Day Thirteen

What I have learnt, Episode Thirteen: Dragons, Fire, Swords, Things like that.

Hello. I am Muslim Bri’ish [and alive. Bad taste joke, might delete] Hannah Baker, and welcome to my thirteenth tape.

Today, I learned – from a Tiktok video that my friend Tasnim had sent me – about something called ‘positive psychological projection’. And it links rather well to some other things I have learnt, about how we are known to project ideas and such onto other people. As well as romantic crushes, there, apparently, exist such things as ‘identity crushes’. [There are also ‘celebrity crushes’. This counts as a separate category, apparently].

Positive psychological projection: ’tis something I seem to have done quite a lot. But, the truth is, they really are projections… You isolate a narrow set of traits, in a person. You become convinced that this must be the entirety of said person. The fact of the matter is: those particular traits that you, in your mind, have singled out… they say something about you. Those things spoke to something that is already within you, whether, at present, active or latent. You love the fact that this person is gentle, helpful and laconic? You can appreciate this beauty in them, and work towards doing the same. You love that this other person is vivacious and adventurous? It is yours to work towards. That this person is not afraid of revealing subtle quirks, like bringing a cake to share, to school? Dude, you can do that too.

And, to quote a snippet from a book that I had found on Pinterest: for many people, you are the ‘woman across the room’, too.

So long as we are beginning from whom we already are; whom we know ourselves to be. And then, there is always, always, always, room for development. But, still, beginning from whom you are, and not anybody else.

Today I learnt some random words. ‘Inosculation’: what a cool concept. When the parts of two trees basically merge, and begin to grow together. ‘Stilted’: pompous use of language, when it is excessively ‘flowery’ and inaccessible. I’m sure there was another one, but I can’t seem to remember it, sigh. [I’ve come back to this a bit later. The other word was ‘isomorphic’. When things have more or less the same form/shape]. I just love words so much: I can’t believe we get to have them, and know them, and use them, and learn them.

Today, I did some things. Errand-y things: there are always errands to run. I went outside, also, to use my fire mesh for the first time; I learned that, as well as the wood pieces and paper to burn [I used the British Empire worksheets I had accidentally printed too many of] you need something to get the fire properly started — today I used the brown paper bag that the woman at the ice-cream shop had put my ice-cream cup into, the other day. My parents and brother had gone out; my nan popped her head out of the window, and asked me what I am doing. “Agun,” I said [‘fire’, in Bengali]. My nan is so thoroughly used to my moments of madness (‘spiritedness’) and I think she finds it, at once, alarming and endearing. Like when Tasnim had come round, and when we prayed in the garden.

“It’s a bit cold though, isn’t it?” my nan asked, in Bengali.

“Yeah,” I smiled, and said, jokingly, also in Bengali: “Hence the fire.” My nan bloomed into laughter, as she does. She has the most ebullient laugh, the most cheerful of smiles.

I miss Bangladesh quite a bit. Making little fire teepees had been one of my most favourite things to do, there.

Challenge. Every day, I come to better know of the nature of this Dunya. And how every single thing we have been told in the Qur’an is, how you say it fil ‘Arabee, Sahh [‘true’]. I have my challenges; I must be active in the face of them. [That being said, I have also been through depression, before. And depression can make ‘being active’ extremely, extremely hard. It is all about our individual circumstances, and what we are able to do, and what we then do, in light of them.]

Today began as a brand new day. With all these tasks to complete; all these blessings to uncover; all these things to feel — good and bad.

Today I met my brother’s friend Sam. He looks rather like my old, old friend Luca, and his family are (‘is’ or ‘are’? I know not) from Istanbul, Turkiyyë. Apparently, during a little school trip, Saif had pointed out our house to his friend, and then, somehow, my mum and Sam’s mum had arranged for him to come around.

The boys watched ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ (a show that I kind of secretly really enjoyed watching with my brother, last year. This one, and ‘Free Reign’, which is about horses) together. Sitting on separate sofas, silent and engrossed; I sat on another sofa, eating. Sam just would not talk to me. I tried to ask him how he is; if he wants to watch something else; if his name is short for anything. Blank, blank, blank. He just did not want to speak to me – or even look at me – at all, at first.

Then I asked him who his favourite character from ‘HTTYD’ is. “Toothless,” (the dragon) he said. And the conversation had finally commenced! I said my favourite character’s Astrid (she’s super cool and tough). Sam asked me who my favourite character from the books is: apparently, Astrid does not exist in the book series. He said that his favourite is a character called ‘Camicazi’, because she is “so cool,” and “a master escaper!”

I guess Saif didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of his friend, so when I sat next to him, he didn’t tell me to “STOOOOOP!” today. And Sam found most of the jokes made in the TV show really funny. A most endearing sound: the sound of children’s laughter, Masha Allah.

Saif’s friend had some snacks at ours, and said that he generally doesn’t have these things at home [which is a really good thing, and I keep trying to get brother mine, also, to have healthier food]. So Sam was really excited about the Krispy Kreme doughnuts my dad had brought, bless him.

In my current role as a teacher, I think about the fact that I’m teaching my students new words; about etymology; about random interesting facts… and they’ll remember me as a teacher, much like how I remember my teachers. And, in my current role as big sister to an eight-year old:

I remember going to my friend Asif’s house, and his big sister Lana spending time with us, sometimes. I also remember going to my friend Luca’s house, and his big sister Bianca, who played hide-and-seek with us, this one time. Now I’m a kid’s big sister. And said kid has friends. I want to be a ‘cool big sistah’. [‘Cool’: yesterday, after meeting Maryam’s friend Naima, I worried I had been too awkward, too… weird. According to Maryam, Naima found me “so cool and sweet”, Alhamdulillah [relief]. ‘Cool’, though: what does it really mean?]

“From what violent chasms is my most intimate intimacy nourished; why does it deny itself so much and flee to the domain of ideas? I feel within me a subterranean violence, a violence that only comes to the surface during the act of writing.” — Clarice Lispector

“There is none more conformist than one who flaunts their individuality.” — Rabbih Alameddine. Interéssant. I think I’m going to ask some people what they make of this, and whether they agree with the thought or not.

Every single day, life moves. It, to use a word that my friend Aatqa and I kept, kept, kept using, last year: it flows. Life moves; life is every day; life is struggle. There is such… what is the word… satisfaction, triumph, energy, to be found, in the struggle. The opposite of struggle, the absence of it, here in Dunya would be… (a word that I learned the other day,) ‘indolence’: just comfort, ‘ease’, nothing really pushing you to do anything at all.

I like the idea of running. And of resting. And running, again. And walking sometimes. Just moving, with life dearest.

Life: a series of conversations. With Allah, with the people whom we are lucky enough to love. With the natural/physical world, and with the self.

Things are not ‘perfect’, thank God: Alhamdulillah. There are things to do, and to learn, and to develop. People to feel inspired by; standards to be raised, by witnessing the strengths and goodnesses of others. Failures to feel; triumphs, certainly, also.

Today, Farhana called me during one of her (home-uni, self-given) study breaks, to play the F.G. game. So I learned more about her. And I learned that she thinks my greatest strength is how I am brave enough to be myself; to be ‘weird’. I wonder if people see me as being unpleasantly weird. Or, pitiably so. I hope not. But, yes, even in spite of when my Nafs, for example, brings me to compare myself (the truths of me) to (impressions of) others: I know I would rather just be me, and carry on. Develop, beginning from whom I already know myself to be. Alhamdulillah: Allah made me.

I have just planned some lessons, for my Year Seven History class, on the history of Ireland. I cannot wait to tell them about the not-particularly-enthralling lots-of-Irish-people-in-my-area story. I do believe in having and maintaining a helpful and healthy helping of ‘professionalism’, but ultimately, human beings connect with other human beings. Students and teachers. Not obedient, silent rule-followers, and robotic, authoritarian rule-dish-out-ers.

This half-term’s unit for Year Seven English has been: autobiographies. And here I am, writing my own autobiographical works. Subhan Allah: everything is connected.

Words and ideas I am really liking, right now: courage. Security. [Strength. Beauty. Trust. Faith. Hope.]

I also really want a sword. Not to actually use or anything. Just to play around with [sometimes, when I am home alone, I pretend knives are swords. Once, before Ranga Mama and Suto Mami put window stickers up in our kitchen, a stranger outside saw me…… doing this……]. But swords are so… gorgeous, sometimes.

[Incidentally, I had been the one to have picked my brother’s name. ‘Saif’. It means ‘sword’ in Arabic, but I’m not sure if I’d known that before calling him it…]

I love the idea that ‘courage’ and ‘security’ are not the absence of their seeming ‘opposites’. Having ‘no fear’ would be insanity. Having no doubts or insecurities; not at all caring about what others would think… would be arrogance/insanity. It is all about the fact that we have these human intellects. To feel the doubts, fears, and all the rest of it. To be able to reason; make choices. Weigh up our options, and act. Sometimes, for example, there are things that are more important than fear. And I think, ultimately, what defines us is the choices we make.

To be secure enough to really want to share goodnesses; to be courageous enough to always (try to) be kind.

I love the idea of balance. For example, of strength, and gentleness. In men, and in women, alike. The fences, and the flowers, and how, with both, there is such quiet power, such beauty.

I have just learnt that baby brother mine is “the fastest kid in Year Four and Year Three”. And, since I’m faster than him: I’m faster than all these eight- and nine-year-olds. Yeeeee boi. Adult woman ego boost, jk.

“We came as rebels, and found ourselves to be heirs.” Someone, on British Islam: native Brits, becoming Muslim. I love: the idea of a form of Islam that is quintessentially British.

How weird, and alarming, and burning is it, to realise that we will never, ever be here again? This thought makes me want to do some courageous shiz.

Today, I am glad that my clothes smell of fire. And, that part of that song keeps playing through my mind, and I can’t seem to stop humming it: “Fire. Won’t you // put out the flames?”


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Twelve

What I have learnt, Episode Twelve: Fire

Bismillah.

Today has been another sacred home day, Alhamdulillah. My sandalwood oil arrived, and I put it everywhere: pillow, prayer mat, candle, hair. What a scent, Masha Allah.

Today I learned that Didi… has ducks, now. Well, ducklings. She’d asked, on the group chat, if anybody knew of anyone giving ducks away. “Like, live ducks?” I asked. Yes, live ducks. About an hour later… ducklings located and acquired! [I told her to please not kill them and eat them. Trauma: once, in Bangladesh, my grandad had bought me a goat. Greatest goat of all time. I forgot what I had named him, but it was a pretty name. I bonded with him, you know. And, a couple of days later: he was Qurbaaned…

Also, when I had a hamster, everybody would always joke about making it into Biryani. I was an emotional kid: this would make me cry.]

Incidentally, today I learned, again, that I am truly, truly, truly, and so deeply, not-perfect. I am deeply, deeply flawed. And — as childish and borderline-melodramatic as this may sound — I cried, in light of this fact, today. I have done wrong; it feels like my imperfections are ablaze. Something hurts, and I feel sorry.

It’s a line that I had heard, once, during a spoken word poetry event: “Forgive me, for being me”.

What a feeling this is. To feel so very snowed in, under one’s own humanity. If that makes any sense at all.

At present, lots of things do not make sense to me, and I am trying to unravel things; learn things; keep walking.

Today, I had to have a difficult conversation [ref: Year Six and Seven]. And I learned something that did not sit well with me, and I said sorry, and I meant it; I am left with this knowledge. What to do about it? The best I can do is deeply acknowledge, review what can be done, try to choose the best things to do from here onwards, Insha Allah.

There is also somebody, in this life of mine, whom, when I interact with them, my throat is known to seize up with anxiety. I used to shake; I felt weak, and I blame[d] myself. Cutting, constant criticism. I believed it all, I think, for a while: every single thing. In a way, I think I still do. They have told me such things as that I would be better off dead; I make excuses for them each time. But who are they, to decide such a thing?

Allah made me.

This all sounds dramatic, I know. But not everybody in our lives will be the most kind and loving towards us.

“Forgive me, for being me.”

I just do not think that secure people are so unkind to other people. And I think that power is a very different thing from strength: this may sound cheesy, but it’s in line with the Islamic idea, that true strength lies in one’s ability, for example, to control one’s anger, and to extinguish it before it causes harm to others. And, “verily, gentleness is not in anything but that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything but that it disgraces it”. [Sahih Hadith].

To feel ‘enough’. And not merely in a settled-for sort of way. Enough, as in… everything that you are. No need, for example, to compare fleeting and engineered images of others, and their lives, with our realities. No need to feel frighteningly inadequate. Just be, and let it be beautiful, somehow.

I am filled with regrets; I am made up of flaws. But I hope that my intentions, in the present moment, are good. Yesterday, in the staff room, one of my colleagues (such a beautiful person, Masha Allah), in a discussion about reading Qur’an in front of people, said, in her usual kind way: it is about your intentions. And if you feel your intentions morphing into something not so good, take a moment to change them, and carry on.

This colleague of mine has such kind eyes, and such a genuine smile, Masha Allah. When she speaks to you, she sort of puts both her forearms on the table, and leans in, speaking so softly, and with such thought behind each word.

Talking to one’s Creator: a language we are already fluent in, even if it has not yet been realised. He made us; He knows us. There is nothing you cannot speak about, with Him. Every single thing about you: He is your Creator. Written on a postcard my artist friend Faaizah sent to me: “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” [40:60]. I have just learnt – from Google – that pretty much the same idea exists in the Bible: Jeremiah [33:3]. [I love looking closely at the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity. We believe that they had been born of the same tradition – that of Pure Monotheism. The only difference is… the whole worshipping-a-human-being-thing…] I love ‘Christian’ things with a Muslim twist: hence, my love of the Halāl version of Hallelujah. And, of Church buildings, which have been converted into other things. And, certain Biblical quotes: just beautiful, Masha Allah.

With certainty: when you speak to Allah… you will be answered. When you make du’a, and when it is from your heart, you either: a) get exactly what you asked for (Alhamdulillah); b) get this thing you have been asking for, but a bit later — at a better time, for you [ref: bus analogy]; c) you don’t get that exact thing, but you do get something better, for you. And who knows what is good – better – best, for you, but Allah?

