.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Shawwāl 1443 / May 2022.
As a Muslim, I have numerous sisters and brothers in this world, AlHamduli Llah.
And one of them is ج [‘J’]: her family hails from England and Columbia. Her family (including her favourite person, her beloved, often-talked-about and adorable-sounding “Nana”) lives up north in Yorkshire, while she lives here, in London.
Oh, and: ج is an actual real-life princess, Allah hummabārik. Like: not of a country or anything, but…
Today, we had gone to the masjid together, AlHamduli Llah, for Eid prayers [It’s actually been a while, I think, since the last time I attended Eid prayer in congregation: at one point, I didn’t know what to do in it.
Also: the women’s building had been so packed that we had to walk all the way up to the sixth floor!]
Jade had some roses in her hand. She gave them out to some little girls, since a little baby had started touching one of them. So: she picked out and had given one rose for the baby, and one rose for (who had presumably been) the baby’s slightly-older sister.
And thus it began: an Eid tradition, going forward, In Shaa Allah. Flowers to our little sisters on Eid.
People can be really, especially, lovely on Eid, Maa Shaa Allah. At the local greengrocers’ today, the lady had just been super nice, extra-kindly wishing me a lovely day and all. So too did a woman at the train station: so full of kindness, Maa Shaa Allah.
And I loved seeing fellow Muslims, in their attire. Kids holding balloons, women in their abayas, men in their thobes… A day of celebration, AlHamduli Llah.
I actually (in the metaphorical sense) bumped into my friend Nadia at the train station. And then I found ج, at our meeting point.
It’s nice to (when I’m not feeling too shy, that is,) say Salaam to other people, and when they also say it to me. It’s also lovely to share Eid greetings with fellow Muslims on this day.
Currently, I’m kind of hungry. Perhaps it is time to… go downstairs to acquire some food. Source: leftover Eid food, may-haps.
[I had a plate of leftover Nando’s, AlHamduli Llah.]
The Eid Khutbah [Khutbah: sermon/address at the masjid] had been a nice one, Maa Shaa Allah. Reminders really are beneficial: this Dunya can really be stormy at times, and reminders like those can really help to anchor us, AlHamduli Llah.
Some things that stuck out to me, and which I remember, from the Khutbah yesterday: the idea that we are not merely ‘people of Ramadan’, i.e. ‘Ramadaniyoon’. We: are people of our Rabb: ‘Rabbaniyoon’.
And it’s certainly a good idea to really have an attachment – an ‘addiction’, even, in a good way – to the masaajid [masaajid: plural of ‘masjid’]. And: to really seek to serve and strengthen one another in our Ummah [Ummah: the whole Muslim community].
In Arabic, adding an ‘ee’ to the end of the word typically means that you are adding the personal pronoun, ‘my’. So: ‘Ilaah’ means ‘God’. ‘Ilahee’ means: ‘my God’.
‘Umm’: mother. ‘Ummee’: my mother.
Rabb: a comprehensive term. Lord, God, Cherisher, Sustainer, Protector. Rabbee: my Lord, God, Cherisher…
[Meanwhile, adding ‘naa’ to the end renders it ‘our’. E.g. Rabbanaa means our Lord, God, Cherisher, Sustainer…]
Yesterday, on Eid day, I hadn’t managed to eat breakfast before leaving my house. And: the evening before, I’d made the retrospectively silly decision to have a cup of (Arabian, saffron-infused…) coffee. Which: had likely negatively affected my sleep.
I’d woken up feeling that sense of tiredness: like there’d been bruises behind my eyes.
After Eid Salah, ج and I went to a nearby café, in pursuit of… my breakfast. I’d been craving something savoury, but it seemed like local restaurants and cafés had been selling a lot of cake instead.
We thought of maybe having some bubble tea: but the bubble tea place had been closed. Or, chai: but the local chai place, closed as well. I decided I’d make us some chai, back at my house.
So we went to a corner shop, got some evaporated milk (for the chai) and a chicken tikka sandwich (reminiscent of part of my childhood!) and some Thai sweet chilli crisps, and a drink for ج. We ended up sitting by the canal to eat/drink, and talk [and: since it’s currently Spring… there’s ducklings and swan-lings (cygnets. They’re called cygnets.) around!]
One of my crisps accidentally fell into the water, and one of the ducks came and snatched it. One of the ducks kept flapping its wings about near us too, so some of the (perhaps somewhat… yucky) canal water splashed onto us a little.
