Sadnesses Seasonal

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

You tried to speak,

and it felt like nobody could really hear you. Like you were living a life that had scarcely been yours, ‘living for others’, uttering words, but merely parroting them, somehow. Like things do not make sense, yet they seem to make sense for others. Like Autumn comes, and the leaves are crisp,

Crunch beneath the soles of your feet, and yet: the sadness weighs heavy. There is a lot, a lot, that people know to hide. But we, individually, and at times together, got through those days, Subhan Allah, every single one.

At times tired, at times strong, but: what’s coming will come. We’ll meet them when they do.

Various aspects of the media tout these ideas that you’ll ‘find yourself’, and all else that you seek in the lonelier notions of adventure, and of chasing things, and ‘thrills’ and all. Like that is ‘youth’, and like all else might stench of ‘stagnation’.

I think: we continue to be tested. Continue to be frail; ever-dependent on the Almighty, and, by consequence of how He has designed us to be, on people, in various ways. Parents, and aunties and uncles. Teachers, even. That friend, that neighbour. Maybe you haven’t quite met ‘your people’ yet, or maybe those bonds have not quite been properly realised [to really realise a bond, one must… be real]. But your Creator is here, and has been here all along.

Nobody said it would be easy, but your Lord Knows and, of course, Understands. And so will all the right people for you: as naturally as the seasons know to change (Masha Allah). We, awfully real beings, in a world of deceit, mirages, illusions, and lies. The wind blows, and the leaves fall.

Was it especially hard to get up this morning? Do you find yourself worrying about what Persons A, B, C, D, and E think about you? Are the actions of Person F, in your heart, a little difficult to forgive?

A candle, palms outstretched over campfire; do we really need much else? Whom and what you love, and are loved by: they will keep you warm.

A mug of hot chocolate; unexpected tears from your eyes. The first glimpse, the break, of sunrise. Dear reader, amid all of these things that necessitate Sabr (a sometimes-mountainous-feeling steadfastness, balance, patience, constancy) and wellies and waterproof coats to walk through, face and get through, those storms, I wish you much that can make your heart pour out in Shukr (appreciation, gratitude). And comfort, a sharing, or a confluence, of energies.

And ease, and mustard-yellow bursts of joy. A knowing that, dear alive and complete, complex, ups-and-downs, and not-only-image-or-‘concept’ human being: you are enough and more, even when parts of you may be convinced otherwise for any while.

This too shall pass: the better, that is, as well as the worse.

And the best, whatever that is, and looks like, for you, for this world, and for the one that will come after it. With each browned, yellowed, auburn-red leaf that falls,

one (wait)

by one

(wait) by (wait) one:

Āmeen, Āmeen, Āmeen.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Winter

Autumn and Winter. What gorgeous times of the year these, time and time again, prove to be. Just the idea of being cosied up in a couple of layers – or six – and the way the sky falls to dark blue, even hours before night-time is actually due… There is something that is so enchanting and mysterious, so uplifting inasmuch as it is nose-freezing, about this most beautiful time of the year.

Christmastime comes around, and so do all the jumpers. And the endearing little decorated mugs of hot chocolate. Lights and festivities, and all else. I cannot believe that we have now officially reached Winter 2020. These past two years, at least, have felt like they had just arrived, tipped their hats off to us, and left.

Winter is cold, and she is often storm-like. Impels us, through forceful gusts, to appreciate the warm homes that we do have; the safety. The newly-warmed dips on duvets; atop cushions and rugs. Feet blanketed in wool-soled boots, and

Although now is the time that the goblins of consumerism do come out to play a bit more, [think: Black Friday. Christmas. Boxing Day. New Year’s. Sales that compel mankind to obsessively buy, buy, buy. New, new, new. Through creating false ‘needs’, for us, through making us believe that without having these ‘new things’, we ought to feel so very dissatisfiedSigh…]

now is also very much a time during which we can look inwards. Learn to patch things up. A small tear in a top? Why not employ some of our Year Seven D.T. skills and go ahead and mend it, instead? Why won’t we love what we have: it is enough. And when we are grateful — look inwards and commit to truly appreciating these blessings of ours — we are granted Barakah within these very things.

