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

Life / Bleach

Yesterday, I decided to peruse over some of my old blog articles. There were some things I had written, which I had long since forgotten about. Some things that, today, make me truly cringe. Things that humour me. Sometimes I wonder if I should go back and delete some of those entries; go over my old journals and cross some things out, with a thick black marker pen.

But, no: truly, I appreciate those times and those experiences. Those days made me. Helped to shape me; I could not have been whom I am now, and know what I do, without them. Our cringe-worthy, awkward days: the ones we are prone to looking back on with equal amounts of fondness and warmth, and regret and “why, why, why?” — really and truly, they shaped us.

And I guess one of the weirdest things about reading over old writings is this: that others see, and saw, of those entries what they see/saw [Tangent time: why are see-saws called see-saws? Why are they not called up-downs or sit-sats?] and I, when reading over them… it’s like I get transported, almost, back to the times in which I had penned – or typed – them. I vividly recall the thoughts and feelings I had been experiencing. All of those former versions of my own headspace. Awesome.

[My childhood best friend and I have chosen to lovingly call these last five years or so of our lives our ‘Kind of just feel like an Idiot’ years. No real regrets, though. Just gratitude, (mutual cringing,) love.]

There are so many things that we may find, we take for granted, these days. Erstwhile experiences, journeys of learning. Fall down, graze your elbow, get back up, be kind and patient: let it heal. From the most elementary things (e.g. our abilities to sit and eat calmly, without getting baby gunk all over our faces, as well as our abilities to read words with ease. Long gone are the days of ‘robot phonics’; of forgetting how to spell ‘beautiful’ or ‘friend’). To other things. Like how to deal with our own mistakes. Feelings. And with failures.

Coming to know other people. The possibilities. How best to take care of ourselves and others when we are unwell. How to be kinder; a better friend. How to fit a duvet cover; how to choose what to repair, and what to leave alone.

The women and men we seek to be. The opportunity presented, within each and every moment, to go ahead be them!

I have a feeling that, in about five years or so, I may (Insha Allah) read over this very article. Recall what I had been going through here and now, at age twenty. I think I will likely half-cringe, half-be a little endeared, then, too.

I think one thing that had followed me throughout this past almost-decade is… caring too much – fearing, even – what other people think. At times, I have aligned my own judgements of myself, with other people’s (perceived) judgements of me. Not great. Arguably quite instinctive and ‘natural’, but, still… not great.

The strange thing is, I never used to care so much. As a child, I did my thing, and I loved doing it. Granted, there were some things that I had done/taken part in that were a little [childish and innocent, but… a little] crazy. [Perhaps I should substitute the c-word for the word ‘spirited’!] I cannot bring myself to regret those things very much at all. Childhood is for fun and exploration. For being you, and for being loved precisely for it.

Seven-year-old I, I suppose, had been… a younger version of whom I continue to be, today: life is sort of childhood continued, but with some additional things added to the grand, often-confusing, mix…

I guess, somewhere along the line, the expectations changed dramatically. And those expectations did not begin from whom I had been already. Abruptly stop, be something else: considerably different, I think, from whom I had organically been in the process of becoming. People expect girls to be [their fixed, superficial, unrealistic idea of] ‘perfect Muslims’, ‘perfect daughters’, perfect in domestic terms, perfect in social terms. We must always, always, be hyper-aware of how we… look.

And that, right there, I think, is the key word. Look. How things seem, often centrally at the expense of what things are. Perhaps, ‘ideally’, I would… wear a Selwar Kameez all the time; a neat, crease-less headscarf. Know when to speak; be neat, never slip up. Perfect grades, but no… opinions. Smile flawlessly for pictures. Creativity only in secret, perhaps. Be so instinctively great with screaming babies. Be social, but talk about a limited range of ‘acceptable’ things. [But the standards and goal-posts seem to always be shifting, changing!] Nothing ‘too much’. Maybe: how school is going. “Good”. How work is going. “Good”. How are we. “Fine”. Nothing that really makes you a person, but… some un-fault-able impression, a picture of one. Keep everything else hidden. Keep a house spotless. Faultless. Nothing that ‘people’ could ever single out and fault. I’m [not really] sorry, but:

