بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
You can pray [i.e. make Du’a] to God in any language: one of His Signs is the fact of the diversity of our tongues…
Our cultures, our colours, and our languages.
You can ask Him for… practically anything. For Help, Aid, Guidance. For… new shoelaces. For new shoes, if you want/need them. For success, for confidence. For Him to bring the best kinds of people into our lives.
We remember that all good is from God Alone.
Today, my best friend Tasnim (AKA Nim, AKA Tas, AKA Tasneeem) came to my house, for (what was going to be breakfast, but ended up being) lunch/dinner. Linner. We had sandwiches, mango-chutney-flavoured crisp snacks. Cakes [and my housemate, Sasha, had very kindly bought cupcakes to share.
Sasha’s from Uzbekistan, and at first I assumed she’s Muslim. But: she doesn’t identify as being Muslim, although she knows about Islam. She throws in words like ‘Dunya’, and the phrase ‘In Shaa Allah’ into some of our conversations. Told me the cupcakes are Halāl: Suitable for Vegetarians, and no alcohol.
When I go to pray in the living room: Sasha very kindly says that she hopes that all my prayers are answered, and that God grants me the peace that I seek.
Anyway. Tas and Sasha and I also had (Kashmiri) pink chai today, AlHamduliLlah. I decided to attempt making it, again, today, and… it worked! [Although: note to self for next time… maybe boil/stir it for a bit longer, for a pinker colour. Some people, I think, also add baking soda to their pink chai. Perhaps to introduce a slightly salty taste to it, and/or… for additional pink-colouring purposes, somehow? Something about how the pink colour comes as a result of aeration, i.e. introducing air into the mixture].
Halāl Cheers, mate!
Friends who drink chai together… fly… together [? I guess.]
Yesterday, I managed to get approximately £30 worth of (good) Starbucks goods, for… £7.18.
How? Well, there’s this app called ‘TooGoodToGo‘.
I’d discovered it while working, a couple of years ago, temporarily at a Middle Eastern bistro in East London. Sometimes, people would come in in order to collect their ‘TooGoodToGo’ purchases.
The app aims to reduce food waste, by allowing cafés and restaurants to sell food that didn’t sell that day, for discounted prices. You pay a fixed amount, and go to collect your mystery bag… You don’t quite know what you’ll find in it: it’s whatever didn’t sell that day.
Yesterday, from Starbucks, I got… 4 sandwiches. And a nice selection of muffins and so on, in my two bags that I’d purchased via the app.
Nom nom! These are just some of the bakery products I’d received in the bags, and one of the cupcakes that Sasha had bought, for us to share, at the bottom:
At Starbucks: one of the baristas, the one serving me, had been really nice. Quick, in her service, upbeat.
I complimented her energy. She’d basically said: Thanks. It’s all coffee!
- Then I’d wondered if I’d been weird. Is it weird to tell someone you like their energy? Well: perhaps ‘weird’ isn’t a bad thing. If: you do it with sincerity. And with confidence.
- Later, before my evening teaching slot at the Cambridge Central Masjid: I’d absentmindedly said ‘thank you’ to someone, one of my students’ teenage brother, who is also a student at CCM, in a different class, as he walked through the door. But I realised that I’d been holding the door for him in that moment. And I wondered aloud: ‘Wait. Why did I say thank you?’ And then he laughed.
- It’s nice to make people laugh: I like that feeling.
Incidentally: chai is quite a special drink, no? Chai means ‘tea’ in the Hindi language [and so, when companies advertise their chai products as ‘chai tea’, it’s actually a redundancy. ‘Tea tea’].
At that bistro that I’d worked for a small while at: their staple, probably most popular, product had been… karak chai. Cardamom, ginger…
Chai is just so warming. Invigorating [invigorating: making someone feel strong, and full of energy/health] and substantial. I’d say it helps people to bond more. And it’s aromatic.
Do I find practising Islam to be… ‘restrictive’?
One of our housemates, Shirley, is an international student, from Nigeria.
I’m actually the eldest person in this household of four. I feel like I’m kind of ‘loco parentis’. [Loco parentis: Latin for ‘in the place of a parent’]. I’m certainly loco parentis when I’m teaching at CCM…
And here, at the house:
At times, Shirley and Sasha want to show-and-tell me things. Like: crafts they’ve made. And how… ‘at my future wedding’ (In Shaa Allah!) … Shirley wants to Dabke. [Dabke: a Levantine-style folk dance. Involving people linking arms, and kicking their legs up]. I… am not from that region. But yesterday, Shirley and Sasha decided to demonstrate how they want to Dabke at my wedding, regardless. They also had these flashing toys on hand to dance with, which they said they want to bring to my wedding too.
Shirley mentioned something about how I’m going to marry rich. Because ‘you people… are usually rich, aren’t you?’
Note to Shirley: I’m not from the Levant [The Levant: the area that comprises Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria]. And: I also don’t belong to… an especially wealthy family from Dubai.
My grandfather, in Bangladesh, is literally a farmer! Like: actual cows, rice, vegetables. Anyway.