These bodies, and these souls, of ours are the only ones we will have (the former, in this life, at least. The latter, in both this world and Ākhirah…) They are not ‘perfect’; may we love them. Friends, family, school/work. Texture, edges, unpolished, and uniquely yours.

In my opinion, it is far better to live in a warm-enough camper van, for example, which finds itself suffused with Barakah, than in some stone-cold stone castle, in which material possessions may be ornate and many, but where there is no Barakah.

And what are the ingredients that may lead to a guarantee of our having this Barakah? I think it is about sitting on the floor, sometimes, and acknowledging what we really are. Outside, and irrespective of, titles and roles and any of these ever-present delusions of grandeur. Of us, it is our souls that matter, and is this not what Winter does:

It sings to our souls, while our bodies stay at least somewhat cold. Warmth, like most desired and delightful things, is only truly known when juxtaposed with its opposite: cold. And maybe the same could be said, for love: outside, it is cold. The trees look more bare, things look sort of lonely. Inside, however,

a hand upon a hand may be all it takes. Forehead pressed upon ground – on decade-old (though intermittently washed!) prayer rug, a letter of gratitude to your Creator. A heart, which you, its keeper, can silently witness, when it says, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I think I have always loved Winter. She had been the first season I had ever known: I had been born amid her, and she feels like home. Sometimes her rains are furious, and sometimes her snowfalls are more graceful, elegant. Winter sun can be ever so bright, spilling across dew-dropped grass, sending spirals of icy breaths outward and upward. Deceptive, though, for Winter Sun is not usually warm, as it is ‘meant’ to be…

Winter moon often appears when we least expect him to. 4PM and there he is already, all eerie and nonchalant. Silently brilliant: not begging for our awe, for our attentions, and yet receiving them, very much deserving them, anyway. The way he is known to glow – luminescent, and not angry, defensive, or ‘fierce’ – but only when the sky has become dark enough for him to do so.

I want to say, to those of you, dear readers, who have Depression and/or Anxiety, or anything else of the sort, that… I know it tends to get more difficult around wintertime. These seemingly implacable tirednesses, wisps of sadness.

I hope you learn not to feel guilty when the ‘work’ you have to do is not your first priority. Work itself, I think, ought to be for the sake of – for the good of – the soul. Your value as a being is not determined by ‘how many hours of work you have managed to complete today’ and, truly, nor is it about comparing ourselves to others and what they may be doing. Your circumstances are different; your journey is your own. Your needs: sleep, rest, comfort. They matter far more.

The difficult days: may they strengthen us, and may we be strong enough to get through them, always, Āmeen. And I also wanted to say:

As cliché as these words do sound, over time, it does get better, Bi’ithnillah. Seasonal Affective Disorder: the sun eventually does come back up, doesn’t it? These things work in cycles…

Generalised Anxiety: it is there. At times it makes you quiver and quake, but you know what it is. It is powerful, but it will not win, Bi’ithnillah.

When you are tired, dear friend, please do let yourself sleep. And when you are sad, do cry, even if it means that your whole body sobs with crying. It really is okay sometimes. And when you are in prayer, do thank Allah over and over again. When you are reciting Qur’an, recite with melody; feel your heart become still, become calm: recollected, reconnected.

Social anxiety: that uncontrollable feeling of terror, of being seized. But at just what, though? What are your fears? That you will be disliked? Why have such thoughts, over time, solidified into beliefs, in your mind? Are you loved? Of course you are… Then, the extent of your fears is fundamentally unfounded. This may be difficult to hear, but…

Maybe, new seasons within our lives ask for new versions of ourselves, to come through. To meet the present challenge; to embrace present blessings, too. Maybe this season requires of us some newer ways of thinking. Maybe the world had been one thing, to us, then. Maybe – most likely – it is something altogether quite different, now.

You had been afraid then, maybe. Perhaps with good reason. But you do not require those same modes of thinking in order to survive and/or ‘thrive’, now. Look around you. Things have changed, haven’t they. Sometimes, what it takes, is to say to these erstwhile, obsolete thoughts of ours, a simple but strong:

Nope.”

You belong here, I promise you. And, atop this Earth, you walk along as a person who is loved. Beloved. It is truly a blessing.

