بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Everything can change… in the blink of an eye.
One day here, and the next day, gone.
One day there, and the next day, in someplace completely different.
My life changed: when my little brother was born. I’d never been a (direct) sister to somebody before. Saif being born: definitely changed my life for the better, AlHamduliLlah. And suddenly, I’d been holding a baby in my hands, black hair. ‘Brother’. I named him ‘Saif’, but had also been considering the name ‘Jabed’ for him. Ten years later: Saif, little human light of my life, Maa Shaa Allah… does not look like a ‘Jabed’.
He was due to be born on the 31st August. But ended up being born the next day. And, for him: that has made all the difference [eldest in his year group at school].
In History: moments that change the courses of things, we can refer to them as being ‘Critical Junctures‘. The Great Plague, the Reconquista, the Printing of the Bible…
The Corona Pandemic. When my brother was born; when my hamster died [these things matter, perhaps especially to younger people…]; my old friend moved away.
My grandfather passed: that was my first ever experience of the passing of somebody in my direct family. I was in denial: I thought he’d be turning up at the door again. Maybe, carrying some shopping bags, as per usual. But life happens, and everything changes: in the blink of an eye.
Catastrophe. Things break. Personal, family, friendship traumas. And you have to get through things with faith, and together.
Sometimes I fear that, on account of having gone through things of my own: was I ‘there’ enough, for my baby brother, who was also growing, in the meantime?
I suppose, then: I can look at old photos and videos. And see just how much fun we had together. With the random arguments, tantrums (sometimes him, sometimes… more me,) and so on. It’s not a trimmed ‘movie’: it’s real life.
It’s incredible, isn’t it: to have essentially watched someone grow. Subhaan Allah.
More changes are afoot.
Some things: you just don’t expect. Can’t see coming. But God brings it right to you, and the door is made uniquely open for you. Subhaan Allah.
It won’t be ‘easy’ per se, but it will be, in a unique way: awesome. Not ‘perfect’. But definitely worthwhile, and meaningful. There is sweetness in the struggle, and ‘problems’ often provide, for us, meaningful things to get on with, and do.
Maybe on some days: you’ll sit with your sadness a bit more. While, on others: you’ll feel so happy, so filled with joy, that it all feels like a gift, given to you personally, from God.
My eldest (first) cousin is having a baby sometime soon, In Shaa Allah. Her sister-in-law has organised a gender reveal restaurant thing for her (which my cousin knows about). This event clashes with something else I thought about going to: an academic event about the ‘Mizan Thesis’: an event about ‘balance’. Presumably, between things like ‘material’ and ‘spiritual’ considerations, when considering what civilisational ‘success’ truly looks like. [e.g. a nation can be very wealthy, in terms of money. And its people might also be displaying uniquely high rates of suicide and so on].
Now: which event to go to?
The former: family. My cousin has been there for me, substantially, Maa Shaa Allah: she’s shown me more care than I can even believe, AlHamduliLlah.
The latter: sounds like some interesting insights and so on might be shared at the event. Knowledge: illumination. But my cousin, and her baby: matter dearly to me.
[The Fiqh of a gender reveal party? I imagine it’s okay, so long as no ‘bets’ and so on are made. I’m convinced I think I already know the gender of my baby niece/nephew, however. Though I may well be wrong.]
And then, something else I need to consider:
Do I stay here, in this house, with my current housemate and the two who are set to move in, In Shaa Allah?
Or do I go to one of the CMC (Cambridge Muslim College) student accommodation houses?
Whichever decision I end up making: the course of my life is contingent upon my choices. Over and over again, and in quite a strong, practically inevitable, way.
In a few months: I have a wedding to attend, In Shaa Allah. A mixture of three ethnic cultures, coming together. Plus Muslim, overall, of course: religion is the ultimate uniting force, more so than ‘social class’ or ‘ethnicity’. Or gender. Or even which football team you support.