Man, this world is so happy-sad. There is pain, which aches. And things can quickly cross between bittersweetness, and beauty. Every man his burden[s]; every woman has hers. I know I will not be here forever. Tangential point: when I die, I would like to be smelling like sandalwood, Insha Allah. [Also, my will is currently under my bed (middle drawer).]

“This life’s a test; Insha Allah we’ll make it.” [Khaled Siddique]

If you have been brought to make a du’a, then it necessarily means that the door is open. A Muslim must be hopeful. Have faith; make your Du’as; do your part, and put your effort in. Your Creator will not let you down <3.

When Prophet Zakariyya (AS) had reached old age, he still longed to have a son and heir. His du’a, which you can just feel the beautiful emotionality of, through the words:

He said, “My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white,

and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy.

And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren, so give me from Yourself an heir

[Qur’an, (19:4-5)]

In spite of all the factors seemingly against him: He knew of his Lord’s Ability.

More on this Du’a (the imagery it includes – for example of Zakariyya (AS)’s hair being ablaze with white! – and ‘lessons in making Du’a’).

Every day: to collect our essential weaknesses, our pains, our inadequacies. To bring them right to the ground, and to converse with the Lord of the Universe, with them.

Today, I still could not find my watch anywhere. I thought I had probably left it at Nanu’s house. My wrist feels bare without this watch, now: my aunt (who, incidentally, is from Lithuania) got me it at the start of the academic year. She said the things she associates with teachers: neck-scarves, coffee flasks, watches. It is a beautiful watch, Masha Allah. I found it, Qadric-ally, under a scarf, in my wardrobe, today. ‘Twas never lost: only hidden. For me to find, at the right… time. [Merit if you spotted the temporal imagery, there].

I went on a walk: an ‘Olio’ user was giving away a… wooden spoon. I don’t necessarily need a wooden spoon, but I thought: a reason to have a mini adventure, and my plan is, Insha Allah, to use it as a ‘talking spoon’ for my form class: for when we use the ‘Freshly Grounded’ cards… You can only speak if you are holding the spoon, and anybody who speaks out of turn gets detention. I guess I have a couple of teaching methods that could be deemed a little weird, ‘eccentric’… but, it is an idea I came across somewhere online recently: you literally get back 0% of the time you spend stopping yourself from being ‘weird’. And I would rather be a teacher with a talking-spoon than a teacher without one, you know? [Plus, I know even apathetic-seeming teenagers secretly find things like this at least somewhat entertaining].

The Olio user asked if we could meet at the highway corner shop. I walked, the canal way, to there. On my way, there had been a drunken Irish dude, who, in spite of the wiiiide pavement, walked right behind me. “Surr,” he said (‘sorry’, in an Irish accent). I turned around, previously having been unaware that anybody had been around me. “For walking behind you.” And then, as I waited outside the shop, he had come out. “Surr,” he said again, and walked away. Iz okay, my drunken Irish brother: you are forgiven.

There had been many Irish people about: I wonder what is happening. In our area, we have a big venue space (T.D.) and there are always random events happening. Beer festivals; motorcycle conventions; gaming conventions; a Halāl food festival; a massive Eid event, once or twice.

When the woman from Olio arrived, she gave me the spoon, and I wonder what all those people who didn’t know about Olio, and about my wooden spoon plans and such, thought had been happening: a random woman, handing a wooden spoon, to a random hijabi woman, and engaging in the smallest of polite small talks.

On my way home, I saw some little kids throwing a pair of balloons from their window. The sky had been quite ‘gloomy’: just how I like it. I sat in the part of our area which is known as the ‘woods’ — although there are not that many trees there. I just sat there, listened to the rainfall, tried to collect my thoughts. The natural world is healing, connecting.

When I asked Isa what immediately comes to mind when he looks at the spoon, he said “singla”. [A ‘singla’ is when a stick is used, in order to… discipline children.] “And cooking”. I asked him to help me come up with a name for this initiative: we couldn’t decide on one. But, in any case, it is time for… us to reclaim the ‘singla’ spoon, and to make it into a ‘dialogue-encouraging’ one.

Currently, I cannot find the darn wooden spoon. But it’s in my house somewhere, and I hope i’ll be able to find it before le Monday, Insha Allah.

[It is currently Sunday, and I am adding to Saturday’s entry…] Yesterday, another Palestine protest took place. I did not go to this one, but two of my cousins from my dad’s side – Ravzster and Priya – (and an aunt) came all the way from Kent, to. And, separately, two of my cousins from my mum’s side – Moosa and Maryam – also went. Moosa and Maryam came to my house, to pick Isa up. I opened my bedroom window, which is on the second floor, to speak to them. Maryam looked up. She was talking… but her mouth wasn’t moving. Was I going insane?!

Turned out: Maryam had brought her friend Naima with her. They are so very similar — in how they do their hijābs, in some of their mannerisms. When I had opened my window to speak to them, I had been looking at Naima, while Maryam had been hidden from view, talking to me.

Naima seems like such a wonderful friend, Masha Allah. I started jokingly calling her my “real cousin”, while Mareeham is my “fake” one. Naima also said that I look like I am twenty-one years old… This puts the whole insecurity about looking way, way older than I am, to rest.

I have also been thinking about the issue of ‘free-mixing’. Looking back, I have always, always, always, found it very easy to be friends with boys. My first ‘squad’ ever, from Nursery onwards: five boys, and me, who did not really know the difference between I and they [insert embarrassing story involving toilets, here]. I find it easy to be towards boys — well, the males my age are now ‘men’ — much like how I am towards my cousins, sometimes. Jokingly mean, brotherly.

But: in Islam, we believe that men and women cannot be ‘just friends’. Friends are friends; Mahram men are Mahram men. Whenever there is a ‘friendship’ between a man and a woman, if you are Muslim, then it is not it.

And, I thought: what should my boundaries be?

I still struggle with this one. Former friends ‘pop up’ on WhatsApp from time to time, and I don’t want to be cold, but I also don’t want to be so… ‘warm’, you know?

According to one of the ‘Alimiyyah teachers at work, when interacting with men who are non-Mahram [‘Mahram’ = brothers, uncles, sons, husbands, father-in-laws, grandfathers, nephews, very-old men, children who are not yet mature] we should maintain the ‘three Ps’: keep it ‘professional, purposeful, and public’. [‘Public’, i.e. you cannot be in ‘Khula’ (seclusion) with a non-Mahram person, without some sort of third party there].

Three Ps. Sigh, RIP the days of friendships being based on exchanging ‘ISIS’ insults for ‘Mussolini’ ones, and ‘short’ jokes for (retrospectively, kind of very-mean) ‘I-have-more-facial-hair-than-you’ ones. And a hilarious joke about the way I walk, in exchange for one about… Parkinson’s Disease. [Various sources have informed me that I am very fun to annoy, and that I am ‘c*te’ – which is now a swear word, for me, and I see it as a euphemism for ‘incredibly small’ – and ‘savage’.] RIP RIP RIP. Well, actually, some of my current friends enjoy this sort of humour, so there’s that. Plus, I hope that, in the future, I can marry someone who can be (to take an idea from cringeworthy social-media-relationship-displays) my male best friend. Insha Allah, Insha Allah.

Random, but, with all that I find myself learning, each day: I love this thing my friend Aatqa had mentioned, in one of her own blog articles: that the knowledge you come across… it is part of your Rizq (provision, sustenance). Food is Rizq, and material possessions are Rizq. And what you learn, and come to find and know… that is Rizq also, Subhan Allah.

A random thing I must always remember: I must never, ever feel ashamed to be Muslim. Sure, in some places, with some people, being religiously-inclined may make me stick out like a sore thumb. And so what? I know for this Deen to be true, and I know that I am being tested. People can make comments; random people can look at me with non-accepting eyes [today, a woman walking along with her daughter, speaking in… French… looked at me like I am terrifying and unacceptable. Or perhaps I am just assuming things…]

‘Taqwa’: God-cognisance. [‘Cognisance’: a word that I had learnt after a phone call with my aunt’s friend, who is a lawyer, a while ago.] On the ongoing theme – the motif – of ‘appearances versus reality’: Taqwa is not necessarily always very ‘visible’. You may think that the man with the longest beard, the thobes, the seas of Islamic knowledge… is the one with Taqwa. You may think that the woman who covers herself outside; who prays all her five daily prayers; reads Surah Kahf every Friday; is the ‘best Muslim’.

Hypocrisy, in Islam (Nifāq) is defined as when the outside – what you deliberately present to people – does not match what is in the heart. And, as I learnt from an assembly delivered by Ustadha S.: true Taqwa is truly shown in how we are towards people. [And other living creatures.] Children, the elderly, neighbours, family, friends. That is where true Taqwa is shown. And if there are numerous signs of outward ‘religiosity’ that are not coupled with gentleness and compassion towards people… sounds a little more like Nifāq.

Nobody really knows if you are a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Muslim, but Allah. And no human being; no Muslim is perfect. We each have our struggles, our sins. Where we, as individuals, are coming from; where we are necessarily going. [You are going to die. Not ‘if’, but ‘when’. Smelling like sandalwood, Insha Allah.]

Appearances versus reality; our outermost parts, which we deliberately show, to various parts of the world. And our truths, which lie within: within our homes, within our own souls. Dunya-based life: such a fight, a losing battle, to be ‘enough’, and then some, to compete with everybody else. Oi. You are already ‘enough’; I wish there were a better word for it. You are… [whatever your name is, dear reader, insert it here]. You are you, and every part of it: human, beautifully created, full, (and if only the word ‘enough’ could be ‘enough’).

Could you be deeply loved, exaccccctly as you are? For sure, Insha Allah, I promise you. Love is something that will see all your (necessary, human) flaws, Insha Allah. And love will turn them into flowers. You don’t gotta be anything other than you, and it will be revolutionary, extraordinary. Quiet, powerful, and beautiful: like rain.

The Japanese art of Kintsugi: something I came across fairly recently. Copied and pasted from its Wikipedia: The art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered goldsilver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

The stories that make us, us. The character. The ‘rugged charm’. I have a plant whom I have Kintsugi’d. I promise, I didn’t break the pot on purpose just to do it: I am just really clumsy sometimes. This plant, I had purchased after Year Eleven, from IKEA. I called him Adam. I dropped him while at Ikea: the pot he had formerly been potted in has some tiny cracks on it. But I did not exchange him for another one, less cracked, and more ‘perfect’. This was (going to be) my plant [whom… I dropped. I am a terrible mother.] This year, one of his parts snapped off; I sent some of my friends a picture of the poor fallen part of the plant. And then: a short while later, a new part grew. Sort of from the same place, and… sort of all anew.

During the last lockdown – when I had been online-teaching, for a couple of months – I swapped Adam from one plant pot into another. I am going to make myself sound like the biggest klutz ever, here, but I dropped that pot, by accident. It broke. For some reason, the concept of Kintsugi had been brought up, in my life, again. And my brother and I had, to save ourselves from dying of inactivity and boredom, done ‘evening activities’ together, during that lockdown period. Martial arts, cooking, crafts… When this pot had broken, I took it down to the garage – where we had been making… birdhouses! – and mixed some gold paint with some craft glue. Adam’s pot has been repaired, Alhamdulillah. Where he had once been broken, he is now golden; there is a story there. And maybe it is not ‘ideal’, but… it has uniqueness, character, a happy-sad and hopeful aspect to it. Texture, a deeper sort of beauty. This is Dunya. The stuff of idealism is for Jannah; here, we have the gold paint that we can mix with the glue. The jokes about ROME HAVING FALLEN when parts of our plants snap off. The amazing and (unexpected, perhaps) new growths that take place.

Also, tangential point: I really think cats have their own language, and can communicate with one another, and can direct one another towards other people’s houses, for food… [Year Four memories of reading ‘Varjak Paw’ with one of the best teachers in existence, Masha Allah, Jo. A few years ago, she had found me on Twitter. She said, “What a force you are now. I still remember you when you were a little feminist”]. [Ref: Chase and his father, whom I am going to name ‘Darth Vader’. And Bilal and his new friend].

Since, for this thirty-day documentation thing, I am not writing in my private journals, but on my blog: I feel I must include some things… People love, often ‘quietly’. In ways that are not necessarily the most ‘grand’ or ‘showy’. My brother does not like hugs. If I am about a metre near him, he shouts, “STOOOOP”. And, yet, on the car journey home from the restaurant, he’d gently rested his head on my lap, while he slept, and I did not want him to ever move. People often show their love (powerfully,) quietly.

Ranga Mama, also: we are not the sentimental-hugging sort of uncle-niece duo. I say I am too awkward to express it properly. He says (on WhatsApp), “we express it perfectly between us alhamdulilah <3. It’s not what we see or show, it’s what we know. And I know. And I know you know <3.” And I do know, Alhamdulillah. People are people; we love in our own ways. People tend to love (powerfully,) quietly.

And I believe in the Day of Judgement, sin duda, 2000%. I so believe in Justice. I believe, for example, that the children of Gaza are alive and well; their Lord knows well.

Gaza is burning. And we can often find ourselves feeling quite detached from it all. But recently, for example, I came across a video on Twitter, of a little boy who reminds me so much of Isa. And he spoke about how, during an airstrike, he had run and hid behind a hospital: Al-Shifa Hospital, in Gaza. This also happens to be the hospital that Isa and Saif had been fundraising for. Up close, each of these children is an individual child, complete with everything that makes up a person: a brother, a son, a cousin, a characteristic gentleness, a particular sort of smile, a belief that cats should be treated “humanely”. And their loved ones will never, here in Dunya, be able to hear the sound of their voices, feel the warmth of their bodies, the melodies of their laughter, again. Until Ākhirah, Insha Allah.

Fire.

Won’t you //

Put out the flames?

[Siedd is basically Muslim Ed Sheeran, and this nasheed made me cry.]


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Eleven

What I have learnt, Episode Eleven: Lower your Glaze.

Bismillah.

Subhan Allah, a lot can happen in a single day. And maybe it is true that the entirety of Rome had not been built in one single day, but I’m sure that on any given day, some Romans had been born; some died; some fell in love; entire colosseums had been finalised, made open to the public. A day is a lot of time; each day is significant. And death can take us at any time.