Depression, though: what a thing. Albeit often misunderstood. On some winter mornings, you will feel the heaviness a little more acutely than on some other days. But looking inwards rather than unfairly, unrealistically, unhelpfully outwards… really does help, I think. Make Du’a, and when you are ready, you will get up again, Insha Allah.

To quote a Moroccan proverb I have recently come across:

Drop by drop,

the river rises.

Dear friend, give a little time to yourself. Some more space, some more depth of understanding. Winter can be hard. Anxiety and Depression: the Winters – the less favourable parts of it, I mean – of these minds of ours. We must trust, though, that the sun is about to come up again. It usually, and sometimes when you least expect it, does.

Your personal journey may look rather different to my own one, but they are likely to be fairly similar, in terms of essence. This is what happens: time goes on, and things change. We adapt, and we learn and we grow. Step by step, we come to overcome certain things. And, drop by drop, drop by drop, the river rises, becomes.

There will be some more difficult days; sometimes it may feel as though things are rapidly, and right before our very eyes, becoming undone. But we trust our Lord, do we not? We take care of our tasks – put our effort in – and we leave it all to Him.

When I think of strength, and when I wish to be reminded of the sort of progress that due trust and reliance upon Allah can bring about, I think of my infant cousin, Siyana. Born prematurely, two-and-a-half years ago, and placed in the ICU. Her fingernails had been as tiny as short grains of rice; her clothes smaller than the ones that little children are known to put on their little dolls.

How fragile and how strong this child is. We now see her running around, strong and spreading such joy, that characteristically quizzical expression on her face, frequently sending my nan and we into fits of laughter. Trying to lift her father’s weights. It has taken some time, though. From those early months, during which her parents would mostly take it in turns to be with her at the hospital. Get her milk ready; those sleepless nights of theirs. Over time, though, things, in this regard, got easier. Siyana grew in strength. Seeing pictures of her from 2018, in comparison to the animated character we know her to be now… Oh, how she has grown. And from her story, I do take quite some inspiration.

As well as from the stories of some other individuals I have had the fortune of having been acquainted with, this year. Ms N and Ms Z stand out. What kind people; what (quietly, secretly) strong individuals they are. They have told me about (parts of) their own journeys. Exceptional. Embodiments of how Allah rewards As-Sabiroon (the patient/steadfast ones).

We begin from somewhere; drop by drop, or millimetre by millimetre, we grow. Through time, via experience, and as a result of our choices. We adapt, and we fall, sometimes; we get up again.

[What counts is what you do [now]]. ‘Philosophical presentism’ and all [Thank you Tas, for teaching me about this…]

Khayr, khayr, khayr. May we learn to focus on it, and give it and receive it.

And may we realise that when we give it – the good – due love:

it does grow.


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

The Roaring Twenties

The autumnal season always seems to bring along with it this potent impression of… renewal, does it not? Life, continuing just as it does, and yet, also starting all over again. A Janus season, this one: this sense of beginning and ending, at precisely the same time. Subtly electrifying, comfortingly poignant. The way the trees suddenly, both modestly and in a way that demands our attention, burn up into all these shades of red and orange, interspersed between fading, yellowing, greens. Autumn, I think, very much epitomises what this first life of ours, for us, is like; it powerfully demonstrates the states in which we, in this Dunya, exist. Half-sad, and yet, equally, half-ablaze with the quietly brilliant stuff of aliveness. Wonder and mundanity, dreariness and colour. And we find that things can be more than one thing  — can even be a thing as well as its very opposite, at the very same time — at any given time. 

Autumn is filled both with the sighs of tiredness, of nostalgia, and all the rest of it — and with sharp inhalations of excitement, novelty. What a perfect season in which to consciously savour the old, to reflect upon what has gone. It is also an apt time for regeneration: an emergent shoot upon an otherwise dying rose plant. Dark greens, browned, and then: lime green, all new and hopeful. So the plant is, at once, dying, dwindling, and reborn, anew. A new spring in its step, even amid, birthed from between, autumn’s rainy gusts, its approaching winters.

