.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Ethnically, ت [‘T’] is thought to be… 0.3% Korean, according to her 23andMe results.
The rest of she… is Bengali (for the most part, at least).
ت’s favourite colour: “I love… the mixture of blue and green. Like, turquoise, teal. Those two combinations, I love.“
And this woman also really likes her chicken: whether Korean-style, or Desi-, or Chinese, or from a Thai place…
Food is something that ت and I have discussed with one another recently. Questions pertaining to what to eat, and to… how much to eat.
Last week, ت and I had plans to go to a talk/lecture together (based on the broad theme of Noah (AS)’s Ark,) which had been delivered by the Dean of my current place of study (the Dean’s name is Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad) at the venue of… her current university (LSE: the Divinity Faculty there).
ت is currently in her final year studying for a degree in Philosophy and Politics, Maa Shaa Allah. She also loves Psychology.
[She spoke a little about how she seems to discover her passions within her course through writing her essays, and not necessarily through in-class conversations…].
Before leaving for that event, we had some food together: out of the options of Chinese, or Desi, or Thai food, ت chose Thai food, so this is what we had. Only, this time: I’d ordered a ‘small’ meal. I know that eating lighter is better, and as with a lot of things, food and nutrition has been, and continues to be, a whole journey for me.
From this (Halāl, HMC-certified) Thai place, I ordered one portion of chicken noodles, and one portion of steak chips. And… would you know it? We didn’t even manage to finish that one container of food, between ourselves.
This is something I have truly come to realise: our (or, at least, my) eyes tend to feast before our stomachs do. We can so easily be convinced that we ‘need’ more food than we actually do, to feel and be fulfilled.
[What was also nice was that: I had some nice food left over, waiting for me in the fridge later that evening!]
According to the Sunnah, we should try to eat in moderation:
“The son of Adam cannot fill a vessel worse than his stomach, as it is enough for him to take a few bites to straighten his back. If he cannot do it, then he may fill it with a third of his food, a third of his drink, and a third of his breath.”
— Prophet Muhammad (SAW), according to (Sahih) Tirmidhi.
Eating heavy makes me feel lethargic: food is… energy, and should ultimately provide me with energy. Yet: if so much energy is being used towards digestion, and a meal ends up making me feel sluggish… it wouldn’t really be fulfilling its purpose very well. And I suppose it’s about that balance: between enjoying what we eat, and ensuring that it is good for us, nourishes us (and also, is not slowly poisoning us, actually…).
Interestingly, some of the random things ت and I had discussed that day, prior to that event: ended up being spoken about in Shaykh Abdal Hakim’s talk! For example: he had spoken about such things as healthy eating, and organic foods, and eating meat. Junk food, like chicken nuggets made out of chickens kept in battery cages, I believe, he had referred to as “atrocities“. [Perhaps we ought to call them… Chicken McAtrocities…].
The Natural World: Aayaat.
The more one pays attention to the world, and to the universe, the more finds the signs of Allah: in our own selves, in our lives, in the world around us…
Shaykh AHM had spoken about such things as the sacredness of natural life, in his talk.
Aayaat: the signs of Allah. This refers to both scriptural verses, and to… ‘natural science’. Animated and wonderfully designed, and alive: are both the written Qur’an, and indeed the Qur’an around us: this phenomenal world, and Universe.
Ours, to quote the speaker Shaykh, is a “green religion”.
Taking into consideration such concepts as the Khilaafah (stewardship) principle, the importance of appreciating and protecting biodiversity…
We are also not allowed to be cruel to animals: not allowed to overburden a donkey or mule, underfeed an animal, wrongfully separate a mother from her young…
Moreover, the Qur’an, we find, is filled with natural references: to… the bee, and to honey. To the ant, the cow, the elephant, the hoopoe. Gardens, fruits… The sun and the moon. Seas. Night and day…
Children, also, as Shaykh AHM had pointed out, are born ‘wild‘ in that sense: upon Fitrah.
Furthermore, we (grown-up children) don’t do well in… captivity. [Or, for example, enclosed spaces devoid of natural lighting]. Depression can ensue when the human being finds itself in ‘captivity’; we can find ourselves diseased, and subsequently experiencing depressive depletions (or, the opposite extreme: excesses) in natural motivations: for socialising, for eating and drinking, our reproductive motivations… These can all be affected. Living in ‘captivity’, unfortunately, seems to almost be a hallmark of ‘modernity’…
And, the Sunnah [Sunnah: the ‘Way’ demonstrated to us by Muhammad (SAW)] is a shield. An “ark of salvation” for us.
As Muslims, we try to embrace ‘natural living’. Try to live in moderation, shielding ourselves from such environmental toxins as rampant materialism, and secularism. We try to act according to the Fitrah. Try to love, and to conserve and take care of… life.
In times ‘before’, we (humanity) would come to know ourselves through: knowing God, being and feeling part of the universe and being connected to the natural world, and by knowing other people, truly. By tending to holistic humanity, and not merely, perhaps to… our bank accounts, and to packing our heads with ‘information’, at university.
Now: it seems the human ego can often get in the way of our connectivity with authentically, holistically, good things.
The ego, like Noah (AS)’s son, in that religious story of old, is “familiar”, to us, and yet… alien. We must learn to leave it behind. Trust in Allah, and in His plan for us. Shelter ourselves, and our people, and honour life as it should be honoured.
And sail along the seas of life…
“The mosque,” also, said Shaykh AHM, “is an emblem of the ark.”
[There had also been an origami session, at the end of that event. To make origami arks. I failed at it, miserably.]
Incidentally, I love ‘coincidences’ — synchronicities [Synchronicity: things occurring at the same time] — and I love how Allah brings them to be. For example, although I try not to listen to music nowadays, [it’s a contentious issue, but ultimately I think a lot of music is religiously unhelpful, or even detrimental] sometimes I find myself singing and/or humming old songs I know. So, that day, last week, I’d been singing a song that goes, ‘I like me better (when I’m with you)’ in my kitchen.
And in the next room, ت had been humming the same song (but a different part of it), and asked if I’d heard her and then started singing it myself. But: I didn’t know she’d been humming it before me. She and I are just connected, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik. And I do like myself better when I’m with ت.
I think we should pay attention to whom we’re with, when we feel our best/like the best versions of ourselves. When our souls feel relaxed, comfortable and alight.
Another ‘coincidence’: kind of recently, I came across an ad for something on the noticeboard of the women’s centre attached to the masjid. I contacted the number given, and I ended up speaking to… ت’s childhood/family friend on the phone. Neither ت nor this friend of hers even live near to me, or to this masjid. And I’d only found out that this is a close family friend of ت’s, when I’d sent her some pictures of what the ad had been for.
