woman’, according to olden-days France. Mughal India, I believe: unibrow, beautiful. Here, thick eyebrows used to be, apparently, some of the ‘ugliest’ things, ‘beastly’, even: pencil-thin brows had been ‘in’. And now: it is all about that ‘bold’ thick-brow look, no?

So maybe I need to sink comfortably into the fact that, for instance… I am ‘short’. Small, height-wise. And I think it adds something [maybe this is why people have always tended to say that I’m ‘really fun to annoy’]. Allah has made me, and you, in the best of proportions.

It’s that immature ‘secondary school’ mentality of: singling out, in others, something that is most immediately apparent, of them. And framing it in a negative light, sometimes. Is the aim, then, to ‘sand’ these things down, and for us all to fit neatly into one set of ‘standards’ of beauty? Why would we seek to homogenise something as broad and irreducible, beautiful and beautifully diverse, as human beauty to ‘just one’: some attempted human version of ‘the red rose’?

What we may have been taught to hold as ‘insecurities’: perhaps these are merely things that make us special. Trite but true: we must let ourselves be ourselves — be true before the Almighty, and as ourselves. Like that moment my heart almost cried: a Year Seven student of mine who has vitiligo referred to it as the “butterfly design” on her face: it’s artwork. All of your features, in terms of physicality and character: they fit so wonderfully, upon your face, and as part of your being, body (mind, heart,) and soul.

The way your eyebrows sit, two arches, atop two window-frames. Eyes blue as the ocean, or as dark, as my brother would say, “as my soul”. The way your nose dips a little, and then flicks right off your face. What, exactly, you look like when you are absorbed into the world that sits amid your hands, on your phone.

We are never going to be quite ‘enough’ for this big, wide, spinning, uncertain world. One day: they may claim to ‘love‘ you, and your face and physique, and what you have to offer in terms of who you are. The next day: bigger foreheads are in! Hollow cheeks are out! Be thinner. Be ‘thicker’. Be this, and that: but you will never be enough.

But, for your own world [perhaps, for you, it is: two sisters, a hamster, your grandma, parents, and three friends at work] you are a light of their life, even when you forget it. So long as we are loved within our own worlds, things, we find, are frequently a bit too ‘mad in this Dunya‘, ‘beauty standards’ and all.

Allah made you, Dear Reader, you… work of Divine art [I’m only fake-flirting with you, here, if you’re female].

And didn’t He make you beautiful?

Next: more things I would like to remember.

Recently, I walked into school wearing my Turkish-style blue dress, and the bottom of it goes above my feet. I didn’t realise until being approximately halfway there. We tell our students that their trousers have to cover their ankles; their socks shouldn’t really be on show. And yet… that day… I would have been being a little hypocritical, perhaps, if I’d told anyone that they need to wear longer trousers. Just embarrassing. I walked into the school as quickly as I could, into ye olde staff-room.

And do you know what had been waiting for me, in that staff-room? Miss Kulsuma, whom, the previous day, I had a nice conversation with, over chai and aloo naan and chips [the advice she had given me on things: Masha Allah. Ref: Keep talking to Allah] had brought for me a present, out of the blue. A light blue overcoat, and it fit perfectly, and matched the dress I had been wearing that day… and covered my ankles [the Hebrew version of ‘Alhamdulillah’, apparently: Hallelujah!]

Miss K told me she thinks I have a “beautiful smile”, and I feel like I’m being a bit narcissistic for blogging about this, but no… This made my entire day, and I say it requires documentation!

Next: playing the ‘Freshly Grounded’ cards in the staff room. I learned that [what?!] people don’t actually find me… off-puttingly weird and awkward at all, apparently. Saadia (many people, in this world, share my first name with me) told me she thinks I can connect with anyone, and said that I make everyone feel comfortable. Shareena said she thinks my personality is “Masha Allah” and did an Ace sign. And I realised: how could they see me as off-puttingly weird and awkward when… all the people at that table like to talk to me, and I to them? This mind of mine can be quite wrong in its ‘convictions’! And I should seek the Khayr in all things.

Today, also, I got called aside, into the other office, by one of my supervisors at work. I thought it had been something to do with this data upload that we have to do. But, no:

She, this Assistant Principal with a strong (Masha Allah, in terms of stature and command) presence [when she enters a classroom or a hall, everybody there tends to fall silent. And I know that if I had been a student there who, for any reason, had been shouted at by her… I would probably start crying there and then] had prefaced the conversation with:

“Sadia. You’re a strong woman…”

Long story short, there had been a slug on the carrier bag of the Turkish food that she had ordered into the school, for lunch. And last time, when there had been a spider on someone’s jacket in the main office, lots of people screamed and ran away. I’m not so scared of spiders. Although, when I approached it, I felt a bit apprehensive: what if it suddenly scurried away? [That’s what I’m scared of: the… scurrying. Even the word itself is imitative of how unpleasant the whole sort of motion is.] I asked for a cup (though they gave me a small glass) and a piece of paper. Spiders, upon closer view, are such noble lil creatures, I think.

Slugs, also: harmless, fascinating, and gentle. Kind of graceful, actually. Today, I cut out the patch of carrier-bag it (gender unknown. Hence ‘it’) had been resting on, and took it outside, releasing it into the small flowerbed just before the main foyer of the school. The food: thrown away. I: treated like an actual hero upon walking out.

So brave!” My other supervisor, while checking in on me while I dealt with the little creature, gave me a nickname today, which I actually quite like. “Saadi”. I mean, I would love for it to stay [nicknames and I. I love nicknames that emerge seemingly out of nowhere, ‘organically’. Nicknames are next-level endearing. Humans are ‘baaaare cute fam’] however, alas… this would appear to be my penultimate week there.

This has been my third time being… pest control [list of roles: teacher, form tutor, Learning Support assistant, and… de facto pest control] at this school. ((Insect whisperer)).

There is goodness — Khayr — in whatever God chooses for us, facial features, height, physique, educational/professional occupations, friends, family, personal skills, and all; what He gifts us, often through other people. Like the truckloads of fruits from our dads, and the conversations with our brothers. Even in things that we would not necessarily have chosen for ourselves, prior to knowing the goodnesses that lie within them. Equally, there is goodness in the fact that Allah stops some things from becoming ours. For reasons that will become clear soon enough. There is Khayr in the waits for things, too. Remember, young-old Sadia Ahmed / whatever your name, dear reader, is: between door and door, remember to praise Allah in the hallway. Good things be coming, Insha Allah. We just absolutely need to trust in the fact that we have a Lord: Most Wise, Most Subtle, Acquainted (and all His other Attributes) Who has our best interests at (metaphorical) heart.

TW if you don’t like looking at slugs:


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.