 

Two months left, for me, before the period of my life that shall be hailed as my ‘twenties’, arrives — the roaring twenties, these reputedly momentous years. And foundational, apical ones, too. Years of matured youthfulness, of lots of important decision-making, apparently. [According to the Islamic tradition, one is considered to be ‘young’, a ‘youth’, until the time of one’s fortieth birthday…]

 

Some people I know, or know of, who are in their twenties, are already investing in anti-ageing creams and serums and such. Taking their health — and ‘Beauty’, which is arguably Health’s main medium of manifestation — very seriously indeed. Gym days and Keto. And, also, ‘hustling’, and money-making. A need to make as much money as one can, with such ‘entrepreneurial zeal’, and to then save it up. 

Someone I know has discussed with me her desire to freeze her eggs in the near future. Fertility concerns: apparently half of the eggs we are born with are gone by the age of twenty-one… Another girl I once knew is now married, has already had children of her own. Many others are currently at university, will then begin job-seeking, or… -‘hunting’ (for it can all prove to be a rather difficult and aggressive endeavour, so it seems: this deciding on, and subsequently finding, an occupational role). Many twenty-somethings ‘get work done’ on their outer selves, too — on their lips, their skin, the curvatures of their bodies. Some go out to party quite a lot; ‘live it up’ outside of, so far away from, theirselves. Some young men will find that their hairlines are already beginning to recede; some will start to grow out their beards very soon. Many find that they are surgically attached to their phones, to social media. Most are fundamentally confused. Many are in quiet, intense competition with the next man, or woman; they are setting themselves up for a lifetime of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, of always getting something out of ‘impressing’ others: standing out, being ‘extraordinary’ through titles and possessions and such. The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation [H.D.T]. And most are fundamentally confused. Cannot slow down, and nor can they quell all these distractions, for even a small while. Terrified of what might just bubble up to the surface, should they ever choose to ‘deep’ their lives, if even just a little. And so they favour whatever is ‘safe’, more ‘shallow’. Life’s short, they say. Live a little! YOLO!

 

In 1999, it had been the case that roughly 17% of all British women had tried to kill themselves before their twenty-fifth birthday. Now, with proliferating rates of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (intensified by all this filtered imagery that social media encourages and gives rise to), work-related stress conditions, a culture centred on hyper-productivity and -competition, ensuing self-comparisons and deep dissatisfactions, and more, it is almost undoubtable that this figure has, in the eventful two decades since, risen dramatically.

Quietly, secretly, so many of us are hurting as a result of all these unplumbed mismatches between appearances and reality. Profound ironies. But that is okay, because we have drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll, don’t we? We have noise. As well as all these expectations and ideals to live up to, which had never been conceptualised with… truth in mind, in the first place. Nay, for they are, at their very centres, hollow: at their very cores, they breed only the stuff of delusion. Fleeting fancies, hot air. But we can think about all that when we are ‘older’, can’t we?

 

Our twenties will likely be, at least somewhat, a time of existential-everything. Questions, dread. Some people cannot bear to sit alone with themselves, in silence, for even half an hour, you know. Cry whenever they are alone in the bathtub; cannot bear to be home by themselves, either; drown in their own darknesses in the depths of each night. Not even the most ‘stoic’ or ‘macho’ of men can escape nor surmount essential human nature. And, you see, accepting the things that are true about ourselves, and about life, is… okay. Should be okay. It is okay.

 

Most twenty-somethings are dealing with at least one thing that is really rather heavy, for them. Many are recovering from unfavourable childhoods. And it is okay to accept and embrace the truths of these things; it should be okay to speak about them, too. See, the only alternative way is… busying, intoxicating, ourselves with and in delusion. Hiding. But the truth will always gnaw away at us; it is always there. It has a way of always catching up to us, and of doing away with all falsehoods, in the end. Light, by nature, illuminates darkness.

We must come to accept that we are weak and we are strong; we are both, at precisely the same time. 

And so, these urgent invented needs to be filthy rich; to obsessively adhere to a very narrow construction of what it means to be ‘beautiful’ and/or ‘strong’; to have so many things to show [off with] to others. To ‘satisfy’, somehow, prying eyes; to ‘impress’ and ‘outshine’ other people… with mere image-based things, impressions. Excessive focuses on imagined futures, ‘super-‘realities. (Often) furtive addictions, through which the pain is momentarily benumbed; through which to take the edges off, from the truths of these passing days of ours.