I wonder what I’m going to wear, for this wedding, and how it’s going to be! This might just be my first experience of going to a wedding that… isn’t a Bengali one! Wow! What a realisation: I’ve been to so many weddings…
[Well, I think when I was quite young: I went to my mum’s friend’s civil ceremony or something. Aunty Kelly is my mum’s friend’s name, and they have been friends since their late teens, Maa Shaa Allah.]
Anyway. In February, In Shaa Allah: I’ve got an English x Columbian x Pakistani one to attend. So my first three non-Bengali weddings. All in one! Noice!
Actually: I have attended a Bengali x Pakistani one before. That was a nice one: it was held in the Royal Horticultural Halls in Central London, which is actually a place I’d been before, to sit some exams in order to get into the sixth form college I’d been to.
[Horticulture: an art/science that concerns plants, and gardening. The Royal Horticultural Society legit gather, I guess, in those halls… to talk about plants. #The Good Life: The Green one.]
Lana and Qasim: Lana, my mum used to take care of, when she was young. First, with Aunty Kelly, at a daycare centre. And, later: as a private nanny. My mum also taught Lana Qur’an.
Lana cried upon seeing my mum at her wedding, and sent her a lovely message later, thanking my mum for teaching her Qur’an and so on. That led her to pray, read Qur’an, and to eventually join the Islamic Society at university, where Lana (Apa. A term of respect in Bengali, to denote that someone is an older sister,) and her husband Qasim were both studying to become doctors.
On Lana’s wedding day: she was going around telling other women how beautiful they looked, though she herself looked absolutely stunning, Maa Shaa Allah.
I just, from my childhood, remember her being one of the loveliest people I have ever known, Maa Shaa Allah. Like this one time when she put a kids’ sticker tattoo on for me. So kindly, diligently, and gently. She loved Harry Potter, and had a best friend called Poppy, who was also there at the wedding. [I remember accidentally being a bit obsessed with Poppy when I’d met her, when I was much younger. I just wanted to hold her hand and hang out with her.]
And Lana has a younger brother, just like I do: his name is Asif, which actually happens to be my brother’s name, just rearranged slightly. ‘Coincidentally’. My brother was born on the 1st September. And Asif: about twelve years earlier, had been born on the 2nd September. My mum had taken care of both Lana and Asif from their earliest days. And then she had a daughter, followed by a son, of her own…
Another way in which my life may change, soon:
I’m considering applying for a Tesco Clubcard here in Cambridge. The deals you can get, just from having a Clubcard…
Today my housemate Sasha bought a hand-towel, and quite a nice one, actually. For £4 instead of £8. I wonder if the people of the future might be reading this through patronising ‘future’ eyes. Wondering what it must have been like, before the days of money being completely in crypto or whatever else is coming in the future…
Anyway. Even ‘small’ changes are meaningful. Because, imagine I end up buying something from Tesco on a Clubcard deal. And then spend the money I save on something else, which leads to A, to B, to C, to D to E…
‘Mental health made me do it.’
‘Bipolar’. ‘ADHD’. ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’. These categorisations for behaviour, mental states…
To what extent can we truly say that we aren’t to blame: it’s… ‘the fault of’ a mental health condition that we didn’t ask for?
Recently, during History at CMC: while the screen (on which our teachers put their presentations) was on its general homepage…
A trailer for Selena Gomez‘s personal documentary about her struggles with bipolar had come up on it.
Everyone is struggling with things. Many, many, people are struggling with depression: whether it’s ‘high-functioning’ depression, or the other kinds.
Anyway, I watched a clip of Selena’s [wow, am I on a first-name basis with her now?] documentary, on YouTube. In it: she talks about how something, essentially, ‘overtakes’ her. Her moments of poor mental health. She has ended up mistreating the people she loves, and then has woken up the next day saying sincere sorries for it. Her family understand. They know that it’s ‘not her’ per se, but something that she struggles with.
