MON 09/01/23: ‘Shajaaʿah’ means ‘Courage’.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Courage.

شجاعة in Arabic. Shajaaʿah.

Whatever you may find yourself going through — the challenges — it won’t break you, won’t break you, they

Will not

break’

you.

It’s a balance, isn’t it, between accepting what – all that – has happened. And not being trapped in sadness, or overcome by fear, which can lead to inactivity.

I know that sometimes depression can feel utterly unhelp-able. Nobody ‘wants to be in that state, right?


As much as we can, however: and I forget which empire this had been, maybe the Ottomans. But, at a time of great challenge; when their enemies had been very strong, and had threatened to severely undermine them.

What did they do?

They rose not only to meet the challenge, but they completely surpassed it.

It was not a ‘limitation’; they chose to completely flourish and excel as themselves.

*Challenges will, In Shaa Allah, make us better. They’re opportunities.


I see the value of crying. Of ‘wallowing’, maybe with some cake or ice-cream in hand. Because without processing it: you might continue to operate on ‘hurt feelings’, on some bleeding wound.

We don’t want to ‘bleed’ (figuratively) on people who didn’t cut us. Don’t want to keep bleeding and losing blood.

There’s work to be done in that sense.

I also see the value of fighting, rising in the face of challenges, and seeking to not only be ‘good‘, but excellent.

Iḥsān: goodness, beauty, excellence.

  • We can do better.
  • And if it is worth fighting for, defending, and protecting: we will.

The Muslim GigaChad.

What?! This is really what you do, as a Muslim? And… you can’t do these things?

Is this what you truly believe?

And is this whom you really are?”

The Muslim GigaChad, without even hesitating for a moment, replies:

Yes.”

And then offers the other guy, the probing one, a slice of homemade pistachio cake. GigaChad’s wife made it for him.

“But that’s sexist.” says the other guy.

Muslim GigaChad took his wife out to eat at a Michelin-star halāl restaurant yesterday. They did not ‘go Dutch’. Is that sexist too?

Anyway. Muslim GigaChad does Wudhu. And then he prays Maghrib.

The End of this Short Story.


So I bought a teddy bear and his name is Adam.

Am I five years old?

Yes. Plus 17.

Thankfully: the best parts of me did not die in those 17 years, I don’t think; I’m still me.

  • As I was planning my CCM lessons (CCM = Cambridge Central Mosque, where I teach. Google it if you want: it’s pretty, Maa Shaa Allah) I thought of some props I may want to use. I’ll be teaching the 6- and 7-year old boys, In Shaa Allah.

I thought: some sort of teddy bear. And also a ball to throw around: kids love to play, and a ball can be used for questions and answers.

And I also thought: colouring pencils.

Yesterday, as I was walking from CCM to the CMC (Cambridge Muslim College, where I’m a student,) library, I stopped at a charity shop. Britain – and Cambridge – has a lot of charity shops. I’d stopped by at The Children’s Society charity shop, this time. And happened to find a really nice teddy bear for £1.29, as well as in-box colouring pencils for a good price. The toys at this charity shop are buy-one-get-one-free.

Also found good-quality WH Smith colouring pencils for 99p, and a soft ball we can use at CCM.

  • Previously: I’ve been a bit reluctant to get certain things from charity shops. But: instead of buying ‘new’, it can be better to get things that are pre-loved. So long as they’re clean/cleaned.
  • I gave Adam the teddy a shower today. Washed his fur with Johnson’s baby shampoo. And wrapped him in a towel. He is currently sitting on the radiator, bless his cotton paws.
  • [At barely 5’1, I look like a child, therefore this is *not* cringe.]

This is when I put Adam on my shoulders:


Friendship.

Left: me. Islamic Studies, teaching, singing randomly, and writing.

Right: Sasha. Psychology, crafts, cats/dinosaurs, and dank memes.

Today Sasha made herself and me some peanut butter-banana-and-coconut milk milkshakes. With her new blender.

She also, as well as my other housemate Shirley, was my audience when I practised my 10/15-minute presentation for Qur’an class, today.

The topic of the presentation is ‘Argumentation in the Makkan subcorpus of the Qur’an.’ It was excellent, beneficial, that I got to practise my presentation on them and get some feedback, before my actual presentation on Tuesday.

Later on:

Sasha read out/explained her recent essay ideas to me. A Social Psychology essay about immigrants. About people being socially rejected on account to their seeming values and so on being in ‘conflict’ with the ‘normal’ one.

