بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
This morning: I left the house at a decent time. Decent. And then:
The usual, at least for the time being:
Bus stop. Clean, uniquely calming, actually, quiet (new-ish) bus, to the train station.
And then train into Cambridge [Have had to explain to like, two sets of people already that: I’m not at the (800-odd-year-old) University of Cambridge. But: at the (8-plus-four-year-old) Cambridge Muslim College there].
It’s Autumn here in England, and nothing is without purpose.
It’s that Qur’anic Ayah again, about the leaves. Autumns feel important to me.
Not a single leaf falls, except that Allah Knows it.
Except that it is intentional. Even the designs of the very leaves, even how they look, under microscopes [one time, when we were younger, our uncle got a Natural History Museum mini microscope into our nan’s house. So fascinating, to look at things like: leaves. Your skin. Insects. Under a microscope.
I loved that experience so much that, after having ‘grown up’ and all: I ended up getting one (a mini microscope,) for my little brother. One of those: ‘gifts’ that are low-key really also gifts for yourself…].
It’s all Intentional.
You see the rain? [‘T’had been raining a little this morning. Early morning. I’m liking these earlier starts to my days, AlHamduliLlah.]
Not a drop of the rain falls except that it is from its Creator, our Lord, Allah.
There are some things in my life,
And there are probably some things, but in different ways, in yours too:
That I just have not known what to think about them. Situations, people in my life…
And I think this is where the importance of intuition comes into it. I think: if we find ourselves praying, then…
Intuition can sort of feel like Divine Assistance, at least at times. Some things: you know. Like: all the Signs. Allah will not let you down.
And also: people. Certain people: don’t you just feel so warm around them, and valued by them?
And with others: you just feel… uncomfortable. Guard up, and you don’t feel valued as a person by them. Can you relate? Intuition.
a messenger: it’s telling you something.
[The One to trust is Allah.]
Today, we had our first official classes. And: I’d brought some Jaffa Cakes in, whilst one of my classmates had brought in homemade cupcakes, Maa Shaa Allah. This girl can bake! Even in student accommodation [CMC has some properties that students rent rooms from. But, In Shaa Allah, I’ll be staying in a separate house, with different sisters.].
Today, we had: Islamic Law. Which: I’m so over the whole ‘sorry if I’m acting ”nerdy”’ thing. I loved it! AlHamduliLlah. Very interesting, and rich as a subject.
Our academic director is called Dr Talal Al-Azem. And our Islamic Law teacher is Dr Salman Younas. [Do you ever just… (Google people?)]
Later: we had lunch, cooked by the college chef, Lateef. Places where the food is good, and where the company is even better >>>. Maa Shaa Allah. Plus: plants! Real, alive plants. Always a good thing to have in a place.
Next lesson: Islamic Theology. With Dr Ramon Harvey, one of our other teachers. That had also been interesting, AlHamduliLlah.
For a Muslim: the most important thing to consider, when doing something, is… our intentions. Why are you doing something?
My intentions for this blog, In Shaa Allah: to… use this as a journal. Today, Dr Abdallah Rothman (who is the Principal of CMC,) recommended that we journal during our time there. Reflect on things: including, on our interactions with people.
And I’m thinking: why not journal right here? To reflect on things personally, but also to realise that the world is not just me, and what I think I know. Maybe: I can try not to fall into rabbit-holes of considering the ‘self’, and maybe dwelling so much on my own feelings and so forth.
But also, hopefully: I want to consistently provide something that is of benefit, and also enjoyable, for others to read. Weekly. My current plan is to publish a piece of writing every Friday, In Shaa Allah. But that, too, is not ‘set in stone’.
Izza constant journey: the ways in which we do things are subject to change.
Chapter Two: All Change.
This morning, I’d experienced some difficulty at the train station. Thankfully, my friend Jade helped me out: may Allah reward her immensely, and always. Sometimes, when a fellow human being is having some trouble, and you are the one to help them…
Allah is essentially blessing both you, and them.
And then: my train into Cambridge got cancelled. A broken down train en route or something. So: I had to go to a different station. Thankfully, we could use our current tickets to take a train from there.
On the train, two ladies had been speaking to one another. They’d been visiting one of the ladies’ daughter, who goes to university in Cambridge (like me, she’s studying in Cambridge, not at Cambridge).
And another lady and, presumably, her friend, had been there. She (the hijābi sister I’d noticed first,) asked me if I’m Indian. She herself was Pakistani.
I guess I like being at least a bit ‘ethnically ambiguous’. One time, recently, at the London Central Masjid, a lady started speaking to me, straight-up, in Urdu (language of Pakistan). I think the next time I’d been around that area: someone had started speaking to me in fluent Arabic. So that’s interesting.
[FYI: to those who assert that Pakistan and Bangladesh are ‘pretty much the same’… Apparently, geographically, the distance between one of these countries and the other: is roughly the same as the distance between one end of Europe, and the other.