Spotless things must be quite intrinsically unfortunate: they would appear to be devoid of what life is really, truly, all about. They do not exist. But if they did, I really do think they would be missing out. Growth, and learning, and trying, and failing. Stories can only really stem from things… happening. Taking place. One cannot have a cake without a(n at-least-somewhat) messy baking process. And even if we could be extremely neat and precise: I think the joy would be extracted from it all. Everything would be controlled and systemised. Predictable, and character-less. When everything blends in: nothing really stands out.

Bleach is a chemical product that tends to leave things spotless. Faultless. So… clean. Bleach also happens to be a substance that effortlessly kills things that are organic, alive. Life. Is simply not meant to be so (to paraphrase something my friend said, which really stuck to my mind) efficient and sanitised.

I so love exploring the field of Child Psychology. Children, you see, come into the world telling us who they are. They cry: they (and we) need food, warmth, comfort, love. The first seven years of our lives tend to be when we express what our personalities are. Over time, personality is honed, moulded into character. First, this responsibility of nurture is placed, primarily, on the families that are entrusted with our upbringing and care. And then, when we reach an age of understanding, we acquire a personal responsibility. A duty of care over our own selves; our souls.

Ideas pertaining to innate personality are supported, for instance, by a particular Hadith, which informs us that the first seven years of a child’s life are to be dedicated to play. Through play, we get to clearly see that some children are more outgoing and imaginative. Make battle-ships out of see-saws [that word-of-mysterious-origins again, semi-deliberately re-employed]. Some children are very emotionally sensitive; need more hugs, more loving words, than others do. [And are so terribly sweet that it just makes your heart melt.] Some like to sit and play alone for hours on end: there are whole entire worlds, whirring away within their brilliant (and, also, highly impressionable) minds. Some children get a little kick out of using swear-words; want to feel all grown up. Lipstick and big words. Some love making others laugh. Some are so completely captivated by washing machines, cars, and Iron-Man. Some do not like to get their clothes dirty, and do not like to share. Some get socially drained very easily. [Why don’t we just let them, for example, have a rest and sleep, rather than making them feel bad for not being like this or not being like that?]

Yes, ultimately: perfection is not to be expected of anybody. Maybe it is something that we sometimes think we want, but not really. We have an objective moral code to follow. For example, Allah instructs us, in the Qur’an, time and time again, to not be arrogant. Do not act superior; like you are mighty — something you are fundamentally not. I think I would rather be exactly who I am (Alhamdulillah) than some delusional arrogant boaster who picks at others’ flaws, while overlooking my own. Convincing myself that I am… superior.

I really do believe in the inherent beauty of looking at – and loving – what is there, and not singling out and exaggerating what is not there: perceived faults and inadequacies. Watering those former flowers, instead of those latter…weeds. People are not problems. Every human being, complete with our own stories, strengths, weaknesses: is a blessing, a Divine gift.

Maybe if ‘perfect’ men existed, ‘perfect’ women would exist too. Maybe if the women who seem to expect us to be ‘perfect’ were ‘perfect’ themselves, we would have ‘better role models’ to take after… But they don’t; we don’t. We are real, and full; each of us is unique. We are too cold sometimes; we cry; we forget to do something; misplace our keys. Run into interpersonal frictions; get stressed; get insecure. Our houses are a bit more messy when we find ourselves a little more occupied with other things. We are former babies, with gunk everywhere, and then we learn, over time and with due patience, how to eat more neatly. Not robotically, though. Each person has a style: of writing, of eating, of speaking, of being. How to pronounce the word ‘scone’. How to write a polite email. We are not born knowing how to ride a bike; how to change a nappy; how to please the probing eyes of every insolent busybody with access to a phone line. How to stop being scared of things that need not be so scary any more.