A while ago, a strange experience: I had woken up from a nap [for what is adulthood, but a series of naps, and then the spaces between them?] and started to have some tremendously disorientating thoughts: I’m alive. I exist. These are my hands. Bi’ithnillah, I can move them. I’m alive. I exist.

It is awe and it is terror.

Today, ’twas a Friday. 22nd May 2021. Well, right now it is 01:18AM, Saturday. And it is raining! Alhamdulillah.

Yesterday, I woke up and did my Friday routine: it is Sunnah (following the Prophetic example) to bathe, cut your nails and unwanted hairs, wear perfume, and wear your best clothes on Fridays. I like to see Fridays as mini Eids. A beautiful day.

Having an income and having an Amazon account at the same time… what a thing. I am not an over-spender, however I do tend to buy quite a few bits and bobs from le Amazon. Eid time: my room had become a jungle of Amazon boxes. Yesterday I ordered a bottle of sandalwood oil. Essential oils make for excellent perfumes. Muhammad (SAW) used to wear white musk, and white musk is a beautiful scent: one that I had come to know about last year, at the bookshop. Other beautiful, beautiful scents: the smell of fire on clothes; ‘Sweet Escape’ by Sunna Musk (which my friend Aya – who works there – tells me, is a dupe of a perfume that is way more expensive); Dior Sauvage.

Essential oils: derived from the roots, leaves, flowers, barks, and peels of various plants. How cool.

I have just found out that ‘patchouli’ is an essential oil. I know of the word from the fact that Mama (my uncle – aunt’s husband) would always refer to his daughter (Siyana, AKA Hackerman) as ‘patchouuuli’.

Today, I put some of my dad’s Turkish beard oil into my hair, since it contains oils such as coconut and argan. And, for perfume: I used some of the perfume I had purchased from the book shop near the mosque. It smells alright, but it is extremely diluted and weak.

Today, I found a parcel in my letterbox, and got all excited, expecting it to have been my ‘TLS’ subscription. But, alas… ‘t’had been the COVID test I had ordered, immediately prior to having the quick test done at the school.

On Fridays, at the school I work at, they play Surah Kahf through the tannoys. Such a soothing, soulful thing to walk into.

Today I had form cover for form 10Z. I taught my two English classes. I discovered that somebody had moved my salsa from the fridge… [grr] I had lunch duty on the bottom floor hall. I had Salāh duty also.

Today I learned that there is a ‘flag bandit’ going around sticking little homemade ‘Free Palestine’ stickers all around the school. And that people’s personalities are so great: schools truly are ‘microcosms of society’.

With my Year Eight class, as part of our unit on ‘Appearances Versus Reality’, we’d discussed the idea of ‘masks’, and the things that they associated with the word. On the literal level: coronavirus masks, superhero masks, WWII gas masks. On the figurative levels: emotional masking; avoiding judgement and social rejection; ‘ideal selves’ and ‘getting attention’. I can’t lie: they get me thinking. Certainly, ‘teaching’ is such a two-way experience.

Masks: we all wear them. They hide some things. They show some things. They protect; they allow us to escape ourselves, briefly. And so on.

“Hands up if you think you are the same, at school and at home.”

Only two hands went up, out of thirty.

“Are you the same person when you’re around people, compared to when you’re alone?”

The same two hands went up.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts

— William شيخspeare

Today I kept humming a song that Tamanna would keep singing, a couple of years ago: ‘Strangers on an Island’ I also learned that improvement is possible: “drop by drop, the river rises” [a Moroccan proverb I’d learnt from an episode of ‘Freshly Grounded’]. One of my colleagues (the A-level Psychology teacher) came in and left a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts for us all, in the middle of the table. And maybe it had been because I had just had a cup of green tea – a drink that tends to convince me that I am suddenly super healthy and ‘detoxed’ – but I looked at the box, and then looked away. Me not need doughnuts. Nafs mine just convinces me that I ‘really, really, really want’ things like this. Ultimately, they’re bad for me though. Gotta… lower my gaze. LOWER MY GLAZE. I am so proud of myself, my gosh! Masha Allah, Masha Allah.

I worked with my dad on one of his leaflets for his shop. I used to love going to his shop, to ‘help out’ [hang around, do random things, get given great food].

What else, what else? Oh! Today, I found out, from a handful of sources, that ‘the entirety of Key Stage Three’ (according to Miss Rafia) is convinced that I am leaving. I did tell them that I will likely be leaving in July, Insha Allah — though I do not want to. But, as a result of a number of factors… they had strongly come under the impression that I were to be leaving immediately.

Reason the first: a member of the admin team who is training to become a teacher had been given one of my lessons, to be observed during. The students saw: me not being there.

Then, I had been unwell, and so they had to be covered by other teachers.

Finally, today, the school had a prospective teacher come in to deliver an observation lesson. I had been told about this in advance, but had forgotten to note down that it was today. Halfway through my double-lesson, the Assistant Principal walked in, with the candidate. And I felt extremely embarrassed, since I had forgotten.

They (the students) had seen: me… leaving… halfway through a lesson. And another teacher taking my place. On my (awkward) way out, I was bombarded with questions. Even while walking through the hall: questions of “are you leaving, miss?” They had become certain that I had been leaving. And small things can make for ‘big news’, at secondary schools…

I learned a number of things from a range of conversations: staff room, students… You can learn so much about people, just from three-minute-or-so conversations with them. There is always more to find out: about how Ms. K’s mother used to help out with the cleaning at the local mosque; different perspectives on things; about people’s hometowns.

I learned which hijāb style I would like to consistently keep: I can’t do the whole ‘one style, one day, another day another’ thing. We have reached a decision! It’s what Mazhar refers to as “Year Seven Sadia style”.

I also learned that the middle-floor Qur’an room is a lovely retreat to go to, after the school day, to read Qur’an. Amazing acoustics, lovely atmosphere. Peace, recollection.

After work, I waited around for Sweetie: Sweetie is basically my mother; ‘Sweetie’ is not her real name. She is my youngest maternal aunt, and she is the one that encouraged me to apply for this job in the first place [I call nepotism!] She is an A-level Biology teacher. Normally, she is at work on Wednesdays to Fridays, half-day. And normally, on these days, we either walk home together, or Mama (her husband) picks us up. Turned out she had not been in yesterday.

Next, and since I had been starving, I went on a quest for food [I blame the salsa bandit who moved my salsa. I tried to eat toast with nothing, but it tasted how one would expect toast-with-nothing to taste… toast-with-nothing-y.] Tesco meal deal, or café food? I decided to check out one of the nice-lookin’ cafés outside of the mosque [I had been there, once with Tamanna and her mum; once with Didi; a couple of times with my extended family — whom I shall henceforth refer to as the Ahmed-Ali-Alam family… although this might be a little exclusionary, as Didi’s surname is ‘Shamim’, and she married a person whose surname is ‘Suhel’, last year]. The management of the café has since changed.

Previously, I have dipped in and out of this shop: for a quick (coconut-milk) coffee, and a brownie, during a break at work. Today, I wanted to see if they did any ‘proper food’. And, nope: they do not. Only ice-cream, and a somewhat bare collection of cakes. Since I had already spoken to the two women standing behind the counter, and since the rest of the shop had been empty, I felt too embarrassed to leave without buying anything. I bought a little cup of chocolate ice-cream, which they had fitted with a lid that made it look like an astronaut.

I like the word ‘serendipity’, but these days I am strongly favouring the word ‘Qadr’. [I still yearn to learn more about that whole free-will-versus-determinism stuff. though]. I looked around the café, and noticed some stairs leading downstairs. I asked them if they have additional seating capacity downstairs, and they said, yep, with a capacity of fifty-eight! They invited me to go down and have a look, if I wanted, so I did.

In Khayr [our weekly online sisters’ circle], we had been wanting to have a little event. To get together, to meet one another. I had been thinking about venues: two restaurants I know of — one, Turkish, one, the grill place down the road from Quality, the grocery shop — that have basements. But this one seems perfect! No, I am going to try to stop using the word ‘perfect’. This one seems stellar: star-like, excellent, but never perfectly spherical, smooth. ‘Perfect’ things have no character. I much prefer the idea of ‘stellar’ things.

Yesterday, I really wanted to go to the mosque. I’ve really missed my local mosque: a place I grew up attending weekend circles, summer camps and such at. I went to check if it was open, as the people in the staff room kept saying it is. But, turns out, the corona regulations that had been in place much of last year are still there: for prayer, the mosque opens up fifteen minutes before Salāh time; you can’t randomly walk in any more [for now, I hope…]

I ate my chocolate ice-cream at the bus stop — my most frequented bus stop, so it would seem. Beautiful, increasingly-gentrified, somewhat-grimy, Whitechapel. Awkward interaction with a stranger, whom I asked if she wanted to sit down, and she responded with indifference.

At home, I fixed myself up a plate of rice, chicken, and salad, and went outside to eat [in spite of the cat, who kept trying to dip his muzzle into my food]. I love the feeling of doing things like… wearing a raincoat, and sitting outside to eat. It reminds me of the Adventure Park that Tamanna and I used to always go to. Today I learned that the final part of my campfire kit has arrived! I had been inspired by Lal Mama and Mami’s fire pit, in their garden, to get a (portable) one of my own: a wire mesh pit. I wanted to use it in the garden today, but then it started raining a bit. I carried on eating, in the rain. Adventure Park vibes!

One of the key reasons as to why I decided to get this campfire kit is because… certain things, ideas, (TLS subscriptions,) and such: I kept ‘saving for later’. But ‘later’ is only an imaginary concept. Life is a series of presents [double-meaning. Merit if you spotted that]. I could literally die tomorrow: there is no idealised future. There are only present moments of deep rugged charm.

This is my life; there is no ‘wanting’, no ‘waiting’ for anything else. A quote I discovered on Pinterest: “Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” [— H.] And, Insha Allah, Jannah – an eternity there – also awaits.

This life does not ‘begin’ with anything elsewhere. Look around you: this is it; it has begun, and it is happening.

Currently, our neighbours — the three girls — are singing together, and I can hear them. ‘Heartbeat’ by Muad, *Scottish accent, but with no intended offence to Aatqa* bless their cotton socks. [I am, at present, dying to go back to Scotland].

Yesterday, I had a few things to do. But then my parents told me that they are planning to go to Canvey Island with Lal Mama and Mami [Lal Mama is a very adventurous person, Masha Allah. Most of the spontaneous and exciting family outings we have had, had been his idea. Scotland, Wales, Lake District, a vehicular tour of Europe…]

Some of these spontaneous adventures, I have said no to, in the past. Many others, I have put other considerations aside to say yes to. This one: I decided, yes, I wanted to go to Canvey Island (assuming that they meant the beach) to use my campfire kit.

Yesterday, I learned that my dad had got me a handful of food containers from ‘The Fishmongers’ Company London’, a charitable organisation: I think they might be Quakers. Father dearest is trying to help me with this whole ‘healthier eating’ thing. He gets me fruits all the time, and oat milk.

I also learned that he had exchanged one of his cars [he has a small car, for daily use, and a big one, for longer trips]: a large Mercedes mini-van, for… another mini-van. This new one is much nicer: at the back, the seats face each other. There are collapsible tables. Iz a nice ride. [I used to die over my dad’s cars. Wanting to show my friends at primary school how his Chrysler’s doors opened automatically; wanting to be seen getting out of his BMW sports car, in Year Seven. Them ones: I thought I was so cool.]

I found out that my cousin Maryam — who has just finished her A-levels — was not coming with us. She and I had sleepover plans for this weekend, but this has had to be rescheduled. My friends for the trip, instead, were Beesa and Soopaf [the nicknames that have come seemingly out of nowhere, for Isa and Saif]. I did not mind: I love hanging out with them, and… annoying them is probably my number one hobby.

When the door opened (“automannically”, to quote adorable brother dearest) I said, “hey Isa, it’s me, your worst nightmare”.

In the car, we talked and talked, as we do. Saif (who is currently eight) described the corona period as “two years of pandemonium”, and then proceeded to do something really silly. We played ‘I spy’ together. Saif kept changing the words: “I spy with my two brown eyes,” “I spy with my one big eye”…

And when ‘I spied’ something begin with ‘N’ [my word was ‘nostrils’] Saif got it in three tries. I thought nobody ever would.

I love Beesa and Soopaf’s friendship with one another. It is the cutest thing ever: they discuss everything from Fortnite and Minecraft, to science. Their conversations with one another tend to be the most endearing, insightful, stupidly funny things ever. [A schoolfriend of Isa’s – Ehsan – recently set up a ‘Smarty-Pants Club’ at school. Population: two. Him and Isa. Nobody else is allowed to join.]

Today, on the car journey there, I learned, again, of the powerful beauty of friendship. Doing things – hard things, sometimes – together. My dad mentioned something about Saif that sort of brought embarrassment to him. But then Isa quickly said that, So? He had done the very same thing.

Isa and Saif, as mentioned in a previous episode, call me ‘weird’, ‘annoying’, ‘crazy’, and a ‘nerd’ all the time. And, whenever they have learnt a new word, or have found out about something interesting, they come to me. Is this an abusive sibling-ship? [Well, they genuinely do just seem to completely ignore the people that they don’t like. I hope their meanness is actually love].

When we arrived at Canvey Island, Isa kept saying that he’s hungry. Definitely my cousin. I think he had been the same last year, in Scotland. Arrival. Primary consideration: food.

Turned out, the object of this journey had not quite been the seaside, but… Lal Mama’s friend’s restaurant. I think quite quite a few of Lal Mama’s – and my dad’s – friends own restaurants: we have been to many, if not most, of them.

Indian restaurant. We had to divide ourselves between two tables, courtesy of COVID. The adults – and the waiters – encouraged me to go and sit with them. But I chose the boys: conversations with the adults tend to be nice. Conversations with this eight- and nine-year-old duo tend to be stellar. I think, (maybe as a result, or maybe not, of having spent so much time around them during lockdown last year) that my sense of humour is the eight-year-old boy sort. Normally, Saif calls me ‘Didimoni’ and Isa calls me ‘Fuldi’. But yesterday, they decided to switch. Maybe it wasn’t really funny, but I found it hilarious.