  • Normal‘ has two parts to its definition. ‘Normal’ as in, what is statistically/numerically most common. And also: ‘normal’ in terms of what we come to think ‘should‘ be the case. These aspects to defining ‘normal’ are often quite closely related.

A Muslim in Britain: ‘Normal‘?

When we think of ‘being British’, and ‘British culture’, what do we immediately, instinctively think of?

Tea (from India) and crumpets (Warbutons crumpets with melted butter on them, amirite?) and… beans on toast? And fish and chips, and refined British accents? What else, what else? Maybe it’s difficult to capture it all into strings of words. ‘Culture‘, like human personality, is indeed a vast and fascinating thing.

At once a changing thing, and also a same-and-suspended-through-the-ages thing.

‘High culture’ and other things ‘British’. T.S. Eliot once said that the basis of all culture is religion. And that you cannot have ‘culture’ without religion.

This makes sense, and is related to an essay I wrote recently, for my Social Sciences module at CMC (Cambridge Muslim College). It was about a book by Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist: ‘The Elementary Forms of Religious Life’.

As human beings, we are inherently, essentially, and inescapably social beings. [And also, primarily, religious ones]. We belong to social units called families, and to other social units and groups elsewhere: at work and so on.

A ‘culture’ is a shared and complete way of life, and human beings are essentially religious, and social, creatures. We come together and have religion in common. And if not ‘religion’ as a whole: then, still, morals and values whose origins are religious.

‘British’ culture, in religious terms, might be seen as being an inherently ‘Christian’ one. But remember that Jesus was from Palestine, and that Christianity had actually been brought, as far as we know, to the Anglo-Saxon pagans from Rome, i.e. from Italy.

And know that if Brits wish to love Jesus: then here is the religion that he truly followed. The Hanīf tradition: that of Pure Monotheism. In today’s terms: Islam.


Dualities.

So, as well as the toys I’d gotten from that charity shop:

I gravitated towards the book section. And saw some pretty editions of the first two volumes of War and Peace. For a decent price: just over a pound each.

But the book I bought had been: a book about gender and gender differences, told from a generally humorous perspective, but backed by ‘science’.

I do think that men are facing a crisis of masculinity, and I don’t think that it is a joke. After the 1960s, when women were gaining more autonomy and success in terms of careers: women’s suicide rates had fallen considerably. Meanwhile: men’s suicide rates had been rising.

Male and female are different: we’re created differently. It’s interesting to learn more about men, and about our gender differences. What men generally want; what women generally want. And the differences in which we operate.

I believe that gender is something that is sacred. The male form and being is majestic and sacred, and we don’t want for men to wear dresses and try to be women.

And the female form and being: so beautiful and special and sacred, and we don’t want to cut off our hair, deepen our voices and ‘act like men’.

*We also really don’t need to berate and disrespect men, or other women, in order to be ’empowered’ and so on.

We’re different to one another. We’re a dimorphic species, and interdependent on one another. We honour and help each other.


The human being is sacred. Man is sacred.

And woman is sacred.

You are sacred.

Allah Created you as a sacred being, and in the best of forms.


Yesterday, after we’d been speaking in general terms about having a house meeting between our housemates, with snacks, to talk about things like a cleaning rota, new bin rota, and so on:

Sasha asked if we could have weekly dinners. Themed weekly dinners together. We started yesterday: there is no time like this alive and kickin’ present one.

It was set to be a dinner between just three of us, since Gabriella, our fourth housemate, had been away. But she’d happened to have arrived back yesterday, just before our dinner. So she joined us.

Theme for this first Sunday house dinner:

Favourite books. Talk about your favourite book.

I spoke about a book called The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. And about the best book in existence: the Holy Qur’an, which I look to to understand the Meaning of Life, and I look to it for Answers, and I look to it for comfort and reassurance.

The Book Thief: about a girl who is evacuated to a different part of Germany, as far as I can remember. And she can’t read, but wants to. Her lovely adoptive father teaches her how to. She discovers that words are life, and a highly adorable, super endearing, boy called Rudy chases her, and then loves her for the rest of his life.

And words are life, in books and between friends and family, and lovers. And hidden underground, in cellars, away from the world, and also when they are spoken out to it. And words of love, amid war and hatred. Words are powerful; they are life.

Commensality: the act of eating together. Important for our social bonds, and feelings of togetherness. And for wellbeing.

The ‘family meal’ is seen, at least in the ‘West’, as being ‘in decline’. But it is so, so important.

