بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
It was night-time in London, Westminster. And I: had been at Pret, with my friend Jemima. At that time: I’d been feeling a consistent feeling of…
Such a heaviness. An ‘aloneness’.
Even while being surrounded by people, and daily smiles, and corridor (and in front of the mirrors in the bathrooms,) conversations.
Lost is the word. And I didn’t quite know how to have hope, or faith, in whatever I’d been doing. Where was this work taking me?
I have a big family. Nuclear-wise: it is my parents, me, my little brother, and our cat.
And, for us: the concept of an ‘extended’ family that is somehow ‘detached‘ from what is ‘core’ and ‘nuclear’… is an a l i e n one.
- My grandma lives around 5 minutes away from our house in London; she stays at our house sometimes. Sometimes her youngest daughter, and her daughter, stay at hers.
- Our neighbours’ family and ours have grown up beside one another.
- When my cousin Mazhar (whom I was raised beside: he was my brother growing up. Fights and all,) met his younger sibling Moosa for the first time: I was there too. At the same time. We’d raced home to see him: our little brother.
My little cousin Maryam also: in Bengali, the title of respect/seniority for ‘maternal uncle’s wife’ is Mami. When the nurses at the hospital had said that only direct siblings are allowed inside, to see the child:
I’d said: ‘But that’s my Mami’. And I was allowed in, since they’d thought I meant ‘mummy’.
I’m thinking about how, at one point, my password, for emails and whatnot had been: Isaisreallycute. Isa is the younger brother of Mazhar, Maryam, and Moosa. He was such a cute baby, Maa Shaa Allah. And he’s around at our house in London quite a lot: he and my brother are growing up as brothers and best friends too.
On that day, after night had fallen in Westminster. And the streets looked uniquely bare. And I’d been trying to do ‘work’ but didn’t feel motivated for it. I didn’t quite know how to work towards something that I didn’t have faith in.
The looming glass buildings looked aesthetic, and yet not comforting. They could not save me. And when there’d be family gatherings and invitations: I’d stay at home from some of them. Feeling sad, and like I have to ‘work’.
I’d feel tired at others. And detached.
I used to cry at school, feeling rather sad. Distraught, even. Sometimes in the bathrooms, in closed cubicles. And sometimes, accidentally, in class: tears would leak from my eyes.
Not because I wanted to cry at school, or for people to see me cry [I cried in front of my headteacher once too.], but: it just happened. Emotions and our true selves: cannot forever, indefinitely, be suppressed, and hid. It was clear that I wanted something different.
Something was clearly wrong at the time. But, what?
[Errrr….. Basically everything, that’s what it felt like.]
*Fast-forward to the present. My housemate Sasha walked into the kitchen. Saw the towel on my head and (jokingly) remarked:
“I love your new headscarf style! … It’s nice to see you switching things up a bit. …
Do you want a pickled tomato? [I’m good, thank you.].”
“Some people have no taste.”
How, really, do you want to live?
Back then, in Westminster, finally:
I’d given my aunt a call.
I’d been feeling so detached from family, so away from things, so… completely ‘beside myself’.
Healing began when everything felt broken. A quote I’d seen on Instagram had read along the lines of:
Where everything is uncertain,
anything is possible.
My relationships with God, and my family: grew back. AlHamduliLlah. And with the community. They grew back better.
That was 4 years ago. Lots has happened since.
And I know that, in seeking what Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, had termed ‘self-actualisation’: it’s really not about ‘me, me, me’. Serving myself, and separating myself from necessary others. I was Designed, built,
to be together with people, and together in truth, and not in mere ‘competition’ or inauthenticity.
Some seem to accept this idea that a woman, for example, ought to be ‘independent’. That motherhood, for one big example, perhaps, is some sort of ‘threat to the ‘individual”. But I have realised that I am only me in light of my beautiful and beloved relationships. They’ll also teach me to be more serving, as I should be: than ‘entitled’.
And if there’s nobody to look after,
And nobody to come home to and be greeted by,
And nobody to joke around with and to experience life, its struggles and its triumphs with.
