بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Human beings: get sick. It’s one of the (many) things we do. ‘Tis a part of this life; we have got to walk through it all – and while also working through, and taking the steps in favour of, healing – with Sabr. [Sabr: patience. Keep going.]
The seasons change; the weather turns. Life happens. We may wake up with the sniffles one day. And with the gloomy, heavy clouds of depression above us the next. And/or: we may be diagnosed with some other illness that affects our kidneys, and/or our stomachs, and/or something else.
Maybe it’s true that many, many, people are walking around with whichever combinations of their own ‘secret’ sicknesses. The pain flares up here and there; they wonder why they can’t do things more ‘perfectly’. Be more ‘productive’ and so on.
We walk through life comparing ourselves to ideals of ‘perfection’. And, still, we know that in this life, no matter what: we’ll never quite get there.
The idea of progressive sickness is one that, I think, scares me. To lose bodily capacities, to become frailer and frailer. Less able; and then, to potentially lose parts of your corporeal [corporeal: bodily] being.
Is the process of ageing classifiable as a form of sickness?
Some people are very brave: these are the things that they must go through. For some people: they need assistance to get around. For some: their lungs will… randomly become filled with mucus. For others:
Dementia. A stroke. Diabetes. And so on.
Have we counted our blessings today?
If we were to try: still, we could never enumerate the blessings, the favours, of God, upon us.
We have eyelashes! [What?!]
And functioning hands, and arms, and feet that walk. We can see, and smell, and so on, and so on.
And what about sickness?
The kind of stuff that won’t make it onto beautifully-curated Instagram pages?
What about the ‘ugly‘, and less-than-favourable parts?
- The Life of this Dunya, in truth… is far from being ‘ideal’.
“(Here.) You can have his head.
I decapitated him with a knife for you.”
*For context: a bear-shaped chocolate. From my housemate Sasha.
Yo. Bears are cool creatures, aren’t they?
“The quality of everyone who’s boring. Only boring people are patient.
Have you ever met a fun person who’s patient? No.”
Don’t listen to Sasha. The above is what she has said on the subject. Do not trust Sasha’s verdict on the virtue of patience, don’t do it.
“At least I had some fun in this Dunya. At least I ate some Pringles.”
Sasha had to wait for said Pringles. [Wait, and then: you’ll receive better, and more.]
*We live in a house in which… we do share things. We do nice things for each other. Not in a ‘transactional’, ‘priced’ kind of way. Just.
Like when Sasha put aside, in a cupboard, a ‘communal snacks box’ for us all. And when she’s very kindly made coffee and food for me. And has even cleaned cups and so on the way I like to clean them, before making me things. [I have a hygiene ‘thing’. I often disinfect things I eat from/with with boiled hot water before using them.]
Today, Sasha was craving crisps, and was going to go to Tesco to get some. Specifically: Pringles, or Doritos. I said I’d get them, since I was going shopping anyway. To look for suitcases for my mum, since we are travelling soon In Shaa Allah. And for a few other things. Like a DKNY wallet, which my mum wants to gift a friend of hers. And then, also on my list: hygiene products for myself.
Purity, on the physical and spiritual levels is very important in Islam.
But, me, personally: I think I could be diagnosable as having a mild form of OCD. Personally: I don’t see it as a ‘problem‘ per se.
In fact: I was a hand sanitiser and wipes enthusiast before it was ‘cool’. At secondary school: I’m pretty sure I could go through a pack of wipes in a day, because things can be gross.
Secondary schools can be gross.
Public washroom facilities, also. Thank you for existing, wipes.
I also saw a nice soap set at T.K. Maxx; it was designed like a book.
Ah, sweet scents. Combined with aesthetics. And hygiene. And botanicals.
‘The Secret Garden’ is a book I had to teach my class of Year Sevens, back when I taught at an Islamic secondary school for a year. [I didn’t have a degree, then, but I did have experience. The school took a chance on me, and for that I am very grateful. AlHamduliLlah: ’twas from God.
When the principal asked me at the job interview what I might struggle with, I said: maybe… classroom management. I do not know how to tell young people off without smiling very soon afterwards. Too serious.
*My little brother knows this. If he’s in trouble with me: he just does something funny. Tension broken. Tension is stressful. Humour can be a rescuing force in that sense.]
A key theme in ‘The Secret Garden’ is… that of healing. Getting ‘better’. From sickness: and sickness can be physical, and it can also be, let’s say, social. When we find ourselves unable to truly connect with the people around us: but we really, really need good social connections.
In this book, the two main characters become ‘better’ as a result of their interactions and relationship with the landscape. With the beauties and intrinsic healing properties of nature. The ‘garden’.
And as a result of their friendship with one another.
In Islam, of course, we deeply recognise both: the healing and uplifting and so on properties of ‘nature’. And just how important good companionship is! Upholding ties of kinship: it’s a key part of being Muslim.