Also, for Eid this year: ج’s Eid shoes had been white Nike high tops. Mine, from my dad: white Adidas trainers.
Back at my house: a bouncy castle. Specifically, a pink-and-purple princess-themed one.
Between Number 8 (our next-door neighbours) and our house, Number 7: a bouncy castle had been hired, for the kids. And snacks tables, and an arts-and-crafts one, had also been set up.
Our house and Number 8: we’re like family, Maa Shaa Allah. My nan and grandad used to live here, at my house, while Number 8’s nan and grandad had lived at theirs. And then: their children became friends, bonded.
And now: we, the grandchildren, are nicely acquainted with one another too. AlHamduli Llah.
ج and I had some chai. Talked, prayed [she’d inspired me, by doing so herself, to pray Dhuhr sooner rather than later. This had definitely proven to have been a good idea]. We then set off for another walk: initially, with the intention of showing her another local masjid (one I only first visited this Ramadan, and one that my dad seems to favour. It’s really nice. Peaceful, clean, and subtly illuminated, inside, Maa Shaa Allah).
We ended up eating at Nando’s together: my dad had handed me a £20 note, telling me to get myself and ج some ice-cream or something.
I… love chicken. I do.
Let it be known. I love chicken.
Yesterday, I had a quarter chicken with peri peri chips; ج had a chicken wrap and peri-peri chips. Delicious food, as per usual, AlHamduli Llah.
And I found, yet again, that I couldn’t finish the food on my plate. I don’t know if my stomach has shrunken or something, from before, but: I’m pretty sure that before, I could have a quarter chicken with two portions of chips, no issue.
[I said something along the lines that maybe they should have different portion sizes, for different sorts of people. ج remarked that… there’s kids’ meals…]
The emergent dilemma, then: to waste the food, or to force myself to finish it? The resolution: take the remainder, as well as some of ج’s unfinished chips, to go. [Wasting food: a no-no in Islam].
ج tried to call one of the people working there. But: it looked like he acknowledged her, tapped his ears twice, signalled to us to hold on, I think, and then walked off.
And then it occurred to me: he was deaf, and had gone and called over one of his colleagues to come and take our request (for a takeaway bag).
I don’t know how to say thank you in sign language, so I just did a thumbs-up to him. And he smiled and did a thumbs-up right back.
Later, ج and I had popped into an Islamic bookshop, in search of a white scarf for ج. She’d wanted to freshen up a little, and also replace the scarf she’d been wearing (which had ended up being marked with some stains), before going to meet with someone at a big Eid event in a park in Ilford later that day (yesterday).
ج went abaya shopping for the first time recently. She’d come to Islam last year.
I got to see ج twice in-person this Ramadan, AlHamduli Llah : once, at a group Ifthār, to which she’d brought homemade spicy chips, if I recall correctly, and some pad thai, which went down a treat. A storm. She said she’d found the recipe online, from BBC GoodFood.
“I literally just Googled, ‘pad thai’, and it was the first one that came up.”
“It was inspired by me eating pad thai in the car park at Beckton. Beckton Retail Park.”
Did she manage to follow the recipe to the T?
No: she’d made some lil ‘mistakes’ along the way, but… “went with it”.
The next time I’d seen ج this Ramadan just gone: she’d been walking on the street, while holding in her hands a foil tray of pink sprinkled cake. She’d baked a cake for charity, and volunteers with a Muslim charity called Human Appeal, Allah hummabārik.
She says she’d initially come across the opportunity for volunteering via one of the WhatsApp groups she’s part of. There’d been an event for reverting Muslims, and then attendees were asked if anyone would like to sign up for volunteering.
“And… I’d been having a conversation with my Nana just the previous day, about how… And she was saying that she wanted me to get into volunteering, again, because she thought that that would be really good for me, and she thought that that’s something that I’ve done before, and it was literally… the next day, and they were asking for volunteers.
“And it’s five minutes from my workplace, at the moment, so it was just so… easy.“
On ج’s left hand, there is a nice little black-and-silver ring, which had been her Nana’s, and which her Nana had gifted her. It’s from the fifties, and ج has had it since she was sixteen.
“She got it when she was young. She was born in ’32.“
ج isn’t really sure where her Nana had gotten the ring from, or if it had been a gift to her…
“She’s not someone who would, like, often spend on herself.” And:
“If it was from my grandad, she’d [likely] keep it [for herself].”
“But, so, I have it. I have it, and… I treasure it.”
ج’s family has been, AlHamduli Llah, really accepting about her having embraced Islam: she told them, officially, recently.
