The Spider’s Web

And just how does the spider – that most humble and noble creature of them all – know exactly how to spin, ceaseless – until the job is done, at least – and with such instinctual grace, even its very first attempt at a web? [Yes, a thought inspired by my recent re-watching of ‘Charlotte’s Web’!]

By the grace of Whom, is this life-giving, life-sustaining and -beautifying, information imbued? Our innermost longings, for example, and those tendencies of ours towards desiring… purpose, and justice. Connection, and love. Our instincts for language-acquisition. The resulting ability we are given, through which to reason, and then decide, and to ask that most fundamental of questions: Why?

Our own versions of the spider’s web: what we can spin, and produce, with what we feel, and through what we can claim to have of power: our words. And with our muscles, and with our hands. And what we know already, and have known — from invisible spec, to developed human being. And all those spaces within us, which are so well-pre-disposed, inclined, to coming to know.

How does it know how to work so quickly, and in producing a thing of such utility and geometric beauty, and a strength so seemingly antithetical to how altogether… silk-like those structures may seem?

            The knowledge that, within us, is just so utterly powerful and instinctive. Woven right through our veins, and through our skins; between our finger-tips. Fundamental. I think I know, by now, what love might be. It is a type of knowledge that, within me, feels quite innate. Like I am afraid, for what may or may not happen. And yet, there is something in me that tells me to have faith; give it a fair chance — it seems thoroughly strong enough — and give it time.

It caught me at a weird time. Which had, mysteriously and yet without doubt, been the right time. Would appear to be quite fluffy and fragile; that one wrong turn and that is it, and it is gone for good.

I think it means something very special when these things come. Out of the blue, and quickly, and so intricately, gorgeously designed. A spider can settle on the decision to build its home between (almost) any two sets of walls. Or bars of a fence. Or between the plastic wires of an outdoor drying-rack. Gets to know its space. Proceeds to simply go ahead, and do what it would appear to do best.

I think I know, most ardently, though not in a way that might render this heart of mine restless, nor despairing, that there is something very special, very important, that I want to protect, here. And, well, here is to quietly hoping and hoping, that you might see, in this, the inherent truth and its beauty, too.

            Even the most obstinate of soul-denying ‘materialists’, whose (no offence but) muddied-over-time intellects seem to prevent them from seeing the inherent, intrinsic beauty of things: the dangling legs of the spider, for example, its clockwork, tapestry-like missions. Even they cannot deny that we are born of love, and we are made of love, and we know that we love. That most noble and humble of our interpersonal pursuits. Between (almost) any two suitable walls, or metal rods, or tree branches, or twigs. A glistening thing, and so quietly, unobtrusively brilliant. How much strength there is, in softness.

The spider sits in its centre and knows. The mystery of its own beauty; the core, undying knowledge – that gentle, determined flow of artistry – that has guided its work. A labour of love, so clear and inspired. Albeit, seemingly transparent, almost, to those even only moderately far-away from it.

Yes. How encompassing, expectation-defying, dizzying, dazzling

(and fragile, and yet enduring)

and unpredictable

a thing is love.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021

Concise Compositions: Friendship

A friend is someone who holds your breath. Friendship. It is such a wonderful thing. If you are blessed enough, in this life of yours, to have at least one amazing friend, then you are truly blessed indeed. How awful would it have been to be alone – without friendship – in this world?

A friend is someone who looks into your eyes, and understands. Friendship is sacred, even if, these days, we often act like it is not. It takes things like trust and effort, yes. Humour, love, adventures. Sometimes just sitting in silence, enjoying one another’s company.

You are indeed who your friends are. Well, you are you, a separate entity. But so much of you will be dependent on who they are. They will be reflections of you, too. So choose wisely.

You know, we sometimes act as though every person we have met, whom we perhaps shared a class at school with, or whom we worked alongside as colleagues – we (or, do I mean I?) act like these are ‘friends’. But, no, I think, realistically, these are…acquaintances. They might be circumstantially somewhat close acquaintances, sure. But I think the term ‘friend’ ought to hold far more weight.