We will run into shortcomings, mistakes, faults. We are designed to be able to work on things; learn, practise, fall again, get up again. I love, love, love this. It is not ‘perfect’. Thankfully, it is interesting, though. Fascinating, not some predictable conveyor-belt porcelain ‘picture-perfect’ straight line. So worthwhile, and deep, and unexpected, pleasure-and-pain, and complex.

This matters to me because, to me, it is life and death. And I need to know: it is not boring, character-less ‘perfection’ I ought to expect of myself, just so others do not talk; so that people do not express angry disapproval. Besides, how boring a thing to talk about: what appears to be ‘wrong’ with others and their lives. And, how indicative of self-delusion and arrogance!

Expectations of ‘perfection’ are sort of a ‘double-bind’ thing. You either become that quiet, ‘normal’, ‘perfect’, negligible character with nothing vaguely interesting to do or talk about. A walking picture-frame, trophy, silent-for-the-most-part accessory. Or, you understand that there is an innate you, a personality. A complete, living, breathing human being, within whose rib-cage is this wonderful beating heart, beating for life and for love.

A character you are going to, Insha Allah, work on, for the rest of this life of yours. You will be tested, over and over and over again; you will learn and grow and develop. Other people: I suppose you’ll continue to see who is good to hold, within your heart. And who… might not, so much, be. Let people approach you – from their own perspectives, biases, attitudes, values, demeanours. Alhamdulillah, we are mature enough to decide on things for ourselves. Commit to certain things; set our boundaries and make them clear; choose these things, or those. This whole entire thing: it is between you and the one in whose very Hand is your very soul; your whole entire being:

‘Quirks’, ‘flaws’, uniquenesses.

Sharpnesses, capabilities;

softnesses, fragilities;

thorough, undeniable humannesses —

life, unbleached — and all.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be you;
I don’t know what it’s like but I’m dying to


So tell me what’s inside of your head:

No matter what you say I won’t love you less” — S.M.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021

If porcelain, then only the kind — by Stanisław Barańczak

If porcelain, then only the kind
you won’t miss under the shoe of a mover or the tread of a tank;
if a chair, then not too comfortable, lest
there be regret in getting up and leaving;
if clothing, then just so much as can fit in a suitcase,
if books, then those which can be carried in the memory,
if plans, then those which can be overlooked
when the time comes for the next move
to another street, continent, historical period
or world:

who told you that you were permitted to settle in?
who told you that this or that would last forever?
Did no one ever tell you that you will never
in [this] world
[be quite] at home?


(Translated from the original Polish by Frank Kujawinski)

Subhan Allah. What a wonderful poem, no?


2020

If — by Rudyard Kipling

A poem I would like to remember. It reminds me of great men like Muhammad (SAW), Ibrahim (AS), and Malcolm X.

[To be read extremely dramatically. I have adapted the original poem somewhat; most of my modifications are in square brackets]


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming [] you,   


If you can trust yourself when all [other] men [may] doubt you,
    But [—

do] make allowance for their doubting, too;   


If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about (don’t deal in lies),


Or being hated (don’t give way to hating),
    And

yet [—] don’t [try] to look too good, nor, [try] talk too

wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;   


If you can meet with [both] Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the

same; 

  
If you can bear to hear the [T]ruth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make [convincing] trap[s] for fools,


Or watch the things you [once] gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up [again,] with [new]

worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,


And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never [feel you have truly lost – been deprived – through]

loss;


If you can force your [mind and heart and soul]
    To serve your turn [even] long after [you] are gone, 

  
And so hold on [even after the Earth swallows you whole]
    [Like trees that bear such fruit, on and on and on]

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings — nor lose the [human] touch,


If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;


If you can fill [forthcoming] minute[s]
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run:

[You, you will be okay, my friend; eventually you’ll see: you will have won.]

[If you can accept and embrace; tie your camels and trust in what is True,]


[Then] yours is [more than] the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And [yours is Sabr, and life; yours eternally is Firdaus, too]


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

Dear Moon,

Dear Moon,

You are still you, even when the sky renders you ‘half’-seeming, sometimes, and not entirely ‘whole’.