“I had Eid last year, but I feel like this is my first proper Eid, because last year I didn’t know any Muslims. Like, not on a personal basis, really.
“So, this has been my first Eid with other people.”
ج had woken up “really early” yesterday, had taken her time “getting prepared”.
“I woke up to Eid messages, which was so, so nice.
“Then, I contacted people myself to wish them a happy Eid. And then, basically, I got the train and went to East London Mosque!”
How had ج come to Islam?
“It was basically… people at my workplace.”
“So I was working in East London for the first time. And, I had a lot of colleagues that were Muslim. And, I think I just found a lot of, like, kindness in them. I found that they were people that I really admired.“
“I remember a conversation with, basically, a [former] friend. It was about six months before I actually became more interested in Islam.
“And, like, I’d never… I didn’t follow a religion, but I always classed myself, kind of, as agnostic.
“But, I had a conversation with someone, who… I didn’t really know their opinion on religion, but… it really surprised me how staunchly against religion they were.”
[Interruption: my little brother had been kicking a football dangerously close to us, so I had to tell him off. “Saif! That was dangerous.“]
“This was a friend I knew, outside of work. And, they were basically watching a debate. It was a King’s College debate, and it was, that was… Catholicism versus Atheists.
“And, this friend watched it, and then, like, was making this argument that, basically, ‘religion is a really bad thing’.
“I, like, was completely baffled by that response. Because I was like, ‘How can you miss all the goodness that is in religion?“
[Interruption: I was asked by one of the next-door aunties to help with some decorations.]
“I was just, like, saying, ‘How can you deny all the goodness that is in religion? And how it inspires people to do such good things?’ Like, it inspires people to do charity, how it inspires people to be kind to one another.
“And, I did really have it in the back of my head: I was thinking about all the people I’d met at work. And, I was kind of thinking, if you’re saying that… You’re basically saying that these people are ‘bad people’, is what this friend had been saying.
“Like, that if someone is religious, that they’re a bad person.
“And they were saying… a lot of the stereotypes.“
And soon enough, ج had felt as though: “Okay, maybe I am slightly… There is something in me that wants religion.”
She says that, prior to embracing the Deen, she’d felt “really lost“.
“And, I’ve never considered Islam, because it’s not, something that I grew up with.
“If anything, I was a lot more familiar with Christianity. But there was a lot of things I did not like about… particularly, Catholicism that I’d grown up with. Because I went to a Catholic high school.
“So I was like, okay, that doesn’t fit with me. That doesn’t feel like something that would help me. So… how about I try… learning about praying, and… if that will help.”
ج had been going through a difficult time in her life. At one point, she started looking at the day: at how long it seemed. And she’d started to consider the prayer times, breaking up the day in accordance with them.
“Very soon after that, it was Ramadan [last year]”.
[In the background, ‘Back to You’ by Nasheed artist Siedd is playing. Specifically, at that moment: the lines,
Then Allah, You showed me, the truth of this life.
Now I’ll follow this path ’til the end of my time.]
ج feels as though coming to prayer and faith had imbued her life with “some Higher Purpose.”
“And… it went from there!”
“I think it’s amazing, just… being in that position [being guided by Allah]. I think it’s like, so… Like, what are the chances…?”
ج, as well as volunteering with Human Appeal, works as a mental health support worker, Maa Shaa Allah.
She’s… been to Ghana before. January 2020.
“So, basically, I went out there for a volunteering placement. So, it was a psychology volunteering placement.”
[Saif does something again. “Saif! That’s dangerous.“
“I spent like, four weeks, on psychiatric units, in general hospitals.
“And then, I spent, two weeks, the last two weeks, in an orphanage. With children who have physical and learning disabilities.”
What’s it like in Yorkshire?
“That’s a bit hard to say, really. Because… Yorkshire is… huge. So, from where my family are in Yorkshire, you could travel fifty miles North, fifty miles South, fifty miles East, and still be in Yorkshire.
“So, it’s very varied. You’ve got South Yorkshire, which is, like, one way. You’ve got West Yorkshire, which is one way. North Yorkshire is a different way; East Yorkshire is a different way entirely.
“So, I’m from West Yorkshire. So, like, half an hour away from Leeds, but just in a little town.
“My family have now moved to a village, which is even smaller. There’s one Post Office, and that is it. Like, a Post Office-shop, kind of, and that is it. And it’s only open, like, two days a week.“
“The town… it’s an ex-mining town. So, it’s somewhere that had a lot of industry, up until… the seventies/eighties. And then it kind of… declined a little bit.
