.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
2nd January 2022: I woke up to the sound of father mine asking something like, “Aren’t you gonna get up then?” and, “Are you up yet?” in Bengali. Mornings and I: we do not seem to go well together. At all. [Yet, I hope, In Shaa Allah.]
Downstairs, my cousin Maryam had come round in order to do my mum’s makeup: the makeup artist who usually does it for her (my cousin’s friend Rej) could not make it this time. Luckily, Maryam is something of a pro at makeup.
I got ready: a few weeks before the wedding, my aunt texted me to let me know that my girl cousins were going to be wearing white to this (my uncle’s) wedding. Specifically, three of them were going to wear a white Lehenga: a sort of quite-adorned long dress comprising a top and a long skirt. I wanted to match with them, and to honour the fact that my aunt asked me if I wanted to match with them too: so I went shopping with my parents, and found a simple long white dress, with a pleated skirt part, in the basement (clothing section) of my favourite Islamic bookshop.
I, being (in comparison to others, I suppose) somewhat vertically challenged, had to get this dress tailored a little. To add another touch of Islamic modesty to my intended outfit, I visited another Islamic bookshop that has a clothing section in it — and I used to work at this bookshop too, prior to the pandemic — and found a loose white over-coat to wear. I hadn’t seen something like it at this shop before, and I think it had just been waiting for me!
I left the bookshop with a few bits and pieces, got a little discount (courtesy of having once worked there), and even retrieved a personalised pen of mine that I had left behind there some two years ago…
I made Maryam and myself some hot chocolate. French hot chocolate: my YouTube Recommended sometimes knows exactly what to recommend to me [it’s like ordinary hot chocolate, but with some cinnamon, extra chocolate, and even a dash of salt, added]. We had some brioche bread to dip into it too.
Maryam did my makeup too [I asked for it to be subtle. No lashes, ni lipstick. And my girl delivered], despite being in a bit of a rush to get to work. But she seems to be a well-respected employee, Maa Shaa Allah, at the bubble tea chain she works at. So they allowed her to go in late, and also paid for her cab there [they have given her a card for business expenses too!]. I love my cousin so much, and I am so proud of her, Allah hummabārik.
Maryam is just really naturally loving, and I love our conversations together: sometimes very dumb and pretend-passive-aggressive and hilarious, sometimes super soft and ‘deep’ and comfortable. [Don’t you just love the people who make you feel so… ‘you’? That… alignment.] Maryam is about three years younger than me, but kind of often I feel like she is an older sister to me. Yesterday, after having done my makeup, she sort of held my face in her hands and smiled at me in such a sweet way. [Simply, proud of her work? Or a really sweet, pure and endearing moment? Probably both: I love her.]
Next: earrings and hair. And it was one of those moments where you recognise that you maybe would look ‘better’ if you went out with your hair out and so forth. But c’est part of the test of faith and life, innit: I wore a beige headscarf, and my white over-coat, and a bangle on my left hand (gifted from my cousin-sister-in-law, with whom I share the same name!) and a bracelet on my right (from my aunts: and my mum’s side girl cousins have matching ones).
Then I saw my baby brother (who is nine years old, may Allah bless him, while I am twenty-one) in his adorable black suit, with his new haircut, and a little bow-tie. My baby brother: I love him, Allah hummabārik. And I could not stop annoying him out of love: ’tis my job, as his big sister.
We went into the car: my dad’s (fairly new) electric-blue one. Spacious, comfortable Lexus. I guess I was a little hungry: for breakfast I’d had some strawberries, some brioche, and some hot chocolate. I don’t seem to like mornings that much, but I do love food.
At the venue, I saw my cousins: the princesses and… the boys. Energetic, running, laughing boys. I love my cousin Sarina: what a princess. And Shakira, and Alisha, and Fabbiha, and Priya. I sound like a bit of a child right now, maybe, but that is the beautiful outcome, perhaps, of being around children: how could one ever grow ‘old‘ and cold?
We had to wait outside for a short while: formalities. And then the bride’s side did the whole tradition of a ‘money-gate’, whereby the groom’s side cannot enter unless some money is handed over. I kind of stayed on the side, but usually what happens with these is shouting (in jest) and bargaining. With the money handed over, the bride’s side erupted into cheers, I think, and then we walked in.