There was a period in her life during which she’d been contemplating suicide: thought that the ‘world would be better, without her in it.‘
That there are times when she just feels ‘stuck‘. And: she just wants to ‘move forward’.
We often don’t know exactly what others are going through: because there are the ‘realities’ that we present to the world. And the ones we also face, when we are at home, and by ourselves.
- Where does ‘mental health’ as a given reason end? And, where does our personal responsibility begin?
Emic and Etic.
In Social Sciences, we’d been introduced to two terms, whose meanings I find very interesting to consider.
‘Emic’: the way a group/culture (and perhaps even person) understands themselves. The internal conception, understanding.
And: ‘etic’. What’s ‘vocally expressed’: what external observers may come to see/hear of a group/culture (or person), and then ‘understand’, albeit from their own world-views/perspectives.
You, as a person: have your ’emic’ self. The way you’ve come to, and do, understand yourself, your personal ‘reality’/realities and so on. In your own mind.
And then: what is expressed. What others see and hear from, and understand of, you. Crucially: from whom they are. From their own ’emic’.
I had another counselling meeting with Maryam, the sister who does counselling, today. Words, I find, really, really have an effect on me. Of course they do: they go right to the heart.
Positive words! Can just bring me so much happiness. It’s like light. Greenness, love, ‘love energy’, to use a term that Maryam uses.
I should: focus on people’s good. Always.
Notes from le therapy:
[Sasha, my housemate, made me the bowl of popcorn, when she’d gone to make some for herself.]
- Say ‘I love you’. It makes people (including you,) happy!
- Spread love! Welcome light, greenness, love, love-energy all around you, encompassing your life.
- Focus on people’s good, always.
- Enjoy! Life. And love. And your relationships with people, and so on. Enjoy whom you are!!
- Forgive others! And accept ourselves.
- Minimise harm
- Select the best things for these lives of ours; open your heart to them ❤
Smiiiiile! Embrace goodness and love, and radiate it!
[Without intent to sound ‘toxically positive’. If you’re having a bad day/a really rough time in your life: no pressure, take your time. A lot of goodness is just around the corner for you, In Shaa Allah, even if you can’t quite see beyond all the darkness and the haze in this moment…]
So I sneezed while in the masjid today [I was basically on my way somewhere. And stopped at the masjid since it was prayer time]. That’s one moment when I realised how good the acoustics are, in the Cambridge Central Masjid: everyone there must have heard me.
Much of this masjid is made of timber. It’s just such a beautiful place, it really is.
- Also, when we, as Muslims, sneeze: we say, AlHamduliLlah. All Praise is due to Allah. Why? Well, Lana Apa’s mum (who is a doctor), when I was much younger, posited that maybe it’s because when we sneeze, the rhythm of our hearts are genuinely momentarily altered. All Praise is to Allah: who Commanded our hearts to beat, and who returns our hearts to their ordinary states after we sneeze…
My Didi’s [Didi: another term for ‘older sister’, in South Asian languages] baby gender reveal thing… Why would I miss it?
Didi, by the way, is somebody who: drove to outside my house in the middle of the night, when she was worried about me, at a time when I’d been going through difficulties with my own mental health. And she’d waited there.
You say you want to go for a drive: she’ll be there. Or that you’re home and you want to hang out: she’ll come round. Family is very important to her, and she is my elder sister (different sets of parents, but still).
When Didi was pregnant and not feeling that well: she came to see me before I left for Cambridge.
It would be a real shame to not accept and enjoy and reciprocate such true love, merely out of personal insecurity. Didi’s love: I accept wholeheartedly. And I, without holding back I strongly hope, love her too. Without reservation, for whatever reason.
And her baby. He’s [lol. Or she! But I just have this intuition thing about him being a him…] our baby, since: we raise children ‘communally’.
- How are we going to cultivate the best possible lives, and the best possible futures, for ourselves?