Then: last week, as we’d been walking to the train station together, we’d come across… my childhood/family friend’s uncle, aunt, and their little (two-year-old, I think) son Ilyas, who is inexplicably adorable, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik. He’s just so cute, and small, and delicate, and he has these big eyes that just seem like they’re constantly taking in this perplexing big wide world around him.
I spoke to my friend’s uncle and aunt for a little while, but mostly, I think, to little Ilyas. I think I’d made a joke that he could just come with us, and I put my hand out. His parents, I think, told him to go to us.
And he… was ready to leave his parents to come with us. He gently came and held my hand, and was ready to go. His mum said something like, maybe we remind him of his key-workers from nursery or something. [I wouldn’t have minded taking Ilyas with me to a lecture. But he’s so cute that I could walk with him for five minutes and then maybe start crying because of just how (inexplicably, meltingly) adorable and innocent and delicate he is, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik. Love and protect this child at all costs: every single one.
Earlier that day, I’d also gone to pick up my own little brother, from school. But he, unlike Ilyas, did not want to hold my hand, because he, and I quote, wanted to “roam free“. My little rebel poet child.]
Before leaving for the event, my aunt (who, along with her energetic and adorable little daughter Siyana, had been at my house) had handed me a little box of truffle chocolates, saying it’s for ت and I to share and enjoy. Siyana also did something hilariously funny, as per usual, that day.
Three-year-old Siyana has a friend at her nursery, called Faizaan. While she is the outgoing, very energetic one in their duo, it seems: he is the more careful, cautious one. E.g.: apparently, once, my aunt had been reminding her daughter to share her things with others. Faizaan, who had also been there at the time, had said something like:
“But not germs! We don’t share those!“
Apparently, Faizaan has also called Siyana “beautiful“. When our cousin Moosa had found out about this, he had humorously said something like:
Ayyo! Show me where he lives!
ت and I had taken the Tube, gotten off where we’d needed to have gotten off, and then ت had essentially welcomed me into her university: another subtle collision of our separate (but connected) worlds.
We found our way to where we needed to be, and found… a really nice event set up, before us, Maa Shaa Allah. Elegant, well-colour-coordinated. Nicely-set-out finger foods [but we’d been too full from that ‘small’ meal before, to eat. So ت put some in a napkin, to take home, pointing out that the tickets cost money, and also that it might have gone to waste otherwise].
And: there had been quite a lot of people in that space. Muslim students, professionals. Students of Arabic, graduates of English, a range of different backgrounds. Socialising. We had also been given a riddle to solve.
I tend to feel somewhat… overwhelmed whenever there are so many people somewhere, some of them talking to me, so many different things to process. But I know that I’m not the only one with my own social anxieties and sensitivities to ‘overwhelm‘: pretty much everyone seems to have them, in our own ways. Even those of us who seem quite ‘confident’. But as ت and I discussed today, I think ‘confidence’ (as with courage) is more… an intentional thing. So: feeling one’s natural anxieties, reservations, and so on. And: choosing to act in spite of them, in a given moment. ”Self’-overcoming‘.
Social anxiety is not always very visible on others: for example, one of the sisters I’d spoken to at this event told me she’d been struggling in that space, what with feeling socially anxious. But, with a lot of people: it can be quite difficult to tell that this is how they are actually feeling, until they tell you.
We were shown to a lecture room for Maghrib prayer.
I thought that ت had ditched me and had gone off to pray with one of the people she’d been speaking to at the reception part of the event. Turns out: ’twas I that had been the traitor. Assuming that she had already gone, I went over to the other room ‘too’. But actually, ت had been waiting for me all along, in the reception part.
Something I love about ت is how… attuned she is. Observant. To things in general, and to people. For example, while she had been in conversation with someone who had been encouraging her to maybe get into computer-programming [apparently, people with ‘philosophical’ minds are often good at/enjoy computing], ت had intentionally brought me into the conversation, sensing that maybe I’d have been feeling a little left out. She informed me today that she kind of knew that I’d remember this moment, and bring it up later.
ت has, as well as two other siblings (she being the eldest,) a little (six-year-old) brother called Imran. When I first met Imran (virtually, over FaceTime, last year) he had come to believe that… my name is also Imran, somehow.
I much admire the way that ت cares for her little brother, Maa Shaa Allah. For example, somewhat recently she’d come across, via a Halaqa she attends [Halaqa: gathering/sitting, for religious learning], an online Islamic class for kids, and signed her brother up for it. He ended up loving it so much that he was really upset when he thought he’d missed it one week. ت says:
“I think he needs to be around other Muslim boys, his age…“
Environment is a tremendously important consideration, for children, and for us all.
“I looked at the transcript of the teacher, I’m like, ‘She seems lovely. Let’s see how it is’. Yeah, Alhamduli Llah, he [Imran] loves it.”
During the talk we’d been to together, in a nice lecture theatre, ت talked to the person who had been sitting to the right of her, while I, sitting next to ت, had spoken to the sister on my left: her name is Khaoula (a jovial, smart, and confident-seeming woman, Allah hummabārik) and we’d sort of dipped in and out of conversation there that evening, talking about random things, like the potential difference between what the term ‘nerd‘ might constitute, versus ‘geek‘ [and I’m not entirely sure how we got there], things related to the actual talk (like… the fate of animals), and… Khaoula had also told me that in France [I think she had lived there for a while] it is ‘normal’ for people to call hijabi women ‘FILTHY ARAB’ to their faces…
…And I wonder which is worse: when people hate you/your people, but try to ‘hide’ it behind plastic smiles, facades, or… when they outwardly declare their hatred for you.
The latter, though so bold and abrasive: at least it’s ‘sincere‘.
[Somewhat relatedly: recently I found out that when my cousin Moosa (who has recently dislocated his shoulder somehow) was a little younger, at his family’s previous home, he had these boys in the neighbourhood that he would hang out with. Apparently, one day, when they’d been playing, he’d thrown something at one of the boys, Jake, expecting him to catch it. But he didn’t manage to catch it, and it ended up hitting his face.
Jake explained to his grandma (a Jewish lady from occupied Palestine) that it had been an accident. But, before Moosa had the chance to explain and apologise to her, the grandma had insisted on calling Moosa a… “terrorist!” and chiding his parents for having raised… “a little terrorist“.
But Moosa is hands-down one of the kindest souls around, Maa Shaa Allah. And, truly: accidents happen.]
Anyway. Some things I took away from Shaykh AHM’s talk (entitled, ‘Warranted Optimism’) include:
I’ve been thinking about the concept of fulfilment. ‘Contentment’. What does it actually take, and mean, for us to live ‘good lives’, here in this Dunya?