We’re talking… the distance between England, and Ukraine.]
Today, the Pakistani sister on the train had asked me if I’m from India. Upon reflection: I think I should have spoken to her a bit more than I had. It seems like it’s a bit of a ‘London thing’ to limit social interactions with ‘strangers’. But some people do prefer to have a nice chat.
The Pakistani sister had been on her way to university: at the University of Hertfordshire.
Presumably someone else who had been going there, probably an international student:
Had ended up accidentally leaving one of his suitcases on the train.
One of the ladies (i.e. of the two visiting the woman’s daughter) who’d been on the train (like me, redirected from one station to another, because of the cancellation. Glad we’d been listening to the announcements, AlHamduliLlah!) essentially jumped up to help. Tried really hard to get the train doors to open, but they didn’t open, and the train had left.
Called the University of Hertfordshire. Planned to get off at the next stop to drop it off at an Information Desk or something. And she was just really compassionate, and concerned about the man who’d presumably be starting at uni today, and who had likely just come from abroad.
The airport tag on his suitcase: LHR (London Heathrow Airport). And his name, according to said tag, was Samir.
[Pro-tip: when travelling. Those additional luggage tags you can put on your suitcases, with your contact information on them. They are a good idea!]
These women, and the amount of love and care and concern they’d showed for a fellow human being.
Eventually: one of the railway workers at one of the stops on the way had stopped at our carriage to take the suitcase. It seemed Samir had gotten into contact with them.
Another lady on the train got up to commend the lady and her friend who’d been so kind and eager to help.
“You’re a wonderful person.”
What is Islam, fundamentally?
Truth be told: it really isn’t always the ‘cultural’ things some of us have been told, growing up. There’s, certainly, an ‘intellectual’ side to things, as well as, undoubtedly:
A ‘spiritual’ side.
A body without its soul is… well, dead.
Any attempt at Islam without… its very soul. Principles, essence, and so on. Is… sort of dead too.
Our first lesson here at CMC with our Qur’an Studies teacher:
We’d opened with a very beautiful Hadīth, a reminder.
A substantial part of the Qur’an’s Message:
That those who care for, and are merciful towards, others on the Earth…
Allah will love him/her, and will care for, and be merciful towards, him/her too.
That lady on the train really tried to help someone today. Out of the goodness of her heart, Maa Shaa Allah.
And her Creator will be Merciful and Loving towards her too.
Chapter Three: Purpose.
As Muslims: our Ultimate Purpose is to gain closeness to Allah.
Anything that brings us closer to Allah: is good. And anything that does the opposite: is not so.
Something that is interesting about our teacher for Qur’an Studies is that:
He’s studied Hebrew. And is working towards his PhD at Oxford, In Shaa Allah. And says that the study of the German language is important in Qur’an studies too: since German scholars have been important in the intellectual history of the field.
Something I quite like about the academics, and some of the students, here: is, Maa Shaa Allah, how humble they are. And kind, and caring.
Looking at the world:
There are different ways of ‘assessing’ things. Of ‘assessing’ people.
The academics here, Maa Shaa Allah: they have their qualifications, their knowledge. They may even: wear designer clothes and so on. But: in a humble way. It’s from Allah; they’re here to try to be close to Allah, and (please do not cringe, but,) I find that quite beautiful.
They have kind smiles too, Maa Shaa Allah. And good senses of humour. Always important.
Anything is good, insofar as it brings you closer to Allah.
Today: AlhamduliLlah, another ‘change of plan’. Our Arabic language teacher isn’t in today, so I have some time.
Time to: see my friend, who’s just moved into Cambridge, AlhamduliLlah. I love that girl.
This morning, before leaving the house to leave for the train station,
I’d seen my little brother praying Salaah. He has to now, since he’s ten years old.
I cannot believe how much he has grown, Maa Shaa Allah. [That’s my baby brother!]
The other day, my brother had seen me praying and decided to go up to me and be… brotherly. He’s just so funny by nature, this boy, Allah hummabārik.
Today, I was going to leave the house but decided to go and give my brother a kiss on the cheek before going.
He got so annoyed, and afterwards went and snitched on me. Accusing me of ‘distracting’ him. Yet… when he tries to distract me…
When my brother was very small, he would climb onto my back while I’d be in prayer. Go into Sujūd, and… I’m a human climbing frame again.
I think part of loving someone (love: a big, big gift from Allah,) is almost… ‘missing’ them, even while you have them. They’re already right here! They’re yours!
It’s hard to explain, but I hope you understand what I mean.
Again: we’re warm-blooded creatures. We’re human beings with souls.
It’s natural for us to go where there will be warmth for us. And not solely: material warmth. Only, just. We’re not ‘just’ bodies.