 

Oh, what is it all for; towards?

Some moments of praise, applause? — to convince other people through our making the shells look shiny? Do other people hold the keys to the truths of you, to your day-to-day experiences, anyway? Should they ever be granted such power?  

 

Reality, essence, passed through layers of filtering, creating alternative ‘realities’ into which we might quietly slip into, escape. Is everything only… what we can bring it to seem it is? Small talk, deliberate omissions, heavily edited excerpts, simply ‘keeping busy’. Inebriation and suppression. Truth is uncomfortable to face… so why let ourselves think about it ‘too much’, in any case?

Polished surfaces, only, and all these… waxy ventriloquies. Our willingness to, and the ease with which we, accept… ‘not-accepting’… perturbs me. And we will find that, no, we can never actually escape Truth, especially not in the End. 

 

Very recently, a family friend of mine (who is aged twenty-something) got married. A period of celebration: a sacred union, a joyous occasion, a ‘milestone’. She moved into her husband’s home.

Five weeks after their wedding, her spouse passed away, tragically and unexpectedly, as a result of having experienced a haemorrhage in his brain. Five weeks ago, she had been a new wife. And now, she is a new widow. The tinges of orange from her wedding Mendhi had still been on the tips of her fingers at the time of his passing. On the inside of her wedding ring, her late husband had had engraved, in Arabic:

My wife — in Dunya and Ākhirah”. 

 

[May Allah (SWT) reunite the two of them in Jannah, Ameen.]

 

True things, by nature, can withstand even trials by fire. They exist outside of the realm of things that are prone to decay; true things are the opposite of those ones that are rooted in delusion, hot airs. They are, by nature, evergreen. And therefore, it is okay. True love, for example, is essentially strong and everlasting. It is not at all fragile. It will prove itself, time and time again. 

 

“And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion?”

— Qur’an, [3:185]

The Reality (and the derivative realities) of Dunya can be rather unsettling to think about — to ‘deep’. But I find comfort in reminders of what is substantial, true. That here is life, here in the Now. That all of (this) life is a series of breaths, and of sighs — a string of ‘imperfect’ moments, Nows. [And… therein lies the charm, no? The character, the meatier stuff that one can actually enjoy really talking about. In the ‘flaws’, the unpredictabilities, the texture, the edges…]

 

Here, we are surely being tested, and everything we do does count.

And every soul shall taste death, this necessary passing on. Through the gates of eternity, and into the lasting world of Home. That Home that our souls are always yearning for, just as they cry not, in this world, for bags of money and such, but for people to share love with, and alongside whom to walk. And for a connection to the natural world, too: with the crumbly earth between one’s fingers, and with spiralling sunflowers — with all these beautiful and unmissable emissaries of truth.

 

How do I fully come to make peace with it all, though? With the fact that I am, at present, quite alive, and that someday I will be dead? With how I am, by nature, quite an idealist; that there will always be a deep yearning for something, from within the very depths of my soul? [Well, of course, I must be, from the core of me, longing after the very abode of idealism — Jannah. “We dance round in a ring and suppose, // But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.” [R.F.]]

 

And this worldly life is only pastime and play, and the abode of the hereafter is the real life, if only they knew.”

— Qur’an, [29:64]

How do I reconcile, in my own self, the truths of, for example, impermanence? Of instability, confusion, of how it often does not (yet) all make sense to me? That some people will stay; that others will go? That some interpersonal connections truly are bonds of the soul; that they are immutable; that they will not die, even when one of us do? How do I know which ones are rooted in Truth, and which ones may not truly be so? 

 

“Know that the life of this world is only play and pastime and adornment and mutual boasting amongst you and [the] amassing of wealth and children. Like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris.”

— Qur’an, [57:20]

 

And just what will my twenties be for? 

 

They will be for me, navigating my way through this Dunya, just as the decade preceding them has been for. We find we like to think of life in terms of neat stages, phases. Clear-cut periods: decades and such. The modern state education system, for instance, is centred on the idea that ‘life’ exists in some future; some… nothere, notnow. But, actually, this is all we find we have: a series of yes-heres, and yes-nows. Nothing else. Only these souls of ours, and all this sand-like time we have been gifted with.