Spinning world. The ease with which, you find, it can dizzy you, tire out completely your very soul. And

maybe in five years (or less, or more) you will find yourself still there, yet overlooking some different world:

still the same one, but some things have certainly changed, haven’t they?

Or maybe in a decade or less, you will find yourself over there instead:

in that place you will necessarily meet before standing at the gates of Eternity: your earthly bed.

One small push, and into a whole new world we go.

But before that time, maybe, there are some things that you and I must do, some new people and places that we must come to know.

Dear you,

There are some undeniable elements of radiance in you. Maybe bringing them up and out will require an excavation of sorts, but I have complete faith in you;

with certainty, I do. Even in every single wrong turn you have ever taken; in every single ‘blunder’ you have ever made.

Far from home, as you have been. Trying and trying.

Still, do not fret too much. No more. I think it’s completely okay; wherever you are going, it will all be understood retrospectively, at some point, some day.

You make your own efforts; exert yourself. Tie your camels, and then remember to have hope, trust, faith. There is a fine balance between all this trying, and then it is this grand old waiting game.

Right now, it confuses, doesn’t it? It burns, then stagnates; it is tremendously elusive.

The truth is, your mind simply cannot fathom something it has never (yet) known. And though the imagination may seek to do exactly what it tends to — it cannot, at present, tell you exactly what.

Your state of mind finds itself in a rush, sometimes, doesn’t it? To get there. Where? Somewhere. That tyrannous abstract timeline of yours.

And to actually listen to all that others might have, to say about you. To worry about their receptions, perceptions. Those ones who put you on some unfair pedestal, and the ones who may do the exact opposite. Praise and criticism: people are excessive, biased, and unfair in both. Do they hold the keys to the full picture, anyway?

And, what? Is it they whom you exist for, Moon mine?

Divine Plan, I promise you. And the knowledge that you were fashioned by the very same supreme Being whom you pray to. So keep going; trust that the destinations are worth this extra mile.

Allah is closer to you than your own jugular vein is, and there is not a single tear that has fallen from your eye that He has not heard fall; accounted for.

So doubt the intentions of others, sometimes. Doubt the veracity of their words, but of Divine mercy, at least, always be sure.

It is He who cures; who, even better than you, at present, are able to: understands your hurt.

“Indeed, I am near,” He tells you, while you are struggling to emerge, a little seedling being brought forth, right through all this dirt.

And come, the rain will, too, won’t she? See, even if you can’t quite say what it looks like just yet, grow towards pure light, I so hope, will you.

It honestly matters not what others see or hear of it — or don’t. But always, at least, “To thine own self, be true.” [W.S]

And so, be there for yourself. In all your own colours, every single one. Maybe those seven or so years of mostly-greys will only be preparatory, for gliding steps towards a whole different experience. New knowledge, a new place.

And Jannah. For some people, such a place is already promised.

Another thing that is promised: that the life of this world gets intensely hard, at times. To each, their own individualised set of tests. And it will all tear at your soul, and at times, you will fall. Some of those moments, alone, when it feels like nothing but the entire sky is pushing you down. Have faith in those moments, too.

The word for trials, tribulations, and obstacles, in Islam is ‘Fitnah’. Imagery-wise, based on the process of separating gold from its ores. But first, a necessary melting process. It may threaten to tear you down to your very core. And here, I think, something, perhaps, quietly shines.

Perhaps they will be seven harder years, marred by all those thoughts and such. Same old silences, absences, aggressions. But be still. And know.

Then, perhaps, seven easier ones. This is what life does: it works in cycles, it ebbs and flows. And, dear Moon,

Maybe you cannot put words to it all now. There is seemingly no preciseness at all, not here. These current experiences of ours. No fences with which to neatly encase everything that has happened. But I can promise you this much: it is with purpose — all of it.

When Moosa (AS)’s mother lay her baby son into that basket atop that river, it had been her heart that bore the brunt of that pain. An entire heart made “empty”. And it was Allah who had then mended it for her. Brought it all back together; everything in place.