When Muhammad (SAW) had gone on the Night Journey (the Ascension, Al Isra’ wal Mi’raaj), he had been transported by the Burāq (an animal larger than a donkey, but smaller than a mule) from Makkah, to Bayt al-Muqaddas (in Jerusalem. Also: ت’s current lock-screen picture is of the Dome of the Rock).
He (SAW) had entered the masjid, and had prayed alongside the other prophets (peace be upon them).
Jibreel (AS) [the Angel Gabriel] had presented Muhammad (SAW) with a choice: he (SAW) had to choose, between wine, or milk.
Muhammad (SAW) had chosen milk.
Jibreel (AS) told him (SAW) that he had chosen [from] al-Fitrah [Fitrah: the ‘natural’, the innate human disposition].
[I also have a little (second-) cousin called Jibreel. He’s so cute, Allah hummabārik, and his family had, when he was a baby, given him the nickname of endearment, ‘Bubbles‘.
Jibreel and his siblings are Bengali, Palestinian, and Sudanese, all at the same time! Maa Shaa Allah.]
Milk, or wine?
In Jannah, In Shaa Allah, we will be able to… do whatever we want.
أَفَمَن كَانَ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍۢ مِّن رَّبِّهِۦ كَمَن زُيِّنَ لَهُۥ سُوٓءُ عَمَلِهِۦ وَٱتَّبَعُوٓا۟ أَهْوَآءَهُم
مَّثَلُ ٱلْجَنَّةِ ٱلَّتِى وُعِدَ ٱلْمُتَّقُونَ ۖ فِيهَآ أَنْهَرٌۭ مِّن مَّآءٍ غَيْرِ ءَاسِنٍۢ وَأَنْهَرٌۭ مِّن لَّبَنٍۢ لَّمْ يَتَغَيَّرْ طَعْمُهُۥ وَأَنْهَرٌۭ مِّنْ خَمْرٍۢ لَّذَّةٍۢ لِّلشَّرِبِينَ وَأَنْهَرٌۭ مِّنْ عَسَلٍۢ مُّصَفًّۭى ۖ وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ ٱلثَّمَرَتِ وَمَغْفِرَةٌۭ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ كَمَنْ هُوَ خَلِدٌۭ فِى ٱلنَّارِ وَسُقُوا۟ مَآءً حَمِيمًۭا فَقَطَّعَ أَمْعَآءَهُمْ
“Can those ˹believers˺ who are upon clear proof from their Lord be like those whose evil deeds are made appealing to them and ˹only˺ follow their desires?
The description of the Paradise promised to the righteous (God-fearing) is that in it are rivers of fresh water, rivers of milk that never changes in taste, rivers of wine delicious to drink, and rivers of pure honey. There they will ˹also˺ have all kinds of fruit, and forgiveness from their Lord.
˹Can they be˺ like those who will stay in the Fire forever, left to drink boiling water that will tear apart their insides?”
— Qur’an (47:15—16). Underlinings my own.
In Jannah: if you want some heavenly champagne (or, Horlicks,) you got it. You can drink it out of a chalice, if you please.
You want a yellow better-than-Ferrari that can also skim effortlessly above water? It’s yours.
Castles, trampoline rainforests, Minecraft or whatever else, but in 5D (or, in however many dimensions there are, in Jannah!), the most delicious foods you have ever had.
The most otherworldly-beautiful things all around you, massive parties with all your favourite people, gorgeous custom-made bejewelled gold swords (with matching incredible tiaras) to carry around at said parties, just because you find them pretty, and they make you happy [those are personal things that I like the idea of. Also, things like: eating lots of chicken tikka without it being detrimental to your health…]. All yours.
ت pointed out, in a nice way, that it’s “interesting” how my descriptions of some of the things I want in Jannah sound quite focused on the material.
She said that when she thinks about Jannah, she thinks more in terms of… feeling. There is no sadness, no negative emotions, in Paradise. Only pleasure, happiness.
She said she also thinks about the people she would like to reunite with, there: the loved ones she wants to spend time with, In Shaa Allah.
In this world, however: the stuff of ‘luxury’, ‘indulgence’, ‘plenty’, we find, does not necessarily actually fulfil. Choosing the literal and figurative wine (intoxicating and harmful though ostensibly ‘exciting’; distracting, numbing,) instead of the milk, here in Dunya… is acting against the Fitrah.
Milk [when it is actually pure milk, organic, and not like the diluted and processed ‘atrocities’ we often find at supermarkets around us today] is: creamy. Naturally luxurious. Comforting. Delicious. Nourishing, physically and otherwise. When warm, there is a soporific (i.e. sleep-inducing) quality to it, also.
[During my trips to Bangladesh, which is where I am ethnically from, my grandfather would milk his actual live cow, so that I would have fresh milk to drink at night. And then my grandmother (who is my grandfather’s second wife, after his first wife passed away about a year after I was born,) would warm it up for me and give the milk to me in a mug.
Also, it’s not just cows’ milk that we can have. There’s a Somali grocery shop sort of near where I live that sells camels’ milk, as far as I know. We can also have goats’ milk.]
The choice between wine or milk as a metaphor for the various choices that we make in this life. Substantial and sustainable, milk is conducive to real, substantial fulfilment here in this Dunya. It feeds our experiences of reason and reality, as opposed to our attempts at ‘super-selves’, or, ‘super-realities’.
Yes, it also means that we cannot really escape our (expected, inevitable) more negative emotions. It might mean that we favour living a little more ‘slowly’ and ‘organically’, in general. But there are the things we have, for connection and for comfort and nourishment, and so on.
We have to be here, and experience life as it happens. “Meet things as they come.” Good and bad.
We are, by nature, constrained creatures. Gravity, our limitations, our natures, keep us ‘tethered’. But, within these things, we do get choices. In light of our knowledge of consequences, we can make good choices, and/or bad ones, and good or bad choices to different degrees.
In this life, we are surely being tested, and time, we find, is continuously running out…
[Senescence: the condition/process of deterioration with age.]
But in Jannah: there is no ageing, no death. Only youth and beauty, and sustained happiness.
Frames of Reference.
On the topic of milk, I asked ت if she wants some Horlicks (a malted milk drink). She didn’t know what that was. So I tried to explain that it’s a malted milk drink. Kind of like hot chocolate, but with malt. She still couldn’t completely ‘get‘ what I’d been describing.
So I brought the container over to her, so that she could smell the powder. She said she wanted to try the drink, so I gave her some, in a mug. She really liked it, and even asked for its name, again, after our time together. She said it reminded her of ‘childhood‘, somehow.
Frames of reference: we can only know… what we know. How does a person who might never have tried Horlicks before… conceptualise what Horlicks is [except through what I had described to her, through words. And then she had to try to use her own present, personal frames of reference to try to ‘imagine’ it]?