 

A month ago, my cousin (twenty-something, too) also got married. While being a student of Law at university; while working, for lengthy hours each week, in retail; while mothering her two siblings who have special needs. Indubitably, she is one of the strongest, most incredible, and kind-hearted, people I have ever come across. Her life, thus far, has been riddled with difficulties. But despite — and, yes, in light of — it all, you see, her soul shines right through. She is a woman whose strength, goodness, and beauty, are True.

Allahummabārik. 

 

I do somehow always find it surprising when things like marriages and graduations take place. Witnessing all the preparatory efforts and such, which precede them [my cousin had been planning her future wedding since around the age of ten!] and then… they simply take place. They finally arrive, and then they go. Just another day. Not ‘underwhelming’, necessarily, no. Just… evidence for how we really ought not to live our lives within daydreams of the ‘future’. The ‘big day’, the new job: all these things, will come. And you will get out of bed, as you do, and you will eat and pray, and all the rest of it. By the end of the day, (just) another day of your life will have passed, as all these days that constitute our lives do…

 

I find I am very interested in education: in how children are taught, and in how — and just what — they learn, from it all. The halcyon days of primary school: when school had been a little community, a mini village of sorts. Where the focus had been, to a great extent, on the present tense: on nurture and development, enjoyment and true learning, far more so than on ‘future careers’ and such. Appreciating children for being alive, just as they are. A home outside of home, primary school had been, just as school really always ought to be. 

And then, secondary school. Where the building and the atmosphere it had accommodated resembled those of… a prison, more so than a ‘small village’. With these new emphases on institutionalised discipline, on sanding personalities, humanity, down. On work, and work, and on even more work, to then take home. People started coming into school sleep-deprived, often sad. But that’s okay, as the new message of school had now become. If you endure all this, you’ll be rich, ‘successful’, and ‘happy’ in the future, someday.

And so we had been indoctrinated with these new ideas of some hallowed ‘future’; with the notion that the days of these ‘futures’ meant far more than those of the present. Attitudes of materialism were heavily inculcated within us, too. You tell a teacher you would like to be a teacher, when you are older. “You can do way more than that!” they, rather ironically, tell you. But just what does ‘more’ even mean

These unfavourable ways of thinking that we are drip-fed through our formal schoolings are both symptomatic of, and actively serve, a society that evidently cares far more about the ‘economy’ and about how we ought to fit into it, (and which buys into foolish fantasies of ‘American Dreams’) than about humanity, about Truth, our souls… 

 

One boy whom I had attended the same secondary school as had passed away in Year Eight, as a result of terminal illness. And so he never even got to see this ‘future’ he had purportedly been in school every day, from 8:30 to 15:15, and which he had purportedly been doing all that homework, for. 

 

In terms of time, the Truth lies very much in the present. We do not know when it will be, that we go. The least schools can do, for all of us, is embrace and embody these facts; encourage attitudes of realism, present contentment, teach us how to navigate through life’s many (inevitable, inevitably ongoing) struggles. They should operate on the bases of kindness, and nurture. Call me idealistic, unrealistic, here, but I really do think schools should continue to be, for students, homes outside of home, even after primary school. School is where young people are made to spend the majority of their time, and thus, of their youths, at; school is where, for instance, children who live in abusive households, both seek, and deserve, much comfort, individual appreciation, an organic sense of belonging. It should not all be about sacrificing present contentment for some mythical ‘glorious futures’. But I digress, I guess. 

 

I just do not want for my twenties to be all about… running for a train I will never quite be able to catch. This would appear to be what many people do, and this is quite an alarming phenomenon, in my opinion. 

 

As well as all those more ‘spiritual’, existential-type questions that one’s twenties may traditionally be characterised by, there are also the other rather pressing ones, surrounding what to do. What, whom, to ‘be’. I really do believe that the best decisions, in these regards, are made when we put considerations of Purpose and Passion(s) right at the forefront. And, also, through following the maxim of ‘being whom [we] needed when [we] were younger’ — whom we ‘needed’, in both senses of the word. Who had been there, in our lives, if only briefly, and whose presence(s) we had really valued. And/or, who had not been there, but whose presence(s) we would have had really valued. 