Friends are here for the best of your times. They are equally there for the worst ones. Your happiness and sadness becomes theirs, somehow, and vice versa. Friends are the family we are fortunate enough to be able to choose for ourselves; their lives become intertwined with ours, in parts. We end up sharing some of our flowers.

Okay I’ve got like twenty seconds left. I love my friends; over and over again, I would choose them. I love having good food with them. Good food, good friends. And FLOWERS. Life complete.

4 seconds left. 3, 2, 1.

  • The Concise Compositions series comprises a series of blog articles that are each based on a certain topic. You give yourself five minutes – timed – to write about whatever comes to mind, based on the topic. You cannot go over the time; you cannot stop typing beforehand, either. And you cannot go back to edit [save for grammatical errors, etc.]. I challenge all fellow bloggers to give this a try [or, if you do not have a blog, try it on paper – maybe in a journal]! Include ‘ConciseCompositions’ as a tag for your pieces, and include this block of writing at the end of them. Good luck! 

Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

Your Body

Strange, isn’t it? How, these days, many of us would appear to have this tendency to catch a glimpse of the most natural of faces, to pore over them for a little while, and then to dismiss them as being not much at all. Or, if we do concede to acknowledging the outward beauty of these particular individuals, we say of it that it is a type that is… “unconventional”.

These days, most of the world seems to be mired in all these promotions of a viral monoculture when it comes to matters of beauty. The ideal, for women, is very much the ‘Instagram face’, which is otherwise known as the ‘baddie’ look. It is a face that is laden with makeup – synthetic lashes, arched eyebrows, contoured face. An engineered impression of heightened ‘femininity’ and sexual availability. And this archetype is centred upon beautiful features that can tend to be quite Eurocentric (a small button nose, fairness of skin…) but which are made sufficiently ‘exotic’ through the additions of pouty lips, and thick eyebrows, and more.

See, none of us were born thinking that there is anything at all ‘wrong’ with our faces nor with our bodies. These majestic physical expressions of ours, vehicles of our metaphysical selves, walking (albeit temporary) homes to our very souls. They do so much for us, quite often without us even asking them to.

And, yet: look how unduly harsh we can be on them. Look how we pinch our tummy rolls and wonder why they cannot be gone. How we analyse our faces in the mirror much like stern teachers putting red pen to some troublesome student’s essay. Look at all these strange manipulations of what is real and what is natural, their airbrushed impressions that, for example, stretch marks should not really be there in the first place. 

Does the worth of a body grow or diminish with the sizes of certain muscles? And is it to also dip with every crater upon its skin; to rise with every individual who may express an admiration for it? Were these bodies of ours only meant to ever be valued from a sexual (and democratically-decided) perspective, and even then, against all these heavily edited paradigms?

From the very tips of your toes – from how, when you were an adorable cot-ridden little infant: you probably will not remember how you used to wriggle them around in sheer delight. The puerile joys of being alive! But I’m telling you now, somebody does remember. You brought wonder and delight into this world from the very first breath you took here. And your body has been here for you, from then, all the way up to now.

And what about the colour of your eyes? Yes, people are known to romanticise blue eyes so very much; green, too. But how can one not love dark brown eyes, jet black hair, and every single physical expression of humanity, which has all been brought about by none other than Divine paintbrush [and, yes, this is just a metaphor].

Your body was made to allow you to run. To facilitate your gripping onto life itself – the life of this world – for as long as you have been destined to do so. To taste the sweetness of ice-cream and coffee, and, indeed, of coffee-flavoured ice-cream. The chill of cold water – the shock – when you first dip your foot into it.

Our bodies break ice, and they make conversation. They ‘ugly-laugh’ in ways that are so undeniably great. When we are happy, our bodies, these rentals from God and lifelong friends of ours, they light up with us. And when we are sad, they too stoop out of loyalty; they are known to mourn with us.

And oh, to sit beneath the rustling branches of several trees, and to gaze upwards at the cosmos to which they would all appear to point. To marvel at the fact that the very same Supreme Being who had fashioned them – in perfection, I might add – created you, too. This is an undeniable and timeless fact; it does not ebb and flow in accordance with the ever-changing preferences of the masses. So how dare we be ungrateful. How dare we delude ourselves into thinking that we could know more about Beauty than He who is al-Jameel – the Most Beautiful?