And it was Allah who brought you, dear Moon, into being. And the sun. Conception, and life. Everything necessary to bring us here, and to keep us going. As well as everything that we share this planet with. It is not at all beyond our Creator to change things completely, for you. And every ‘Fitnah’ that you experience is with noble reason; without a doubt, this much is true. Jannah is reserved for those of mankind who will choose to, and struggle to, become Pure Gold, at the end of it all.

And, yes, it can sometimes get mighty hard. Seemingly impossible. All these things that it feels like nobody else will ever understand.

Just know that, even in darkness, your light still sings, dear Moon. Some will hear your songs; they understand. The ways of its ebbs, and all of its flows. And they have complete faith in you.

So doubt that things have been that ‘good’ thus far. If you so wish, doubt this well.

But do not doubt in hope. In all the good stuff that is yet to come. In the hard bits that you will, Insha Allah, get right through.

Doubt most things about yourself, sometimes, but do not doubt that I believe in you.

The clock is ticking now. It always has been. So, with due knowledge of all that has taken place, do remember, do forget.

And worry not too much for whenever night, once more, begins to set.

No more. Shed old skins, farewells and hellos, and on new adventures, allow yourself to freely embark.

For is it not true that you have always loved the stars too fondly, to ever again be afraid of the dark?


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

Shades of Reality

I am almost certain that I have already said the following numerous times before, but:

is the human mind not… just the most fascinating thing ever?!

We just become so accustomed to our own realities; we can very easily fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else sees the world, and thinks, in the same ways that we find we do.

I know of some people who don’t have an inner monologue, for example; some of them do not ‘live inside their own heads’ at all, cannot ‘dissociate’ from whatever is immediately surrounding them, retreating inwards. They do not really form emotional attachments to past happenings; they do not idealise the future. They live very much in the present; nothing in their heads instructs them to do otherwise. Knowledge of this came as a shock to me, truly. My inner monologue is pretty much always there. I can recall, during a certain phase in my life for instance, being able to visualise words as I thought them, as I spoke to myself internally.

Some people can conjure up, in their ‘mind’s eye’, distinctive scents. On command, they can remember, bring into being via their own minds, the exact smell of freshly-baked cookies, or of perfume. Some people can visualise actual 3D things, in such vivid ways. I find this absolutely fascinating. When I think of something – say, an apple, I know what an apple is, and what it looks like. But when I try to close my eyes and visualise an apple, I sort of only remember… a ‘feeling’ of what it looks like. I have what might be classified as being ‘aphantasia’. Many others do not have this: they can visualise things powerfully, and to their hearts’ content!

Everybody thinks in different ways. Some people’s thought processes work quicker than others. Some are given to experiencing vivid daydreams. Some always have music playing in the back of their minds. Some seek poetry in everything. Some think more logically, more mathematically. Some are more creative: imagining things beyond themselves. Some are more analytical, able to quickly make links between things and identify patterns. And some are more practical: they have things like better spatial awareness, among other things (an ability that I truly lack, as evidenced in my inability to be better than a six-year-old, at Fortnite).

The ways in which you process the world are so, so different to how others do. 

From the uniqueness of how the photoreceptors in your eyes work together, to the uniqueness of every single memory and frame of reference you have gathered over your lifetime… Cognitive frameworks, and then there are also different neurological conditions to consider.

I mean, did you know that some people view the entire world as a series of individual pictures – snapshots, as if time works differently for them! Some people see the world, usually following a very traumatic experience, as if it were all a series of comic-book-like sketches. We assign all these different names to these general conditions, attempt to collect and categorise: dissociation, depersonalisation, derealisation, depression. OCD, ADHD, and the like.

But, we are all experiencers of our own realities, and this, while we are necessarily outsiders when it comes to others’ realities. We can only use our words, really, to try to understand where others’… entire worlds… are coming from.