Yesterday, Saif had struggled with tying his shoelaces. Isa, a wonderful big brother to my little brother (but they are also both my brothers), stepped in to help… even though, as I came to discover, he does not (yet) know how to tie shoelaces himself. Then, Saif decided to put his shoe… on my hand. No warning. For me to do it. I got a bit mad at him for this, but it is near impossible for me to stay angry at my brother.

We did Salāh in a small office room. Other random places in which I have prayed, before: the upstairs room of another-one-of-Lal-Mama’s-friend’s-restaurants; a forest in Scotland; by a lake, in the Lake District; the airport; service stations; classrooms; the roof, at work. You can pray pretty much anywhere that is clean.

Isa, Saif, and I have chosen to name our little squad, ‘The Medium Macs’, after an inside joke from over lockdown, including “school”, pronounced in a certain way, and “Big Macs”.

Lal Mama requested for the waiters to set his cake on a nice cake plate: he has this nice thing of giving his wife at least some token of appreciation, every Friday, however ‘small’. A bunch of flowers, a letter, a bar of chocolate, a cake. The meal therefore came to a close with cake, teas, and coffees. Yesterday, he told me that (it is very normal – inevitable – for couples to argue and that) with something like this, you find you have to “patch things up before Friday”. Because it would be terribly awkward to give your wife a gift when you are temporarily not on good terms with one another.

Lal Mama also showed me a video – of Mami and he, twenty years ago, at his friend’s house. Lal Mama and Mami look so different, compared with back then… and the same.

After our meal, Saif challenged me to a race in the car park. I told him I was wearing my heeled boots. “So?!

So we raced. And I won. He accused me of cheating. We raced again. I won again. [Maybe I should let him win… but he is eight years old now; it’s character development for him to be beaten by his sister, right?]

And I have learnt, again, that: Islam, good company, good food, learning/writing, adventures, home, and good views [nature]! This is my world, soothingly and soulfully away from the deceptions and dizzinesses of Dunya. The recipe for a good, good, life, Alhamdulillah: sweet slices of stellar-ness.

Finally, I still can’t believe that I exist as a real human being. I could’ve been born… a cactus. And, yet, here I am.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Ten

What I have learnt.

Bismillah.

Today I have not seen a single other human being in the flesh. I got up briefly, to message work that this plague of mine had remained. I sent over today’s cover work for my two English classes. Teaching English is extremely fun for me, Masha Allah: I get to teach about the intricacies of language, and about the more ‘psychological’ sides of things, and I get to link it all back to the Islamic weltanschauung [I know, I know: I could just say ‘worldview’. But it sounds better in German.]

I got up to complete that brief task, then went back to sleep. Today I learned that there was leftover Turkish food in the fridge: while I had been at my nan’s, eating chicken strips with chips, father mine had ordered Turkish for here. Turkish pide (flatbread) is delicious. Compare to: Desi ‘pita’. And, Bengali ‘fita’. “Ehhh fita khaiteni?” Classic[ally stupid] joke.

Today, I learned, from an article that Mazhar had sent on the family group chat, that the water level of the Euphrates river has dropped. Which is terrifying: this is one of the signs of Yawm-ul-Qiyamah.

The only living creatures I have physically interacted with, today, have been my plant Al-Iskandar, and the cat. My dad keeps joking that I am the cat’s big sister [“cattor boin”]. He treats the cat like it is a baby. Which is cute, but it gets a little weird at times; I refuse to say that a cat is my brother.

I have also learnt that I really miss the smell of sandalwood. Such an earthy scent: I think Nanu’s bathroom had a sandalwood-scented soap bar in it, once.

I love the fact that there exists different forms of femininity. Different expressions of the same thing. And I love that one type of femininity would appear to be the kind that is fascinated with things like essential oils, natural remedies, the feel of the earth beneath one’s fingers.

Masculinity and femininity. Themes that would appear to come up in my life over and over again. Recently, I have been discovering more and more about the differences between the masculine essence, and the feminine one. Of course, both men and women are human. Same thing, expressed in different ways.

There are many different types of masculinity. There are many different types of femininity, also. They are essential things; it matters not how much one can befit any particular stereotype, any narrowly defined archetype of what men should be like, or what women should be like.

Men who love steaks, hittin’ the gym [why would you love hitting the gym??????? Masochism], and modifying their cars are masculine. Men who love Ertugrul, learning about Islamic history, and spending lots of time with their baby daughter… equally masculine, and in a different way.

Usually, it is the case that these diversities bring about beauty. As cliché as the statement is: imagine if we were all the same…

Femininity is makeup, a soft heart, and being great with babies [M]. Femininity is also having one’s room walls painted black; loving fried chicken; having a penchant towards the gothic aesthetic [P].

One of my aunts [can you tell that I have a mahoosive extended-extended family yet?] recommended a book to me called ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. And maybe not everything that is said in this book is necessarily always true. But my aunt and I had been discussing the general gap of understanding, between the male kind, and the iron-male [get it?] kind.

This gap is something that Tamanna and I had discussed once, on one of our walks. “Isn’t it crazy how there’s a whole other half of the human population, walking around, seeing the world in a different way to how we do?!”

This ‘gap’ became even more apparent to me very recently, in light of a particular situation [ref: intuition tingz]. I got to hear one perspective, and the other perspective.

Men and women really do see the world differently. We are the same where we are the same; certainly, also, we are different where we are different. Women cannot think exactly like how men do, and vice versa. But we can at least open up dialogue and try to see things from the other’s eyes.

There are differences between groups, when one considers things from an aerial viewpoint: all (or, most) men, in contrast with all women. And, of course, there are differences between individuals, also.

Admittedly, I used to worry that I am not ‘feminine’ enough. The idea of pressing fake nails onto my nails, the idea of walking into Mendhis holding Taals, the idea of politely laughing at men’s jokes when they are not really funny… I can’t do it. My aunt jokingly remarks that I often think and argue ‘like a man’. I have also worried that because I have thick eyebrows, that they are ‘masculine’. But now I realise that… I am a woman, and in my own way. Every human being: formed deliberately, and uniquely, Masha Allah. Everything I do and have and am is womanly, but womanhood is not some mere cheap collection of image-based considerations. Everything a woman is, a woman is. Tall, short. Thick eyebrows, thin eyebrows. This is one of those things that just ‘is’. If that makes any sense at all.

I don’t really agree with that too-‘perfect’ ‘pink-blue’ divide, though. I really want to explore gender from the Islamic perspective far more, Insha Allah.

Today, at 06:30PM, we had our Khayr sesh. ‘Khayr’ is a weekly Zoom group that a friend of mine from sixth form and I had put together. The word itself means ‘goodness’. I went to a sixth form in Central London; its student body had been made up of people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds and such, from all different parts of the city.

This friend had been the first fellow hijabi I had noticed there, I think. On our first few days there, we’d both decided that we need to work on our Deen. So we would pray together. Doing Wudhu in the bathrooms, though: très awkward. But awkward things are always far easier – and more fun – when you have a friend to do them with you.

Last year, also, (pre-COVID) we both decided that we wanted to set up some sort of Muslim women’s group. S wanted to hold an event, also. That thought had to be put on hold for a while. But then, during COVID, and while we had completely forgotten about those ideas we had generated back then, we set up a Zoom group: the Khayr Circle. S got many of her friends into it; I got some of my own, also.

And then: something very cool happened. I found out that some of S’s friends – old and new – are close friends with some of my old good friends, from secondary school! Reunion tingz. One of these lost-and-found secondary school friends is a really tall girl called Zulaika, but we used to call her ‘Zulu warrior’.

Today’s Khayr sesh had been led by someone who had attended our school. Today’s topic had been: Post-Ramadan Reflections. It got me thinking, as these sessions do.

I love how Somali Muslims, it seems, commonly refer to Allah as ‘Ilaahi’, which literally translates to, ‘My God’. So beautiful, and something I have chosen to pick up also. Referring to one’s Creator as ‘my’ God.

Well, it is nearly 10PM and I can hear my family outside. My day of isolation comes to an end.

In ‘Khayr’, I think I am the only one who is not at uni (yet, Insha Allah). Oh wait, there’s Tamanna also. But it is pretty clear that certain words tend to popularly be used in uni discussions: terms like “piggyback”, “nuances”, “caveats”, “just to build on/springboard off that…”.

While discussing the experience of fasting while having to do exams, today’s speaker, Sitra, casually said, “my uni’s Islamophobic, you know.”

Also, something I have come to realise recently is that some while some names are specifically boy’s names in certain ethnic ‘cultures’, these same names are girl’s names in others. And vice versa. For example: Ayaan, Zayaan and Rayaan are Somali girls’ names. But… they’re Bengali boys‘ names.

In my Habi Gushti (a term to describe, basically, everyone you are even in the tiniest of known ways, related to) we have a Zayan (first cousin), a Rayan (distant), an Ayan (distant), Shayan (mum’s first cousin. He’s ten years younger than me), and a Kayan (second cousin).

Today in Khayr, we happened to have discussed the Day of Judgement, and death, more. A lot of things in this world are simply not worth it. We are going to die, and so much of all of this will simply turn to dust, and the doors of eternity: we must walk through them. We have also democratically decided that we are going to use the F.G. cards during our sessions: a few at the start, a few at the end. The cards I picked out for use today: “What’s your routine, when you’re angry?” and “What are you most grateful to Allah for, this week?”

Subhan Allah, truly, this week, I am very glad for the fact that it feels like I live in a village. Walk around, do my thing. The world itself is too big, while home is big – and small – enough. To quote that little trespasser and thief Goldilocks: in the middles of things, everything tends to feel “juuust right”.

I need to learn that not everything requires my attentions. To focus on what concerns me, and to focus on true, earthy, connections: I need to get better at streamlining my energies. And home (which I did not even leave once, today) is a sanctuary. Where there should be peace. For me, being away from social media while at home is important, though I keep doing the opposite, quite a bit.

Today I came across a Shaykh Hamza Yusuf video entitled, ‘Dunya: a low-security prison’. Nice way o’ putting it. I shall listen to it on my way to work tomorrow, Insha Allah.

I also learned that swans have these in-built filter mechanisms, near their eyes, to filter out the salt from saltwater! In the canals around here, there are always swans, Masha Allah. And then they have cygnets. And then those cygnets grow up, and the circle of life begins anew. We have cygnets again! They are très très cute.

Furthermore, today I really, really realised (or, acknowledged, finally) that I am not a sit-at-desk kind of person. I tried sitting at my desk today (which opens up to be a dressing table. IKEA, ya lil Scandinavian geniuses) to see why I can’t sit at tables to work. Is it because these chairs and tables aren’t designed for short people? I propped myself up using a pillow, to check. Still, nope. Who am I kidding? I love working on the floor, and can’t sit still and focus on chairs, generally. Maybe I might have (what could be classified as) ADHD. Or maybe we should not seek to pathologise personalities and stuff.

Finally, fire is very interesting; absolutely mesmerising to stare into. “Watch the flames burn over // the mountain side”. [E.S.]

In Turkish, then, while (conceptually) wearing Ertugrul-style battle gear: mücadele hayattır! THE STRUGGLE IS LIFE.

Eyvallah!


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Nine

What I have learnt.

Bismillah.

Episode Nine of this series, documenting a random thirty-day chunk of my life, from halfway between my birth, and being forty.

Today, I learned that my 7J girls are so very funny and bright, Masha Allah. What random tangential discussion did we have today, again? Oh, yes… “____________ just called me a nerd. Miss, would you describe yourself as a nerd?”

I’m not sure. Although Saif and Isa call me a nerd all the time, I do not think I am smart enough to be worthy of the title. But I am not so sure if I am ‘cool’, either. Are the two really opposites of one another? I know that some people perceive me as a ‘nerd’; some people perceive me as being ‘cool’. I see both labels as being massive compliments, and I also know that these ideas are entirely relative, subjective. All a matter of perspectives. And there are as many ‘perspectives’ as there are walking, thinking human beings on the face of this planet.

I love meanness, when it has loving underlying intentions, and when it is not about something we know that the other person is genuinely insecure about. Meanness is how we show love, among my cousins, and with some of my friends: Siyana is ‘alien’. Sweetie calls everyone ‘fatty’. Isa is ‘Beesa’. And he is ‘Giant Baby’ [ref: that meme of the giant baby, from last year], while I am, in return, ‘Big Fat Baby’. Saif calls me annoying, weird, and a nerd, all the time. Isa has reassured me that he is only ‘mean’ to people he likes; that if he did not like me, he would simply completely disregard my existence… sounds about right.

But meanness when it is genuine meanness: it is often a sign of insecurity. Secure people feel no need, no want, to be genuinely, cuttingly mean. So when words like ‘nerd’ or ‘weird’ are used harmfully, there is some underlying reason. A need to bring another person down. Why? I am, Alhamdulillah, very, very, fortunate to have my cousins in my life. They are beautiful, often wittily-mean, lil people [and in about a decade, I’ll probably be the shortest of all of them]. They keep me up-to-date with what’s ‘in’ right now. Dhar Mann, things going viral on Tik Tok… things like that.

I explained to my 7J girls – many of whom seem to also love Dhar Mann – that it’s like how, in one of his very-popular videos, there is a boy who incessantly makes fun of the smart kid for being a ‘loser’ and a ‘nerd’. Because the bully in question feels stupid, but seeks to mask his weakness behind such an artificial image of ‘strength’.

When meanness is ‘real’: two things. The person being mean feels insecure, and needs to feel ‘bigger’, somehow. Anyhow. And, in an ancillary manner: the object of the meanness tends to be seen as either an easy scapegoat, or… as a threat. The amazingly clever kid would appear to be convenient to try to belittle. S/he makes his/her detractors feel awfully small. Desperate to feel bigger. But secure people are not (genuinely) mean to people. Ever.

A random and separate thought:

“Sometimes, it all gets a little too much,

But you gotta realise that soon the fog will clear up.

And you don’t have to be afraid,

Because we’re all the same.” [S.M.]

Staffroom conversations. What did I learn today? Random things. That Tesco salsa tastes pretty good on gluten-free seeded bread. Green tea with lemon makes you feel like your skin is glowing. Other great skincare things: Simple facewash, H&B Vitamin E sunflower oil, Aveeno sensitive skin suncream, and the Eva Naturals mix, for evenings. Rooibos tea: apparently it’s choc-full of antioxidants, and is good for helping to balance le ol’ hormones. And good skin tends to be a sign of good inner-health.

