بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Currently on the train from London Liverpool Street to: Whittlesford Parkway.
Just some seconds earlier: a little man’s hand reached over and in between the seats and lightly tapped me on the side of my head. Kids are so funny; innocent and adorable, even when they are cheeky.
The mother and her children sitting behind me: have Irish accents. I love what Irish accents sound like: a couple on the bus I’d been on earlier this morning had Irish accents too.
*In retrospect: I realised that the third time Irish people featured in my life, that day… I’d been stopping off at Whittlesford Parkway specifically since my friend A’iyshah and I had been invited to go over to James and Nurjahan’s house. Irish-Bengali household, and what adorable, awesome children they have, Maa Shaa Allah!
Today I commence my ‘No Sugar Challenge’ (no added sugars. I’ve decided that things like honey are okay, whereas, say, coconut sugar isn’t). As part of an East London Muslim Scouts group, raising money for Cancer Research UK. Did you know that it’s estimated that 1 in 2 of us here in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at least once throughout our lifetimes?
That’s half of us!
Today, for breakfast, my mum made me savoury French toast. And I had a banana. And a little later, I found no-sugar Oreo-style biscuits, as well as no-sugar dark chocolate. At Holland & Barrett (a chain of health food shops). I do love Holland & Barrett.
I have a student at the Cambridge Mosque Madrasah, whose name is Ayaat [Name meaning: Sign (i.e. of Allah) in Arabic. Also ‘Verse’, i.e. of the Qur’an]; our Ayaat is six years old.
And he is so innocent and adorable, Maa Shaa Allah.
My name’s Sadia (Sahh-dee-yaah), but he calls me… Miss ‘Stah-beeya’. Do I correct him… yet? Or just let the adorable ‘wrongness’… be for a while?
*I was having a challenging end-of-the-day. Tired, children at Madrasah being their energetic selves. One of the Imāms had to come to speak to them, and there was me, worrying that it’s me who’s being inadequate as a teacher, maybe in my command of the class.
And that maybe it was me who was being monitored. The mind can lie. Am I a terrible teacher?
Ayaat wrote that he thinks that I’m the ‘best teacher ever in the most.’
Although I usually find myself convinced by the negative things that my mind whispers to myself:
Hush, mind (sometimes).
I will believe in the pureness [autocorrect changed that to ‘pure mess’. And that’s definitely true too,] of children. They are our inspiration. And this message from Ayaat: I will take it as a Sign from God.
Niyyah is transformative.
Put God first; put His Name at the core and before all that you undertake and do.
This makes things real, and blessed, and really meaningful.
Wake up in His Name.
Study and work in His Name.
Serve your family in His Name.
Marry, be sick, be wealthy. In sunshine and in rain,
Be… financially in strain, be happy, be patient and be content: with His Guidance and Aid, and in His Name.
Here is a postcard that my beloved (smart, kind, mean-out-of-love,) aunt Farzana sent me the other day:
I love this woman. I hope we become even closer to one another, over time.
The Time I had Breakfast with an Astrophysicist.
So, the other day, at James and Nurjahan’s:
We hung out with the kids. I read them a book. We talked. We all went on a walk; Maryam found some pretty, kind of randomly-occurring, snowdrop flowers on the side of a path. She gave me and A’iysh one each. I love Maryam’s personality: subtly bold, adventurous, she loves to laugh. She’s (quietly) confident, Maa Shaa Allah, and if she doesn’t want to do something: she’ll politely make her stance clear, with a simple, respectful, “No thank you”.
MUSTAFA IS SO CUTE. Maa Shaa Allah. I carried him for some of the way back: he’s so cute, for example how he says “yeah” in response to things, in his own distinctive way.
It’s important for us young women to spend time in our families, and as part of communities. The unbroken ‘links’, ‘chains’. Helping mothers, because motherhood is the most challenging role/job out there!
And having such experiences nourish our… humanity, our femininity, AlHamduliLlah. Maybe I can’t wait to be a mother someday, maybe soon, if Allah decides, In Shaa Allah.
*You pick up things. Learn important things, and meaningfully, through having real bonds with people.
Wisdom travelling between generations. We learn from children; we learn from our elders. I picked up on, for example, how Nurjahan asks her children if certain questions are “appropriate” ones, in given contexts. And they’re clever enough to know, Maa Shaa Allah.