But language, also, is by nature limited when it comes to the matter of attempting to describe our realities. Because when I think of a ‘tree’, for example, the word signifies the thing itself. But I will only know of the thing itself what have seen – experienced – of it. No human being knows what a tree looks like ‘objectively’ – without our ocular and mental filters…

[In the middle of writing this, I am reminded of things like the Blue/Gold dress. And about the fact that some people may have acute phobias towards things that I may adore. Because we are, each of us, the sum total of our own cells, ensuing cognitive processes, experiences…]

Moreover, when a person who suffers from depression tells you they suffer from depression, perhaps, by reflex, you encourage them to make some lifestyle choices, to try to ‘shake it off’. You may not realise that depression, if I may use this limited tool that is my language, is a disease of the mind. It is absolutely not the same as reactive sadness. It is an insidious disease, ravaging, and it can tinge an entire reality with an inexplicable darkness, an ongoing feeling of grief and mourning, the feeling of one’s brain being trapped inside of a fiery cauldron. You know how, generally, feelings can be said to be borne from thoughts? The thing about depression is that, often, the (afore-described) feeling comes first. And you may find yourself at a loss, trying to explain them.

Reactive sadnesses may have a ‘why’. Sometimes people refer to these reactive sorrows as ‘depression’. But the thing about depression is, it tends to be scary in how unconditional it is.

What happens is that people often respond from a place of ignorance when it comes to things like this. They demand explanations, yet when explanations are offered to them, they sort of impose their own mental realities onto others’.

You and I are not the same. I cannot see things precisely how you do: this is impossible. And you cannot see things how I do. The very best we can do is to talk to others; to read things borne from others’ minds. Bridges, you see, are (semi-)built through words. But the complete realities of what they represent… well, these remain a secret to all of us outsiders. They can only be known by the experiencer. And, on this Earth today, there are roughly seven billion different (human) experiencers, roughly seven billion different human realities, different eyes looking out into different worlds, and coming to some very different conclusions about all of it…

Subhan Allah. 

  • Some very cool questions to ask people: How do you think? How do you see the world? Do you have an inner monologue? If I were to tell you to visualise, say, an apple, right now, what goes on inside your mind?

Sadia Ahmed J., 2020 

Concise Compositions: Gratitude

What does it mean to be grateful?

Gratitude is good for the human being; for the soul. And I really do believe that choosing to have (and focus on) fewer things necessarily makes way for higher feelings of gratitude. This does not mean that one needs to make one’s lifestyle all bare and boring. Rather, one perhaps ought to minimise, and retain the things that are of value.

Minimalism makes way for more gratitude primarily because, well, we can only truly appreciate a particular amount or number of stuff at a time. For example, even when we look at the most extravagant of tapestries, our eyes and our minds only allow us to focus on and thereby appreciate – be grateful for – certain parts, at any given time. The same sort of concept is true for most things, actually. Why do some people want, for example, more than one supercar, or more than one bed, or whatever? You can only use one of them at a time. What is ultimately important is the experience, and a grateful mind always has a better experience: higher emotional and spiritual gains from the daily happenings of life.

Chasing lives of extravagance surely leads to lower feelings of gratitude. There is so much evidence for this.

And we can only really be grateful for things once we know what it feels like for the thing to not be there. We are more grateful for a thing’s presence, when we have come to know its absence. Things like joy, like good friends, maybe, and like food. Doesn’t food always taste that much better after a day of fasting?

There is so much wisdom behind Islamic principles of fasting, minimalism, and expressing gratitude.

One’s actions are important, too. When you are grateful for a thing, you must show this in your behaviour. You must care for it. You must tend to the rights it may have over you.

In the Qur’an, Allah tells us that He increases in favour the one who is grateful. We only really need what is enough to get by. Survival, and then some additional comfort, peace and joy. We do not have to deprive ourselves of goodness. But there are certainly some things – and these are usually the things that are characterised by lavishness and ‘plenty’ – that we might, in the moment, think will bring us much good. Might solve some of our problems for us, and so forth.

But when you have fewer things – like friendships, like projects you are working on, for example – I do think you are able to focus on them more. Cultivate them like flowers, and then se cosecha lo que se siembra: you reap what you sow.

Gratitude is good for you. Zooming in on all the ‘small’ things, for example the things you cannot live without. A glass of water. The gorgeousness of sunrises. The comfort of your duvet. There is much use, and much Khayr, in certain things.