One day, perhaps – if He so wills, that is – there may come a day when you find yourself cradling your own child in your arms, hearing his or her little heart thrashing around in its ribcage, and realising that it is doing so almost as enthusiastically as yours is. He or she might have your hair; your eyes; your lips, your smile.

Would you want this child to grow up thinking there are things that are inherently ‘wrong’ – or starkly inadequate – with his or her body, simply because he or she would not be able to walk through today’s model-culture cookie-cutter template, without shedding and altering a few things of his or hers? Would you want them to think that those celebrities and influencers – the ones who have tacitly undergone rhinoplasty surgery, lip fillers, bodily transplants and more – are worth their observantly, obsessively, aspiring to look just like? And would it not break your heart if you were to ever stumble upon the sound of him or her – your own child – calling themselves…ugly? 

I so wish we could just stop seeing ourselves through such critical lenses. When did all this even begin?

And were we not fashioned by the most Beautiful, the most High? The best of geometers? He created you in perfection, in proportion. As another manifestation of His Divine creative signature. And as one who is able to laugh and run and smile and sing; one who can cry and walk and think, cook and create. One who could, unfortunately, fall into the trap of spending an entire lifetime erroneously thinking she is not ‘pretty’, and thereby berating herself for some abstract crime that she did not ever even commit.

The goal then, surely, is not to assess ourselves against criteria that may not always be in our favour and reflect what we already look like. The goal is to be as healthy as we can be – to water ourselves, and to nurture the intrinsically beautiful things that are part of us, individually.

May our goals – on the physical front – be optimal health, and even this, not against anybody else‘s yardstick… certainly not the yardstick that imbues us with the impression that we are to see ourselves as plastic products, and that our intrinsic values rise and fall with the glances of strange men – that we need to heavily ‘work on ourselves’ in this particular regard…

I mean, how utterly, inconceivably foolish would it be to attempt to judge one masterpiece against the fingerprint criteria of another? Are we to examine, say, the Great Wave against the criteria of the Mona Lisa? Do we assess the aesthetic appeal of a majestic cherry blossom tree against the characteristics of, say, a soul-invigorating urban sunset? No. For these things are so very beautiful, but each in their own right.

And even if we were to (quite unfairly) reduce all these considerations of beauty and intrinsic feminine value to questions of sexual appeal (i.e. ‘who-is-the-most-widely-sexually-appealing?’) it must always be known that the real objective here is not to look like others – but to look like ourselves. Another’s personal, natural, blueprint for what they may look like at the height of their own health and fertility and whatever else will simply not be the same as yours.

As afore-implied, there are certainly some very ‘natural’ bases when it comes to all this talk of feminine beauty and physical attractiveness. Health, and those signs of fertility… But nature, as is often the case, can be manipulated in various ways, via ‘nurture’. Of course, the media – its widespread, various, and insidious effects – might trick us into thinking that certain ideals of beauty are far more valuable than others. Maybe it will take some effort and a great deal of conscious unlearning to eventually part with these unhelpful views –

and to come to the habit of looking into mirrors and reflexively seeing ourselves through appreciative eyes. To thank Allah (SWT), instinctively, for this hair, and for these hands – for this face, and these eyes. This capacity to run and to love and to hug and to play. For the loyalty of our heartbeats and for the stuff of life that flows quietly, ferociously, through our very veins.

Oh Allah, you have made my body beautiful, so beautify my character too.”

– A du’a [Hadith, Ibn Mas’ud]

Ameen.


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020 

Hādil

Hādil: the sounds that pigeons tend to make. Cooing, as it is otherwise known. Hādil pours some more birdseed from her palm, into the tray of the feeder. Several birds, who had been hiding in the surrounding trees, flap their wings excitedly, and flock toward her. They encircle her, at first, as she gazes upwards in delight. Then, they – all five of them – direct their attention more towards the little feeder that dangles enticingly from the little apple tree. Today, it does so lazily, and yet with much purpose. Today, the painted flowers on its roof beam with a particular pinkness, under this uninhibited orange Spring sun.