Where, to what, and to whom, do you go, for your soul to feel warm? Whose light and warmth attracts you?
A question that Dr Rothman has encouraged us to think about:
How do I submit to the reality that Allah is Creating [around me]?
How do I: be with what is, and be with Allah at the same time?
Chapter Four: Starbucks.
Currently, my best friend and I are at Starbucks. Not: at our ‘usual’ branch, in London. But: here in Cambridge.
ت moved here two days ago, Maa Shaa Allah. And I cannot express just how amazing Allah’s Plan is.
All the little parts, the pieces. And how they come together, and you realise.
For example: for a while, ت and I (since we live sort of far away from each other, back in London,) had been wondering how we’re going to see each other in person more often: since seeing each other in person is crucial for our friendship.
Back then, and while a whole worldwide pandemic had been going on:
We had both been going through our individual difficulties. Which I don’t think we even remember the depths of, now. Because Allah is the Most Merciful, and with difficulty, there is always ease.
And, back then:
We had no clue that Allah had been bringing me here to Cambridge soon. And that He would be bringing her here too. Subhaan Allah.
[This Starbucks: currently, I’m sitting here, having finished this drink (a hot chocolate! While wearing a beanie on top of my hijab, which ت remarks that she likes, and that makes me look like a ‘child who’s exploring the Earth for the first time’ (Tasnim K. Ali, 2022). Think: kid from Home Alone. Buying things all by himself at the supermarket).
I’d been here at this Starbucks, also having a hot chocolate here, some four years ago, whilst on a summer programme or something here, while waiting for my dad to pick me up. Back then: I remember feeling quite lost in the world, unsure, and wandering. And now I’m here again, but in a different way, AlHamduliLlah!]
One of my fellow classmates at CMC: is a mother of two. Her youngest son is currently applying to university, to study ‘Land Economy’, Maa Shaa Allah, which would appear to be a combination of what we term ‘Geography’, and ‘Economics’. [Looking at things like the notion of human ‘development’. By which specific ‘metrics’, though?]
As our Social Sciences teacher, Amin El-Yousfi (whom I just Googled. So: Dr Amin El-Yousfi, Maa Shaa Allah), had today pointed out today…
As much as certain areas of ‘academia’ seek to separate things, and make it seem like things are just so ‘detached’ from one another…
Actually, all of what we call ‘knowledge’ is part of… a Tree of Knowledge. شجرة العلم.
So: Physics, Fiqh, and Sociology. ‘Philosophy’, Chemistry, and Politics. Everything is connected, and it’s important for us as Muslims to try to see things more holistically. [Hence, I suppose: how many ‘polymaths’ there have been in Muslim history, Maa Shaa Allah.]
Anything that brings us closer to Allah is good for us, and anything that does the opposite: is not so.
One of our classmates: has a military background. I’m critical of the British military, personally: I think the terms ‘terrorist’, ‘terrorism’, for example, are weaponised, and are often, it seems, a matter of national political perspective. Same with ‘hero’, ‘heroism’. But anyway.
This girl, Maa Shaa Allah, has a background in dentistry. On a Royal Navy scholarship. And she might go and work for them in the future, perhaps as a chaplain In Shaa Allah. But: she would like to feel more grounded in Islam first. Before going to work around predominantly male, non-Muslim, white soldiers: this female, Pakistani Muslim student.
As part of her scholarship and all: I think she has to attend training sessions here and there. Also has to maintain a fitness routine. And you notice some of the more ‘military’ aspects of her personality.
She is a wonderful person, Maa Shaa Allah. So willing to help.
In Islam: serving others is very important. Service: Khidmah (خدمة).
If we want to serve and become closer to Allah:
We have to try to love and serve people! [Again with the exclamation mark thing. Where is the midway punctuation mark?!]
For the most part, people at CMC (both staff and students) are there because we seek… a meaningful way to live.
Some individuals at CMC: have left the ‘corporate world’. Like the Finance Officer there: she’d left the corporate world, in favour of something where her knowledge is utilised, and where it’s more spiritual. Adequate time and space to pray, for example, Maa Shaa Allah. And the company of beautiful people.
We have one classmate who had worked in the Civil Service for about six years, but his soul had been seeking that shift. From, let’s say: ‘ruthless’, purely ‘material’, ‘rat race’. To something more ‘spiritual’.
As Muslims: of course we have to consider money, and ‘pragmatics’ and everything. We’re also here for a Bigger Reason, and we are fortunate enough to be able to live this Purpose every single day, AlHamduliLlah.
We also have one classmate who: is ethnically Palestinian. But, in the 1950s, when the settler-colonial ‘state of Israel’ had been established…
His family had moved to Saudi Arabia, where he’d grown up. And now he’s in Britain.
