In the Jungle.

.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Heaven is a Garden. [A collection of Gardens.]

Jannaath-ul-Firdaws: the Gardens of Paradise. Our final and eternal Home, In Shaa Allah ; at once, there will be aspects of it that are familiar to us, and yet it’ll be completely unlike anything we have ever known in this world.

Typically, human beings — children of Ādam (AS) — we love gardens.

Gardens produce flowers, trees, edible vegetation. Medicines; healing properties.

In gardens, the very air can feel purer. You’re surrounded by… fellow aspects of creation. Gorgeous, diverse, and fascinating, Maa Shaa Allah . And they’re all doing in constant worship, Dhikhr, of their Creator.


What gardens constitute: can appeal to and engage with all five of our human senses. The sight of vibrant roses, flowers, leafy greens. The smells of floral fragrances, the more woody scents, the botanical sources of spices and herbs.

The sounds of birdsong, of other creatures flying, and buzzing by. Trees swaying, and water trickling from fountains.

Arabic vocabulary time!

Bee — نحلة

Nectar — رَحِيقٌ

A small bird — عُصفُورٌ

Bird — طائر

وردة — Rose

زهرة — Flower

شجرة — Tree

نهر — River


In Whitechapel, East London, there is a girls’ Islamic secondary school. At this school, the ‘natural sciences’ subjects (Maths, Biology, Physics…) are taught alongside the ‘humanities’ (Sociology, RS, Psychology). And the girls are also taught about Islam: Qur’an classes, Arabic language, Islamic Studies including Hadīth and so on…

My aunt, خالتي, is a teacher of A-level Biology at this school. She is quite involved with the local masjid, and partakes in the running of a Muslim women’s organisation.

For her first degree, my aunt had studied Biomedical Sciences at the University in London, Maa Shaa Allah . And her second degree – a Master’s – is in Cancerbiology.

When I was younger — about a decade ago — and people would ask me what I wanted to ‘be’ when I’m older, I would sometimes say… ‘neurobiologist’. This, I think, is because some of the things that my aunt had spoken about to me had fascinated me (and probably mostly because saying a six-syllable professional title would make me sound ‘clever’ in my eleven-year-old head or something).


When I was little, my aunt (س) had gifted me… my first microscope. It was a kid’s set, but it had actual slides, sampling equipment, and everything.

It had been this aunt of mine who had… bought me my first encyclopaedia (which now sits in my little brother’s room). She’d… taken us to museums, to the planetarium, to many places, restaurants and such. Prayed Salaah in different places, in front of us. Allah hummabārik lahaa.

Today, س had taken some sixth form and ‘Alimiyyah (‘Upper School’) students [‘Alimiyyah — Islamic sciences. Islamic Law, Theology, and so on] on a trip to Kew Gardens, in Richmond, London.

She’d invited me to come along too, and also kindly paid for my ticket.

And here, Maa Shaa Allah , is a sketch that she’d done today, while we’d all been sitting by a pond there, for some ‘Reflection Time’:


Beginnings. البدايات.

We’d all met up at the school. And then we all made our way to the train station.

On the way, I spoke to one of the students, who, I’d discovered: is a member of the ق Family, i.e. the family that founded Sunnamusk (‘Atr — fragrances — house). They’re now branching out and opening a chain of (at least, I think it’s a chain of) restaurants, In Shaa Allah .

Isn’t it wonderful and fascinating, how things begin ‘small’, as, say, a mere acorn? And then, how Allah Facilitates their growing and growing?

Sunnamusk had begun thusly: this student’s uncle, I think she had said, had been a student of Arabic/Islam, in Egypt. And he’d brought some lovely scents, some fragrances, back to London from there. He’d started selling them small-scale.

Handing out samples near the masjid, and in the market. Selling the fragrances on outdoor stalls. Eventually: they’d managed to open up a little shop in a small ‘plaza’ to the side of the market.

According to the company’s website: the ق brothers had started up Sunnamusk based on six hundred pounds of capital, and in the aftermath of the 2008 ‘credit crunch’.

Subhaan Allah : within the span of roughly two years, the company managed to acquire tenancy in Westfield — the biggest shopping centre in Europe.