Water, also. Getting enough sleep. And, probably: having a really good anti-inflammatory diet. But… we had Pepe’s today. My fault. Sigh. Why can’t healthy food taste like fried chicken?

[On a somewhat separate note, I need to go home, tidy up, change my name, reinvent myself, burn all the evidence of my former existence. And things like that]

I tried to have another staff room nap. But then my head sort of shot up when I heard someone complaining about my most favourite class of all time. And,

I had to go home early today. I’m still feeling sick: a queasy feeling, weak, and feverish. But it is not COVID. I did the test today. I ordered a kit from the government website, but then one of the admin sisters [when we call one another ‘sisters’, I am immediately reminded of ‘Call the Midwife’] said that I could do it there and then, at the school.

Dear Reader, what a strange and disgusting experience. Firstly, it should be illegal to put a swab that far up your nose. Sometimes, I like to act like these things do not scare me at all: in my family, some of the men are terrified of needles, and of dentists, and of spiders, and of tests like these. I am not so scared of needles, but dentists are basically modern-day medieval barber-surgeons (but I make myself act like I’m not scared of anything, in front of my dad and brother. It’s like a source of feminine pride). Spiders are awesome [the other day I had to get one out of the 7J classroom. I asked one of the girls to bring a plastic cup from the office, cupped it up using a piece of paper. They kept screaming, and saying I was brave. The spider was harmless. But this COVID test, by contrast, resembles, rather strongly, some form of cruel and unusual punishment.]

I kept sneezing, and my eyes kept watering. The receptionist had been so used to administering these tests. She kindly set everything up for me, then turned around and told me she won’t look, it’s okay. I waited, in the medical room, for half an hour. In the meantime, my friend Tasnim called me – perfect timing: I wasn’t exactly busy – to tell me that (Masha Allah, Allahummabārik) she has passed her driving! Woot woot! We cannot wait to go on road trips with one another, Insha Allah. Blankets, cushions, plants, even, maybe, in her car… the possibilities. And the feeling of being two South Asian girls getting outta the ‘ouse and having an adventure.

Driving and I: I am not so sure, at the moment. Firstly, I am definitely someone who overthinks things. Letting me sit in the driver’s seat would be a risk to myself, and to everybody else who sets foot in my car, and to everybody outside, also. I took a few lessons, a few years ago. And I still remember the look of sheer fear in my instructor’s eyes, whenever I did something. I would be the type of driver to do things sharply and abruptly. Zone out, sometimes, to deep life. Speed, sometimes, to release pent-up aggressive energy. And zoom (fellow COVID-survivors may be triggered by this term for the rest of our lives) right into the ol’ void.

Do I need a car? I have my bike, and public transport. And Über… and now my friend Tasnim <3. The number of Bengali aunties and uncles who have told me that I ‘need’ to learn how to drive, though, and that I need a car. Like it is a need, rather like how oxygen is.

At work, they say I seem like the type to cycle around, and if I ever have kids, that I would cycle them around in one of those little trailer things. I… would never. Unless something drastic changes, in me. Also, people seem to kind-of-often imagine that I would want to drive a Mini Cooper. I… would never. It’s just because I’m short, probably.

Everybody we encounter has these assumptions about us. You ‘are’ this, and this, and this. And you are also, for the most part, not really any of these things at all…

Some assumptions: I quite like the sound of. So I accept them. I mean, criticism, I know I should be open to, also, in moderation; when it is fair, and beneficial to my improvement.

One of my (very spirited) students [ref: the one named after the figure from Greek mythology] says that I seem like someone who would hold books to my chest, and then walk around, and suddenly trip over. And someone would help me pick my books up, and they would become my best friend. I asked her if she got all this imagery from ‘Gilmore Girls’. And, yep.

One of the funniest things ever is that quite a few times, I have come across students attempting to pass off plot-lines from Disney series as their own creative stories, and pop song lyrics as their own poetry.

Today I learned that I do not have COVID, Alhamdulillah. But I have also learned that I could have a new strain of the flu, which has come about recently. I thought it would be better to go home today, and not risk spreading anything.

Going home early from school, on account of being sick, brings back nice memories for me. Of my Nanu coming to pick me up from primary school. Secretly, that added care and attention you get when you are unwell. “Nana Bhai”. I love that my Nanu sometimes refers to me as this. Other beautiful Bengali pet names that we should really preserve among ourselves, I think: “moina” (like that Khala… I forgot her name. With the two kids, Hasan and Fatima), and “shuna”. Aw!

Today I went to the juice café and got the Sun Twist, I think it’s called. Mint, orange, ginger, and pineapple I think. ‘Twas nice, Alhamdulillah. I took the bus home, and sat on the same bus, and the same seat, that I have sat in so many times, during secondary school. The peace of the journey. During my gap year, last year. And, this year. This area: I am part of the furniture, here, so it would seem.

Still, there are always new things to be discovered, and new perspectives to be had. Today, I went to pick up some books from a local ‘Olio’ user. ‘Olio’ is [and here I will likely sound like a sponsored YouTuber] a very cool and useful app, for sharing (mainly food) items that you are not in need of. I discovered it… during the last lockdown period. When I had purchased vegan lasagne from Asda. And found… that it contained red wine. So I needed a way to give it away, somehow; not waste it. [I was too lazy to go back and get a refund, though]. I forgot how, exactly, I’d found Olio. But I have used it a number of times since. A good way to share surplus food, and to meet people who live around you.

Recently I found that someone wanted to give away four books. The books seemed interesting: in that interview with the Dominican friar/professor last week, he had asked me what my favourite genre of fictional books is. I immediately thought of ‘cultural’ books: Khaled Hosseini, and the like. These books I have picked up: one of them is called ‘Fasting, Feasting’. Set in India, seems interesting.

Oh, yes, and I did that thing again, of having left my house keys at home. Luckily, my nan lives five minutes away from me. She lives in a (i.e. our old) flat; we now live in a house. We had switched homes last year, to suit the needs of our respective households. But it sort of feels like both places are home, and that the walk between is only a courtyard. And the bit of the canal beneath the bridge: a fountain.

When I went to collect the books, I walked through the green space in front of my nan’s. Past the church whose side wall has now been painted yellow. Past gorgeous roses, cobblestone. People living their lives, kids singing from the community centre building. And to a row of houses I had not even seen before, I don’t think, situated behind the building that had once been a Victorian workhouse. Even though I have lived (sort of part-time, initially, and then full-) in this area my entire life. The lady had said that her house is identifiable by how many plant pots sit outside of it: there were so many!

I also bought a can of ginger beer to enjoy. Ginger beer: something my uncle had recommended to me. He has so many cans of it in his ‘drinks cupboard’, in the conservatory, at his house. It’s like a little shop in there! Chocomels, Dr. Peppers, ginger beers, that American-style soda drink…

While looking for something for my little cousin at the sweet section of Best One, a trio of Bengali roadmen boys [Am____’s little brother and friends] looked for ‘Chewits’ there. One of them had been talking about how he told a girl her nose looked really big in a picture, and that she then told him, yeah, she wants to get surgery done on it. Sigh.Tower Hamlets roadmen: just so utterly charming (!)

Actually, what tends to be the case is that these TH road-men grow up to be great people. Giving discounts and free drinks at burger joints because they “look after [their] people!”, and acquiring a love for Deen, and a beard [a few months ago, someone from secondary school recognised me, stopped his car and did the whole ‘catch up’ thing. I could not believe that that was him, and that I had really embarrassingly forgotten his name… and he asked me if I remembered his name………… and that, at once, I felt I seemed far younger than him. And yet, at the same time, I felt I seemed way older.]

That’s another thing: why do some people say I look sixteen years old, while others say I look twenty-four? P e r s p e c t i v e s. When people say I seem ‘mature’ for my age, immediately, I think I must have an aged face, and wrinkles, and a boring seriousness about me, and things like that. In my head, I begin to imagine that I look fifty-eight or something.

And maybe, in some other life, I would have made an excellent roadman. ‘Wagwarn’. It literally just occured to me the other day that this means ‘what’s going on’.

Today, I feel quite sick. It’s like that feeling when you eat too much chocolate: that feeling of queasiness. ‘Queasy’ reminds me of the Spanish word for ‘cheese’: ‘queso’. Today, my baby cousin Siyana took a slice of cheese from the packet, and said, “I’m a mouse, I’m a mouse”. Just now, she started singing, “In-di-a, In-di-a”, and then proceeded to prop herself onto a chair, to try opening spaghetti hoop tins with a can opener. In her little navy blue hoodie, trying to hack these tins, she kind of looks like the baby girl version of Hackerman. My nickname options for her are now: alien; mouse; Hackerman. Or, all three, at different times, in different contexts.

I kind of like ‘being sick’: the idea. Warmth, rice pudding, an episode of ‘GMW’ or two. But, ew: being sick, the reality. Today, I cannae eat, or sleep. I feel restless and weak and hot and cold. When I feel restlessness, I feel it in my hands. I cannot focus on things, and me not want to talk to anybody either. And [trigger warning, grossness] I feel like I am about to barf my insides out. Let me leave you with that imagery. Dear Reader, you read this blog of mine at your own discretion.

Today, my Īmān feels quite depleted, and I am feeling somewhat lost and lonely. Which is a bad feeling, but I know, I hope, it will bring me to one of those soul-deep conversations with Allah. The Best of Creators, the Best of Planners, Ar-Rahmān-ur-Raheem.

Tomorrow, I plan to clean up my space again, Insha Allah. Drink lots of water. Do something about deez cuticles. Read! Eat better. Stop using my moh-bil-eh phone so much. I feel so re st le ss.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Eight

What I have learnt.

Day Eight. Bismillah. [Is anybody benefitting from these posts, at all? Or is this really just me solipsistically speaking to myself, on a sort of public platform? My apologies, dear subscribers who are not appreciating these…]

Sometimes I feel very lost in this world. Do you? Like I am not Home, and like there is something fundamentally missing. And I look for things to pin it to. But I want to be Home.

Sometimes I feel scared about certain things. And often, feeling scared about things shows me that I care deeply about them. In this moment in time, however, certain things feel… misplaced. And I have all these questions that I cannot necessarily ask, have answered. Sometimes I feel like I am not really here, rooted in reality. Head in the clouds a bit, maybe. I think the alternative might be a little unbearable.

Sometimes, this whole ‘being human in Dunya’ thing, it… how you say it in Russian… it weighs heavy, you know? So much: past, present, future. Still, bearable. Still, we can choose to frame it as an adventure, and keep moving.

Man, I have a plant and his name is Al-Iskandar (after I discovered that this is the Persian way of saying ‘Alexander’. You know Edmund from Narnia? Skandar Keynes? Once I did some research to figure out where his name comes from. What a rabbit hole that led me into… His name is short for Al-Iskandar, and he is a descendant of John Maynard Keynes and Charles Darwin and Albert Hourani! What a family tree, huh?). He is partially of Turkish descent, and hence, I guess, the whole trading-his-family-for-a-box-of-Turkish-Delights thing. My plant Al-Iskandar is wilting a little now. I find it extremely cool how new parts of plants grow. One day, they are not there. The next day: a shoot, little green things that, one day, and gradually, fire up into burnt-orange petals.

It is a bit mad in the Dunya: just the essence of it. Sometimes I just want to run away to something, or somewhere. But that won’t save me. Sometimes I just want to dig a ditch and… just sit there. I think I need my own cave, out in the ol’ wilderness somewhere.

“A new day, a new dilemma”. Sometimes I forget that this life is a test. Like I know the truth, and yet it is extremely easy to get caught up in deceptions. I know what the truth is: that I am here for a while, and that then I will be gone. What is this world, but a flight of the alone, to the Alone? Struggle, struggle. Just need to wear the right mountain-climbing shoes for it. Do I find that I am well-equipped enough?

I just want to live a Good Life, here. And I will always yearn for Better, I guess, and that is for over There. Here, I need: the right people; the right places; the right things to do, and to learn; the right food; Guidance. I like my sustained waves of happiness, Alhamdulillah: Eid. What a time. I am content with the happy-sad, also. An excellent reminder that, a) I can do this; it is not ‘too much’, and that, b) I am not Home yet.

I want to go Home so much, that it makes me want to cry. [Hormones everywhere. The most beautiful (!) time of the month].

Shoes. Today I have been thinking about shoes. In the (emotional, wonderful) movie ‘Wonder’, Jack tells Auggie that you can learn a lot about people, from their shoes. Some people like their shoes muddied, and steely. Some people wear trainers, but keep them pristine-white. Some people have rows and rows of different-coloured Converses. Some prefer comfort over style, and so on.

I guess I had started thinking about shoes because I wore my black ‘professional’ boots to work, today. And they are now a little scratched, and muddy: I’d (accidentally? Long story, actually, involving my trainers being in the garage. Wait, that wasn’t such a long story after all!) worn them to that protest, the other day. When I was younger, I remember how the other girls in my class had a distinctive thing about keeping their white shoes white. I used to love getting my shoes muddy. New shoes? No problem: they, too, deserved to know mud.

I cycled to work today. During Ramadan, the school had its own Ramadan timetable: we were told to come into work over an hour later than usual; our days had been shortened, too. For those weeks, my dad would drop me off to the school. Now, I have to be in before 8am, again. Today I left the house at around 7:50am. It took me roughly seven minutes to cycle there. I am very glad that we had road-cycling training at my primary school: without adequate knowledge of T-junctions, I probably would have been run over by now. [Ref: the big highway T-junction].

At work, I pressed in the code for the first lock (brown door) and then for the second one (blue door). Interesting how, during my first few months at the school, I always had to buzz the door, or check what the codes are, every time, on my phone. It would always take me some time. Now, I have the sequences memorised. I know exactly which way to turn the handle-things; it is as quick and easy as one, two, three (four, five, twist, and then feel very satisfied with myself). This place has quickly become my second home, and I do not want to leave. But maybe I must. [Why do life be difficult and confusing?]

Home is a place at which you can take your shoes off [our staff room is carpeted; we take our shoes off]. It is a place at which you know the unique sequences, by heart, of the locks. You know them; many others don’t. Home is places, and, primarily, home is people.