After A’iysh and I caught the train, and got our chai and kawa from the chai shop… I stayed over at theirs. And the next day, I had breakfast with their new housemate: Rahmah. Her name means Mercy, Lovingkindness (i.e., of God).
She is such a lovely individual. We’d met briefly the previous day. And the next day, she offered me breakfast: savoury oats. With garlic, mushrooms, and I think spinach. Soy sauce. And an egg on top! Plus fruit tea, in a flower-design mug from TK Maxx.
Rahmah is an astrophysicist. She is 23 years old, and is, Maa Shaa Allah, studying for her PhD in Astrophysics! Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik. What a (super-) smart, and kind and lovely soul!
*We both talked about, for example, how awkward we respectively feel we can be. *cringe cringe cringe* @ some of the (many) things that I have said and done in this lifetime of mine.
But, as Nurjahan reassured us the other day:
It’s okay, at this age, to do stupid things. Accidentally, not deliberately: they’ll happen.
Now’s the time to (accidentally!) do stupid things. We’ll gain much of wisdom from them, In Shaa Allah. Issa journey!
With the no-sugar thing:
At Nurjahan’s, for lunch, we had rice mixed with lentils, vegetables, and chicken soup.
Later, we had sardine pasta, made by Nurjahan. #meal ideas.
She’d very kindly served us pretzels, and chocolate sauce for dipping, as a snack. But I had to politely refuse. After the walk, I had that no-sugar dark chocolate in my bag, for a lil energy boost.
Oh, and: I sat in a child carseat that evening. James and Nurjahan offered to send us to the train station in an Uber. Or to drop us off in their car. But the car…
Nurjahan explained that they have this special carseat for their kids, which basically allows for their five-seater car to be a six-seater one.
She looked at both myself and A’iyshah as she’d been explaining. That if we were dropped off in their car, then someone may have to sit in one of the kids’ carseats…
She meant me, of course. [Lol! I’m relatively small.]
I sat there comfortably, AlHamduliLlah. And then couldn’t open the door at the train station, since the child-lock had been on.
And then I almost tripped over one of my own bags while getting out of the car.
How I met my brother.
I love my baby brother so much. AlHamduliLlah. He’s one of the greatest gifts that Allah has ever, ever given me. [But this boy won’t let me hug him! So we spend our time like so: I try to hug him, he tries to push me away, tells me to “get lost,” runs away. Then maybe throws something at me and/or runs away with my phone. Then annoys me when I don’t want to be disturbed. Then accuses me of being the most annoying sister in the world etc etc etc. Sigh, I love us.]
I’m 22 years old at the moment; Saif’s 10. [I cannot imagine having a sibling who’s nearly 12 years older than me. Me + accepting authority = we do not go well with one another. When, In Shaa Allah, I meet King Charles one day, maybe soon: I’ll probably end up speaking to him as though he’s a peer. We might have tea with one another, mine sweetened with organic honey, not sugar. We will discuss the running and true flourishing of Muslim Britain, God-Willing: In Shaa Allah.
God designed us perfectly, in His incredible and unmatchably vast wisdom: I’m designed to be the best, most awesome and adorable little boy ever’s big sister, and I love my baby brother like crazy.]
Nicknames that have spontaneously, organically, occurred from me, for my brother have included:
Ishkum. Ishkum bishkum.
Safif. Safeefatee. Soopaf. Squishy.
Shnoopy. Shnoopz McDoopz. Saalis.
Nunnee. Etc. I am so happy that this boy exists, AlHamduliLlah. One of my best friends in the whole wide universe, even if that sentiment is *alas* not quite reciprocated…
Saif texted me on my mum’s phone recently: a screenshot of someone with a similar name as me commenting something on YouTube, maybe on his channel…
Then he sent me… a talking (not-chocolate-ice-cream, let’s just say,) emoji. And a gif of a panda sliding down a slide made of bamboo.
“You chose my name. I choose your husband.”
Quote. My ten-year-old baby brother Saif. I named him Saif, which means sword in Arabic. And my oh my, can his wit be sharp and quick! May God bless my baby brother <3.