And nobody to speak to, daily, and nobody to hold and cuddle and laugh with:
What do we call that? ‘Freedom’ (‘Liberalism’)?
Allah found us lost, and then He Guided us.
Family and people, daily, are very important to me. I’m never just ‘me’ by myself. I am a Muslim, a sister, a cousin, a niece, and so on.
Things won’t be ‘perfect’, relationships-wise, in this Dunya. There’ll be fall-outs, wrongdoings, fights. But we’re definitely better off with them than away from them. ‘Problems’, and there are always problems around: are worth working through.
If there’s the existence of problem/malady, then there is necessarily also the existence of solution/remedy.
- Allah is the Best of Planners, and the Best of Guides, and the Best of Teachers. AlHamduliLlah.
It is day-time, in Cherry Hinton, Cambridge. And things have changed.
I’d say I was ‘looking for myself’ in false things. On social media, which is illusory. In ‘work’ that felt too much, and pointless. But that time was also meaningful.
And though some claim that ‘finding oneself’ is about ‘solo travel’ and ‘independence’ in that sense and so on:
The Islamic tradition tells me that together is better; that here is where I find, and know myself. In religion, and with family, community, friends. Not ‘alone’: that’s where I am weak, and susceptible, and not real.
‘Alone’ is where I am far away from myself. And together is where I am closer.
I wasn’t born ‘alone’. In the sense that: my identity is forever shaped by the fact that God Made me. He Knew me prenatally; He Knew me before I’d been in my mother’s womb. I owe everything to Him.
On the human level: my mother gave birth to me, father provided for me, my family, like my maternal aunt, cared for me. My nan fed me sometimes; my uncle and aunt would take me out to places. My sibling, my friends, are me. Sustained ‘aloneness’ isn’t a value: it’s the opposite of one, in Islam, and it’s delusional. When is the human being ever ‘independent’?
Taqwa: cognisance, consciousness, fear of, being aware of Allah.
Being aware of the fact that we are never alone.
*I tried to do that whole ‘modern’ ‘go to a café/restaurant/elsewhere by yourself’ thing. ‘Romanticising ‘aloneness”. As if that would make me more ‘self-actualised’. Some ‘alone time’ feels good, sometimes, in moderation: to decompress and walk and think and all. But generally, I found somewhere, that in the Islamic tradition, we know that being in groups of three or more is generally best, when you go places.
Shaytān, for example, finds it more difficult to break down a person/believer, if s/he is with others, with good company. So I really want to limit the amount of ‘alone time’ I have, unless it’s towards my health and wellbeing: being ‘alone’ is when the Satanic whispers, the negative thoughts, can get to me.
This life is like “a big obstacle course for people. And some people [have] a peanut allergy or something.” Sasha is just so… quotable. We were talking about extraterrestrial life yesterday.
A singular image never shows the truer, fuller picture.
This applies to social media. And to other things, like certain ‘promises’ of ‘success’.
Not Taking Things for Granted.
Look at any ‘grown-up’ human being. The ‘singular image’ of them might mean that it’s ‘easy’ to take for granted that, perhaps:
- One evening, on the 4th January 2005, his father stayed up with him for an entire night, because he had a fever.
- There was a time when he’d used the word ‘decision’ for the very first time, and he’d learned it from somewhere.
- His grandma made him lunch every single day for several years. Warm, fresh, healthful lunches.
- When he was a baby: someone had to burp him after he’d been fed.
- He also pooped a lot. So there was that to be cleaned, several times a day.
- Each time he ate: someone washed his dishes.
- And calmed him down when he would cry.
- Someone guided him with brushing his teeth, twice a day. Day in, day out.
- And cleaned up all the little spillages he’d make. Milk, juice, paint, and the rest.
- And listened to him, when he had these sometimes excited and exciting, and sometimes sad, and tragic, stories to tell, about school that day.
- Someone stayed with him as he slept, afraid that something might happen to him if he’s left unattended.
- Someone worked extra hard, to put food on the table, and to pay for his clothes, the furniture in his room, and other expenses.
16:36, Thursday 5th January, 2023. Cherry Hinton, Cambridge.
Sasha and I got back from Tesco just earlier. She was craving sweet treats.