I can’t express just how gorgeous Cambridge is, at this time of year. Makes you wanna… buy a pumpkin spice latte from an organic food shop or something [#consumerism?].
I remember (back when I had Twitter,) seeing a picture of a really pretty bookshop here in Cambridge, in the Autumnal season. The trees here bloom with all these shades of orange, and reds. I don’t think I’d imagined, back then, that I would be here, soon, immersed in an autumnal Cambridge. Subhaan Allah. How Allah’s Plan works, and is.
Online ‘Islamic’ Forums.
So, the other day, at CMC, I was Googling something to help, I suppose, with answering a religious question or something that I had.
Well. Before clicking on any results: I see, from some forum, that someone had condemned somebody else to hell. ‘Takfīr’. ‘Go to hell’.
I have some things to say. *An imaginary person hands me an imaginary mic.* Thank you.
Let’s begin with this message, from one of the loveliest sisters I have probably ever met in my life, Maa Shaa Allah, from the cohort above ours at CMC. She is awesome, Allah hummabārik.
I loooove this woman! Maa Shaa Allah. I’m lucky to have her as my older sister: we’re related by something that is thicker and more true than ‘blood‘.
‘A monochrome reading of fiqh serves little benefit for the ummah.’
Muhammad (S A W), also: hadn’t just simply been handed… a ‘book’. Words, rules, black and white and without light and spirit, on a page. No.
An Angel, a created celestial being, had delivered the words to him. Jibrīl (AS), the Angel Gabriel.
Through speech. Words.
The Words of God had been planted straight into the Prophet (S A W)’s very heart.
Muhammad (S A W) practised Islam: he was a ‘walking Qur’an’. Explaining and embodying Islam. Not simply ‘instructing’, and not ‘condemning’ everybody who wasn’t perfect, since none of us are.
Moreover: Muhammad (S A W)’s approaches had been filled with wisdom. Making things simple, and not difficult for people. Repeating things three times, so people understood.
Treating individual people like they were the most important people in the world, even small children.
And different people, at different times, require, and respond best to, different things. It’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ thing, this Deen of ours. And the answers, I’m sorry folks: are not to be found via ‘Shaykh Google’.
The angry, perhaps often misinformed, people on certain forums…
May present Islam as though it is somehow meant to be constricting, and excessively harsh. It’s not. And wisdom is not necessarily always passed on through forums that virtually anybody can contribute to, without any sorts of checks or limits, regulations. Wisdom is gifted from God, and passed on from human heart (and mind,) to human heart (and mind).
- So, perhaps, person who picked up one English translation of the Qur’an and went straight to shouting at people from behind a screen… Relax, akhee. Please.
As Muslims, are we meant to be ‘out of touch’ with other people, and with the world?
Muhammad (S A W), as far as I know, prayed on a reed mat. This doesn’t mean that it’s obligatory for us to pray on reed mats: some pray on fluffy mats, others on carpets, and so on.
Muhammad (S A W) wore simple, beautiful, quality clothes that had been particular to that time and place. It doesn’t mean that Muslim men today must wear 7th-Century-style clothes that are designed, perhaps, for desert conditions. You can wear Air Forces, pray in a hoodie, so long as your clothes are clean and respectful.
[The other day, at the masjid: I saw someone praying in a hoodie. And some people in suits. And a sister who had an Arcsoc (Cambridge Uni Archaeology Society, probably) tote bag on. It’s not ‘one-size-fits-all’ for these things, and there is so much beauty in this!]
The principles are consistent. Beauty and modesty in dress, whether you like to wear these things, or those. Etc.
We’re not meant to be ‘out of touch’ with the world, and I think that when we see, for example, some Muslims becoming more and more distant from their families, and from people… Claiming ‘religiosity’ when they’re, perhaps, becoming more harsh, seeming more… alienated.