Home is where you can come ‘exactly as you are’. At home, exactly you is the best thing you can be. No matter how weird. [‘Weird’: when something does not fit the schemas of what they ‘should’ be. Everywhere else in Dunya, there are expectations of us. Rules, things we cannot do. Holding our breaths. Home is where we should be able to breathe, and to be weird.

And weirder.

And weirder.

And weirder. And this is how the strongest of connections are forged. There is no ‘should’ outside of ourselves, when we are truly at home. Just who we are, and secrets and trust and slip-ups and everything else that this entails]

I have so much to say on this topic. ‘Weird’, and ‘home’. The expectations people have of all of us, outside. The social masks we wear. And the point is, nobody is being quite authentic outside. But when we find the right people, and/or the right places, we can be. And the value of these incubators of authenticity only exists because their opposites exist – everywhere – too.

[Hold your breath for as long as you can. Then, exhale.]

Don’t you just love that you are fortunate enough to know some people in ways that others do not – or, even, cannot – know them? Increìble!

Today, I used some of the ‘Freshly Grounded’ cards [thank you again Baatqa] with my (Year Nine) form class, whom I have for half the week. They were so engaged! From the start of my time with them, I knew that they were an energetic bunch. Passionate… quite rowdy at times. How on Earth am I going to do this, I thought, back then.

Some other teachers pointed out that, yes, they have energy: they just require the right outlets for it. Good things to direct it towards. Their other form tutor and I quickly realised that they love debating. They love speaking their minds, and challenging people, and being challenged. Some of their questions – about Islam, about the world – have truly, truly stumped me, in the (recent) past.

The F.G. cards are perfect, Subhan Allah! Nothing is ‘coincidence’, and everything is connected. They are meant to read silently during AM registration, but sometimes I let them listen to podcasts. About a week before Aatqa had sent me this set of cards [she’d come across them at uni: a group of girls using them] I had played a F.G. podcast episode for the girls, and the hosts had referred to the cards in it. This is when I first learned about them. When Tamanna had been at my house, and when the F.G. parcel had arrived, we could not figure out where it had come from, from whom.

I also handed the student who won the ‘merit competition’ her prize, today. Their other form tutor had this genius idea about motivating them, during the two weeks preceding Eid… using the incentive of a prize [we joke that we are divorced partners, and that we have shared custody over the girls. If anybody has any complaints about them on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays, they’re mine. On Thursdays and Fridays, they’re S’s. Not mine at all.] The prize was an emerald-green Korean-style [a lot of them are into their K-dramas and stuff] mug set, complete with a lid and a long golden-coloured spoon. S suggested that we also put a tenner in. So we did. The winner of the prize loved it. To my surprise, so did her friends. [Moody-and-apathetic-seeming teenagers are not all they seem… Nobody is what they seem. Nothing is what it seems. Existential crisis.]

One of my form students – who has, over the course of these past few months [I always get mixed up between ‘past’ and ‘last’. Are they completely interchangeable or no?!] taught me little things about Afghani ‘culture’ – gave me a pretty little pink box filled with sweets today, in honour of the birth of her new baby sister. The box has since been crushed, in my bag, unfortunately.

Today had been a rather chill day. I delivered my lessons; I learned things from my students. Like how, when the computer won’t let me log in… I could just try ‘switching user’, you [or, I] know.

“A wise man once told me,” a Year Seven student said. She giggled and explained that the ‘wise man’ in question is her dad. “…that the last scraps of food are the ones that contain the most blessings in them”.

I then sat in the staff room, eating, reading. Meal deal from Tesco, and some added summer berries. It still feels a little weird to be eating and drinking during the day (post-Ramadan). Miss H and I swapped a berry for a pistachio between ourselves. I put twelve little popcorn packs in the middle of the table [it’s tradition. We share food by putting it in the middle of the staff room table]. And by the end of the day, only one remained… Teachers like popcorn! Teachers like food in general. With a passion

Today, in the staff room, I did something a little strange, I guess: I took my scarf off, because I had been feeling hot and stuffy. I have this idea that headscarves ought to function like coats: needed when they are needed, and certainly take-off-able when they are not. I thought about the possibility of one of the men walking into the women’s staffroom but… that would be on them. ‘Tis a women’s staffroom.

At first, I felt a little self-conscious. But then my friend-colleague Mominah sat opposite me, said she liked the idea, and gently and elegantly did the exact same thing. Sigh, what a moment.

Through the various people in our lives – the fleeting strangers, the academic rivals, the interesting colleagues – Allah makes things known to us. Like… the possibilities. Love. If you are not grateful to the people, then you are not grateful to God. This tells us much about how people tend to be gifts from God.

I like it when you sort of ‘lose’ something for a while, or when you are far away from it. And then you find it again. Like today, when I picked up a copy of ‘The Evening Standard’ [not the best newspaper in existence, but also certainly not the worst] and read it, and did the crossword (as much of it as I could manage, without cheating using Google.) I love newspapers.

I had – have – lots to do today. But as it is in my nature to half-be a mature and responsible person, and more-than-half also be a complete mess and a dope, I… had left my laptop… and my phone… at home today. Well done, you! So I used my PPA time mainly to relax, and to talk to my colleagues, and to use Ms. Mashudah’s Mendhi tube to doodle on my hand. Some of my colleagues watched me in fascination, assuming that I would be an expert at Mendhi. I… am not. I tend to draw random designs, write random quotes and things in Arabic. All in all, it tends to end up looking a little tragic. But it’s fun to do. And there is time to learn how to do it properly, en el futuro, Insha Allah. YouTube and Pinterest: beautiful teachers, they.

Saying goodbye to things. Like an academic year, a person, a childhood. Some things, I find it kind of easy to say goodbye to. Secondary school: I was out of there like a chicken let out of a claustrophobic coop. Some people: you just say goodbye to, and it’s easier. Than with others. And the worst part is when things are asymmetrical: when they don’t feel the same way. [For example: I once had an extremely close friend – for about four years. And one day she left for Canada, and that had been my very first experience of heartbreak, I think. A final hug, the view of a taxi driving off into the dark. And she was nowhere to be seen again, except on social media. Never eating-noodles-with-her or knocking on her door to come hang out, ever again. Sad[ia] girl hours].

Is the answer, then, to not try? To guard our hearts? Or are we meant to go through all of it, and feel the fullnesses of things, good and bad?

To show no weakness, and to bare no scars. It sounds like it is a desirable thing to do, but actually, it means walking around in denial.

[Hey, forty-year-old me: remember when these particular things were hard? You were so naïve. Hope you’re wiser now, old woman. I wonder what your current blessings are, and what your current tests/struggles are… Are you even alive? Hope you are, and that you have overcome your pathological fear of childbirth, and now have a son – or a horse, maybe? – called Jameel. Insha Allah Khayr!]

New beginnings: how the hick does one even begin to process new beginnings? And deal with the fact that we are just always, always, always, moving forward? How do we learn to just leave things behind, and continue to move forward? [What a strange word, when you think about it too much: forward. And forwards.]

Maybe [and pardon me for being dramatically melancholy] most things are false, and they are lies, and they just fall to the ground. Petal by petal, piece by piece. And we have to feel it: it’s part of the experience.

And there are some things that we just know, you know? We don’t even have to think about them; we don’t even have to know we know them. There’s that idea that we are whom/what we love. And I think the things that we love, and do, most effortlessly – without conscious forethought – are the things that tell us most about whom we are.

This school: I have learnt so much, by being here. Within the walls of the staffroom, in classrooms, through books, and more. Schools are cool.

Today I learned that one of my absolute role models from my childhood – Yvonne Ridley – had come to the school I currently work at, once, to deliver a talk! Where the heck was I, then?! I wish I could have been there…

People are cool, too. And how we are our essences, and how our essences surely remain: they are undying. For Saif, Kinder eggs and fishing videos became Faze Rug videos and Minecraft. For F, Tumblr and 5SOS quickly became winged eyeliner and bandana hairbands. For Maryam, decapitated Barbie dolls became an undying (loving, one could say) aggressiveness, so integral to whom she is. Isa has always loved animals: as a baby, he would refer to all animals as “Coh-coh”; I’m trying to persuade him to become a vet or a zookeeper in the future, Insha Allah. For T, Polka dots and Cath Kidston developed – but did not change fundamentally – into period dramas and elegant bracelets. For me, I guess, muddy shoes and newspapers have remained muddy shoes, and newspapers. Plus a muddied vintage-style bike. And a blog. Everything is always changing, and, on the most fundamental levels, things do not change at all.

Until the day I die, probably: I know I’ll still be ‘figuring it out’. I’m so tired right now. But I also know that all the pieces will come together, Insha Allah.

Cannot tell you precisely who I am. But I am sure about what, and whom, I love.

‘Home’, though. “It feels like poetry.” [Insert memory from last year of Mazhar singing this James Arthur song really loudly in his car, while speeding fearlessly].

I also learned that I should really not wear long coats and stuff while riding my bike. Bad history of things getting caught in my bike chains [today, luckily, I had a pair of scissors in my pencil case, to rescue myself. Last time, it was very embarrassing, but three people came to help me. One of them, a middle-aged woman, asked, sarcastically maybe, if anybody happened to have a pen-knife on them. You know who did have a pen-knife on them, to her surprise, and mine? Her own husband]!

Will I become one of those teachers who wears certain things to work, and then is bothered enough to change out of them? Hmm, it remains to be seen.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Seven

What I have learnt.

Bismillah.

Today, I woke up still feeling unwell: that gross feeling of one’s ears, nose, and throat being all congested. I still remember how cool I found it when I discovered that these parts of the body are connected. The hippie in me is dying to say that everything is connected.

In a connected way: I have really been enjoying a documentary series called ‘Connected’, on Netflix. I would highly recommend the fourth episode (entitled, ‘Digits’), which is about something called Benford’s Law. Remarkable. I’m not a very maths-y person. [I still get gassed at the fact that I can work out percentages at the shops and stuff.] Benford’s Law: what an amazingly cool thing, so brilliantly explained, in that episode.

Things like this just make me wonder, again and again, if we really do have any agency over ourselves and our lives. Everything in existence follows those Perfect patterns. Very Truman-show-esque: what if we are all just going through the motions? What if everything is already Planned, to the T?

The whole ‘Benford’s Law’ thing, Subhan Allah, also reminded me of the fact that… we human beings are limited (for veteran readers of this here blog: “Too fine are the perfect lines…”) and that there is Perfection that is far greater than what we, on this ground level, perceive to be it. Real Perfection is utterly beyond ourselves: it does not always immediately make sense to us. And life is a journey through, and towards, that Perfection that is greater than everything we are, and perceive, and think, and (think we) know.

So, today I woke up and had to call (or, text) in sick to work. I stupidly even sent voice notes to one of my supervisors (Assistant Principal) to subtly prove that I really was too sick to go in.

Today I learned that masala chai really is my panacea. I love that word. For older Bengalis, Vick’s (and paracetomol) are known to be theirs. I love Vick’s. It doesn’t really do anything, but it smells nice and convinces me that it is doing something.

Today I learned that a YouTuber whose videos I have really been liking – Sheen Gurrib [she’s a rather-popular-medical-YouTuber-called-Ali-Abdal’s housemate] – is Muslim, and Mauritian. Her Eid vlog was very nice to watch. And, again, everything is connected: it seems like those Roshmalai cakes I had spoken about in an earlier post of mine… are a ‘Mauritian thing’, too. So is the word ‘Eidi’ to describe gifts.

I have a (very-very-extended) family member who is Mauritian. A while ago, in the strangest conversation with her, outside a bathroom, involving her son, who sort of scared me, she told me that I could very easily be Mauritian myself. M’lady, I could very easily pass as being quite a lot of things, so it would seem. Here is why:

My friend-cousin-Aunt Farhana randomly sent me a TikTok video [to be pronounced in the Spanish way: bee-dio. Incidentally, three people, within this lifetime of mine, have also asked me if I am of ‘Latin’ origin] today, about the history of Bengal, in terms of how our people are the products of a “confluence of various communities”: Indian, Persian, Turkish, Arab, Mediterranean, and European. Sometimes I wish I were brave enough to fully indulge in the ‘hippie’ thing. To say, in response to when people ask me ‘where I am from’, that “I am from nowhere and everywhere. A confluence of cultures; just another leaf on the connected tree of humanity”, and then watch them, with a smile, as they back away in weirded-out-ness and terror.

I know for a fact that people project ideas on me, and have done so. I probably have done, and do, the same to some others. I know that some people have assumed that I am ‘Tunisian’ or otherwise, and have proceeded to seem like they really like me, and want to speak to me and hang around me… on the beginning basis on where they think I am ‘from’. And I have felt the deflation of such projections, when I have told them that I am not from those places: I am Bengali.

I have heard the comments. The “no offence, but are you Bengali?”, even, and the rest. And, are the seeming opposites (the comments of ‘caramel’ skin and whatnot) better? Would I go up to a white boy and tell him, as a compliment, that he has ‘mayonnaise skin’?

“You look smart.”

“Thanks. Is it because I’m Asian?”

Yeah.”

“…”

“…”

The End.

Exoticisation, degradation. All on account of mere projections, and not on truth. On not seeing a person, but an image, or a few. I know I am known to talk about this quite a lot. The theme would appear to come up quite a lot, in this life of mine.

What does it mean, to be Bengali? How do we prevent ourselves from being performative, and from being defensive, and from reifying it, in our minds, and from reducing the entirety of something to mere aestheticz?

We interrupt this article with the fact that, the other day I asked my little brother what he is dreading the most, about having to grow up. “Having a job,” he said. Today, he just got out his Nintendo Switch, put on his headphones, and said that he’s going to “do [his] job now”. Making money? Who’s that, and why do we need him?

We cannot really connect with images: we are designed to only be able to really connect with realities. This reminds me of a great article I had read in ‘TLS’ (The Times Literary Supplement) whose current editor also happens to be a- boy-I-went-to-sixth-form-with’s father. The boy in question had been my main competition in English: my literary arch nemesis. The article had been about ‘Zoom learning’, and about the value of physical classrooms, in contrast to virtual spaces. Full experiences are what we need, as beings, and, though our imaginations can easily convince us that we want something else: what is reality sayyin’?