How could one explain, say, the colour yellow, to a person who is blind?
ت talks about the phenomenon of heightened (other) senses, demonstrated in some people who are visually blind. She says she’s seen “loads of videos” about it: how blind people see the world. “‘Cause it is fascinating, right?”
“It depends. Certain blind people can actually just see… colour. And then, others: just pitch-black. So, it does depend. But: deep it, they don’t have any ‘frame of reference’, mentally… any image.”
How could we, Dunya-dwelling beings, conceptualise Jannah?!
Only via… what knowledge we have currently been given. Through our present frames of reference. Our knowledge is fundamentally incomplete right now: limited!
We’re almost like babies in wombs, here, as human beings in Dunya. Only when we enter into that real world, ‘open our eyes for the first time’, In Shaa Allah, will we ever be able to know it: currently, we have no substantial/complete frames of reference for it.
ت told me that, apparently, there are colours in Jannah that we have not known (yet,) in this life. Can you imagine?! [No. You literally cannot, actually…]
Some things in Jannah will have an element of ‘familiarity’ to them. And, yet: they’ll just be unlike anything we have ever known.
ت is the kind of person to… gift her friend a hand-painted canvas, when her friend, i.e. me, wanted a particular jumper from an online shop.
But… the online shop had seemingly… closed down before I’d managed to buy it.
ت painted the same thing that had been printed on the jumper, onto a canvas, and had given it to me as a gift. She is an incredible woman and friend, Allah hummabārik. Allah shows Rahma [Rahma: mercy, lovingkindness, nurture] towards those who demonstrate Rahma to other people (and, indeed, to animals).
Recently a friend of ت’s, from uni, gave her a nice gift, along with a letter, since ت had been going through a difficult personal time.
And ت is also amazing with children:
For Eid last year, ت (who is also very good at applying Mendhi/Henna, Allah hummabārik,) came over to do Mendhi for me and some of my relatives. She also did Mendhi on the hands of some of the little girls from next door, free of charge. Though now, their parents want to hire ت to do their henna for every Eid.
ت was so kind and gentle with the girls, Maa Shaa Allah. When one of the little girls carried on using one of ت’s henna tubes (to scribble) when I told her to stop, ت very lovingly and gently excused her. “It’s okay. She didn’t know.”]
ت and I had spoken about bewaring of extremes.
Islam is the way of the middle, of balance. And extremes are not only harmful, but ultimately are… untrue. ‘Extreme’ feelings and/or behaviours towards something/someone/someplace tend to be… inauthentic, in truth. Projections, often, perhaps. Insincerity. Using certain things as a means of escape from others, sometimes.
But we ought to favour milk: it’s not ‘extreme‘ in any way. To those of us who find ourselves attached to notions of ‘extremes’ as meaning ‘fun’ and ‘exciting’ and so on: milk might seem… ‘underwhelming’, and ‘not enough’. But:
Milk is real — really real, — and it nourishes. It ‘loves you back‘. And it sure is delicious though, Maa Shaa Allah.
[Shaykh AHM referred to wine, by contrast, as ‘nature, denatured‘. Milk comes ‘naturally’. Whereas, the process of fermentation, for wine, requires calculated human intervention. And wine, ‘خمر’, (which is linguistically connected to ‘covering‘) provides a means through which we can only momentarily ‘escape‘ our very (real) natures…]
One ‘arena’ onto which ‘extremes’ can be projected is… social media.
Do our social media accounts ‘tell the whole truth‘?
Is Instagram more ‘milk’, or more… ‘wine’?
“I think social media is… self-expression. And, ways for you to connect with others, based on that ‘self-expression’. Like, you find commonalities between people. That’s how friendships form online.”
Are our online ‘selves’ the ‘same’ as our ‘in-real-life’ selves?
Social media can be ‘self-expression’ with… diminished restriction. And with the added ability to… present a particular and curated version of our ‘selves’.
It is very interesting to consider, as a ‘tool’: some people, with the diminished restriction of their natural ‘in-real-life’ social inhibitions and anxieties… might go on to… troll people online. ‘Keyboard warriors‘. Individuals who may be quite quiet and selective with their words ‘in-real-life’ might be quite… outspoken, online.
Are our screens… ‘masks‘ sometimes? At once, concealing and protective, and ostensibly ‘freeing’?
“In terms of negatives… it’s fake, isn’t it? You’re just seeing a snapshot of someone’s life. And, I think people become entitled to know about your life as well.”
ت tells me about some of the ideas about me that she had constructed in her own mind, when she didn’t know me that well personally, but we’d been ‘friends’ on Snapchat.
Appearances can: be indications towards the holistic truth of something. Appearances can: deceive. Appearances can: be concealing a lot. People, things, situations can be rather like icebergs in that sense: so much more than meets the fallible human eye.
Social media certainly has its merits too. We’re sharing, social beings. Sometimes, we can go through patches, or tunnels, of strained mental health. We might feel inclined towards social self-isolation, and in those moments, social media might help us with reaching out and connecting with others in some way.
[Yet, at the same time, it’s not helpful for our minds to continually be perceiving and processing extremes: the wine-like ‘highs’ and shininess, the… covers… that we can often find online.]
And screens… cannot replace the physical, and (connectedly,) spiritual and emotional, value of human eyes.
The eyes and the heart are connected. One can touch a fellow person’s heart, by looking into their eyes [it can feel a bit ‘intense‘ at times, but that’s probably because… it’s real]. And: the truths of one’s heart is oft revealed through the eyes. [Joy, love, envy, lust, anger, relaxation. Tiredness, wonder and inspiration… and all the rest…]
“Intentions go a long way,” says ت.
“And you can’t [always] tell, from someone’s post, at all [what their intentions might have been, behind posting].
“On Instagram, people [can be] so… strategic about their actions. Like, there’s literally help on TikTok, where they’re like, ‘Here’s captions you can put on your Instagram posts!’“
Of course, ‘in-real-life’, we can be quite socially strategic too: think about what to do, and how to present ourselves before varying groups of people. But I think our capacities for filtering, editing, and for being ‘strategic’ are naturally… diminished, ‘in-real-life’ as opposed to online. E.g.: you do something embarrassing in front of people ‘in-real-life’: there’s no real ‘editing that out‘, in other people’s minds!
‘Little’ unavoidable things like… sneezes, blushes, being ‘tongue-tied’, smiling at something unexpectedly, blurting out the ‘wrong’ thing… are all part of the holistic and true ‘real–life’ experience.
To what extent are our ‘personas’ (online, and otherwise) still… us?
Are our ‘personas’ simply… idealised versions of ourselves? Some personal attempts of ours at self-overcoming?
“I think it’s a comfort to them [i.e., those posting].“
When we might see one glimpse of another, and it might be an edited glimpse, and that might just inform our view of them, as a whole person.
