بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
حَسْبُنَا ٱللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ ٱلْوَكِيلُ
“Sufficient for us is Allah, and He is the Best Disposer of Affairs.”
— Noble Qur’an, (3:173).
Yesterday, in a part of this town that is near the masjid, [‘anglicised’: ‘mosque’] I saw a pigeon fly. A wood-pigeon, not a ‘feral pigeon’. There’s a difference, and I recall that, at some point in my life, I had come to learn of this difference.
Ādam (AS) had been Taught the names of things, by Allah (See Qur’an, (2:31)). Our ability to name things: to point things out and to be able to say what they are… This is important. Meaningful.
I saw this bird fly, fly, soar, into the sky. Quite a (quiet) spectacular little display. I looked up, and perhaps I wanted to look at it some more: but there had been some people nearby. Two women, I think. And what if they’d have considered me to be… really weird on account of my acute staring at a bird?
Maybe it is the fact of Cambridge being ‘quiet’, which allows one’s mind to focus more on the ‘small’ details; things. One of my classmates considers that Cambridge, as I think she’d essentially been saying: is ‘too urban’ for her. She’s used to a more rural, nature-enveloping, -embracing, sort of little world — a village — in England. Sort of on the outskirts of London, as far as I know.
Meanwhile: someone else I’d spoken to, a member of the Year Three cohort at the Cambridge Muslim College, doesn’t really want to stay here, on account of it being ‘too boring’. And: I get that.
Growing up in fast-paced, siren-wailing, block-of-flats-replace-the-trees London: can make Cambridge feel ‘underwhelming’ by comparison. I look, for example, at the sparsity of shops here. Of, perhaps, busy-ness. And my blood pressure is low: that’s what it is.
Yet, for the first-mentioned friend: this place is somehow ‘too busy’. And this brings in, calls into a gentle examination, that crucial topic of subjectivity, doesn’t it? That one woman’s ‘too busy, too urban’ is another person’s ‘not-busy-enough, personally-require-more-‘urban’‘.
Still, I look at the fact that: having ‘less’ can lead one to use one’s, let’s say, imagination. And herein, perhaps, community is built. “If you build it, they will come.” This is a quote from some old movie, but I know it from it being displayed at one Genesis Cinema in Mile End. In electric blue, neon lighting.
The mosque kids: the children who go to ‘mainstream’ ‘secular’ schools in the day-time, on weekdays. And then, thrice weekly, they are, at least, the girls, wearing their visibly Muslim attire. And carrying their Islamic books. And they are huddled around in a circle, learning about Islam.
And when they speak: they do speak of community. You know: knowing the other hearts who share a heart with you. Maybe: a characterising feature of urbanness can be… a general sort of ‘anonymity’ by comparison. But then again: it seems there are always opportunities to build the kinds of community we seek. Perhaps we simply need to notice good opportunities, and take them.
The part of London that I am from: growing up, I would hear the church’s bells ringing on Sunday. On our ‘lane’, in this village-like part of the city, nestled between ‘East’ and ‘Central’ London: there has been a butcher’s, a baker’s [but not a candlestick-maker’s]. A pharmacist’s [notice that subtle change, the shift, in language: from describing these places in terms of a resident human being. To describing the place in terms of its functional value. E.g. greengrocer’s. To, simply, unfortunately: grocery. Perhaps a hallmark of ‘modernity’™, this]. A greengrocer’s. A [betting shop]. An Indian restaurant. Two general convenience shops. A laundrette and a dry cleaner’s. And, a little later on, a bit further down: a café on the corner of a cobbled street.
Cinnamon Café is where ‘Call the Midwife’, a BBC series I have loved: was filmed, once.
Next door to our flat, No. 6, a Priest had lived. Others would call him ‘Father’. Yet, we just knew him as ‘Des’. Des had cats, but then they’d passed. And he’d sponsored a family, and then, I think, another one: from India. One of the families’ children became like his own grandchildren.
And Des has done ‘missionary work’ with Mother Teresa, no less.
I recall that, one day, and when my aunt had been picking me up to take me swimming… something happened. I think I’d let my curiosity get the better of me. I did something with the house keys, and/or with the front lock. Des to the rescue, however: he’d brought a ladder, and maybe some other tools. I climbed out of the window. ‘Cinderella, you shall go to the ball’.
Young version of me: you shall be going swimming.
Now, where had I been intending to go, with this?
I think: neighbourliness is of crucial importance, and it is a very important part of Islam. It helps with fostering and nurturing community.
I also remember a time when my mother had been telling me about Mother Teresa. I vaguely remember being on a train or something, and it had been for a school project about a significant person.
I remember going to the library, to do homework, at least sometimes. It is interesting how things, items, smells, can ‘trigger’, can bring about, specific memories. And this has been, even without your conscious always-deeply-comprehending things: this has been your making.
Recently, I passed by the ‘Cambridge Qur’an Centre’ (locally known simply as CQC,) after having heard about it before. From, for example, young Musa from the masjid. And, having found out that a cupping (Hijāmah) therapist does her work from there.