“We lead an existence which is simultaneously both individual and social, and as individuals we can live without society no more than society can live without us.” Source:

https://durkheim.uchicago.edu/Summaries/forms.html#pgfId=6458

Yesterday, we had tomato rice, made by Sasha [delicious out of 10, Maa Shaa Allah!]. Fried chicken and boiled vegetables by me. Fruit from Shirley. Juice from Sasha too.

From being together, and from eating together: [in Durkheim’s words,] we can experience that wonderful feeling of…

Collective effervescence“.


This morning, before the Dawn prayer, Fajr, I:

Made some Duʿas. Duʿas get accepted by Allah at this beautiful time.

This morning I prayed for God to grant me some words, in this day, which are true, and good, and beautiful.

In this day, in response to my prayer I think, I was reminded of the fact that I am a sacred being. That’s where I derive my ‘confidence’, always. From God; from the fact that, as a daughter of Adam, I am a sacred being.

In this day, someone commented on one of my old blog posts, and those were good words too.

In this day, I spoke to my friend Jade, who is getting married soon, In Shaa Allah. At a time when I think I was questioning my worth because of some things I’ve been through. Allah Reminded me that I’m sacred, can’t question that. And also, Jade has made me Maid of Honour at her wedding. This is going to be my first time being someone’s Maid of Honour, and…….. do you even know how honoured I feel?!

*Jadey is English, and she will be wearing a white dress at her wedding, In Shaa Allah. But she doesn’t want to do certain other ‘English wedding traditions’. Since: they’re rooted in superstition, luck’ and things, and are thus antithetical to Islamic values. Islam is the most important ‘cultural’ dimension of her life, and Jade is a friend of mine, my sister, who greatly inspires me, and whom I deeply respect. I’m so grateful that our Lord Placed us in one another’s lives. So perfectly.

It’s okay if some people utterly ‘devalue’ you, treat you like you don’t have worth. Doesn’t make it true.

Someone who is true, and good, and beautiful — my beloved sister Jade, loves me. I love her. The love of such people is enough. The Love of God.

In this day, my uncle sent me some true, and good, and beautiful words:

‘Ranga Mama’ is a Bengali title of seniority/respect for this uncle of mine. His profile picture: is of him being kissed on the cheek by his son, Dawud.

I’ll put what my uncle sent at the end of this article.

*Words are powerful.

Some more words I’d received in this day, and how much this makes me smile and feel so fuzzy inside:

*So, I no longer teach the 7/8-year-old class at CCM (Cambridge Central Masjid). New term: I’m now teaching the 6/7-year-old boys’ class.

Anyway, at the end of the day, a girl from my old class, Afra, whose neighbour and classmate and friend is my other former student, Belal (who looks like and reminds me of my cousin Dawud)…

Belal left the CCM Madrasah. But he gave Afra a card he’d made for me, for her to give to me. He even painted me [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So cute, I am going to die.]

Does the painting look like me? Well, like how Belal looks like my cousin Dawud… he (Belal) told me I remind him of his auntie, Rosa. Maybe he used what he knows her hair looks like, in order to conceptualise what my hair might look like… Bless.

‘Oustathah’ or Ustaadha means: (feminine form of,) teacher, as a form of address.

These words from Belal are true, and good, and beautiful. They are from my Lord, and I know that I am loved (yay!) by all the right people. AlHamduliLlah!!!!


The Journey, Not Necessarily The ‘Outcomes’.

And I must stop being afraid of not being ‘perfect’. I’m not ‘meant’ to be, and nobody is, anyway.

Do you… trust yourself?

[We trust God, the Almighty. And Allah is Perfect; the unfailing source of strength and stability.]

And what if you did have the confidence? To do that thing you’ve wanted to do?

The human brain is exceptional at not being able to differentiate between ‘fictions’ and ‘truths’ in that sense, necessarily.

So: what if you were confident and secure in that realm?

How would you behave and what would you do differently; better?

  • Confidence, In Shaa Allah, will generate more confidence, and more motivation. You go, dude/girl!

Just because it seems ‘difficult’ from afar: ‘so much to do’ and all. It does not mean that we just… do nothing. Become paralysed by fear. No: we do what we can, and that is good, and so meaningful.

“JUST DO IT.”

— Nike, and also Shia LaBeouf.

Yes, we will probably face some difficulties. So did the Romans, probably, while they were building Rome.

And so too did your parents and caregivers, while they were raising you. But you turned out alright, and you’re still going, aren’t you?

The necessary blips, ‘bad days’, and challenges: are not ‘threats’ to the whole thing. And if it’s worth building, and maintaining, and protecting: then those aforesaid things aren’t even ‘scary’ at all.