But behind every Instagram account, ‘social media personality’, ‘celebrity’ is… a ‘just-‘person. Just like you. To be a person: you, presumably, know exactly what that actually entails.
“When you’re posting it, you’re… imagining it from the perspective of… someone else. Right? You’re like, ‘Oh, someone’s gonna see this as ‘aesthetic‘, and they’re gonna see that I’m being ‘productive’.’ And then you keep looking at that post, like: ‘I do look productive there.’
“And then you try to… repeat that, through other photos. And then you just keep feeding that cycle of… faking a reality that isn’t there.“
There was a time when I had been struggling quite a bit, mentally/spiritually, but I had been quite active on Instagram… And I would post ‘aesthetic’ pictures, bursts of yellow, and so forth… As a method of self-comforting, and a form of escape, I think.
When, ‘in-real-life’, one may be feeling unhappy, one may make one’s ‘online persona’… ‘happy’.
Feeling, say, ‘unproductive’ ‘in-real-life’… the ‘online persona’ version might be… productive, motivated. And so on.
‘Projections’, sometimes, maybe: less of what we truly are, and more of what we want to be (though our ‘wants’, in that sense, still form at least some part of whom we ‘are‘). So many paradoxes to explore, it seems, when talking about such things as social media.
“I think it’s also a way of ‘fitting in’, to be honest. Especially on TikTok: the way ‘trends‘ manifest is because one person copies another and another and another. And when you see loads of people doing it, you’re like, ‘Hey, I wanna be part of this!’
“And then, that’s how the ‘trend’ keeps growing. And, to feel like you’re a part of something, or feel… ‘up-to-date’, with the latest things… But, that’s not how to ‘fit in‘. You know, there’s more to it than… copying a dance… Or, [miming] a particular phrase. And I’ve fallen into that, where I’m just like, ‘This is ‘fun’, because so many other people are doing it.‘
“But, would I do that if no-one… if I didn’t see this? No! I wouldn’t!”
I’ve also noticed that we can come to develop actual… tics, as a result of using TikTok so much. Some seem to seemingly unconsciously do TikTok movement/expressions, randomly, as though they can’t really help it. Where does this come from?!
Well, we… are wonderfully imitative creatures. We just know, without even consciously thinking about it, to begin to imitate what we see. Especially, perhaps, when we are exposed to it over and over and over again.
“I think it’s subliminal. A lot of people don’t realise they’re… intaking the same thing, over and over again… And it’s ‘entertaining’ for them, in the moment… But, I don’t know! It’s crazy, isn’t it?”
With different people, we can develop different levels of trust. Some might only see our ‘Instagram selves’. Some might get the more direct… WhatsApp conversations. And with some (like, our family members,) we get in-real-life conversations and eye contact (our truths, interacting).
We get natural silences, and ‘awkwardnesses’. Sneezes, and hilarious moments, and unexpected things, and miscommunications. This is what it takes to truly and holistically love people, I think, and to be loved right back by them: time spent together, in truth.
“I’ve actually been thinking about… the ‘era of technology’, and, like, the Austenian era.”
ت talks about how people might have met, back then, ‘in-real-life’, and then perhaps might have gotten quite upset at the (very possible) prospect of never seeing a particular ‘stranger’ again. They might… live in some far-away, unknown, estate, for example.
Letter-writing, also: slower. You had to wait.
“Ways to enjoy yourself. We just, like you said, escapism: we just throw ourselves into this, like… brick, [she laughs,] that we carry with us at all times.
“Imagine back then, where your only forms of entertainment were, like, physical games, or… the family around you, you know?”
The two of us also say, “nature,” at more or less the same time.
“But I want that, to be honest. I kind of idealise that, because I think I have an addiction to my phone. And I think a lot of people do.”
To what extent do our clothes, our ‘costumes’, personas, and masks inform whom we are? And, to what extent do they show whom we are?
I think the relationship is bidirectional: what we wear, how we present ourselves before people, and so forth… these things serve to both indicate, and in turn strengthen, aspects of ourselves. You’re more likely to feel ‘productive’ when wearing ‘work clothes’ than… your pyjamas, right? Maybe, even: more likely to feel joyful when… wearing yellow [and also, more likely to wear yellow when you’re feeling somewhat joyful, in the first place].
A similar phenomenon with wearing the physical hijāb, I think: both an indication, a sign, and a reminder/strengthener, an informer of how we come to present ourselves behaviourally, when in public. [Hijāb here; the most exquisitely designed, custom-made, tiaras in Jannah, In Shaa Allah!]
“Everyone has a ‘mask’ in some sort of way. Not just on social media.”
I pointed out for the recording that ت had currently been wearing a face-mask, and I don’t know why she found this so funny, but her laughter is trés pure and cute, Maa Shaa Allah.
“…A physical mask [we’d been talking a bit about makeup, and ‘celebrity‘], and a metaphorical mask. Because realistically, the way you are with your family and the way you are, alone… You’re never gonna show that to… friends.
“And, even makeup: that’s just one type of mask. Me trying to… wear my headscarf nice, or match [it] with my outfit: that’s a ‘mask’ in itself, because… Would I be that conscious at home? No, I wouldn’t! I don’t care what I’m wearing at home!”
We naturally care a great deal about… what other people think.
And, part of a quote that has been attributed to Nietzsche [I had to Google his name to spell it right]:
“An adornment is also a concealment.”
Nobody alive on this Earth is an ‘Übermensch’ (‘Super-man’). Because beneath our titles, our claims to ‘celebrity’, our physical adornments, our claims to ‘coolness’, our social personas… is a real human being, a person. And to foster real connections with fellow people, we find we must… be real.
Wouldn’t you rather be loved for whom you are, than merely ‘liked‘ for the masks you (know to) wear?
Is it that the more relaxed we feel with someone, the more our ‘true’ self comes out?
“I think so,” says ت. “If you have less of a filter…”
To one of my classes last year (while the theme for their English class had been, ‘Appearances Versus Reality‘,) I posed the question: Who, here, feels like they’re the same at home and at school? And I think only two people put their hands up. So it seems like: everyone else has their ‘school persona’, and their ‘home selves’, which is interesting.
Of many other people: we only get a (calculated) glimpse.
ت says: “That’s why it’s always important to have a holistic view of people. You can’t see people as ‘too good’ or ‘too bad‘. Because, you know, we all get upset when someone misjudges us for a bad thing we do. And also, uncomfortable when people are praising us excessively. Because we know our whole selves.“
“We can see our [own] good and bad.“
People being excessively praising, or critical, of certain others is often… projection. These things are typically not very balanced, or fair.
Extremes are not trustworthy. The middle tends to be closer to truth.