Earlier, Sasha said that if I’m not nice to her, then she might make a blog called
journeytotheheartofevil in direct opposition to mine.
To spite me. And to ‘expose me’ and all. (/joking.)
Bad Idea of the Day:
Heating up a glass of Ovaltine in the microwave…
It’s in the nature, the anatomy, of the believer to be optimistic.
GLASS HALF FULL.
I’m so happy that I got to make that joke, right here. How very fitting, someone give me a medal or a cookie or something.
Optimism: the microwave plate needed cleaning anyway. Someone’s mug cake spilt onto it a little. And may-haps if this Ovaltine spillage hadn’t happened: maybe we would have just left the small cake spillages there for ages.
I: got a more milky (oat milk) Ovaltine drink, and thus one that wasn’t immediately too hot to drink, since I put cold milk into it afterwards. And we got a cleaned microwave plate. Glass half full.
We are, in light of God and the fact that He is the Creator of all things in the heavens and the earth.
We are, also, secondarily: in light of the people in our lives. Our identities are there: in our relationships.
So when we lose people in our lives: it’s like we’re losing parts of our own selves. Ouch.
In times of rupture and breakage, however: perhaps it would be good to seek to fortify (strengthen) our other relationships. Our relationship with God. With our parents, with our siblings. With our good friends. Lots of healing and goodness, and growth, happens in those very spaces.
The story of humanity is just so awesome. Subhaan Allah.
Today I found out, from 23andMe that they’ve discovered more new relatives of mine. 4th cousins of mine, for example, who live in America.
My 4th cousin Kayla, apparently:
A question I’ve been thinking about lately:
What’s the best way to be, when you’re with people who are (seem) rather different from you?
On the one hand, I ‘find myself’ in spaces in which I have substantial, core, things in common with the people around me. Like in Islamic circles.
And what about when the people around me… look quite different to me?
‘Look’ might just be the key word there. It implies: surface-level. What if they… love the same kind of humour as I do?
What if they are passionate about some of the things that I find I am also quite passionate about?
It’s natural for us to be drawn towards people who ‘look’ like us. Like how we might gush in connection and love for the children in our families, who resemble us. Would you treat a child with, say, different colour skin as your own, with much the same love and affection?
Doesn’t a human heart recognise a fellow human heart?
On the surface levels: ‘they’ might seem so different to ‘you’. ‘Irreconcilably’ so? No.
Look deeper; beneath the skins of things. At flesh and blood and bone. At the fact that human nature (including the facts that: siblings fight. Aunts make nice food. Parents provide. And so on,) stems from that very first human being: Ādam, and his wife Hawaa.
If there are some outer things that are clearly quite different about you and some others: then it means that you’re likely going to learn some things from them. They’ll make you think, maybe, and you’ll make them think. Being ‘different’ in some certain ways means that you bring something, you’re somewhat unique in that space, and that’s a good thing. Now talk to one another, have a conversation.
- Today I tutored my English students Yasin and Shaiful. And also made stir-fry [started on it during our 5-minute break in the English lesson. Had to make sure I was muted of course: do not want a repeat of what happened at the start of CMC last year, when we had lessons online. I was running up the stairs making random sounds, with my laptop in my hands, unmuted].
- Anyway: I was getting gassed [gassed: flattered, excited, happy in response to something good happening,] about how the chicken was lookin’, in the hoisin sauce. And then…. I put a lid on the chicken. And it got burnt a little.
- Glass half full.
Burnt. No: char-grilled. [Words matter!!!!!!!!!!!!]
My dad wanted to see a picture of the chicken I’ve been cooking. So I turned over some of the char-grilled chicken pieces and sent him a picture. He replied that it looks: “Yummy”.
I got a golden ticket.
I’ve been feeling randomly nostalgic lately. Not in a ‘wistful’ sort of way. Just fondly-ish remembering.
Today I got a chocolate bar with hazelnuts in it from Tesco, and was reminded of the golden ticket from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
‘Coincidentally’, I ended up teaching my students Yasin and Saiful a lesson based on two opinion pieces from The Guardian. One made reference to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory: in it, an elderly lady speaks about how she used to read this book to her son when he was small. And now she’s living like some of its characters: she spends lots of time in her bed, to keep warm during this Cost of Living Crisis.