“But, I think… my childhood there was spending a lot of time in the countryside.
“We used to play in the fields, and just… do that all day.
“You can just go and pick blackberries [off the bushes,] and just eat them, and bake.
“Even last year, I visited, around September time, and my Nana would have been… just turning eighty-nine, then. And we went, and we went blackberry-picking together.
“She used her walking stick to basically hook a branch, and pull it closer to her, so that she could pick the blackberries off it! Which is just like… it’s just really funny to me, because… that is not what she should be doing with her walking stick! She needs that! But she was so determined…“
“It was the adventurer in her.”
“Previous years, we would get the blackberries, and we’d bake together. So, like, baking, I got from her.“
“She’s my favourite person.”
[ج’s Nana would, for example, give her hot Ribena when ج would be unwell. And now: hot Ribena is one of ج’s favourite hot drinks. This, and chai lattes.]
Something that ج has come to learn:
“The realness, that like: this is the Dunya. Things, bad things, are gonna happen. It’s not going to be perfect, because… it’s all a test, really.
“And, to… to try to have that faith in Allah that… I don’t know what it is yet, but there is a reason to things.
“To just stay patient, and to kind of just… try to do my best towards Allah, and then… good things will come.”
Allah is Ar-Rahmān. He is The Loving, and the Providing, Cherishing, The Sustainer.
The Best of Protectors, and He never burdens a soul with more than it can bear [read: Qur’an, (2:2:86)].
That particular ayah [ayah: Qur’anic verse, and, ‘sign’, simultaneously] encourages us to recognise our own strengths. If we find ourselves facing particularly difficult times, storms: Allah has made us strong enough, and capable enough, to handle it.
فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِي وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ
“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.”
— Qur’an, (2:152).
In the evening: chilling. ج went to the other event. I went home again. When the adults had dispersed from the bouncy castle, I went on it! And so did my aunt. [And, yeah, I’d also used antibacterial wipes on it when someone said that one of the little kids had accidentally spat something out while on it…]
And: my other aunt, who now has a BMW sports car, Maa Shaa Allah, wanted to drive to my nan’s house, which is nearby AlHamduli Llah, to pick up some of her Eid presents for us all.
My fifteen-year-old cousin Moosa had sat in the driver’s seat of the new car, and started revving it. He’d also, at one point, held up his ‘fake driving license’, which he has on his phone. It looks like he’d made it on Snapchat, no less.
My aunt asked if any of us wanted to go for a spin. So I, my cousin Maryam, my cousin’s wife Sadia (we have the same first name. I call her Saadi), and the adorable little daughter of some family friends of ours, Naimah, went with her. My aunt seems to like driving fast in this new car of hers, likely to the alarm/concern of her husband (who, Maa Shaa Allah, had gifted his wife a bag, which she’d been amazed upon receiving. She said she’d never spend that much on a bag for herself…).
We also went to the local Drive-Thru to get twenty-five McFlurries to share outside Number 7 and Number 8. The lady who’d taken our order had sounded shocked.
[But… this sort of stuff is normal for us, AlHamduli Llah. Wouldn’t ‘ave it any other way…]
A gift-exchange thing in the evening, AlHamduli Llah, before praying Maghrib. My aunt (whose family nickname-of-endearment is Sweetie) is a superb gift-giver, Maa Shaa Allah.
For example: mini laser-tag for my brother and cousin Isa. Fifa 22 for my brother. A skincare set for Maryam. Designer sliders for my cousin Mazhar. And so on.
We, the cousins, had also done a ‘Reverse-Uno’ on them: we’d chipped in to give my aunt and her husband a ‘self-care’ gift basket of their own, and another one for my other uncle and aunt. Because they really do deserve it (and more,) Maa Shaa Allah.
Some of us said a few words of appreciation. My uncle closed, by talking about gratitude. And how it’s from the Mercy, the Lovingkindness, of Allah. To be able to recognise all that He’s given us, and to (actively) be appreciative of it, and to recognise the gifts we’ve been given of each other. Moments like those ones.
It’s from Allah’s Infinite Rahma.
I love Eid. A beautiful time for us, AlHamduli Llah.
I love my family, AlHamduli Llah, of which ج is a part. And: I love chicken. And receiving presents! And… I love… pistachios.
All of it: is from Ar-Rahmān, Ar-Raheem. Rabbee.
Currently, I have a silver bangle with two little hearts on it, on my left hand. And it is from my friend, my sister, the real-life princess: ج.