I think quite a lot of… unsavoury… human behaviour can be explained (or explored) in terms of projection: when… an individual might have some undealt-with negative inner feelings, so to soothe their own unsavoury inner feelings somehow, they try to make somebody else feel bad. We can sort of see this phenomenon in our earlier days: when a boy might like a girl, so he (seemingly paradoxically) ends up being mean to her. Why? Maybe he doesn’t feel good enough for her; he feels insecure.
As well as projection, there is also a psychological phenomenon (an ‘explainer’ of some people’s actions, sometimes) that is known as displacement: satisfying an impulse, a feeling towards one thing, with an attempted ‘substitute’ object. For example: if a person who is angry with his manager at work… comes home and ‘takes it out’ on his family. Displaced projection, essentially.
ت and I spoke about the beauty of exchanging the Salaam [“As-Salaamu-‘alaikum,” meaning: peace be upon you] with fellow Muslims. You could be anywhere in the world, and a fellow Muslim could smile at you and say Salaam. It really warms the ol’ heart, it does.
Integral to Islam, also: the facts of, the directives within, our religion to be generous, and hospitable. There’s a phrase, which one of my colleagues had taught me last year:
When you do something for someone, and they thank you, you can say:
.لا شكرا على واجب
[I’m hoping I’ve written that right… “Laa shukran ‘alaa waajib”.]
It means: there is no [need for] thanks for what is [practically] obligatory.
Also: “Your ego isn’t hurt when you don’t get a ‘Thank you,’ either. Because you know that you’re not doing it for any ‘repayment’ [from people]. You’re doing it for Allah. You’re doing it for His Reward.”
Sometimes, you might find that people are dismissive, or even rude and belittling towards you, when you try to do something good, or nice towards them. But we, individually, are responsible for our own actions, which build up into character. And others are, in general, responsible for their own selves, and what they do.
يَوْمَ تَأْتِي كُلُّ نَفْسٍ تُجَادِلُ عَن نَّفْسِهَا وَتُوَفَّي كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا عَمِلَتْ وُهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ
“The day (that) everyone will come disputing in his own behalf; and everyone will be rewarded in full (for) what he has done, and they will not be dealt with unjustly.”
— Qur’an, (16:111).
What is sincerity?
“I think sincerity… It depends on your goal.
“If you’re talking about the Islamic context, you know that everything has to be for Allah.
“That would be the utmost… way of being sincere. But: in this world, everything gets kind of convoluted, because there’s multiple ‘mini ends‘ that we have. I don’t know… trying to get into university, or… befriending a certain person, so you might get closer to another person for marriage. I don’t know: there’s always these ‘paths’…
“But as long as, I guess, that main, overall, arching aim is: for Allah, I think… it’s okay to have those ‘other ends’.”
“We’re human. We can’t just do things with ‘laser focus’.” ت added that, in Islam, we’re taught not to become secluded, to ‘cut ourselves off/out of the world’. We’re meant to practise Islam within it. Within and between things like personal inclinations and goals, work, family life, and so on.
To be a Muslim is to try to be sincere, and humble. Before our Creator, and also with fellow people. And to not, by direct contrast, be arrogant or two-faced / insincere / hypocritical.
“In this Dunya in general… you can’t just become jobless, and go hide in a mountain.
“You might want to [at times,] but it’s actually better for us to be… incorporated into this world.“
Sincerity, we can say, is directly related to Truth. When the path between one’s purposes, and what appears/is shown, is… uncontaminated. Pure, and transparent.
Insincerity, maybe, is: acting one way, when something else is true.
“I was gonna bring in Philosophy into it, to be honest.
“You’re not using… Just, from a utilitarian perspective, you’re not using someone as a ‘means’ to an ‘end’, for example. You’re [seeing them] as an ‘end’. You want them to… benefit from your help.
“It brings us back to Islam, again:
“Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is, innately, insincerity. Because you’re ‘projecting’ yourself in one way, but internally, you mean the other…”
And, if sincerity is directly related to Truth, and Truth is connected to balance and the ‘middle’, then… Perhaps an indication of sincerity is… people being balanced. In thinking and speaking about/with others, in thinking and speaking about oneself.
We touch on the topic of arrogance too:
“I think arrogance comes from [feeling] threatened, as well. Because your ego is hurt, in some instances, and you wanna… feed your own ego. Like, ‘I do have power.‘”
Another example of projection. When people seek to feel powerful, when something/someone is making them feel more… power-less, insecure. The psychological origin of such things as: unfairly, negatively, speaking ill of others in their absences. Of accusing people of being ‘this‘ or ‘that‘.
One of the spiritual antidotes to arrogance:
“Realising that anything that you do [well,] is not because of ‘you’.
“Especially when you’re getting compliments, after… really trying hard for something… You’re kind of like, you know, ‘I’m proud of myself’ […] ‘I’m proud of myself.’
“That is arrogance because… that had nothing to do with me! Allah could’ve… stopped me from… getting into that school [for example,], if He Wanted to…
“So, modesty, and humbleness… I don’t think it’s just about saying, ‘It isn’t about me’… You have to also… trust that it’s not about you, internally, as well.”
As Muslims, we say… الحمد لله
[“AlHamduli Llah”. All Praise/thanks is for Allah.]
ت essentially adds that insecurity should be seen in a similar way, perhaps. Whom you are, your place[s] in the world, how you look… it’s been chosen for you, by Allah. And we should try to do and be the best, with what we, as individuals, have been given.
“That’s [part of] the beauty of Islam… You’re constantly having balance. You’re never… ‘one or the other’ [extreme]. Arrogant, or too insecure. You’re confident, but also humble.“
Also, in terms of contentment, here in Dunya: we have the good, and the bad. And ‘extreme’ highs don’t last; they’re not, we find, so sustainable. And, nor do those ‘deep, deep lows’. There are pretty much always reasons for us to have both Sabr and Shukr [Sabr: patience, steadfastness, constancy/balance. Shukr: gratitude. Perhaps: doing a ‘lot’ with whatever ‘little’ we might have].
Back to particular aspects of ‘Psychology’: I ask ت if she’s ever experienced synaesthesia. This is when (some) people can conceptualise certain bits of sensory information, through a different sense. E.g.: being able to ‘smell sounds’, or ‘see smells’. Both ت and I seem to experience this mental phenomenon, but in differing ways.
“Allah hummabārik. I don’t know if it’s a ‘good’ thing or a ‘bad’ thing, but I’m going to say AlHamduli Llah. I have a very, very vivid imagination. So, for example, you tell me to imagine an apple… I’m imagining a very specific apple. And I can imagine the taste of it as well.
“And that’s why… [she laughs] I crave a lot of things! Because I know exactly how it’s gonna taste.”
Apples and Aphantasia.