There had been something about this wedding that I had just so loved. Maybe: the relative smallness. Approximately fifty guests. Nothing too mentally overstimulating: less is often more. We were the (relatively) loud and big side: the bride’s side seemed quieter and smaller. And isn’t the concept of marriage, on the spiritual level, amazing? The man is not meant to be ‘the same’ as the woman: Allah created us as pairs, and marriage is (meant to be) a thing of ‘same but opposites’, relative ‘completion’, balance, harmony…
During the more serious part of the religious official in attendance reading out the vows/conditions, I tried to concentrate, but burst out into little fits of laughter (as quietly as I could) because of… my brother. He had decided to get a napkin and scrub his plate vigorously. I sort of sternly told him to stop, Saif. But he carried on, even though one of the older adults, I think, had been glaring at him. He then moved on to ‘cleaning’ the knife, fork, and spoon near him. And then he took it one step further, and ‘cleaned’ and ‘polished’ the inside of a glass.
My laughing, and my trying very hard to not laugh, made Farhana laugh a bit too. And I think I felt the glare of the aforementioned adult on me a little, too. But later she told me that my dad, when he was younger, was actually really similar to my brother: driving a car into the pond in Bangladesh, at the age of fifteen… and a motorbike with a book caught between his teeth, and all. I wonder if those genes have managed to skip me somehow. No: I think I’m just better at hiding those traits of mine.
Farhana and I did some dumb things together too, like trying to stare at one another ‘meanly’, and ‘speaking in spoken word’: you just have to talk very dramatically for no reason, and over-the-top ‘poetically’. And the other person enthusiastically clicks their fingers whenever a line ‘resonates’ with them.
I sat with my little cousins Zayan and Tahmid, and my brother. Zayan and Tahmid sometimes start on the other girls, but they said they like me, and that I can sit at the table if I wanted. A little boy from the bride’s side (called Yahya) came over to us right at the start, offering us sweets. He got along really well with my cousins, and even tried to take my (dad’s) phone from me, almost demanding that I hand it over. I guess he’s part of us now, in a way.
When Yahya went and scribbled in the guest-book, I met his sister, and one of their cousins, I think. One of the two little girls asked my brother… if he’s in Nursery. [And then a little war between those girls, and our boys, began]. And when she expressed something like disapproval at Yahya’s scribbles, I said it’s alright, we can just label it and say it’s from Yahya. Maybe he can see it when he grows up. She looked at me like I’d just said something extremely weird: sometimes little girls’ glares can… send a little chill right through your soul, you know?
Boys are often easier to connect with, for me. Maybe because I am so used to them. All you have to do is: ask them who their favourite superhero is, or which football team they support. Or talk about cool scientific facts with them, or challenge them to something somewhat stupid. But little girls: they, often, will not find your deliberately weird statements funny or your knowledge of Marvel cool. Sigh. C’est la vie.
Anyway, recently I have decided that my goal in life is to be a princess. A Muslim princess, and that is all. Apparently, that is one of the meanings of my name (Sadia) too, so: nominative determinism, I hope.
Another Sadia I know is: the wife of one of my uncles. So, my aunty. She is beautiful, Maa Shaa Allah. Yesterday, she had a black headscarf in her hands, and said she needed to pray. So we ended up praying Dhuhr together. And, later: ‘Asr. In a private and colourfully-decorated room upstairs.
[The thing about this religion is, as I kept reflecting on, that it is not meant to overburden us. It is not meant to make us feel spiritually suffocated, and sometimes ‘more’ isn’t more.]
It is true that some women wear the headscarf and loose and flowing clothes outside; some of us have grown up around these things, and it can be fairly easy for us. But: some of my relatives have grown up in places like Kent, where, for example, it is not very common to see covered Muslim women, and where places of Islamic learning seem scarce.
We are all on our own journeys. And some people can behave thoroughly judgementally, sometimes. One may look at a woman who does not cover her hair and stubbornly, arrogantly, label her a ‘bad Muslim’. But what if this woman’s Salah and maintenance of good character are the most important things for her, in her heart? Physical modesty is an Islamic principle, and we find we are each on our own journeys with it. Our Lord is the Most Merciful, and I know that this religion is one of moderation and middles.
By the Mercy and Grace of Allah, I did get to pray yesterday. I got to witness a relative of mine completing half his Deen [marriage, in Islam: half of our way of life!] by getting married. I got to nurture my familial bonds (which is a huge, though perhaps sometimes underestimated part of being Muslim).
I ate lamb chops, chicken tikka, and kebabs [Judge me not: I’m anaemic, so my excuse is that I need more iron. So are some of my cousins. We made a little ‘Anaemia Club’.] I had rice with chicken curry, and the food was delectable, Alhamduli Llah. Wearing the colour white, and my outfit in general, did make me feel like a bit of a princess, I can’t lie. So too did the fact that I didn’t have to serve myself at all: first my cousin served me, and then my aunt did.