I think we can say that something is psychologically wrong in those isolated cases. That pretences of ‘religion’ are being used to ‘deal with’ a different issue. Like maybe they truly, individually, feel alienated. Lacking societal respect, and personal esteem. And so they seek to separate themselves, find their ‘tribes’ through alternative avenues. Like with: drug-fuelled gangs. Far-right extremism. Violent ‘religious’ extremism also.
Iz, how you say: don’t do it. Don’t even think about it. [I went to a secondary school in Tower Hamlets, East London. High Muslim population, and at least once, we had a ‘special assembly’ with our headteacher, at which she’d warned us all… not to go to Syria. That if she finds out that any one of us were even thinking about it: she’d get our passports and cut them up.
Bruh. I didn’t even know what ‘ISIS’ was, until I’d been coming back from ‘Umrah, and had heard, via national news, about the Tower Hamlets schoolgirls that had ‘joined them’. In retrospect: these girls were groomed, and then also aided by a Canadian spy.]
As Muslims: we seek to stick to the established Sunnah, and with the majority of Muslims. The majority of Muslims: look around you. They are not ‘ISIS’. We are not even close.
Another reason as to why we ought to learn our religion deeply. And not from some random guy on some forum, or whose Twitter handle is something like ‘Go2hell2022.kaafirs’, I don’t know.
- Something I found out during one of my classes at CMC: so, we know anyway how wrong ISIS are. But also: the reason as to why they have black flags is… Because they seem to accept a very weak (and hence generally dismissed and not accepted,) Hadīth about a group that will emerge, who will sport black banners: a group that will be ‘unstoppable’… ‘Join them…’
I realised that Anjum from CMC reminds me at least somewhat of my Didi. They both have academic/career-based backgrounds in Law. They both have really nice senses of style, Maa Shaa Allah. They’re both definitely the type to be big sisters.
So, I will be going to the gender reveal thing In Shaa Allah. A chance to see my (cousin) sister before she gets heavy with pregnancy and all. A chance to hopefully show her that I love her, just as she has, again and again, shown me.
Saemah, Didi’s sister-in-law, has told us to wear the colour we think the baby’s/babies‘ gender will be. So: blue for me, In Shaa Allah.
Or perhaps… she’ll have twins!
Allah Knows the future…
And don’t you just love it when God’s unique Plan for you: takes you by such positive surprise?!
This is definitely a special time in my life, AlHamduliLlah. It feels, distinctively, like a new beginning. I’ve moved from East London… [My old Safari homepage…]
This new time in my life: it’s a gift from God, and I intend to cherish it.
Today, my parents and brother are coming down real soon to visit me, In Shaa Allah. I’m currently sitting in one of the CMC libraries. Earlier, I tutored my (GCSE) student Inaya, and we went over an English Language paper together.
The writing prompts given (for the Creating Writing section of the paper) were: about a sunset in a given place. And about a ‘new beginning’.
I like writing prompts, and wrote something about Westminster Bridge, since that’s what the picture given in the paper reminded me of.
Describe a place at sunset, as described by this picture:
On Mondays, busy people walk across Westminster Bridge. When bees do their work, they seem inspired. But these people do not. They sigh prolongedly to work on Mondays. And on Tuesdays. And on Wednesdays. Even on Sundays: people are walking, sometimes in crowds, and sometimes in pairs, and sometimes by themselves. Across and along Westminster Bridge.
On that day: the honey sun descended upon them. Upon white blouses and baggy streetwear, and professionally-dry-cleaned shirts. High heels and shopping bags.
And coffee cups: lots and lots of coffee cups. The people there are ‘busy’. With scarves nestled around their necks, and with polished shoes, and with coats they’d wear, which gave them an overall impression, to any general observer, of being ‘important-looking’, and on their way, not ever wanting to be disturbed, to doing ‘important-seeming’ things.
The blueness of the sky had been fading. And few people ever, on Westminster Bridge, really stopped to soak it in and look at it.