A very encouraging older sibling, perhaps. A youth worker who had been there for us. A teacher who had taught us something about life, or about ourselves, that we would never, from then on, forget. A lawyer, perhaps, who had spoken to us reassuringly during, say, a parental divorce. A doctor who had displayed, towards us, a great level of care and compassion. An uncle or aunt whose home had always been open to us. A movie character — or a handful of them — whom we had been drawn to, and whose occupations and such, and their own individual ways of carrying out their roles, had inspired us deeply. 

I wish to emulate, in terms of their noble characteristics and actions, the people (including the fictional ones!) whose presence(s) had meant something to me. Who had taught me something important, or who had instilled some hope within me; who had told me something I really needed to hear: valuable presences. 

 

Recently, I had been fortunate enough to meet a fellow teacher who really inspires me. The good energy she seems to radiate; her evident love of and passion for learning. The good humour through which she connects with her students. And, crucially, her centred-ness. Khayr is usually found in the middle of things: through balance, through being centred, as she reminded me.

She seems to be rooted in Deen; does not seem to be always-in-a-rush. When she is here, she is here. She grew up between Algeria, (a mountainous region in) Spain, and Egypt; in Algeria, she had witnessed the bloodied brutalities of the Civil War. In Spain, she would go hiking with her grandfather almost every day. She cares an awful lot about nutrition; her mother is a naturopath. And her idea of worldly success — as she is courageous enough to deeply embrace, in spite of all these strong forces that may encourage her to think otherwise — is what she already has. Her job as a teacher, her family, and gardening. In a society that is so hell-bent on notions of ‘outdoing’ others, being (in terms of our shells, what we can most concisely, conveniently present before others) ‘extraordinary’ and ‘exceptional’… Perhaps being so centred is quite revolutionary, really. Being ‘special’ really is an ‘inside’ thing, in truth; a soul-based one. She — this awesome and radiant teacher who would appear to be just a tad obsessed with going to Tesco so as to purchase snacks — just longs to eventually get out of and away from the city, really [the city is designed with mainly industry, and with the ‘economy’, in mind. It can very easily, and often does, make soulless, tired, workaholic robots out of human men and women. I find I very much agree with these views of hers… Offices are like animal cages, drenched in lifelessness and misery. Harsh lighting, caffeination. A potted orchid plant — a measly attempt to make up for the callousness against the human soul that the office fundamentally embodies.] 

 

I now know that, throughout this life of mine, I will be faced with tests, and I will also encounter new blessings, Insha Allah. But actually, they are one and the same, are they not? For we are tested through our blessings, too; we are, though we may not currently know just how, also blessed through our tests. 

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient/steadfast”

— Qur’an, [2:155]

Perhaps, Bi’ithnillah, I will die in the coming year. Or maybe I will remain alive throughout this newly dawning decade. Some days I will experience a little more sadness than on other days, and maybe on some days I will be more scared or confused. Throughout these years, though, there will be moments of joy, of peace, of happiness, Insha Allah. All will be well, in the present and in the end, so long as I hold on to all that is true (and good, and beautiful). And, in a way that, I hope, does not sound too narcissistic, in response to those ceaseless questions of what I wish to be in the future… I want to be whom and what I already am. The fabric of the worldly life will remain the same throughout, too. Always a set of blessings, and always a filled space for problems, issues, frictions, worries. And to find peace and centred-ness in Truth, and in my own truths (without feeling a need to anxiously accommodate for, nor internalising, others’ responses to it all) — this is what I want for myself. 

 

These autumnal months are the ones that the soul, I think, instinctively warms towards. These striking, undeniably (though sometimes quietly) gorgeous months of warmth, of reminding oneself of what truly matters; of what this life truly is. Its very fabric: brushstrokes of happy, tinges of sad, often at precisely the same time. Fading away just as it all comes alive. Is this not what it is, also, to be human?