The society around us:
Maybe it can be ‘easy’ to forget that… there are people around us who need things like financial aid, and food, and warmth. And company.
“These moments of companionship are precious and uplifting.” A line from this article that had stuck out to me.
God Loves all good acts, even the ones we might see as ‘tiny’ and small: like a smile.
The second article we’d looked at had been about… gout.
The ‘rich food’ illness: the illness that had affected the likes of Henry VIII.
And I’m not about to encourage my physical being to develop this disease. So I put away the chocolate.
Love is an excellent motivator.
And so too is fear.
Extract from the article about gout:
Iz all about sufficiency.
Including: getting those vitamins and minerals in, amirite?
Some news from TellMAMA, a non-governmental organisation which works on tackling anti-Muslim hatred:
*Someone dumped a pig’s head on the roof of a masjid in Manchester about 2 weeks ago.
I’ve felt scared for a long time here in the UK, and in Europe in general. It’s a constant, low-level let’s say, fear that is here. I’m on guard. I’ve seen some of the vicious, violent, and angry things that Muslims can be subjected to sometimes, just out of the blue; I’ve experienced some of it too. Sometimes it’s just that fear of immediate rejection, of people thinking they have reason to have some contempt/anger/hatred towards you. A report by the University of Birmingham shows that we’re the second overall ‘most disliked’ group here in the UK.
The study revealed that: roughly one in four Britons hold negative views of Muslims and Islam.
And also that: “people from middle and upper-class occupational groups are more likely to hold prejudiced views of Islam than people from working class occupational groups.” Source: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/.
Some speak, and shout their disdains at strangers. Others voice theirs behind closed doors: it’s a bubbling beneath the surface. Concealed beneath a veneer of ‘propriety‘ or some such.
In this moment, the glass is half full because:
People often don’t like, or sometimes even hate, what they don’t really know, and/or understand. And challenges make us stronger: they can aid us in better appreciating things like the good communities we have, the places of nurture.
I like me. I love Islam, and… being Bengali, and my family. All the things that make me, me, and the things that colour my world. I love them.
I’d rather be with these things than without them, always.
Love is so strong a force that… some random grown man can angrily yell in my face (Central London, 2021) or tell me and the people I’m with, “EDL! EDL! Go throw yourselves in the lake” (Kent, 2014). And it falls upon deaf ears: I just don’t care, I can’t really hear it.
I love Islam, and being myself, too much to.
*Challenges serve to strengthen us, ultimately. They’re inevitable; they can increase us in love and in conviction.
*Allah is our Walī (Protecting Guardian).
Friday 6th January 2023.
Prayed Fajr. And sent out an email for today’s Weekly Bulletin [I write the weekly newsletter for CMC staff and students!]
I don’t quite feel like eating breakfast just yet [not cake this time. Don’t want gout or diabetes. Porridge perhaps, with blueberries.]
Going to have a glass o’ milk [you can tell the difference between types of milk. More ‘organic’ milk looks more off-white in colour, and has a creamier consistency and a different taste.]
What life can look like at 07:38 AM:
*Cannot find my screen glasses (blue-light-blocking glasses). Glass half full: this is a real incentive for me to… tidy my rooooom.
09:02 AM, and I just submitted an essay I’ve been working on. AlHamduliLlah. The topic of the essay: challenges.
Also received my first response to the email I sent out for the CMC Weekly Bulletin.
A fellow student from the cohort above, James, wrote back:
Salaam ‘alaykum Sadia,
I met with my sister, whom I hadn’t seen in almost four years, on a short trip to Luxembourg. We also took a train to Germany, where I spontaneously decided to take her ice-skating despite the fact that I had no idea how to ice-skate — that was interesting.
After that, I took a week long trip to Manchester to visit my wife’s side of the family and ate curry on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of that.
Attached is a picture of my sister and I in Germany,
*Being good to our families/relatives, and to the people around us in general, is a very significant part of Islam.