And for these things, may we always find ourselves grateful.

  • The Concise Compositions series comprises a series of blog articles that are each based on a certain topic. You give yourself ten 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 

Concise Compositions: Home

Yes, when I think of the idea of ‘home’, I immediately think of IKEA. I think about wooden furniture and wooden floors. Keys, walls, defences, dropped at the door. I think of comfort and pillows and plants, and of warm mugs of coffee. I think of friends and of family – the ones who see the worst of you, and perhaps the best of you, too. I think of messy morning hair. And of books and paint and days spent blissfully indoors, in this personal and private ecosystem.

Home is where the heart is; where the heart longs to be. It is your part of the world, an extension of you, and a place that is meant to nurture you. Sometimes homes break, and that is because home is more than a property and some furniture. It is made up, for the most part, of human relationships. And home is where the heart is [I guess I repeated that for dramatic effect or something].

I like the idea of big windows and a little garden. I don’t know why some people are obsessed with notions of bigger homes being better homes. Ultimately, you can only inhabit so much space at a time. You sit in one particular place, and this particular place ends up meaning something to you. And then you go outside, and you do other things, and you may become sort of homesick throughout the day [I know I do!].

You come home and you get clean. And home is there to greet you with a hug. All is well when you are at home, and safe, and sound. Recuperation, and nurture, and sanctity. Turkish prayer mats and the like.

What else, what else? I like it when I am at home, and when it is raining outside. A beautiful sort of privacy tends to ensue, an unmatchable sense of peace. And you realise that all there is, for you, is your own little world. Your little world made up of the people that inhabit it, for the most part. There are the things that you do outside of home. Like going to cafés, walking around, travelling. But home is the nucleus that calls you back, and it is there for you, every single time.

  • 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 

 

Concise Compositions: Love

What do I think love is? What defines it? Well, I think it comes from that place of perfection – from God – and so we can only achieve imperfect reflections of it. Through things like our words, and our hands. We resort to using metaphors. It is not a thing of logic; it cannot wholly be represented in such ways.

I think love is a thing of middles. It is halfway between feelings of ‘home’ and those of ‘holiday’. Yes, it is certainly a thing of middles: it comes from, and in turn, speaks to, the core of you.

Many good things come from middles, and these also happen to be the things that give rise to love, and that help to nurture it. Things like symmetry, and compromise. That place between realism and romanticism, where the head is used, and where the heart is, too. Where logic cannot render a person heartless; where passion cannot render a person stupid, either.

Love is found where two things meet. It is in our nature, between things like monotony and chaos, between conviction and blind faith. Between sky and earth, between what is muddy and crude, and what is divine and celestial. Where love is, we are. We are, each of us, products of love, you know. And it is very much in our nature to grow towards it, rather like sunflowers do, towards sun.

Halfway between loss and gain. Halfway between euphoria and pain.

I suppose, when it comes down to it, love is being consumed. But it is also retaining the self in allowing oneself to do so. It is where we allow for rigidity to be softened, and for flowing liquids to be reified. It is mess and it is order. Sun and moon, their orbits, and the sky: what they come to share.

Love makes so much sense, and it does not make much sense at all. It is, by nature, paradoxical. It is our knowing that love makes 1+1 equal to 1. How, though? We cannot say.

I think the nature of True Love is such that it is at once validating, and transformational. Where you might be half the same, and half different. Where half of ‘I’ might be for thee.

It is the knowledge that you are already a part of me, and known. And, yet, you are outside of me, unknown. And maybe we will meet, where two things often do: somewhere, in some middle.

  • Note: I’ve now decided to change the time limit from five minutes, to ten. 
  • The Concise Compositions series comprises a series of blog articles that are each based on a certain topic. You give yourself ten 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 

Through Time

Dear friend,

Life is a period (relatively long and relatively short)

of continued striving. It is a thing of comedy, and

it is a thing of tragedy.

 

I know that, on some nights, there are certain things that mercilessly rip your heart apart, without you ever asking them to.