 

That evening, even though we felt cold and were bleary-eyed: we came outside, and we got to see the stars again. Fingertips freezing, but there our souls had been, in full force, subtly ablaze. We were reminded of those smaller — and larger — facts of our existence. The deep blessings that begin, perhaps, with our capacities for breathing: and the flower-like structures that line our lungs. The knowledge of how water is known to connect us with everything else, upon this planet, that is alive. And how these souls of ours: these immaterial, unifying, experience-and-reason-facilitating vessels of ours… How they are eternal, and undeniable. And how they are true.  

How, even on those nights in which we might forget to pay much heed to those celestial bodies overhead — and even when the leaves, rather like secret stories penned upon little crinkled coloured pieces of paper — when they begin to fall… What will remain, and what actually carries meaning, are our souls. And, of course, their connections: to other sempiternal souls, and indeed, most crucially, to sempiternal Truth.

Money will enter our pockets, but at some point, we find, we must part from it. The praises of others may bring a wisp — or a hundred — of satisfaction. But this fades too. So may our focuses be on what ultimately remains, matters. 

 

I want for my life to be about tending to whatever is ever-true. The things that, when these presently tangible, quantifiable, material Dunya things fall to dust, will come to reveal the truths of their weightiness, significance. Substantiality. For what is presently untouchable is not necessarily presently unknowable: the soul has its own ‘eyes’ through which it sees, too. Sabr, Taqwa, ‘Ilm, Salāh, love, and all else that is true. I hope these twenties — if I am to be permitted to live through them — will be years of centring myself on reality, essence, Truth. 

 

Every soul must taste death, and they will be receiving their rewards on the Day of Resurrection, so whomever is removed from the fire and entered into the garden is successful, and the life of this world is only a passing provision.” 

— Qur’an, [3:185]

“You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves. And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient/steadfast and fear/are conscious of Allah – indeed, that is of the matters [worthy] of determination.”

 

Oneness, in recognition of, and thus in submission to, the One. May my twenties be a period of using what I have, over these years, learnt; a period of synthesis, of accepting and embodying what is real (and all of Truth’s derivative truths — quiet beauty, true goodnesses — also). 

 

Your soul, dear reader, is absolutely, undeniably, your core: the Truth of you. And the life of this world, complete with its mystifying ablaze-with-auburn trees, has its own soul, a non-visible yet all-encompassing truth, too. We speak of notions of meaning, of purpose, of direction and success; each of these concepts… they do not come from nothing, and nor is it to nothing they return. 

Throughout this life, in this impermanent abode of ours, we will always have things to be grateful for: the stuff of the soul, in particular. But this world is not Home, for us, although some of the people we come to love, here, may (Insha Allah) be segments of it, for here, and also, later, for There. With them, we walk along these (sometimes rather rugged) paths of ours. And here, we also have our capacities for patience, the capacities through which to maintain our relationships with our Creator, via prayer and other forms of remembrance. 

We will always, in this world, experience difficulty: mankind has certainly been created in hardship: Kabad. An ongoing state of incompleteness, experiences of grief, and of fear, and of sorrows and regret. Longing, longing, pangs of pain. Here, as you will find, you will need to be brave. And honest, I think. Loving, and hopeful.

Because the aforesaid displeasures, obstacles, are only facets of the worldly life through which we must walk, in order to get to the Lasting Attainment. Here, in this world, lies the means — dynamism, a journey — not the end.

 

And so, with all this in mind, dear reader, I ask you:

What is your journey — your adventure, your quest — to Jannah looking like? 

 


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

Autumn

There is something so inconceivably enchanting about Autumn,

The way the trees shed their miseries and prepare themselves to start again;

How the leaves, in alluring shades of autumnal red and yellow,

A fiery spectrum of comfort and warmth and everything in between,

Crunch beneath the soles of your feet.

The icy breath of the midnight sky bites your nose,

While the rain descends inexhaustibly, attempting to cleanse this city of its sins.

There is nothing more bittersweet than the first sip of coffee in the morning,

Just as the harvest sun climbs to its zenith, caressing the world.

Autumn is rich with the scent of old books,

The fleecy embrace of a knitted jumper,

The nostalgic being of a faded picture.

As the seasons begin to change and the leaves begin to fall, we will pick ourselves up

And we will start all over again.