Something I’d come across, maybe a couple of years ago, I think in a TikTok video on Instagram: the concept of ‘aphantasia’. [Aphantasia: the inability to form mental images of something, when it is not present].
[If you want,] imagine… an apple. What do you see? Some of us may mentally visualise… a very colourful, vivid, apple. You might be able to vividly conceptualise its taste, its smell, too. Or: you might experience (to varying degrees) that form of mental-visual blindness. Maybe: you still know what an apple is, but you can’t bring yourself to see one, when you close your eyes.
Relatedly: do you have a running inner monologue? Because, apparently, some people simply don’t…
“I don’t know what’s worse: not having any monologue, or having a constant running monologue. What do you think?”
ت has questioned the interviewer. I might be inclined to say, ‘power move‘, but knowing ت: kindness move, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik.
“But, people don’t understand that you [can] physically get tired from thinking.
“Or that you just seem… ‘lethargic‘, but it’s because, imagine your brain, just on overdrive, constantly, and people [might] have no idea…”
ت is an artist, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik. So, the ability to vividly visualise is likely quite useful for her, in that sense. She says that she would eventually like to get a proper easel in her room, In Shaa Allah, but for now… there are paint marks all over her desk, on her keyboard…
She realised that she liked making art, back when she was “young“.
“It was an escapism, but also my way of finding validation,” she says, laughing a little. “Because I loved it, just for myself, but then, to see other people praising me for it, it was just, like… a double-whammy, where, like, I’m happy with something. Other people are happy with something…
“I find myself through it.
“I think that was actually the way… I stopped people picking on me. It wasn’t intense stuff, but when I was younger, in infancy, you know, Reception to Year Two, my English was really bad. Because my mum didn’t speak to me in English. And my gran spoke to me [in Bengali too].
“And then… eventually, when art projects were done in class, and I was doing my art, people were like, ‘Oh, that’s so good!’
“And then, over time, I just became known as ‘the girl who did really good art’ [Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik,] to the point where, if anything art related was mentioned by the teacher, everyone would just look at me!”
She’s got a beautiful heart, and she is really good at art, Maa Shaa Allah. And it is a privilege and an honour, for I to be a part (of her life). Bars.
“I’d be drawing [in class,] and then people would ask me to draw stuff for them. That’s where, also, people-pleasing came in…
“So, yeah. But, unfortunately, that kind of fell off during secondary school, because I realised my passion for [art]… I didn’t like being forced to do it a certain way, under the curriculum.”
“I just love art. I really do.
“But, um, now, because I’m feeling the pressure to monetise my art, I haven’t been starting. Or, doing any art. Because it feels like a ‘waste’. If I’m not selling it, ‘Why am I doing it?‘ kind of thing. If I’m not giving it to someone, for them to appreciate, ‘there’s no point of me doing art‘.”
This reminded me of the time I’d been to Istanbul, Turkey, with my family.
It wasn’t an ‘idealistic’ trip, in that I took myself, and the personal struggles I’d been experiencing at the time and all, on this journey.
A moment from it that stood out to me was: talking (despite my social anxieties) to a lady who had been painting/doing calligraphy outside, near a market, I think.
She said she had the option of maybe ‘making more money’ somehow: I think she mentioned going to Art school, and having the option of doing something else. But she said what she’d been doing now felt like it had more “Bereket” (blessings) in it. And she looked content, Maa Shaa Allah. Connected within Islam, and with her art, (in the open fresh air). And thus, by extension, connected within herself. Centred, ‘grounded‘.
Back to inner monologues, then: I think, as with perhaps most things in this Dunya… things like ‘inner monologues’ likely have their ‘up-sides’, and their ‘down-sides’. It can become tiring, to be thinking almost all the time [Plato, apparently, has been credited with having said: “Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself“.] But it can also be comforting, and an alleviator of boredom, Alhamduli Llah.
ت subtly, seemingly, takes our conversation to a whole new dimension, by arguing that people who don’t have inner monologues maybe don’t get bored without them, since they wouldn’t have that ‘thought’ of boredom. In retrospect: I think, maybe, (visceral) ‘feelings’ might be a little different from (verbal) ‘thoughts‘.
Sigmund Freud has seemingly, subtly, entered the chat. We’re talking about… dreams.
“[I’ve had] this weird dream, re-occuring dream, [which] I’ve had since childhood. And, it’s a particular texture, that comes in… It’s just a texture. That I feel, in my dream. Constantly. And […] I know how it feels, but… I can’t describe it to anyone. It’s so weird. I’ve always had that, as a child.”
Everyone’s mind, and personal living experience[s], is just so unique. And the way we seek to convey it, and seek connection (recognising similarities, as well as differences) with fellow people is through: language, words.
And, thus: conversation, which is the heart of any friendship/relationship.
In the Islamic tradition, we can speak about the concept of the Shākila: one’s own nature. We can think of this in terms of personality-based characteristics, and indeed, perhaps, of physical ones.
Some people can mentally visualise things very well. Some people cannot. Some have running inner monologues. Some might have minds that are a little more still.
Some people are quite creative, in ways that are from their own Shākila. Some are more: logical, good with numbers, perhaps, conscientious.
Some are taller, while some are smaller, physically. Some are brown-haired, while others are blonde. Some love lots of social attention; some like to go and do something quieter, on the side.
Here is the thing:
There is such value to you being you. What you like, your skillsets, your ways of being/doing things/seeing the world. Your place[s] in things.
From the very beginning of humanity, there has never been another you!
And it would be futile, fruitless, or… fruit-ile… for, say, the apple tree to look at the fig tree, and to ‘want to be him/her‘. The apple tree might want to gain inspiration from the fig tree (e.g. in terms of how healthy her branches look, and so on: things she could realistically work on, from and within her own nature) but ultimately: the apple tree is blessed with being an apple tree, and the fig tree, a fig tree.
You’re beautiful and incredible, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik, just as Allah has made you. We cannot be other than ourselves, and why ought we waste good energy in ‘wanting’ to?!
Why don’t we seek to (draw inspiration from others, and) be the best orange, or fig, or olive, or apple trees [the… Your Name here tree] that we are? To cultivate our own distinctive Shākilas, thank Allah for them, be loved by the right people for us, and necessarily rejected by the wrong people for us. And breathe, and be kind to ourselves, and grow and bloom (according to our own natures!)
We shouldn’t want what someone else has been given, if Allah has blessed them with something that we cannot actually have/be. We have our own blessings, to love and cherish, AlHamduli Llah.
In terms of ‘beauty standards‘:
Have you noticed how, actually, they can seem to change like the winds, drastically and unexpectedly? Certain women who may have been bullied for having certain features, before, are celebrated, for having them now. Beauty ‘values’, when they are ‘democratically’ decided, and via ‘trends‘, are not so trustworthy.