When Sasha and Shirley show-and-tell me things: I guess I sit there, half-interested, and half- like a disinterested mother trying to feign interest in what her children have made/done. ‘WooOOw. Well dooOoone. [Do you want…… a sticker…….?]’.
Here’s a note I’d left by my sponge in this house [inspired by a former fellow tenant at this house, and the note she’d left by her sponge], followed by an addition, in blue, from Sasha:
Shirley asked me if I find aspects of religion to be ‘restrictive‘. For example: I don’t eat pork. Don’t drink alcohol.
Pray Salaah five times daily. Fast during Ramadān. Can only be in a relationship with someone if I’m married to him. I cover my hair when in the presence of non-close men. What else, what else?
No drugs. Or swearing, lying, cheating, stealing. No gambling, smoking, or viewing indecent material online. Etc.
I love my religion so much. AlHamduliLlah. We do these things, and stay away from certain things, because we adherently believe in Allah: we hear and we obey. We love our Lord, our Creator: we follow His guidance.
I don’t consider my religion to be ‘restrictive’ in a negative way. I find it ‘freeing’, and that the Sunnah (the Prophetic Way) is very conducive to health and to goodness. It’s my honour, this religion of mine, AlHamduliLlah. Why would I ever seek anything other than it?
The Dunya won’t ever fulfil me. Iz cheap and unsubstantial glitter, sometimes; iz mirage.
Our real Home is Jannah; the Way, here in this world, is definitely, sin duda, [‘without a doubt’, in Spanish,] the one that Allah has Determined is best for me, I know this. I know that this world… ain’t it. There’s Another One: a much, much better one. The Forever one.
But this all – i.e. your religious intentions, actions – has to be from your authentic, organic love for Allah. And also your respect for, and fear of, Him. Trust in, reliance upon, Him.
Taqwa. Meaning: God-Consciousness.
Some human beings will use expressions of – excuses for – ‘religion’ to harshly coerce people to do certain things. And that takes the spirituality, the choice out of things. In truth: there shouldn’t be any “compulsion in religion” in that sense [Q 2:256].
You cannot ‘make’ someone (adherently) believe. But, often, people are attracted to Islam as a result of Muslims’ expressions of good character. My best friend Tasnim is like this: she’s effortlessly good in character like that, Maa Shaa Allah. It’s her nature.
Tasnim is currently studying for an MPhil (Master’s) from the University of Cambridge, Department of Education, Allah hummabārik. May Allah bless her, and her work.
I think Tasnim might just be the only person at her college to wear a headscarf, you know. She prays, she’s good to her family, Maa Shaa Allah. And to her friends (like me!) And to children [like the time she’d come to my house to do henna. And did the neighbours’ daughters ones too, free of charge. She was so gentle, loving, forgiving and patient with them, bless.]
Recently, Tasnim wrote this
essay (an ‘imagined conversation’ between Edward Said, and another writer), Maa Shaa Allah. She’s given me permission to show you, Dear Readers, some glimpses of this [what I, and her supervisor, would call, a] masterpiece:
Those old Justin Bieber lyrics:
Something about ‘she was so amazing‘,
‘don’t need no Starbucks‘.
There’s a new movie on Netflix: Farha. Jordan’s official submission to the Oscars: a movie about a girl experiencing the 1947 to 1949 Nakba (‘Catastrophe’, when 750,000 Palestinians were made refugees, expelled from their towns and villages to make way for new ‘Israeli’ immigrants).
A ‘land for a people with no land’, even though there were 1.9 million Palestinians already in Palestine…
Watch the movie, give it a rating on IMDb and Google Reviews!
Detractors, and people who are pro-… Israeli regime… are trying to run these smear campaigns, rating the movie 1 star, and so on, writing bad reviews, ‘condemning’ Netflix for approving a movie that depicts some of the harsh realities of the founding of ‘Israel’. Sending threats to the people who made the movie.
*Recently, more Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem, and in the West Bank. November 2022. Did the world care enough for these Palestinians who are unapologetically bullied in their own homeland, and then executed, publicly, in cold blood?
But God is with the oppressed, the ‘weak’, the downtrodden: He will take personal care of them.
For man to rely on his ‘self’, on his own ‘power’: that’s fundamentally delusional, it’s a lie. Falsehoods, abuses, fundamental shakiness, and tyranny.
For man to rely upon God: that’s fundamentally true. He will not let you down. Jannah is theirs, forever and ever. Jannah, Dear Reader, is yours.
“Don’t be spriteful.”
One of my young students at the Cambridge Central Masjid… Their task had been to write up a list of ‘steps’ to become a better Muslim, to come closer to God.
And then, extension activity: write a list of things we don’t want to do.
Bilāl, one of the children there, had on his list: to not be spriteful. He even pronounces it this way. Sprite-ful. And it’s just like: do I proceed to gently correct him, or do I let him be unapologetically adorable for a little longer? Maa Shaa Allah.
Listen to Bilāl: don’t be spriteful. And don’t be a hyco-prite. [I could cry! They’re sooooooo cuuuuute!]
*Bilāl said I could keep his work:
Things not to do, according to Bilāl, the future of our Ummah:
When I first met my kids at CCM…
You notice the range of personality types, backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds.