Do you want to remain exactly the same as you are now?

Well, yes and no. I still want to be ‘me’: throughout time, there have happened to have been certain core, recognisable features about me, and I don’t think I would want to lose ‘me’.

And, also: I want to be me, but better. I have a lot to learn, from other people, places, from history, and from having different experiences.

Whether I am to live on this planet for… 70 more years, or for… 2 more:

It would be sad if I were to remain ‘exactly the same’ between now and the ‘end’ (which isn’t really the ‘end’, because Jannah, friends). Remaining ‘exactly the same’: excuse mey love, where is the fun, the story, in that?!

  • When things look ‘different’ or ‘daunting’ for a moment: it’s important for us to have شجاعة. Allah is With us.

Writing an Essay.

Are ya ready, kids?

First, you brainstorm/collect ideas. Then you plan, and develop a structure for your essay. Then you write. Then you proofread and edit.

These are just Durkheim’s claims, which I fundamentally reject, since I accept and adhere to the Divine Reality. But: there are some valuable things to learn from his ideas.

Human Stories; shifts and other structural features.

Recently, with my GCSE tutoring student Inaya, we were talking about questions about story structure, in English Language.

Humanity is… stories. All these stories. And structural features in written stories might involve and include:

Shifts. In terms of feelings, understandings. And shifts in time, shifts in place, shifts in people in our lives/stories. Sometimes subtle, and sometimes seismic [seismic: like an earthquake].

And new beginnings, and glass revolving doors. And new-seeming worlds, which might dizzy, which might just upend lots of things you thought you knew.

And moments of conflict and periods of tension, yes.

Moments that are pivotal: your story could not have done without them.

And ‘ordinary’ girls becoming princesses, of course; growing into our skins.



Not Taking Things for Granted.

Everything started somewhere.

Islam. Businesses. Rome. Istanbul.

Parenthood: hidden struggles. Prophethood.

Being a good cook. It starts from somewhere, and we cannot let ourselves feel paralysed by the weight of ever needing to be ‘perfect’ in any way in this world. But: we’ll begin, won’t we?

Have the شجاعةremember what that means? — to. The joy really is in the

journey. BismilLlah.

*And we’ve gotta act like this very moment: is the best one in history.


Today, at CCM:

Before I left for CCM, at some point: my friend and housemate Sasha gave me some Doritos in a bowl. She also recently gave me a pouch of iron-infused water, since she knows I’m iron-deficient.

And, at CCM:

I had my new class of 6/7-year-old boys for the first time. We’ve got, in our class, a boy who is from Turkey, and who has lived in Oxford, and Turkey (Istanbul), and now here in Cambridge. He loves McDonald’s, but only gets fries and milkshakes here in England, since the chicken isn’t halāl there, here. But in Turkey it is!

He misses Turkey, and that is also where his beloved grandparents are.

  • Before going into the room where we learn, in the Atrium of the masjid, a girl was with her father. “Baba!” she’d said, excitedly, after having looked at the register for her class. Hafsa’s in my class!” And she gave her father a high-five, and I wondered at how very precious these moments are.
  • Recently, someone I know who loves a girl; he is considering accepting Islam. He referred to her as being “the most precious thing in the world.” Words. <3. That was so genuine, and ‘unscripted’: it came straight from the heart.

In our class, we’ve also got an adorable little boy who loves playing with our class teddy bear, Adam. He pretended Adam was sliding on the ‘ice’ (the floor) and playing football.

We’ve got a boy who asks lots of questions. And asking good questions is the beginning of wisdom.

*This boy, the clever (Maa Shaa Allah) boy who asks lots of questions: at first, he was asking questions in a kind of… passive-aggressive, let’s say, way. Why did God make us from clay, and not from light?

Why doesn’t God give me lots of money?

Where in the Qur’an does it say that life is a test? Show me where.

Why did God create death?

[Not ‘bad’ questions. Just: tone of questioning...]

And so on.

Turns out: this boy’s mother, who is Czech, is not Muslim, and does not ‘like’ his father’s religion, Islam. His father is Kurdish. The boy (who was wearing a Scouts jumper today, bless him!), his mother asks questions, challenges his father’s religious beliefs, in that manner, it seems. And so this little boy (who is so cute, Maa Shaa Allah, for example in how he just starts clicking his fingers randomly) speaks in two voices, as though he is almost in two minds.

There’s: the passive-aggressive-style ‘questioning’. A ‘cynical’ and ‘rejecting’ voice. Almost mocking, almost bitter.