With one’s neighbours, siblings. Family. With the sick, the elderly… The community.
The Cambridge Central Mosque, Winter 2022:
God, the beauty of His creations, and community…
Mary, Mary, quite contrary.
How does your garden grow?
There’s a series on Netflix that my best friend and I have loved. ‘Anne with an E‘. I mention it here partly because the other day, after two years or something since I’d watched the whole thing…
My brother basically said, kind of out of the blue, ‘Remember Mary with an E?’
[My baby brother is the cutest. May Allah bless him.]
That story is also about the beauty of friendship, healing, and community. It’s about love, and nature is very important in it too. A key part of my childhood, even though I’d watched it as an adult. But, then again: who’s to say that ‘childhood’ has to ever ‘end’ for us?
Check this out:
They look a bit like fish, but are actually leaves…
Now, if you fancy having a good cry:
Here’s something a former colleague of mine (from that secondary school) posted on her WhatsApp status. She’d become a mother not too long ago, Maa Shaa Allah:
A park in the snow:
“You never know what will find you“
Yo. I turn 22 in 5 days. These are my last 5 days of being 21.
Sometimes I act like a 6 year old, without really intending to. And then, sometimes, I act more like a grandma. Like with my reusable designed-with-pomegranates shopping bag.
That’s okay though, because grandmas are cool.
I am legit an adult now. This means that…
I also have to think about practical things, which, previously, I didn’t really have to think about. Like: the proper food there is to make and have, roughly three times a day.
Like: bills, and writing to the council and so on [in that moment just then, I remembered something I have to send to the council].
As an adult: you can call people who are younger than you ‘sweetheart’, and it’s normal, even if it might take some getting used to, for you, at first. [Calling younger people ‘sweetheart‘ is something I’d picked up from the Assistant Principal of the school I’d worked at.]
It was my brother, on the human level, who had been the first one to show me “the colour of the sky.“
I didn’t even know that love could be like this: I loved this boy even before he was born. I can’t ever not love this little boy.
He’s a Duʿa come true. Years of waiting. I was an only child for almost twelve years, but trust me:
Allah Does the seemingly ‘impossible’. The highly, highly ‘improbable’. It’s easy for Allah.
*Keep making Duʿa [calling out to God, praying to Him].
I cannot tell you how much I love my brother, and how proud I am, of him. And how much of a joy it has been, to have seen him grow. How much I love being around him. To have this most adorable child to come home and see again. Even with the times he would hit me………… and damage some of my things…….
The word Raḥmah is an important one, in Islam.
Arabic and Hebrew are ‘sister’ (Semitic) languages, and the term Raḥmah as a religious one exists in Judaism too:
Think about all the times someone has cared for you. The times people have been mild, and tender, softhearted, careful, and compassionate towards you.
This is from God, and this is how we seek to be, as Muslims.
Raḥmah is very often shown from parents, to their children. And from spouses, to their spouses.
It’s there between siblings, it’s there between really good friends, family members. And even between strangers sometimes: a smile, a helping hand.
This love that Allah has Placed in my heart, towards my brother: it’s His Raḥmah towards my brother, and I am fortunate enough to be a vessel for it. My heart literally cries for my little brother. Think about it: almost twelve years of me having been an only child, and then my home and my whole life is warmed, by this most adorable little child, with those big, long-eyelashed eyes, his baby chubby cheeks, and his laugh. I love to hear my baby brother’s laugh.
- For whom has Allah placed a significant and beautiful amount of Raḥmah in your heart?
Recently, my uncle became a Parent Governor at his son Dawud’s school. My uncle really wanted to be involved in his son’s school life in this way; to have this role.
He cares a lot about his son, and cares about Dawud’s development. Love is something that you see in people’s eyes:
That’s the thing about our human eyes. They tell the secrets and the truths of the heart: and they do not, and just cannot, lie.
Four-year-old Dawud’s first friend in the world has been, and is, his father. And that is just so beautiful, Maa Shaa Allah. [Dawud will be five in three days, In Shaa Allah. His birthday’s a day before mine, and I’m 17 years older than him.
My mum likes that I have my birthday in different places. So: I’d turned 16 in Spain, for example. 17 in Italy, and heard the news about Dawud’s being born while there. And then: I’ll be turning 22 in Turkey, In Shaa Allah.]
Here’s another very adorable manifestation of Raḥmah:
- Whom would you give your first slice of cake to?
I think everybody I know knows that I would give my first slice to Saif, my brother. Who on Earth else?
Saif, however, would probably give his first slice to… his cat. His ‘favourite sibling’, apparently. It be like that.
- Brazil, and ‘Brazilian tradition’. That cake thing is something that I myself would like to do: it’s one of the most natural things in the world… learning from other people, other cultures.