I still can’t believe he exists. I’m so happy he exists. How is he so cool?! He’s good at football and poetry, Maa Shaa Allah. And one of his YouTube videos got 1.5 million views recently!
As Muslims, we love Allah first.
Then Muhammad ﷺ.
Close family: the ‘ties of kinship’, relationships of the womb. Blessings, and complete blessings are to be truly, truly honoured.
*And if anybody touches my baby brother: they will die. Not because I killed them: we all die in the end. But I will make sure that nobody hurts him: they will die.
*Once, my brother and I were both sitting at the front of my dad’s minibus, when he had one. We ended up just punching one another. I’m pretty sure I ended up with a bruised arm after that. Good times.
To love those who love our beloved ones.
In people terms, I aim to love and be loved by those who love Allah. And His Rasool, Muhammad ﷺ. And love whom they love.
I, by default, will love anybody who loves my baby brother. Your siblings are you: we share parents, share relatives, shared a womb, share a face(-ish,) and other characteristics.
Saif’s close friends are our cousin Isa, our neighbour Faaris, and then his friends Raiyan and Aryaan.
Saif is the reason as to why I support Liverpool F.C; imagine how bland my life would be without him. I thank Allah. Here is the story of how I met my brother:
A decade had passed of me having been an only child. My typical routine involved: school. Going to my nan’s (like, seven minutes away from our flat back then. But, since: we swapped. My nan has the flat, and we have the house). Seeing my cousins at my nan’s. And then: going home, to a quiet one. I do like some quiet time.
I would go home, eat, watch TV. Play Club Penguin with my friend Yu Zhu: she lived on the third floor of our block of flats, while I lived on the first floor. I remember the smell of her home, and the white slippers I sometimes wore when I was there.
I remember spending time on my laptop. Doing homework. Having pet fish, and a pet hamster that I was actually afraid of holding.
And I longed for a sibling.
One day, when I was ten, I think:
I remember being at my cousin Mazhar’s house. And my cousins were there.
I grew up with my cousins being (like my) siblings, but they weren’t my actual, actual siblings.
That day, I felt it: the fact that I was alone, and by myself. That day, Mazhar had been with his own siblings: Maryam, Moosa, and Isa. Didi (Juhi, but we call her Didi out of respect and love) had been with her siblings, in a different part of the room: Juthie and Jazib.
I was by myself, and I could not superficially make myself a part of these sibling bonds. I wanted to cry, that lump-in-throat, heart-congested, feeling of dejection; maybe I did cry that day.
And guess what?
Later that day, when we went home, my mum gave me one of the biggest surprises of my life. She showed me the pictures of some scans.
She was expecting. I was so surprised, and so excited!!!!
I told people, I was so happy.
But this particular pregnancy: ended up being a miscarriage.
I cried. I remember my aunt, Sweetie, trying to comfort me. She straightened my hair, maybe tried to distract me. I don’t think I knew what a miscarriage was, before then.
I remember sitting in the ‘pavilion’ in the playground at my primary school. Spending some time by myself, doing some maths exercises from a WH Smith book.
Someone from two years above came and asked me about my incoming baby brother or sister. Either Amelia or Tanisha: the two best friends. And all I could say was:
“It… didn’t work.”
About a year later, my mother was expecting again.
Nine months later, on the 1st September 2012, a baby was born. For me: the most special little human in existence, at that moment in time.
And he changed my whole entire life, forever.
Allah does everything in His Perfect wisdom.
*We waited for hours, in the hospital, for Saif to arrive. I remember going to MotherCare (mother-and-baby shop,) with my parents before his birth, to get some things for him. This was a bit performative, but: I got one of the baby blankets and brought it to my face. I didn’t know, then, how to be a big sister: but God said “Be!” and I was. It is thus in my very blood. AlHamduliLlah.
While he was away… being born… my aunt looked after me, at my house. I painted a canvas for my baby brother: a car or two, on yellow. And some clouds.
How is this boy even real?! He is so adorable, so witty and smart and funny. My baby brother’s laugh, his hair when it’s spiky. And the way he loves his cat. Maa Shaa Allah.
Reasons why I believe I am the most fortunate person in the world, ever (my biased, subjective, perspective):
- I am Muslim. Everybody has their religion, and my religion is Allah’s.