What’s the benefit in saying Salaam?”

And then, soon enough: his voice and tone softened. His dad’s voice and influence, it seemed, came out and spoke in him. He spoke about how we should respect the masjid [and, during our class, his dad was over in the men’s side, spending time there]. This boy learned how to say Salaam today, and the response to it. He put good effort in, enthusiastically, and he did really well, Maa Shaa Allah.

*The boys also played football indoors, with the soft ball I’d gotten from the charity shop (and which I’d washed). Another little boy from the masjid came to play with my students today. He also stayed for our preliminary Qurʿan class. His name is Adam, like the bear and like our father, the first human being; a sacred being. And Adam (the boy) was wearing a Paw Patrol top [my little brother used to watch this show too]. He’s lived in Belgium before, and is ethnically Egyptian. Speaks English, French, and Arabic. And he is sooooooooo cute, Maa Shaa Allah; was quite enthusiastic in showing us what he knows about the Arabic alphabet.


Sheikh Abdullah Hassan

There is no such thing as moving on from Grief 

One of the biggest trials in life is losing someone you love. It’s among the most traumatic things somebody can go through. And as humans, we will all experience it.

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the guided.” (Quran; 2:155-157)

Grief is a normal emotion that people experience in various ways. Even if there are commonalities among experiences, each is distinct and different.

C.S. Lewis in Grief Observed wrote: ‘No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restless­ness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.’ (Grief Observed, p.3) 

For some people, grief resembles fear. Everything inside of you feels heavy, as if you are carrying a tonne of bricks everywhere you walk and it feels like you are suffocating. Everywhere you go and everything you do seems to be covered in a thick fog. Every now and again, when you think of the loved one or when something makes you think of them, feelings of emptiness, fear, and melancholy come over you. At that point, tears stream from the eyes. It significantly affects both your physical and mental state. Grief leaves its mark on every cell in your body and organs as well as every fibre of your being.

Nobody should attempt to cure or heal someone’s grief. It is a spiritual and psychological natural process of human growth rather than a disease. Grief cannot be treated by a single programme or activity. Certain procedures and activities undoubtedly aid in providing relief and reducing the enormous strain grievers bear. But time by no means fixes it. You don’t really move on from it. And you shouldn’t either. You live with it. It ingrains itself into who you are. And as a result, you get stronger, more resilient, and more aware of God.

Nobody can make it better by saying anything, especially in the initial days or weeks. Kindness and empathy are incredibly beneficial, without a doubt. But the discomfort and pain persists. Crying in front of Allah and allowing yourself to accept His decree is a powerful and transformational act.

They say that the loss of a loved one, especially a mother, changes you. You are not the same person again. And that is not a bad thing. We are on a constant trajectory of change and renewal. When you see a loved one take their last breath in front of your eyes, it feels like thunder and lightening is engulfing you and your surroundings. You experience an inward feeling of erupting volcanoes and unrestrained devastation.

But it is here where Allah wants to remind us to try and observe patience because there is wisdom in accepting His decree. And so when a volcanic eruption occurs, the debris from the eruption—fallen trees, melted snow, volcanic ash, buried foliage— all are actually the starting point of reforestation. These elements are not carted away by people; rather, they have a job to do. Their existence is not merely compatible with renewal; it is conducive to it. Losing a loved one indeed feels like a volcano has erupted in your house, in your life. But the process you go through because of it becomes your armour. 

May Allah forgive our dead and allow us to see them again in Jannat next to al habib ﷺ.

Here’s the list of things a Muslim shouldn’t do that Belal wrote in my class once and said I could keep. It’s stuck up under my light switch, and that’s symbolic, isn’t it? Light, not darkness and all.

And here’s the lantern that I’d purchased [my dad had purchased for me,] from Agadir, Morocco. Back when I felt like I was in so much darkness, in 2018. And then, bit by bit, and in perfect place, and in His Perfect Wisdom and Ways,

Allah showed me the light:

  • In other news: yesterday my friend Rehab, who is Palestinian (like Jesus!) and my friend Jemima, who is Christian… went out for an outing in Covent Garden, London. [Jemima, Rehab, and I were in a debate team together, back in sixth form]. They’d invited me to join this outing, but I had to miss this one. Rehab said:
Nickname.

Sigh. I love the people that God has Blessed my whole life with. AlHamduliLlah.

And I must have the شجاعة to keep going, meet challenges and excel in the face of/as a result of them; find strength in our religion, and with beloved people.

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