Now: throwback to a conversation with my aunt (who really helped raise me; my mum’s sister), from November last year, when I got the job at the Cambridge Central Mosque:
[This is also the aunt I instinctively called those years ago, in Westminster. And the one who encouraged me to apply to the Islamic school back in East London, to teach there.]
Porridge. With organic honey from Tesco in it:
- Did some laundry. Surf Tropical Lily detergent smells so nice, but maybe next time I’ll use a more ‘eco-friendly’ detergent. Like one by the brand Ecover.
- Applied for a Tesco Clubcard, finally.
Back when I was teaching at the Islamic girls’ secondary school:
During the pandemic, I taught online for a while. An… experience. My brother would try to shout things and say hello to everyone sometimes. He’d be gaming in the background. And sometimes: I’d have to be near him, since the Wi-Fi was stronger in the living room.
One of my students from English tutoring, recently, said in chat [and I can relate]:
11 AM: I had a Tutorial meeting.
And here’s a Hadīth (a saying of the Prophet S A W):
Not Taking Things for Granted.
Being without a thing for a while makes you appreciate it far more when you’re, God-Willing, with it.
I never knew I’d be moving out like this, having this whole adventure, AlHamduliLlah.
Cambridge, as a place, makes sense to me: I’d visited several times before, on school trips and such. I know some people here. So moving here wasn’t as ‘daunting’ in any way as moving to some other city in England that I hadn’t been acquainted with.
There were also steps to this: for a while, it wasn’t even a thought that could genuinely be entertained, I don’t think. But that was until: my first cousin, Priya, moved out for uni. From Folkestone, Kent, to London. She lived with her (mum’s side) cousin, and a friend, in a house. Her dad would provide for her; pay her rent.
Priya’s dad is my dad’s brother. And I strongly think this is a big factor that led to my dad being okay with this, and my dad does pay my rent for me too.
Provision; not taking things for granted.
Fruits grow on trees.
Money does not grow on trees.
Money has to be earned, and I think this is a reality that I was sheltered from. As in: I never had to think about it, in such practical terms at all, growing up. That’s a blessing, I know.
If I needed, or wanted, new clothes: my parents would get me new clothes. New things. New gadgets and other things.
Stationery. Books. I don’t know how to ever repay my parents: I don’t think it’s quite possible.
But, yes, although men are often ‘stoic’ about it, and don’t really talk about the financial and otherwise pressures that they shoulder… Things do need to be paid for. That is how this world works. [Speaking in general terms, men being providers. It’s in their God-given nature.
Cancel me if you want.]
- Now: lunch time. Then maybe some Qur’an, and some rest. Before going to Jumuʿah (congregational Friday prayer).
Today’s Jumuʿah at Cambridge Central Masjid:
So many shoes, of course. People coming together, hugging.
I love ‘bromance’. Like the five or so friends sitting together on the men’s side.
It’s also so nice when bros call one another “bro”, methinks. The love between ourselves is very important, in Islam.
In fact, my teacher Dr Najah said that Ibn Khaldun said that a teacher shouldn’t even teach their students if they don’t love them. We need to feel bonded, and united, and together.
Today’s Khutbah (Sermon) had been about: trustworthiness. A very important trait, and a Prophetic one.
Not letting people down. Being reliable. Honest and truthful.
Being with people who are true. In goodness. And remaining (firm) on as-Sirāt-ul-Mustaqīm: the Straight Path.
After the prayer, I picked up my (muddy-ish, need to clean them, black) boots and I saw one of my former students. Noora, bless her, Maa Shaa Allah. Her name means Light in Arabic.
I didn’t manage to speak to her today.
I also saw: Iyaad. What an adorable child, Maa Shaa Allah. We smiled at one another, and then we talked. These children’s smiles are just gorgeous. Allah hummabārik: may God bless, and smile upon, them.
Seeing and speaking to Iyaad, today: such a precious and uplifting moment. AlHamduliLlah.
*Later, In Shaa Allah: I’m going to use my Clubcard, boi. And it’s only (just nearly) 2 PM?! One of the benefits of staying up after Fajr…
- To be loved is to be seen and smiled at.