- I am from the Ummah of Muhammad ﷺ.
- I have access to the Qur’an. I know how to pray. God Loves me, even when I’m not feeling great about things.
- My parents provide for me; they help me so much.
- Saif ‘Salah’ Ahmed is my brother.
- Tasnim K Ali is my best friend. ❤ ❤ <3.
- I am a Student of Knowledge. God Blessed me with Knowledge of His Religion: I will be one of the fortunate ones to carry this Religion on my shoulders and in my heart.
- My family.
- This time in my life.
After the darkest times, and often even with them:
Come the brightest ones. The light.
Sugarless coffee isn’t bad, you know:
[I am allowing myself… organic honey. And sweeteners, sometimes.]
The above glass: my cousin Moosa gifted me, before I moved from London to Cambridge. I love that glass so much: I drink coffee, tea, water… from it.
Moosa also donated towards my no-sugar thing. “More sugar for me,” he’d written. That’s another thing:
Before I had a sibling, sometimes Moosa, when he was very young, would come around and stay at ours. He’d sleep in the living room, and my dad was like a second father to him. They were one another’s favourites. And aunts like second mothers.
And then my cousin from my dad’s side, Tanbir: also donated to this Cancer Research fundraising project. This also made me especially happy, and grateful, and humbled. Tanbir is at sixth form at the moment. He recently also got his own job. This donation is from his earned money.
May God bless all my cousins: my siblings. My eldest sibling (I mean cousin, but I also mean sibling,) is due to give birth next month, In Shaa Allah. Her first child.
Food I’ve been eating:
Sugarless Shredded Wheat is actually quite nice. In no-added-sugar oat milk. Plus blueberries. Without added, refined sugars: you appreciate the natural sugars in foods more. I think, even after a short period: you become more sensitised to sweetness.
On Sunday, we had our weekly House Dinner. A Nigerian churchgoer, an Uzbek Buddhist who is vegetarian, a Bengali Muslim doing a no-(added/refined)-sugar thing, and an English Muslim sit down together, to eat, somewhere in Cambridge, England. What do we eat?
Veggie sausages (Richmond brand. Good stuff, Maa Shaa Allah!) and chips. And no-added-sugar baked beans. And no-added-sugar ketchup.
As part of one of our recent pieces of homework for Arabic:
We had to write about our childhoods, in Arabic. ‘Make it philosophical’. And poetic.
Here is what I wrote, although I kept the English fairly simple and straightforward, to avoid running into especial difficulty, when it would come to the translation part:
I think things about myself, which are not true. Like the time when our teacher for Logic, Shaykha/Dr Najah brought her toddler son Sulayman into the college.
Organically, spontaneously, I exclaimed:
And then worried quite a bit that his mother, and others, would think me super weird. And so on.
As long as our intentions are fine, and good: then we, also, are fine, and good.
Do you know what they found at the lowest point of the Earth’s crust (the Mariana Trench)?
A crisp packet.
What are we doing to and with the Earth, and to our bodies, and to our souls?
- There’s probably more that I haven’t ‘managed’ to include, in this article.
And that’s okay. What matters?
The fact that I thought I had cancer the other day, and diabetes, also, for a while:
And then Amina, our new housemate, showed me a method I could use, to alleviate pain in the abdominal region. And it worked, instantly. Amina has a lot of wisdom, Maa Shaa Allah: she is a woman in her fifties, who is clearly quite healthy for her age.
Yesterday, she and Sasha were sitting at the table, talking about Psychology. They both have backgrounds in the field. The human mind, and human nature. And human pain, and human healing, and growth, and flourishing.
My seven-year-old student Ali from the mosque (who has written ‘English name: Alex, Arabic name: Alee’ in the front of at least one of his books,) essentially went home and finished the whole entire Qa’idah (foundational, preliminary book before the Qur’an,) in a matter of about four days.
He’d received a medal for his conduct and efforts, last month. ‘Student of the Month’. I noticed he’d returned to Madrasah the next week, with an especial sense of effort. Carrying Islam like it is his honour, Maa Shaa Allah.