The largest branches of the apple tree jut outwards, forming for Hādil the perfect place to go and sit, and to read, and to draw, and to marvel at the tiny forest that she is fortunate enough to call her own – it is, for the young queen, a humble throne, propped up against the backdrop of her miniature kingdom. She sits there, clasping her knees, humming, and awaiting the instructional hiss of the teapot on the stove. The clouds float by in utmost tranquility; politely tip their wispy hats to her, and then they continue on their ways, to some Glorious Nothing. Some feint whistling comes from inside: Danyal, taking a break from the novel he has been working on, rather industriously and at the kitchen table, has decided to bake for their dessert a cherry pie. Later, the two of them will devour a misshapen pie from the same plate – the baking tray itself – while their bodies are doused in its sweet aroma.

Hādil: when the humans in their midst are quiet, the pigeons are known to coo a little louder. They take their food in rounds: peck gently, ferociously, at the opening of the feeder, then fly around, darting from one garden wall to another. They perch atop branches and plant pots, and then waddle across the garden floors, upon which Hādil currently stands barefoot, her cotton white dress tickling the very tips of her toes. And then the tiger-like birds fly away, almost as quickly as they did arrive.

And Hādil often wonders where they go, these little pigeons. Everything they could ever possibly need is right here, surely, in her little garden? What adventures do these pigeons seek out by flying for miles and miles, elsewhere, towards something else – when the little wooden feeder, the fountain, the needle-like trees – are all right here? Does it even get any better than this? Hādil does not know; right now, with her book in her hand and the taste of spring upon her lips, she finds she is simply too content to ever want to know.

Constellations

The stars have led us home for centuries,

Governing our lives and evoking fascination and wonder in our eyes.

Man seems to think that he is so powerful, so big, that even the stars look small to him.

Do they glisten for us?

Are they ornamental, like fairy lights,

Aimlessly forming clusters that tell us what tomorrow might have in store for us?

Are they mere tea-light candles whose flames flicker tirelessly in the great garden of this existence?

Welcome to Eden,

Where the skies are always clear

And the stars are near

Enough to distract us, to beautify our skies and capture our lives,

Yet distant enough so as not to burn us.

Welcome to Eden. Now pack your bags and leave.

You were under the impression that the Earth is an apple, weren’t you?

You tried to bite into it with venom lips and jagged teeth.

You left its remains on the floor,

Exposed and disfigured until it turned brown with sorrow

and oxidised with grief.

It’s hard to believe, nowadays, that man used to worship the sun and bow down to the stars.

Now he seems to think that the stars are his servants, and that

They bow down to him.


Sadia Ahmed, 2017

 

 

Hurricane

A hurricane is near.

It emerges from the outskirts and finds its way to my mind-

The epicentre.

There is no helping me now; I have lost

What it means to be found.

So tell me not of rationality or love or fulfilment,

For I am empty,

And the hurricane, it comes,

And it sweeps up the debris of stagnant satisfaction.

I am now happy, for I am empty no longer.

The calm centre- the eye of the storm- is where I stand, breathe,

My blood boils and my thoughts are a whirlwind,

But I stand and I breathe.

I let the hurricane lift me from the comfort of the ground.

It plunges me into the unknown,

And sheds the part of my skin that dared to make me feel unworthy.


Sadia Ahmed, 2016

Fire

The woman crouched down on the floor, her bespectacled eyes affixed on the myriad of books that lined the towering shelf that stood before her. She was tall, thin and atypically beautiful; she wore no makeup, but her skin glowed like the light of the harvest moon. Her eyes were large and brown, and she wore a resolute facial expression of intellect and mystery combined. She was walking perfection. After a minute or two of browsing, she extracted a book from the shelf, entitled ‘The Feminine Mystique’. Stroking her silver pendant, which sat perfectly atop her plain black shirt, she marched over to the librarian’s desk, leaving behind her a trail of fire.

A Lifelong Journey

I am happy. I do not know why. To this date, I find myself still uncertain as to who I am, and who I wish to be, but not all those who wander are lost. I believe that each and every human being on the face of this earth is unique, beautiful and too complex to be limited and defined. So no- I cannot tell you precisely who I am, but perhaps there is some sort of unfathomable beauty in that, for I intend to spend the rest of my life discovering who I am.