Also: people are so very allowed to have their own opinions about you. But that need not mean that you need to accept them as some absolute truth, which you must now carry. They are they, and you are you.

Today, I ran some more errandz, and opened up an email from Dawud Wharnsby’s blog, and learned about his views on anasheed: Islamic hymns. Songs to praise the Creator. In it, he says something about how, originally, nasheeds had been sung as poetry with melody. Limited to the use of human voices – song – and the use of Duff drums. Nowadays, he argues, anasheed are being made to follow the trends of pop music, which could be said to lead to antithetical effects.

This is connected to ideas surrounding ‘Islamic architecture’. The most ‘spiritual’-feeling works of architecture, perhaps, are the ones that are rooted in nature. Trees, symmetry, flowers, the nectars of simplicity. How silences, and space, are necessary, to bring rightful attention to their equals and opposites.

Perhaps similar things could be said of food. We Bengalis tend to eat, mainly, with our hands. And many South Asian/Middle Eastern ‘cultures’ are known to favour sitting on the floor to eat, in lieu of using tables and chairs. In these ways, it could be argued, we are able to better connect with things: food, nature, other people, our Realistic places in this world.

In line with something I learned from a lecture by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, it’s not just about eating for enjoyment: it’s about eating for health. Not just about listening to music for entertainment: it’s about listening for meaning. Not just about designing things to fill spaces: it’s about designing things for our holistic humanities.

We only know ourselves through knowing others, and through knowing Allah. Knowing others who are similar to us, and knowing others who are different. Knowing Allah, and our places – in Sujood – before Him.

Life is challenging, and it is struggle. I am trying to end this article how I usually do – as a wannabe poetic philosopher. I want to be attached – connected – to the utter truths of things. Of people, of places, of the world at large. I hope that makes sense. Everything else is d e c e p t i o n, and I cannot let myself become ungrateful.

(Be still, Nafs. U fatty)

I just ask Allah for what is best for me. And whatever it is, I must walk forth, and meet it, as and how it is. I need to learn to put my trust in Allah better. Like how Ibrahim (AS) did. After he asked for a sign, and after the awesome thing happened with the bird: he had ‘blind’ faith in his Lord. And this was him seeing most clearly, also.

Consider that what is yours is yours, and that nothing else outside of your reality could even come close. And that there is so much beauty, waiting to be seen, felt, experienced, discovered. So many learning curves, also. Stories to tell, in de end. And, oof: post-Sunday-clean cleanness to enjoy, at home ❤

“You are what [and whom] you love.” And:

فَصَبْرٌ جَمِيلٌ. (You’ll see.)

A Nasheed that reminds me of my childhood, and of my buddy gewl Tamanna [who included some of its lyrics in a poetry workshop we both took part in once, at a museum in Greenwich, because she is awesome, Masha Allah]: https://youtu.be/_CX-YZjFw9A

And another interesting version of the same thing, which I find myself loving, at this moment in time: https://youtu.be/EM4WxUAaCww


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Six

What I have learnt.

Today has been, Alhamdulillah, an introvert-y day. A rainy day on a Sunday. I love days like this. Fridays and Sundays, I think, are the best days of the week.

Today, my parents went out — B&M-shopping. These days, a lot of people are obsessed with B&M and Home Bargains. Secondarily, perhaps, The Range, and Cost Co. My parents, my uncles and aunts, colleagues. Even some of my students would appear to be quite passionate about B&M.

When my family goes out, and when I am home alone, I refer to these times as my ‘Matilda Moments’. I enjoy doing my own thing. And I firmly believe in the beauty of home, and inside. There are always things to do, and always things to notice. There is a peace to be experienced; a shelter to feel, especially while, outside, it rains.

Today my space became a field of white roses. Figuratively. The ‘white roses’ are… disgusting used tissues. That cold that I woke up with yesterday… had probably been worsened by being outside in the rain for much of the day, yesterday.

Today has been one of those Sundays on which 1PM quickly became 3PM, and now it’s 10PM. I tidied my room; cleaned my mattress; tidied my ‘crafts drawer’, while listening to Nasheeds, including the Muslim version of ‘Hallelujah’.

Today I learned that my friend Tamanna is probably the best person to go to, for comfort about things. And I know that she’s being honest, because *looks at her directly, virtually* she’s a Muslim, and she has to be.

I made some masala chai, to help soothe my cramps. Pain. But never too much to bear. Besides, it is quite a blessing to have a week off of having to do Salāh. Mercy. Still, there are other ways to try to continue to cultivate Taqwa. Du’a, conversations with friends, books, Dhikr.

Normally, I make masala chai with cardamom, and a hint of ginger. This makes for a more Kuwaiti-style karak chai drink. Today I added lots of cloves, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Deliciosa. Warm and aromatic drink, rainy day. Nobody around. Solitude is such a wonderful thing, in decent measure.

Masala chai is something that I had learned to make when my dad took me to a chain restaurant called ‘Chaiiwala’. I came home and wanted to replicate it. I experimented with different ways of making it, and I think I’ve mastered the Chaiiwala way:

For one mug: roughly 3/4 of a mug of water, in a milk hundi, on low heat. Teabag in – or loose-leaf tea. Loose-leaf assam tea is probably best for this. Add Carnation to taste (that is, evaporated milk. Not condensed milk. Made that mistake once… while I had been trying really hard to impress my Aunt [Mami] with my tea. Turned out wayyyy too sweet that time). More Carnation = more of a Rasmalai-like taste, and a creamier consistency.

Add roughly three cardamom pods. Open them up (you can crack them open by pressing a spoon on them) and chuck ’em in. And a small piece of ginger. Add sugar or honey, to taste. Mix it all together. Let it boil, and rise and fall once. And then turn the heat down. Let it rise and fall like this twice more. Et voila! Masala chai. Great for soothing cramps, and for around-campfires, and for basically everything else.

Today I learned that I really want to stay on at _______ school. Everything is telling me to stay. Somehow, in some capacity. But I have to go to uni this year. We shall see what happens, Insha Allah.

I learned random things from the internet. My ‘tuition fees’ for this corona-themed academic year have not amounted to £9250. Rather, I have opted for a free trial of YouTube premium. Which I will probably keep my subscription for. YouTube, but you can turn your phone off, or use other apps, and still listen to things! Awesome… (£11.99 a month thereafter)

Well, I really love errand-y days. The ‘Hygiene’ part of Sundays. Cleaning is actually – or, perhaps, can be – so fun, Masha Allah. Indoor, homely things. I think they are necessary for that ‘Good Life’. The value of home, and how Sundays often function as a door towards appreciating our home spaces better.

Anything else I learned today? Well… that I love talking to my brother. I always have — ever since he first learned to talk. After reading one of the Freshly Grounded cards to him [“How do you think you can improve your relationship with one another?”] he told me that he wants me to spend more time with him — and then quickly added that I should stop being so annoying. Because how I am is “annoying”. Self-contradictory, much? I told him to plan and deliver a lesson to me on how to stop being annoying, and then maybe I’ll learn. [Dear reader, I will never stop being annoying, I don’t think].

Have I spent today’s time wisely enough? I still have much to do… I believe in getting things done. I also believe in the importance of the relative slowness of Sundays. Listening to what is being said, through the silence, for example. Appreciating the ‘small things’.

In a FaceTime call with my friend Aatqa, today, she had been wearing an upside-down moon necklace, and brought up the topic of the stars, and how awesome they are. I said (because it is very much in my nature, to be cheesy) that the stars are always there: we just have to change our perspective. She added: that the birds are pretty much always singing, too; we just have to listen.

An interesting quote from a great YouTube video I watched today: “On social media, we have a level of control with how we want to be perceived. Believe it or not, nobody shows you everything.”

Everything links together so well, Masha Allah, and Allahu Akbar. Another card I had picked out for my brother had read, “Are you the same person, in public and in private?”

And earlier I’d been thinking about ‘inside’ versus ‘outside’. And how we really do not know anybody. Except, in accordance with what is said in the Islamic tradition, if you, a) live with them, b) travel with them, and/or c) do business alongside them. These are through what our essences, our characters, can really be revealed to others.

Everything else is glimpses, and snapshots, engineered impressions, and things like that. And we should never, ever, ever, compare the entireties of ourselves with highly edited (i.e. edited in terms of how they are presenting themselves, and edited in terms of what our minds are brought to make of it all) pictures of others.

“Grown-ups are just kids that got big”. This was from a YouTube video too. Dawud Wharnsby (the hippiest Muslim you ever saw) quoting his daughter.

This morning, my room had been très messy. [Well, actually, these things are very relative. Whenever I complain that my room is messy, my cousins reassure me that, in their eyes at least, this is not messy. When I catch a glimpse of their living spaces when they are ‘messy’, I understand exactly why…]. Things are now clean. And the past few days have been sort of filled with social interaction, for me. And today has been quiet, Alhamdulillah. Knowing the values of things, through knowing their opposites.

Without the opposites of things, things are just… the default state of being, and this is when we are known to just take them for granted. [Can you believe that we need to breathe, all the time? We do it so… without thinking. It is the default thing, so taken for granted]

I so hope I wake up feeling better tomorrow, Insha Allah. I miss my Year Seven students, and I love their energy, Masha Allah.

Auf Wiederschen (I don’t know how to spell it).

Today I learned that it is spelt: Auf Wiedersehen. And that Capri-Sun tastes very weird when you pour it into a cup to drink it. I’m not sure if, objectively, it’s a nice drink. Or if it’s just an artificial concoction that we ‘enjoy’ because it brings back childhood memories…

[There is no ‘if only’ or ‘what if’. There is only Qadr, and blessings, and our struggles through our tests].

“Put this on the family group chat.” — Saif Ahmed (pictured above. With a piece of cat furniture on his head.)


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Five

What I have learnt.

Today, I woke up feeling a little sick – I had accidentally slept with the window open, wore four layers of clothes to sort of say sorry to myself – and went to a protest. My second protest ever, and, most probably, also my last [protests are not really ideal for women. At least, not the main bodies of them: you end up getting shoved about quite a bit, and you sink into crowds of people]. I did not know that I would be going to this protest, today. It had been for the Palestinian cause.

My aunt (dad’s cousin) – who is also my friend, and whom we now just tell people is my ‘cousin’ – lives in Kent. She goes to uni in London. Bangla Soc President of SOAS and that. She is a very cool, ‘political’ person. She came all the way here for this protest, and invited me to go with… because she didn’t have anybody else to go with. Sigh. Nice to know that I had been her first choice(!)

I am glad I went today. The Palestinian issue is one that I had grown up knowing about: another aunt of mine had taught me much about it, when I was young. A few years ago, my friend Tamanna and I had also attended ‘PalExpo’ in Westminster, where we learned more about it. There, a white British woman sporting a kefiyyeh told us that we must visit Palestine someday: to see it, and what is happening there, for ourselves. She said that it will change our lives.

Today, I woke up, got ready in about twenty minutes, and opened up an Amazon package to find that my new bike lock had arrived. Sometimes… you’ve gotta buy Eid gifts for yourself, also… No other human being knows exactly what you need, but you.

I decided to cycle to the first train station: it took me about five minutes, as opposed to about twenty or more, by bus. I discovered that whoever had serviced my bike [my dad had taken it to get it serviced somewhere, after yet another dress of mine had become caught in the chains, yet again] had left a container of Chinese food in its basket [???] I used to be quite self-conscious about riding my bike while wearing hijāb. People – like aunties – stare, sometimes. But, hmmm: courage isn’t the absence of fear, and all. It’s the commitment to things that we deem to be more important, more valuable, greater. I locked her onto a bike stand outside the DLR station. Took me a minute or so to figure out how this new lock works. Such a sleek and clever design.

Onto the DLR; went to the next station. I made it there early… which is a big thing for me. It’s something that I had to work on, but… I’ve been known to have a little bit of a, in Farhana’s words, “punctuality deficiency”. But today I was early and baby girl was late, yay. ‘Tis called… character development.

Something that I also need to work on: I have a habit of not having a charged phone with me. I tend to leave my phone on between 1-and-3-%. Accidentally. I did charge my phone this morning, but somehow…

My dad has tried, with portable chargers, and with changing my phone battery. But… to no avail. Today, I made sure to check where Farhana and I were meeting, and to tell her when I was there, and then… phone death. Luckily, the man at the information booth kindly offered to charge my phone for me.

Farhana arrived: she had been wearing a mint green jumper, and a mint green cap-visor thing. It had a cannabis icon on it, but she insisted that that is not what it was: that it was just some brand’s logo.

We sat on the train; everywhere, we saw people going towards the protest. On the train, a woman who had also been going there informed us that Marble Arch station was closed today. We got off at a different station, then walked for around fifteen minutes. When we arrived at the scene of the demonstration, we found the atmosphere to have been electric:

Smoke bombs, fireworks, duff drums. Chants of “Free free! Palestine!”

“One, two, three, four!

Occupation no more!

Five, six, seven, eight!

Israel is a terror state!

I’d never seen myself as a properly ‘protesty’ person. [I wonder about the effectiveness of marches like this one. I guess they’re meant to be – and are – empowering, inspiring. People leave feeling motivated about the cause, and more educated]. Today, I shouted louder than I have ever heard myself shout before, I think.

I love, love, love, love, to the power of infinity, being Muslim [can you tell?] Of course, the majority of protesters today had been Muslim. With some dottings of non-Muslim socialists, Irish people, etc.

Some people shouted, “Takbeer!”

There were powerful responses of “Allahu Akbar!”

And I can’t lie: at first, I was wary of saying it. Which is pathetic of me. The association of the declaration of Allah being the Greatest – the truest thing that one could possibly say – with ‘terror’.

‘Terror’ and ‘terrorism’. And how words shape meaning; how the language we choose to use shapes realities. ‘Terrorism’ refers to violence used towards political ends. ‘Political’: an adjective that means ‘to do with power relations’.

Resistance is not terrorism. Colonialism is terrorism. And “Allahu Akbar” is not a ‘terrorist’ chant: it’s a Muslim one.

Massacres of babies as they sleep in their cots is not mere ‘conflict’. ‘Conflict’ implies a relative equalness of power. Terms such as those to describe this are blind to all the happenings that have preceded this one.