*I told him he could memorise the Qur’an, and be an engineer, as is his dream. Like my friend Rahmah, who is Muslim, has the Qur’an in her life, and is an Astrophysics PhD candidate at the age of 23, Allah hummabārik. Plus she makes a lean, green, mean bowl of savoury oats! Maa Shaa Allah. Allah Blesses whom he wills, with what He Wills.
[So if you want to be a part of the Islamic polymath heritage: then, by all means, do! In God’s Name.]
Ali wants to learn to read the Qur’an. He’s eager to do it. From learning about how he’d been struggling with his Arabic alphabet, and then how he went through the entire Qa’idah at home, in a matter of four (or three-and-a-half,) days…
You can do it. With sincerity, with effort, and with the Help of God. You can do things you wouldn’t have otherwise believed you could do. Allah will open the doors for you: will you be sincere, and have faith?
- Ali was, and is, driven. He has a goal in mind, and he put the effort in, overcame the difficulty, and did it. My Qur’an teacher said, today:
“When you push yourself,
you realise how much you can actually do.“
Our Qur’an teacher is currently studying for his PhD from the University of Oxford, on the side, Maa Shaa Allah. May Allah bless his works.
He (Shaykh Kazi) has also studied Hebrew at Oxford. He says:
“There has to be a moment of struggle.”
Being ‘thrown into the deep end’, for example how, in his cohort, they’d been expected to be translating and writing in Biblical Hebrew, from their first week there.
*We might be about to have some informal ‘group therapy’ here at the Cambridge Muslim College. One of my classmates is very harsh on himself: he views his efforts ‘pessimistically’, and that is a driving force of his.
One of my other classmates didn’t invite the aforesaid classmate to his Nikah (wedding) ceremony. He will have a Walīma ceremony for guests soon, In Shaa Allah.
Primarily, I want for my driving forces for what I do to be: passion. Love. Sincerity. Optimism.
So I’ve been foregoing the sweet treats left in the dining room at CMC. Biscuits, cake, and the like.
‘Little’ things certainly matter. Plus they add up.
Today I had a cup of chai, made by and offered to me by one of my classmates at CMC. Subtly sweetened with honey, thankfully!
There can sometimes, or often, be a lot on my mind. Whirring around, and so on.
My soul benefits greatly from our Tuesday Qur’an classes, 10AM to 12PM.
Today we also ended up talking about chai. I talked about how, once, my dad took me to ChaiiWala (a chain of Desi-style tea shops,) and I loved the karak chai, and wanted to learn how to make it myself. So, over a bit of time, I did.
The discussion ended up being about things like… consumerism. Consider this:
Which culture are you following? Which group of people do you want to be part of?
‘Be mindful. How do [these things] affect your heart?’
The food we eat; the consumerist tendencies we intentionally forego. And so on. ‘A period of ‘holy poverty’ (‘Zuhd‘)’.
Allah chose me, in this moment, to be, primarily, a Muslim. A Student of Sacred Knowledge. A seeker.
I want to read the Narnia series, sometime soon In Shaa Allah. C.S. Lewis, from what I’ve read of his written works, is a brilliantly gentle, philosophical, writer. I love writing: words are life.
C.S. Lewis’ works will be a part of Muslim British culture. As will no-added-sugar Heinz beans, and ketchup. Tea as well: served in glasses sometimes. The Desi way.
“Creation is a calculated and designed process.” Consider how you came to… be. From a tiny cell, fusing with another. The stages of foetal development. You. Your growth, your babyhood, infancy. Being a toddler, your grasping of things, and of language.
Phenomenal: Subhaan Allah.
My religion, my studies, my eventual marriage[s. Allah’s Plan,] must be, in my intentions, committed sincerely and entirely to Allah. He is With me; He will Protect, Bless, and Guide me.
This is the best thing I have ever done, AlHamduliLlah. This Knowledge must bring me closer to God; to this end: I need to try not to let ‘the Life of this World’ seep into my heart.
It’s about Niyyah. What’s in your heart?
*This is my baby brother trying to climb into the elephant enclosure at a zoo. 2017, when he was 4 years old [we really are all our child selves, ‘grown up’. Our essences don’t change!]:
In conclusion: Allah has, in His Perfect Wisdom, brought me here. To do something Sacred, and especially important. He Knows who you are, and who I am.
For His favours upon us: we are eternally, and with every breath, grateful. AlHamduliLlah!