Like when one of my students told me he hadn’t been to school that day. Why? Had he been sick?
No: he just didn’t go…
And then someone let me know what the punchline was: Iyaad is home-schooled.
“Home-educated,” Iyaad smilingly corrected.
Homeschooled (home-educated) children tend to be so bright, Maa Shaa Allah. Iyaad uses words like ‘harass’ at age 7/8, and he seems to be quite knowledgeable, Allah hummabārik.
Then, we’ve got Afra with the bright eyes, Maa Shaa Allah. The way she tells stories: the way her entire face lights up when telling them. We’re looking for light in this world, and children have it, are closer to it.
One of my students, the first time I’d been with their class, observing a former teacher of theirs:
He’d been… balancing a paper cup on his head. Told me to call him ‘Chicken Wing’ instead of his real name: Mohammed. And, on his hoodie: something about skateboarding, and about being a ‘Free Spirit’. Quite fitting!
Our childhood selves: we’re telling the world, and our teachers and our parents, and our selves… Whom we, by nature, are. It’s the job of responsible adults to… Not dim our lights, nor to ‘stifle’ us in any way. But: to nurture, and to guide. I hope Mohammed never loses his light.
His previous teacher asked the class about something:
“Shall we give it a try?”
Mohammed said, out loud: “Nooooooo.“
Every single thing we do, or don’t do, perhaps, even:
Here is another thing, from when the boys and girls had a Boys V Girls quiz:
This question had been about how many Fardh [Fardh: obligatory. We have to do them,] units of prayer there are, in each of the five daily prayers:
“Mad theme parks in this Dunya,” said Sasha, my homie/good friend who bullies me. “You’re on the clown ride.”
“Honestly, I feel like I’m the star of your blog. All the funny things are either me being funny or you being embarrassing. Quote that verbatim.”
If you were to meet Sasha in real life… You may be at least a little surprised. She deliberately dresses up colourfully, and like a child. Is so nice, Maa Shaa Allah, always smiling. Star/dinosaur earrings and all. And she also has a ‘mean’ side. Like the ‘rude flowers’ she’d drawn on our whiteboard in the living room: some nicely-drawn flowers who are ‘saying mean things’. Exhibit A:
We don’t believe in a ‘dualism’, per se, when it comes to the matter of the body and then the substance of the soul. [Unity, rather. And holism.]
The body is the site of the soul: the two exist together, and we are embodied beings, by nature.
And so: bodily cleanliness, for one example, is quite significant for spiritual cleanliness.
The food we eat matters.
The fact that we only have sexual relations with our spouses: it’s not ‘just a physical thing’.
Sleep matters. Things are profoundly important, ‘spiritual’. And so on.
For le gut health:
And we also had pizza that day. Delicious, Halāl pizza, AlHamduliLlah.
At CMC, we’re very cared for. Sheikha Nabila and Dr. Mariam called a meeting in the library for female students. To have a catch-up, to learn more about one another’s experiences. And they’d served (that good) pizza at said meeting.
The women I’m around at the moment, Maa Shaa Allah: amazing. And often in a down-to-earth, ‘unassuming’ way.
*I had to rush off from the meeting, to go and teach at CCM. A’iyshah handed me an extra pizza slice on a napkin. Pizza is a love language. Handing your friend a second slice on a napkin as she rushes out: yet another one, you know.
As much as fear and sadness can coat our experiences here in this world: in this holding-place away from Home…
I believe in
Probably, AlHamduliLlah, as ‘Happy’ as I can be, in the here and now. [Even with coming-and-going, and sometimes staying for whatever while, less-than feelings…]
My ideas pertaining to success, and to confidence, and to happiness…
They’re all rooted in Truth. Closeness to God is what we strive for.
Sheikha Nabila also mentioned something about the ‘stories we tell ourselves’. All the time. Our experiences, our mental associations. You can tell yourself a better story, Dear Reader.
[And be your favourite self].
[Currently making some rice pudding, since I had some leftover rice in the rice cooker. 2 hours in the oven, mixed with milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Yeeeeah, boi.]
Here’s a hand-towel that Sasha’s mum lovingly sewed ribbons onto the corners of, for her. Sasha’s mum works as an accountant. She has a day off on Wednesdays. The last time she’d come down to visit Sasha: she’d brought some things. They also went shopping together, I think, and bought some things [a nice thing about family coming down to visit us: we get gifts, including food ones!]
But Sasha’s mum had forgotten to bring the hand-towel, and she lives in Manchester. And so sent it over soon afterwards, via post. And then Sasha made it a ‘communal’ hand-towel:
Yesterday. I got us some raspberry-and-elderflower lemonade from Sainsbury’s. Plus mint leaves. My Halāl version of ‘Echo Falls’ (an alcoholic drink I’d literally just learnt about yesterday. Apparently it’s quite popular. But alas, the best of wines awaits us in Jannah).
And I really like good food. And good people, like my students at CCM, AlHamduliLlah. And my housemates, and my friends. [Imagine Sasha, here, saying something like: “You have friends? Joking hahahah.” Yeah, Sasha, I have friends.