They now have eight shops, have a hugely-improved brand image, Maa Shaa Allah . And they’re a known, multi-million-pound, organisation, Allah hummabārik.

From their website:

“The brothers took shifts, in groups of two or three, to begin selling perfumes from car boots and makeshift stalls, at whatever opportunity that came their way.

Their first day of trading, on a cold and rainy day in Whitechapel, totalled twenty-eight pounds.”

Roughly nine years after those initial outdoor sales: the elder ق brother, who had formerly been the company’s CEO, had stepped down, in order to pursue his career aspirations in aviation (planes, flying).

Leaving: the youngest ق brother to become CEO of a multi-million-pound company at the age of 22, Maa Shaa Allah , Allah hummabārik.

[P.S.: ‘Sweet Escape’ by Sunnamusk is a very nice scent indeed.

And quite a lot of it is ‘naturallyinspired’. Notes of roses, and of orchids. Lilies, and vanilla, and the like.]


We got onto the train: all seventeen of us. And I had a spot o’ breakfast on said train.

At Kew Gardens: we decided on a meet-up point. Walked around, exploring. I ended up walking around with two students who are respectively named after the two greatest women, Maa Shaa Allah : Maryam (AS), and Khadijah (RA).


We’d actually been looking for the bonsai garden there, I think it had been. And also: the bamboo garden.

At Kew Gardens, there are a number of different collections of plants: some outside, and some in greenhouses.

It feels quite… therapeutic, healing, just to walk through such a place. In the sunshine, with all the green. It’s calming, and it feels… nourishing, AlHamduli Llah .


Lunch.

The girls — students — had organised a lovely little picnic for themselves. One student brought a big pink picnic blanket with her. Another: a wicker (picnic) basket. Dishes from home, to share. Disposable cutlery, and even a bin bag to tidy up after themselves with.

My aunt, another member of staff, ر, and I, had eaten a little on the side, i.e. to one side of the students. Collectively: we hadn’t brought ‘that much’ with us, for lunch.

And something that is so wonderful about these Islamic school girls is that… service — خدمة — the principle of serving others, is deeply embedded into their ways of doing things, Maa Shaa Allah , Allah hummabārik. Respecting teachers, kindness and generosity, also.

One student had given us a homemade dessert each: she’d made Japanese-style fruit sandwiches. Strawberry sando. And it was delicious, AlHamduli Llah . This student, as well as her good friend, really likes aspects of general ‘Japanese culture’. Things like: bonsai trees, matcha tea, cleanliness. Sitting on the floor, respecting elders. Japanese-style home items. And, I assume, also: food!

And then: another student had given us each a bowl containing breadsticks, carrot sticks, and two types of hummus. We got given another plate of popcorn, biscuits, snacks.

As well as chicken couscous from one of the girls, which her mum had made for everyone. It was delicious, AlHamduli Llah .

The set-up: (featuring my Dettol wipes, and pistachio shells…)


That couscous was just so good, Maa Shaa Allah . As was the strawberry sando. 10/10.

A rose that… smelled really nice! Maa Shaa Allah

Currently, my aunt (after this trip, during which we ended up walking quite a bit, and in this heat) is working on making some bookmarks for a friend of hers. Meanwhile, her little daughter is doing some painting.

My aunt is artsy, Allah hummabārik. And she’s really quite active and involved in things, Maa Shaa Allah .


From the Garden gift shop, some of the girls bought some things. My aunt purchased a book about growing plants, for her little daughter. And one of the girls had purchased: three fairly-big flower plants. There’d been a deal on them: 3 for £15, and she wanted to take them home to give them to her father, I think she’d said.

Near Kew Gardens, there is a Tesco. Some of the students bought cool drinks for themselves. And I saw a flower plant there, which had… really quite appealed to me.

So I’d purchased it, for the good price of £2.50, AlHamduli Llah . Her name is Jameelah, and… (I love her).

A lady sitting near us must have overheard me talk about my plans for caring for this plant (In Shaa Allah hoping that it doesn’t… die). And she’d given me a tip about caring for it — fuchsia plants — in wintertime.

And then: on the train, ر (the other teacher who’d gone on this trip,) offered to hold my plant for me, if I wanted to have a nap or something. It’s nice, isn’t it, when… the community steps in, to help with the raising of… a plant.

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