And some people are so ready, so quick, to turn a blind eye to the plight of Palestinians because they perceive it as a ‘Muslim issue’. And Muslims don’t really deserve people to defend them, do they? “Peace,” they say. “Forgive.”

Yesterday, during a casual discussion with my uncle and aunts, we had learned of a child who had passed away after a car accident. We had all been in shock. And then, I think we had started talking about Palestine. And my uncle – who has a three-year-old son – explained that it is in the nature of fathers to want to burn the entire world down, if somebody were to attack – let alone murder – their child. Look at what happens, on a daily basis, in Palestine.

To have to witness one’s children being shot and bombed to death by men who sneer haughtily at them, taunt them; who have money and power on their side. Houses demolished. Trees planted, lives built, blown away, and then they are mocked, and brandished ‘terrorists’ for throwing rocks at monstrous tanks.

Farhana and I walked with the crowds. Encountered all sorts of people. There had been Albanian flags, Algerian ones, Turkish, Pakistani. People standing on bus-stops, climbing lampposts, climbing scaffolding. I told Farhana I knew I’d see at least one person I know, from somewhere. And, yep: a boy I know from secondary school… sitting on a lamppost.

We all – swathes and swathes of people, thousands – walked down roads, past greenery, past willow trees beneath which lines of people had been engaged in Salāh.

The protest was awesome, Masha Allah. And very, very inspiring. It reminded me, kind of, of Umrah. Muslims (mainly), in our thousands, all different, and all together. There for something greater than us.

‘Spirituality’: the commitment to something Greater than ourselves. In losing ourselves – among crowds and crowds of people, noise, horns, sometimes. In Salāh, in nature, in Qur’an. Where we lose ourselves, and sink right into the flowers, or turn upwards and lose ourselves deeply, in the night sky, look outwards and try to focus on giving rather than getting: this is where, paradoxically perhaps, the self is most realised, too. Everything is Allah’s, and here is where we come to life.

Farhana held my hand [we have this habit of acting really moist in public.] and claimed that she is the “alpha” one in our friend-cousin-aunt relationship. Alpha female. She is barely five feet tall. And she is so, so cool, Masha Allah.

Yesterday, when I had replied to her text telling her I’d go with her, she told me she would buy me food today, as my ‘Eidi’. [“Non-negotiable. It’s your Eidi. Bring a raincoat.”] I said I’d buy drinks.

Protests make you hungry. Today, it had been between Pizza Express, Nando’s, and a little Middle-Eastern fish-and-chip place. We chose Middle Eastern fish and chips: I learnt that Farhana is kind of going off of Nando’s chicken. Which is tragic, because Nando’s – as well as the planetarium – used to be our place. Oh, and that she really loves the idea of goat’s-cheese-and-spinach pizza. Next time, Insha Allah.

While passing an Italian eatery, I told her that I find Italian restaurant-food kind of bland. “Yeah,” she said, in her usual flatly-sarcastic way. “But sometimes the pasta just hits, you know?”

Protesters everywhere, and, due to corona, nowhere to eat-in. We waited for one of the outdoor tables to be made free. But, alas, as soon as people got up, a new set of people would sit down. People had been eating at bus stops, on street corners, and more.

As well as fish and chips, this restaurant also did dishes like Biryani [who invented Biryani? Desi Muslims, or Arabs?] and mango lassi. And döner kebabs. And herbal teas. Just… the works. And for some reason, there had also been a dinosaur figurine standing on the shelf of teas… [Eccentric owner? A toy that reminds him of his son? A ‘good luck’ thing? Who knows?]

While waiting for our food, we played the ‘Freshly Grounded’ game [Jazakillah Khayr, Aatqa!] and learned some more things about one another. And then Farhana added some questions to the mix: like, who, out of Jeremy Corbyn, Ross Lynch, and Corey Fogelmanis, would I want to marry. Corey Fogelmanis, 600%.

We found a random block of apartments to sit outside. Very ‘Girl-Meets-World’-esque. [“Bay window? Bay window right now.”] An ardent love for this show is one of the things that Farhoona and I have in common: something that connects us. This, along with astronomy, and chicken, and sociology. And how we both used to have hamsters. Once, I took mine to her house, and mine and hers started fighting. Pretty sure I started crying about that.

Today, we spoke about ‘deep’ things, and very ‘light’ things, as we do. We laughed about the dumbest things. Then I ‘knighted’ her, using her cardboard sign.

Somebody who lives in the block of apartments we had been sitting outside of, arrived at her house with a bunch of Waitrose shopping bags. We fully expected her to be a bit irritated at the fact that we had been there. But she had been very, very nice. Expressed solidarity for the people of Palestine; we had a little chat together. We ‘shouldn’t’ assume things about people, but it is quite natural to. And it is quite nice when these ideas are surprisingly disproven for the better.

Incidentally, I have learned – as a result of a strange conversation in the staff room – that people genuinely think that only ‘bougie’ people shop at Waitrose. Tamanna and I do, though: probably because it happens to be our local supermarket. Their bakery section is amazing: I remember that Tee used to be obsessed with buying things from there, if only to use the cool do-it-yourself label maker…

I (treacherously) went to Nando’s, to wash my hands. I hate the feeling of having grease on my hands. And I hate the fact that some people can just wipe their hands with a tissue after eating greasy food. That does not get rid of the grease! Even for this three-minutes-in-total trip to Nando’s… I had to write down my name and phone number in their corona-tracking list-of-people directory thing.

The rain poured down today. I love the rain, with a passion. It is Rahma, and it is fun. And it is the idea of going home, and being clean, and being warm again.

Farhana and I got on the same train, and then we had to part. A gorgeous day with her, all in all, Masha Allah.

On the train journey home (on the Jubilee Line, a Tube line that is known to give me PTSD from my sixth form days…) I opened and read a card from Aatqa. It made me smile a lot.

Then, back at the DLR station, when I went to retrieve my bike, a random man commented on how “lovely” it is. “Thank you”. He added that it is “very lovely… like [me]”. I said ‘thank you’ again, but then skedaddled as quickly as I could go, because although this could have just been a kind and innocent compliment, strange middle-aged men and I have a weird history, unfortunately. Certainly, the non-Mahram rules in Islam exist for a reason: you can strongly assume that a compliment from them is only a kind compliment. But from what I have learnt, things can very quickly get very weird: other people do not always see things the way that you do.

And, in any case, I hate it when people use words like ‘lovely’ or ‘cute’ to describe me. Those words remind me of things like perfectly-manicured nails, and pretty and pleasant words, and delicateness, sustained palatability, and a benign smoothness. These things are great and all, but they are not me; they are just false assumptions that people seem to have, about me, sometimes.

[I want to be… subtly terrifying, and messy, and muddy, and strange. “Nice bike. It’s very subtly terrifying… like you.” I like the sound of that much better.]

Today I learned from a text from my aunt (Sweetz) that my brother – who had been tasked with fundraising for a hospital in Gaza, as part of a little competition – said, after learning about the situation, that “all this time [he had been] raising money to win a prize. Now I want to do it for the children of Gaza”.

We also saw our next-door neighbours. Husband, wife, and four daughters. The daughters: I currently teach one of their cousins. They gave us a lovely cake today. And their dad, on account of my teaching position I guess, told me that he sees me as an “excellent role model” for the girls. I don’t think I deserve that label, but I find myself feeling quite honoured about it, nonetheless [he should probably find out that I slept with the window open last night, and then decide on the whole ‘role model’ thing]. His daughters are so cool. I like all kids, but I have a particular affinity for the girls who aren’t merely focused on being and behaving ‘pretty’: the ones who want to dress up like pirates (Inaya) and paint cool pictures (Amelia, No.8) and, with cheeky smiles, and without a care in the world, go out to collect specimens of good flowers and leaves (Sara).

Tomorrow, Insha Allah, I hope to have a ‘GYST’ (‘Get Yo Shiz Together’) day. I have so. much. to. do.

Allahu Akbar, though. Allah is far Greater than tyrants: large-scale ones (e.g. genocidal enablers) and ‘small-scale’ ones (e.g. domestic abusers). Allah is far Greater than our worries; Greater than our tests. And He has blessed us with the fact that we are sempiternal, spiritual beings. Here for a while, and then we must leave, and only love, and the products of our deeds, remain with us, in the end.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Day Four

What I have learnt.

Bismillah.

Day Four of this thing; day after Eid; day who-knows-what of being alive. It is midnight right now. I have just returned from my Nan’s. Today I learned that… I think my cousin Dawud sees me as a friend, which I find adorable. He was “blue Hulk” today, and he called me “pink Hulk”. He sat on my Nan’s prayer chair – which the family had collectively gifted her, for Ramadan – and pretended it was a car. We sat in his car, and ‘drove’ to various places: his Nanu’s house, Moosa’s house, “holiday”, and so on.

Today, I had a day off from work: they’d given us Eid and the following day off, so I basically get a four-day weekend this week! I woke up to discover that… my brother had taken a day off from school. He’d caught a cold, apparently.

My best friend, Tamanna, came around today. We normally see each other on Eid day; this time, I invited her to mine for the day after. The plan had been to have a little tea party. Yesterday, since I went out, I wore modest clothes. For today, I wanted to dress up, and for Tee and I to take pictures. Memreez: we will never ever be this young again.

A while ago, Tee and I – on one of our notorious ‘meet-at-the-Bridge’ walks, I think – had been talking about hijāb. It is, of course, a good concept. It signifies obedience to Allah, and the cultivation of an understanding that a woman’s sexual value/outward beauty is not the crux of her value.

The thing is, it is also easy to feel insecure. When we are so used to seeing ourselves covered up. When we are more used to seeing ourselves in hijāb than without it. Tee had helpfully reminded me that we don’t really look like that. It is not that women who observe this sacred thing look ‘ugly’… but when we start comparing ourselves in hijāb to women who are not wearing it… it is an unfair comparison to make. Tee said that if we ever feel like this, we should imagine a guy being fully covered up [the scarf on his head, for example, would significantly affect his facial structure, the framing of his face, etc.]. I love this idea so much. It’s such a comforting and funny thing to do.

Today I learned that… I don’t know how Asian mums do it. Since my parents had both gone to work, I had been left in charge of the house, and of my little brother. I made our food, left the kitchen in a bit of a state, set the dining room up for Tammy-lam, and went up to get ready.

I also received a box of chocolates from my Khalamoni’s – my aunt, who has learning disabilities – lovely carer. She said they’re for me and my brother. What a kind person. Before, when she would come to my nan’s, she would always ask about me, and that always means a lot.

Today I wore a dress that my aunt had given me. Another Eid gift [big extended family = stress, sometimes. Drama. But also lots of love, many gifts, Alhamdulillah]. It is black, and has pink rose designs on it. Apparently, my cousin Fabiha had picked it out for me.

Tee wore an Abaya. Classy choice. She’d arrived while I had still been getting ready. I opened the door and asked her what the heck she’s doing at my house. She smiled, and knew that that means “welcome, my dude. I really missed you, you know <3”.

Tasks to do: check on the chips [today I learned how to make steak chips!]; tidy up the kitchen; finish getting ready; talk to Tee; drink ma rooibos tea.

I learned that… my best friend of over a decade-many years: I’d always, for some reason, assumed that she does not like vegetables at all. I don’t quite know where that assumption had come from in the first place. But today I discovered that… it’s not true.

We talked and talked – as we do. Ate and ate – as we also do. And… we exchanged presents! Gift-giving really is a love-language: when tender thought goes into whatever is being given. Tee gave me a handmade card with a beautiful message inside; a print of a sublime piece of artwork — a mosque with a storm raging in the background; a gorgeous checked coat, which fit perfectly.

I gave Tee a (highly cheesy) letter, and an emerald-green hoodie that informs people of how to pronounce her name properly. Insha Allah, later this year, Tamanna is (after a long – Qadr-ic – story, and two years of Sabr!) going to Cambridge, to study Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. I can scarcely think of another place – or another course – that suits her this well, Masha Allah. And we’ll just have to hope that these Arabic-learning Cambridge students can read Arabic and pronounce her name properly!

And, yes, as we tend to do, we reflected, quite a bit, together, on our lives, and on our selves, and on this friendship of ours. Truth be told, I cannot fit all the things this friendship has taught me, and how it has changed me and my life, into words. It is everything. I cannot imagine my life without her being in it: it’s impossible.

I don’t know who I am without you.”

People change people. Secret of life” [Cory, ‘GMW’]. And people are people: we each exist as we are. As separate entities, and inextricably connected. Our lives are painted with the colours of the people whom we are lucky enough to love.

And I have got to learn to meet people where and how they are. Look at what is there, not at what I sometimes think I want to be there. People love in their own varying ways. My particular favoured ways of showing my love are different from others’. And what a great thing to learn: the love languages, the styles, the preferences, of those whom we love…

*DJ Khaled voice* The key to success is… communication, probably.

Communication. Today I also received (yet another. I’m not even trying to flex here: this Eid has just happened to have been a very present-filled one, Masha Allah!) a parcel from my friend Aatqa. The ‘Freshly Grounded’ (podcast. Recommended) card set! A set of thought-provoking cards to foster communication, openness, introspection, connection. I love, love, love it. I used them this evening, actually, with my uncle and aunts. Again: someone who is beloved to me thought about who I am, and about what I would like and use. Makes my ol’ heart feel all fuzzy.

I am too tired to write now… right now. Do I carry on? Do I not? Decisions, decisions.

I’m carrying on. I want to say, again, that people are people. They are not us. And that is precisely the point. I am I, and you are you. And when two people meet, and befriend one another, we meet each other where we are. We are challenged, we may clash a little; we learn. We are changed. We fall in love with their beings (to paraphrase a cheesy John Green line) slowly, and then… all at once.

Expectations. We cannot expect ‘perfection’ of people. We cannot expect them to befit what we think that love looks like, or ‘ought’ to. Because this is quite subjective, and varies from person to person. We must let ourselves, and them, be human, as we are.

Man. I have learnt that I should really learn to start winding down at around Maghrib time. I want for my mind to be in sync, as much as it can be, with the sky. For now, I am tired, and I guess I can say the rest of what I want to say, (and then some,) tomorrow, Insha Allah. Until then, adieu!


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.