And I know how you hide. It’s so hard to ‘open up’ when, in the past, doing so has led to your spirit being thrown onto the ground, stomped on, thrown to hungry wolves,

over and over again.

It’s okay if you need some more time to heal; I’ll wait for you here while you do.

There’s a nice sunflower outside I want to try and sketch. It is undeniable, and

it reminds me of you.

 

Dear friend,

How real is the smile on your face, and how often is it so?

How frequently do you forget who you truly are, when your heart feels numb and its love feels this low?

 

Dear friend,

It feels quite like we are alone in this world, doesn’t it? Like it is terribly easy to become this cold;

To reach for anything that might shield our souls from the elements – walls, perhaps; to be a little quieter, more defensive, less bold.

 

It feels like forever missing something you can’t quite put your finger on, and nothing else on Earth can ever fill its space.

You cry and you mourn and yet nothing comes. How is the thing to know it is being called,

If you can’t even recall its name, not even the first letter, not even at all.

 

Dear friend,

Yes, you are simultaneously blooming and you are fading, here.

We are on this Earth like mere travellers. But oh, the things we will see; the stories we will tell.

And there is a great promise of Something Else beyond here, a beckon to an ocean through vessel of seashell.

All life, on a spinning planet, inches forward every hour. And someday, there will be no hours left.

 

Dear friend,

Perhaps on your bad days, we could sit here together and attempt to imagine what timelessness might be like. Someday we will exist in that state, you know.

Nothing from the past really matters (except, of course, everything. It has all led us here, it is everything that might have helped us to grow.)

Some days, I am so scared and I feel like almost everything is out of reach, beyond me.

Going through the motions, almost unreal; is there any other way to be?

 

Dear friend,

I think you are wonderful. Nobody else can quite do the whole ‘you’ thing the way you do:

Your funny tales, catchphrases, forever doing the opposite of what you’ve been told.

I think the ends of your smile sing of beauty, your hair of genius, your heart of gold.

And I think we must be brave here. Nobody knows of the pain that floods your entire mind from time to time;

few know of the terrible notions you were made to believe, and which have replayed themselves in your head over and over in your mind.

See, on a bodily wound, one may kneel and place a bandage, grace and hope.

But the soul, you see, tends to sing of a different kind of pain.

Dull, amorphous, insidious. There would appear to be no escaping it.

 

Dear friend,

What do we do? We tie our camels and we trust Allah. Helplessness is not in our vocabularies: indeed, the help of your Lord is near. 

You have to make a choice. You are the custodian of this life, and when you take certain chances, good things will appear.

Roses really bloom when you choose to really trust God; you will witness your Du’as unfurl, one by one.

 

Dear friend,

Today, we forget everything that we have known,

And we remember all that we have learned.

You know, I have always wondered if there will come a time in our lives when we will be able to say that “we made it.”

Good things will come; be patient. But, no: here in Life, things do not stay still, and time is always in a bit of a hurry.

 

Dear friend,

We humans were not designed for black and white, nor do we find ourselves having been programmed by binary.

Humanness is amorphous, colours, often not neat.

 

It does not really matter where you’re from. You might want to keep the good and forget the bad – a justified price.

It will all be of value, but it will not matter – not when you take that first step into Jannah – to Paradise.

 

Dear friend,

Nobody will ever know you

The way only your Creator can do.

People do not create Truth, and so it is okay if people look right through your eyes without understanding you.

 

God Himself chose to create you: a thing of beauty, wonderful. The entire world could end up hating you and still it would not matter:

 

You are not better than anybody, and nobody at all is better than you –

That is, not except by piety and good action.

 

Dear friend,

Maybe I do not know you personally, but I do so believe in you.

May the loudness, for you, quieten. May your journey through be filled with little lantern Du’as that all come true

 

one by one. Even in the belly of a whale; at the bottom of a well

Allah surely loves the one who puts their trust in Him;

so, dear friend, tonight we tie our camels, and through Time, Allah will tell.

 


Sadia Ahmed, 2020

 

“We are surrounded by all of these lies and people who talk too much.”

– Ed Sheeran