The groom looked a little shorter than the bride, and then someone pointed out that Zendaya’s taller than Tom Holland too. [I hope they get married too. I think they suit.]
Incidentally, male cousins, after they reach a certain age, are actually not Mahram for us. Meaning: we cannot show our hair and so forth before them, and we cannot hug them and be towards them just as we are towards our real brothers. This is something that I struggled with a little. But like with the ‘compromise’ (or, ‘collaboration‘) I came to, in my mind, regarding what to wear [how to be good towards and honour others, while also being good towards and honouring oneself] there are good solutions for these things. Instead of a hug, we can always air-spud.
Saif and I made a secret handshake in the car. When he was younger, we used to have handshakes. But he is growing up now, and it aches to see his babyish chubbiness fade away, but it is also quite endearing. My brother was too embarrassed, maybe, to do our secret handshake at the wedding. But he did agree to arm-wrestle me. Which I won. [And then I whispered and asked him if he wanted me to let him beat me in front of everyone, but I’m pretty sure he said no.].
Dessert was kind of peng: kheer (a rice pudding) with a bit of brown Mishti (sweetmeat) and a strawberry. Daring Zayan to try dipping some of the sweets in Coke and then eat them was funny: the boys actually did it. ‘Little’ things like this. The karak chai at the end was certainly a good idea too. But I kind of wish it had been decaff, because I am very sensitive to caffeine.
I found this wedding to be beautiful, Maa Shaa Allah. But I think: because there hadn’t been loudness or anything, some had found it to be ‘boring’, ‘understimulating’. Another thing I have struggled with: understanding that some people’s ideas of fun seem to be dependent on escaping reality, and that a person is not, by nature, ‘boring’ for not liking those things.
Another thing I love about our religion: we know that this place is not Paradise. We’re told to stay sober [your liver, and ultimately, your soul, will thank you for it!], stay ‘here’; keep it Halāl and good; remember God. There will be both difficulty and ease (opposites but the same) and look at the sheer goodness of what is actually Good! Listen more, see more, reflect more.
[These people, and this food, and those flowers, are real, and really Good!]
The super-Dunya good stuff [real good wine, music, swinging off into the sunset with a better Spider-Man than Tom Holland. Girl, whatever you want] awaits us in Jannah, In Shaa Allah. But if we try to acquire those (presently Harām) things here, we will fail, because here, the Dunya versions of those things are deceptions. [Here, there is no better Spider-Man than Tom Holland, you will find. And neither drugs nor alcohol nor Zinā will ‘save’ you at all. They’ll instead promise you something, draw you in, and then destroy you.] That is how I have come to understand it all.
On the way home, as I was about to get into my dad’s car, I found my cousin (dad’s brother’s son) sitting there. So I decided to ‘swap families’ and went to my uncle’s car. It had been around Maghrib time; I requested for the music to be turned down, but tried to ask really politely. And then Sarina and I ended up singing Harris J songs, and I didn’t really care if I was singing badly.
I’m twenty-one now, and lots of things have happened in my life thus far, Alhamduli Llah. Good and bad. And I felt very much ‘myself’, yesterday. ‘Organically’. Sometimes more quiet, sometimes busting dumb jokes. Being open with my cousins, and loving whom and what Allah has blessed me with. It wasn’t a ‘perfect‘ (Jannah trademark sign) day, but it was such a beautiful one, for me at least, Maa Shaa Allah.
So, I’m a Muslim who secretly, childishly, wants to be a princess. I don’t think true faith is something that is ‘suffocating’, and we must not let this most precious of gifts become cold within us, either. Every beautiful thing you have ever known comes from Allah alone, and Truth is His alone, and He does not want for us to become overburdened, overzealous, harsh, or arrogant. So: care. Nurture your faith like it is a most delicate, beautiful flower.
The Lord of adorable babies, mesmerising stars, and gorgeous sunsets has given you this thing called Faith: for you to recognise your Purpose, find yourself within it. And walk, with your Creator by your side!
“Bees in my head (sometimes),
and Faith in my heart.” [— Siedd. Paraphrased, since I misheard it: he actually says ‘beads in my hands’. I, however, like my version better.]
Islam is not simply ‘rules, rules, rules’ and fear. And why do some people make it a thing of the hissing hushing of voices, and anger, and meanness, when our Prophet (SAW) was a man who smiled so much, and was so wise and kind, and loved so much?! Some Muslims seem to have made Islam, for themselves, something that it, at its heart, is not.