“You have to understand that current beauty standards will never stay the same. So people that [might] rely on surgery to feel ‘pretty’: even if they think that they’re doing it for themselves […] You’re not: you’re doing it for a ‘standard’ that is [potentially] gonna change, in a few years.
“And then, what? Are you gonna ‘fix’ your face then, as well?”
Trust that Allah has told you, several times in His Book, that you have been created in the best of forms. All we have to do is… take care of it. Health, and grooming (hygiene and tidiness), and confidence (rooted in faith in Allah). Nurture and cultivation, when it comes to those inward personal characteristics/abilities/inclinations/traits.
It’s true that what other people might see and say (to, and/or around us) naturally starts to… affect our self-view. So, environment matters. Do you find yourself around friends, or family, who… knock down your confidence, whether intentionally or not? [I know of at least one girl who, maybe, is not called/seen as being beautiful, by her family. But I know that with a shift of environment, In Shaa Allah… her beauty will be rightfully acknowledged, and spoken!
Different eyes see different things, at times. Different hearts, also. And: ‘beauty standards’ vary, between place and place, time and time, and… between person and person, sometimes. Shākila things. But the truth, ultimately, is not determined by other people.]
Cross-cultural markers of human (physical) beauty are also quite fascinating to look into, Maa Shaa Allah. Things like neoteny [the retention of child-like features, in adults], facial symmetry, sexual dimorphism, hormonal indicators, perhaps. Indicators of health (and/or, its opposite) … But I also know that what individuals are attracted to: there’s no real pre-conceivable ‘checklist’ for it. You just see beauty, and an innate part of you… just knows, as Allah has Willed it.
[However: we try to lower our gaze[s], when it comes to people we might instinctually find attractive in that way…]
Being whom we are:
“You need to become more attuned… to what you want. And I know that’s hard to do, and I’m still learning how to do that.”
“You hear these stories of old women, or old men, giving advice to youngers, and it’s like: just be true to yourself. That’s always the advice that I hear: be true to yourself,” says ت.
Back to social media/phones:
“It’s interesting, because it was a way for us to satisfy our needs. But we just become more dissatisfied…
“I’ve realised, Sadia [i.e. me, the author of this here blog], actually, how disturbing it is that I can become emotionally numb, after experiencing something traumatic, just by… going on my phone and scrolling.
“Realistically, if I didn’t have my phone, any normal person would just deal [with the emotions,] in that moment. Start crying it out, or reflecting. But I immediately went to a distraction. And that just worsened the problem. And that’s unfortunately how a lot of people are dealing with things now. They’re not truly feeling. They’re not letting themselves feel.”
[My dad asks if I want him to get pizza for us. Bengalis tend to rhyme things, when speaking in Bengali, sometimes. So: pizza-izza.]
While at my house last week, ت had been working a little on her CV [Curriculum Vitae, résumé]. She currently works, alongside her formal studies, as a transcriptionist, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik. I also saw (kind of accidentally) that she’s done some work with the Scouts, before…
“[For] one hour a week, I just looked after fifteen [Girl Guides]. And we’d do, like, little activities. And it was historically themed.
“For example, the week of the Royal Wedding, we’d make wedding dresses, out of, like, paper…
“I’d have to buy the stuff as well. They’d reimburse me.
“I took them on a zoo trip, once.”
A childhood dream of mine: to be a Scout. My cousins had been part of the local Muslim Scouts groups. But I’d been too old, essentially, when I’d wanted to sign up…
Fulfilment, in this life. It’s not about the extreme of feeling ‘elated‘, ‘exhilarated‘, all the time.
“I think it’s actually just finding satisfaction in the mundane.
“I think, a lot of people find… chasing the ‘high’ as a way to feel… ‘fulfilled’. Like, ‘I’m gonna feel fulfilled once…'”
“And so, even, once they’ve reached it, it’s temporary. And then they’re reaching for the ‘next’ way to get ‘fulfilled‘.
“But the way you can stay consistently fulfilled is just… be happy with [and try to love] where you are now!“
[Everyone has to dwell within the mundane. Day in, day out. And:
In every stage/part of this life, we’re likely going to have our difficulties, as well as our blessings. Problems to solve, things to be patient with. And: wonderful, lovely, beautiful things to behold, embrace, and appreciate.]
“You know? Stop ‘delaying‘ your… satisfaction, your sense of… ‘Ah, finally! I’ve ‘made it’!’” She points out that this is likely to ‘never end‘. Making fulfilment/contentment/satisfaction so conditional… on things like conceptions of the ‘future’.
I ask ت about her love for chicken.
“Oh, where do I start?“
“I love chicken.”
Another love of hers:
“I love… learning. I actually do.“
In her job as a transcriptionist, Maa Shaa Allah…
“Just hearing about how people think… How they speak. Social interactions, but also their opinions.” ت finds people, fascinating.
“Do you ever just walk past people [on the street] and you’re just like, everyone has such… depth.
“I think I was walking past a guy the other day. I’m like, ‘What’s he going through?’
“‘What’s he stressing about?‘ ‘Is his mother okay?’
“He has, like, some problem, that I have no idea of. He’s just a stranger to me. And, likewise, I’m a stranger to him.
“But everyone has just as much complexity as I do. You know? That’s what’s so sick about this world.”
[Sick: meaning, ‘awesome’. Not: bad, or reminiscent of throwing up.]
To assume and know that everybody else is just as human as you are… And:
“They are their own main character, in their life.“
Towards others, the best we can do is: try to be kind.
Also, between strangers, and friends:
“Anyone can be a friend. I’ve realised: you can automatically just break that ‘barrier’. If you just speak to them, you know?”
In other people, ت values: “authenticity. I value understanding. And, I guess… reflection.
“And I like spontaneity as well. And I also like… what’s the word… [when people are] easygoing, that’s it.”
On friendship, and life: “It’s a puzzle that we’re just trying to piece together. But also, using each other as a guide.”
“We’re still trying to learn [and grow]. And we come to new revelations each day.“
Currently, we are travellers, on this journey that is called life. Trying to be present, and patient. ‘Expecting the unexpected‘, on our paths. Trying to enjoy the views, knowing and loving the people around us…
“And drink yo’ milk,” says ت. “Not yo’ alcohol.“
We are living in a ‘dream’. In the ‘matrix’. And when we depart from here: we wake up.
And that’s our eternal, forever home. Where things are ‘real‘.
In conclusion: Truth, as determined by Allah, is unwavering and trustworthy.
How things might appear is not necessarily what they are.
Being ‘far away’ from our own selves. Maybe to ‘please/’impress’ others’ and so on. And, by contrast:
Milk. Real good goodness in this Dunya,