Below: water. But not a type that, in any way, looked pure, or cleansing. No: this was the River Thames. Green, and brown, and not quite beautiful. Not, in any real way, so appealing to the senses, except, perhaps, at this time of day. With the gold of sunset: the Autumn of the day. Setting, drizzling, and shimmering, upon it.
Bejewelling it, almost.
Today, just like on any day: boats will pass by. And, on foot, lots and lots of people. Cars, and their sounds, ‘busy’. Clouds of pollution, skies of grey. Except come this time: as the day begins to rest. Gentle. Profound, but few people are ever looking up, in order to give it much notice.
They drink their coffee, they throw away their cups. One, by one, by one. They finish their food and cleanse their hands. The sun, marvellous and a thing to behold, is setting again, over London. These tall glass buildings, with their many rectangular windows, looking out into the world: they, too, are noticing it.
While, outside, on the roadside by the famous and old, and not-quite-beautiful, Westminster Bridge: few people are looking up from their more digital concentrations. A sort of ‘bright’ light that’s different from the sun’s.
Their eyes peer down at the news, and on politics. And the weather, and transport, and their minds, they find, these evenings, are often sunken into thinking about how tired they are.
Tomorrow, at 7AM, and for some, even sooner:
It begins again. The taxis, trains and characteristic red buses: begin again.
The sky is infused with light; alarm clocks ding, ding, ding, and the people are conditioned to wake up and ingest the coffee again. Some will be going to the gym: and that takes a lot of discipline.
Meanwhile, in a different place, also somewhere in London: someone puts down his phone, and sets his thermos aside for a good moment. The prayer room of the office enjoys a rather good view of the city, as well as an aerial view of the bridge, and all these people, crossing by. But for a few minutes: but for this short-lived time.
The gold and the warmth of the sunlight touches the man’s face. AlHamduliLlah: he is there to witness it. God’s Universe is all around him: what beauty, and what joy, subtly profound uplift, something ‘simple’ like a change in the sky’s tonality can bring.
Subhaan Allah: this moment is a gift from God Himself, Alone.
And Allahu Akbar: God is surely the Greatest.
This man is a Muslim. And that still-but-teeming-with-people, old and well-walked, and known, bridge over there: well, that’s Westminster Bridge.
Even endings can feel like new beginnings. And new beginnings are new beginnings. Untouched, and, certainly, they are all new:
BismilLlah, we say. In the name of Allah.
For two years, I went to school in Westminster. And that experience definitely shaped my life. It was traumatic, yes: this be Dunya after all. There was so much of goodness in it, and after it, also.
This beginning is new.
Today, I saw Anjum in the CMC (English-language) library. What a gift she is, to behold, basically every time I see her. AlHamduliLlah.
And then: my parents and brother and I, we went and ate together. This time, at a Lebanese restaurant. The food was really good, AlHamduliLlah.
My brother started dancing, while there. Being himself. Even with all the new beginnings in the world: some things do not change.
Like the fact that I love my brother, AlHamduliLlah. And the facts of whom my brother is… Dancing in public…
When I told him that he’s embarrassing himself [at that time, he and I were sitting at a separate table together. Before the food arrived]. He corrected me, and said:
“I’m embarrassing you.“
“They’ll think you raised me.”
Later, and while my parents were looking in the window of a bike shop or something, [looking for a battery for my mum’s electric scooter, I think,] my brother locked me out of the car. But then ran out when I left him in the dark and started walking.
Today, my parents brought, among other things (like a rug), a: rice cooker for my house here. That’s how Asian we are. Rice cooker + some packets of basmati rice.
“Who won? Man United or Fulham?” Saif asked our dad as they left for London again, and I quietly closed the door.
Can you even believe how Lovingkind Allah is, towards us?!
So I cherish my life. AlHamduliLlah. And I also know that Paradise is not here: Dunya is Dunya, even with its very [!!!] good parts. And Jannah remains Jannah, eternally, and filled with happinesses we have never quite ever known. Forever and ever. The Promise of your Lord is True!