At the groom’s house (in Kent) two of my cousins did a fireworks display outside. At one point, the groom’s mum (my dad’s aunt) suggested that we go and stand on the side, to activate the sensor light in the garden. So I did. And then my cousin held one of those hand-held fireworks towards me, by accident, thinking that you’re meant to ‘light it at the bottom’. Thankfully, Alhamduli Llah, Alhamduli Llah, I noticed in time, and told him to turn it around. [Another meaning of my name: ‘lucky‘. And that I was, Subhaan Allah!]
At the groom’s house, Sarina wrote for her blog, linked here. She came up with a wonderful lexical expression [“exhausted, yet exhilarated”] and I felt like a proud mum or something. The boys did their thing, and played cards and Uno. Tanha’s brother Sakib has grown up now: less child, and more man, and I can’t imagine my own baby brother growing up like that too, but it is always happening, and I cannot stop it.
Incidentally, strange, isn’t it, how different facets of one’s personality are activated when in the presence of different people? With Farhana, I am ‘high-energy’, and I do feel quite comfortable around her; we are okay with being quiet when we want to be, too. Around some others, the energy doesn’t always feel right, for one reason or another, and I suppose I can’t really help that. What I can help is trying to spend more time with people who, in essence [spoken word poetry voice here] light up my soul like that. Poke poke poke poke (a weird inside joke that only Farhana would get).
Tanha, Sarina and I sat upstairs in Farhana’s room. And there had been nothing to do, really, so we talked. Complained a bit: we were hungry and tired and quite bored. But there were so many people downstairs, and so much happening. My brother told us there was pizza downstairs, so we eventually went down.
Alas though, there had been no pizza. We had biryani instead [mo’ iron, mo’ protein]. Tanha and I talked about our religious journeys: Allah does not expect perfection of us. He wants for us to try, and He is Merciful. So I have resolved to try to take it easier in my mind, In Shaa Allah. Incrementally: small bites, time and space for metaphorical digestion. The ‘little’ things matter the most: religion is not about massive, overbearing and ultimately unsustainable jumps. Even with those early Muslims, with the prohibition of alcohol, the doing-away with the institution of slavery, and with the implementation of modesty laws: they had come bit by bit, drop by drop.
The Middle, ma’am: a Good place, indeed, to be. So that it is balanced, consistent, steadfast and sustainable.
Farhana’s friend Georgia had come to this wedding, as a photographer, since the initial photographer had backed out the night before. She was so lovely and easy to talk to, Allah hummabārik. A fellow INFJ [Myers-Briggs personality type], along with Farhana and I. There is just this ease of being that (we) INFJs seem to tend to have with one another. Comfortably quiet, sometimes; energetic, at others; thoughtful and feeling. Held together in something like harmony. Good conversations, and mutual understanding.
I asked Farhana if I could use a device of hers, for a Zoom call at 8pm: our weekly sisters’ circle. Our topic, to begin the (Gregorian) new year: Intentions. In Islam, what matters is the intention, and the word, in Arabic, comes from the word for ‘seed‘. Allah makes things grow.
What I am understanding more about Islam as time — and this journey of mine — goes on, is that: true Muslims (should) smile a lot. Pray regularly, give charity. Parents and marriage and family are so, so important for us [in fact, it is a major sin to cut off family ties]. We love the natural world; we (should) show respect to our elders, and lovingkindness to those who are younger than us. We (should) show much hospitality to our guests, and to our neighbours. We don’t (or, shouldn’t) ever do ‘too much’ or ‘too little’. We (try to) walk humbly upon the Earth [Qur’an (25:63)], and “speak a good word, or remain silent” (Hadīth, Sahih Muslim and Bukhāri).
On the way home from the wedding, my brother did something very dumb: another ‘prank’ of his, I guess. Sometimes he pretends to go to sleep, and he is very good at acting. But then you say you’re pretending, aren’t you, and he lets out a most cute and cheeky smile (Allah hummabārik). Yesterday, he seemed like he had been asleep, but kept his eyes open in a darkened-by-night car, and decided to stare, and not blink or respond to me, perfectly still. Saif, are you sleeping? He didn’t respond. I spoke to him more, and then I panicked until he moved again. I burst out crying, more so than I had expected to. The wiping-plate thing was funny; the ‘pizza’ prank was somewhat humorous too, but this was not. So: a fairly dramatic and emotionally stressful end, to an otherwise very good day, Alhamduli Llah.
[I love my baby brother, and the rest of my family: all the princesses and princes that make it up. The mess, the uneven parts, even: the memories, and the yet-to-happens, and I am thankful for it all. I love wedding food too.
And I love my Deen (way of life,) Islam].