Incidentally: I do quite like looking ‘ethnically ambiguous‘: there’s a beauty and a joy in it, AlHamduliLlah. While my friend Elma, for example, thinks I look ‘Libyan’, my friend Anjum says I look South American: like the South American women she’s seen walking on the streets of South America.
Anjum’s travelled to, lived in, places like South America, Palestine, Morocco, Maa Shaa Allah.
She’s got a background in Law, and has worked with victims of the Grenfell tragedy, and this is one of a number of other unique and interesting, meaningful and God-Gifted experiences she’s had, Maa Shaa Allah.
She talks about the beauty and the blessing in being able to ‘witness somebody else’s truth‘.
Anjum has also, for example… worked briefly with a Muslim helpline. She talked about how difficult aspects of life can get, for some people. Children sleeping under their parents’ beds, since there’s no space. Being unable to afford food. People having addictions to gambling.
New research, also, has found that “one in eight people behind on their bills have attempted suicide during the cost-of-living crisis.“
Our role, as Muslims, whether we are lawyers or doctors or mothers or accountants: is to be bearers of light in this world. To be grateful to God, and to be vessels for His Raḥmah.
When we, as Muslims, go to recite from the Qur’an…
We begin with the words,
Both ‘Raḥmān‘ and ‘Raheem’ are derived from the three root letters that make up ‘Raḥmah‘. Attributes of God: Allah has ninety-nine names. And these are the first two of them that we say, when we say them.
and softheartedness are, in Islam.
*When I think about Raḥmah, I think about how many Muslim adults kiss their parents’ head and hands. I think about people’s kind words, and their sincere presences. Nice things people do for you, the care they’ll show.
I think about… the fact that I’m a 21-year-old girl/woman who’s made some quite specific Duʿas (prayers) that the Lord of the Universe has Answered for me.
I think about ‘pet names’ and terms of endearment. Patience, and grace, and maternity. And paternity. And being warm. And being kissed. Like on the forehead. Forehead kisses ❤ for the win.
I have a student in my current class at CCM (Cambridge Central Masjid, where I’m an evening Madrasa teacher). Her name is Amal. She’s so adorable, Maa Shaa Allah: it’s her eyes in particular. So innocent. The features that tell you the truth of a human being, and how pure they are: the eyes.
Amal’s name means ‘Hope’ in Arabic.
Yesterday, she’d gently given me something.
‘This is for you.’
[Ladies and gentlemen, my heart has melted.]
It’s a “bobble hat” she’d said, unaware of her own completely adorable, unknowing, innocence. The hat fit perfectly onto the lid of my flask. She said I would just need to ‘tie’ it, i.e. the strings. Sasha, my housemate, helped me at home afterwards by tying it up for me, with some of her embroidery string. She’d brought down three different colours to choose from: blue, or pink, or cream.
Amal made this for me with her hands. I could cry.
I have much good reason to have hope. And part of Allah’s showing His Raḥmah towards me is that: I have spent time with these children. Pure, pure hearts, Maa Shaa Allah.
If you want something, ask Ar-Raḥmān for it. The Lovingkind One who loves you more than any human being ever could. He’ll definitely Respond to you, and to your prayer. Watch!
[Leaves wearing frosted Winter coats:]
At Anjum’s House.
Yesterday, after teaching at CCM: I went to Anjum’s house, which is near the masjid. By invitation. We: watched the last bit of the Morocco V France match together, and with Nabiha, who also lives nearby.
Anjum made for me a wonderful meal of pitta bread, chicken, salsa and courgette: she’s a very good host, Maa Shaa Allah.
We were sad about Morocco having not won the match. But they really did win. The hearts of the people, and they’d made Sujūd (prostration) to God. Because AlHamduliLlah in all cases, and situations: seeming ‘win’ or seeming ‘lose’. It’s the inner state that counts; that renders true champions… champions. It’s a state-of-the-heart thing.
Speaking to Anjum yesterday was very beneficial for me, AlHamduliLlah. So much of wisdom gleaned, Maa Shaa Allah.
And today, I went and met with Claire, who is a Christian woman, and she’s studying religion at Cambridge.
We had hot chocolates – and Black Forest (cherry and chocolate) cake – at Caffé Nero. A good conversation, AlHamduliLlah.
And I was reminded very nicely, aptly, and at a timely time, of the amazing Raḥmah of God. And about how He is so Near: Closer to us than our own jugular veins are.
He is so very Lovingkind. He Knows you, and your heart and what is in it, better than you yourself ever could, and will.
Allah Responds to the caller when s/he calls upon Him. So do it: call upon your Rabb.
“I just realised I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast. Why is being a human so much effort?” my housemate said. The time is 17:06 in the PM.
“Indeed, Allah’s Raḥmah is always close to the doers of good/beauty/excellence.”
— Qur’an, (7:56).