*How unjust is the whole conception of ‘Israel’. It actually hurts to think about. Just: people seizing other people’s homes and livelihoods, uprooting people. With limited international consequences…
There’s just so much to people, Maa Shaa Allah. The Tree of Humanity and all. Our beginnings, and where we have been, and where we are going.
It’s interesting how: with each different teacher we have met so far… Going around, introducing ourselves to our teachers… We find out at least something a little different about the people around us.
Like how someone in the class has had a piece of lead stuck in his hand for ages. Because his best friend had once stabbed his hand with a pencil. Since “that’s what best friends do,” apparently. [I think men’s friendships tend to be, on the whole, quite different to women’s friendships…]
Meanwhile: my best friend compares me to a child who’s exploring the Earth for the first time. Probably because I’m not-tall, and I’m wearing a beanie. No spontaneous stabbings here though, so that’s always good.
“So you thought,” she just said, menacingly holding an umbrella to my face. As far as people go, Maa Shaa Allah:
I love my baby brother Saif. My big-sister- beloved friend Jade. My best friend Tasnim.
And all three of them are just such wonderful gifts from Allah.
This moment in time: also a gift from Allah, AlhamduliLlah.
My lockscreen from today:
Something I much appreciate about the way that Muslim teachers teach is:
How much they care about their students, and about what they themselves are doing. Manners: Adab. Are intrinsically [intrinsically: very importantly, naturally,] important to a Muslim’s seeking of Knowledge.
Today, one of our teachers really wanted to know about us. He’d asked questions, listened, and had been taking notes about each of his students.
Traditionally: teaching is a very respected thing to do in Islam. In some Islamic classes, for example: there’s a manners-based understanding that students will stand up whenever teachers enter the room. And I think: also stand up when they are leaving.
Chapter 5: Between ‘Tradition’, and ‘Modernity’:
As Muslims: we’re not somehow ‘against technology’. You know: our clothes are often made, I suppose, on conveyor belts. We use our phones: WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, and Tik-Tok sometimes.
We purchase things we need from Amazon. And we care about the world.
And our metrics of ‘progress’ overall: can take into account material factors, of course. We are a part of the world: we exist within it. So: all those things about technology, innovation. ‘Development’ in the material ways.
Just: not when it’s devoid of spirituality, of religion.
Why have gold towers, and MetaVerses and Lamborghinis [saw a Lamborghini this morning. Nice matte gold colour.] if you’re going to forget Allah and the fact that you’ll return to Him?
We have to think about the environment too. About twentieth-century wars. And about how: higher rates of suicide are often seen in monetarily-more-affluent parts of the world. Think: Canary Wharf. Think: the ‘richer’ side of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Because ‘wealth’ in one’s hands does not necessarily equate to warmth, and contentedness in one’s heart. And richness of the soul, which is what we seek.
Our Qur’ans are printed, typically, utilising newer technologies: the Words of Allah are not solely always handwritten onto tree bark, or gently painted into papyrus decorated with gold leaf. Although: such gentle, quiet, time-taking processes must also be good, and beautiful.
We also have Qur’an apps: with aesthetically appealing, ‘modern’, let’s say, user interfaces. Simple, and useful, and making good use of current technologies.
In thinking about the present and the future: we cannot forget to think about the past. And vice versa: can’t forget about this moment, while thinking so much about the past. We’re here now: what’s the best way to be here, and to live?
These days: not everyone is awoken for Fajr with the sound of cockerels crowing. But this — the sound of cockerels anticipating the rising of the sun as a result of their God-Gifted natures — is normal for, for example, my own relatives who live in Sylhet.
Although: they (including my grandfather,) have iPhones too.
My nan, too, here in London (England,) has an iPhone. But she would appear to favour a more ‘classical’ way of being woken up to praise and ask from her Lord, in the early hours: a silver-coloured alarm clock. With a cute little handle, and with (functional) bells as ears.
My nan had grown up in something like poverty, on the food level. Her father would bring back fish for his family to eat. They’d eat rice, and Dhayl (lentil soup/curry) too. Whatever was around them, local and available to them.
And my nan’s mother, as one of my nan’s sisters had once discovered, would go hungry sometimes. Preferring to let her children eat.
Now: whichever food item my nan might want. Whether it be: lamb chops, or a Nutella waffle. A few taps away: her kids can just order these things for her, from UberEats, Maa Shaa Allah.
Things change, for us, in ways that we could never have seen coming. The human being, in Dr Rothman’s words, is “not in charge of his/her own affairs.” God’s Plan. [Not the Drake song.]
Life: izza journey, and we are travellers. Lamborghini or no Lamborghini; good health, or its opposite. To Allah we all belong, and to Him we do return.
Currently, AlHamduliLlah, I am twenty-one years old. I’ve known, at least from my own (limited, singular, human,) perspective, what yesterday has looked like. All of it, including this moment, and tomorrow: is in Allah’s Perfect Hands.