The CQC building, from what I have seen of it: is a nice house building. It looks like some money has been invested into it. There is calligraphy, and fairy lights, above the door.
I’ve been thinking about institutions, lately. An institution is a formalised grouping of people. With its own rules and norms. A grouping of people, a binding, towards a particular shared Purpose.
Institutions are no doubt important, and it is fascinating to notice how they do grow, from seed, and change.
And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], “Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.
— Noble Qur’an, (2:127).
I, personally, am very happy that I am living in Cambridge now. AlHamduliLlah; Praise and Thanks are for God.
I also: don’t think I could stand the idea of not having London, coterminously [a nice word, no?], as being something like ‘Home’™. London. Good old London town. Tower Hill, and Whitechapel. Wapping is where ‘London home’ is, for me.
In any case: it is interesting to note the little ‘cultural differences’. Between, generally, the Muslim kids of Cambridge, and the Muslim kids of London. [Who would win in a fight? Probably the London kids.
Ah, but who would win in… an academic quiz? … Cambridge kids, maybe. They smart, Allah hummabārik.]
The Abu Bakr masjid here in Cambridge is also in the physical shape of a converted ‘house’ structure. And, some years or even decades after: the purpose-built beautiful ‘eco’ masjid (Cambridge Central Mosque) had been built nearby.
We stand on the shoulders of giants, so to speak: that’s what we do. Others have their lives. And then we’re Allowed to live here for a while. Continue some efforts; set the precedents for others, which those who follow us can take on, inherit and continue. In Shaa Allah.
I like, about East London Muslims in general (though, of course, there is an inherent potential issue with ‘groupings’ of any kind. So long as we recognise the diversity within ‘groups’, if we are willing to look upon them closer,) how sincere they are. And, how ‘cool’. Resilient, certainly. Attached to the masjid. Ambitious and hardworking.
And, about the Cambridge Muslims: I love how… open their hearts are, Maa Shaa Allah. No ‘judgement’. Open hearts. Gentleness and poetry of the souls. More ‘love‘.
Hatred, contrary to how some people enact ‘Islam’: is not, at all, a defining feature of our religion. Love is at the heart of it. All we need to know to recognise this fact is: pick up a Seerah book. [Seerah: the life-story of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be Peace. His journey through life.]
I want to open my heart. I want for my heart to be open, and clean and pure.
And I hope to build bridges, I hope, In Shaa Allah. For example: between the Muslims of East London, and these, of Cambridge.
I love the sound of gentle song. My housemate Shirley: her voice comes from the soul. Maa Shaa Allah: God has Willed it.
Love is from God.
I am very blessed to have my friend A’iyshah in my life, AlHamduliLlah. May Allah Bless her.
Recently, we had been sitting [she in her ‘spot’ in the living room, and I on a bean bag,] and talking about the Research Seminar she’d been in attendance at on Wednesday. But I couldn’t be there, since I’d agreed to cover a kids’ Madrasah class at the Masjid.
A’iyshah told me about Dr Claire’s seminar. About how, for example, it is Allah who is in Charge of our loving: our being loved. And our teaching: our being taught.
Parents can be an excellent vessel for our coming to learn about love, and nourishment. And sterner reprovals, for when we cross the line, and need telling.
Parenting, however, needs to be done right, in order for the seeds to be cultivated. Allah Gives us trusts, and things like little siblings, and children of our own, perhaps, if He Wills for it.
But we won’t achieve goodness ‘for free’ in that sense. Raising young humans, and taking care of the fellow people in our care: within our wing-spans, so to speak…
It takes due effort, and care. And self-reflection. And adherence to the guidelines of Truth, which we learn through journeying through the Qur’an, and through our knowledge of the Sunnah.
Anyway. A’iysh said something that made me think.
She said that Dr Claire had asked those in attendance to think about a ‘transformative moment’ from their own childhoods/youth. Specifically: a spiritually transformative moment.
Being in nature. Hearing people remember God out loud. For Dr Claire: it had been when, in Bangladesh when she had, by Divine Decree, visited… someone gifted her a necklace. Since Dr Claire had complimented the necklace on a woman. And the woman explained that in our religion: essentially, we give from what we love. For this woman, it was customary to give a person a thing, if the person says they like it.
I’m thinking about my own childhood. I’ve noticed that song – singing – has been significant. I don’t think I’ve ever properly reflected on this before. But:
Britain, and our ‘mainstream’ ‘secular’ schooling here: it has wisps of ‘Christianity’ to it, this ‘culture’. For me, my understanding is that ‘Christianity’ has elements, understandings, of Truth. Jesus, upon him be Peace, had been an important man of very noble character.
And, yet, it can only be God whom we do pray to.
Anyway. Some songs learnt from our weekly ‘singing assemblies’ at primary school have been significant. They spoke to my soul in a way; they gave me hope, and spoke of courage.
Oh my goodness: I just realised that our primary school singing teachers… had been called Shirley and Camille. And now, my housemate who is part of her church’s choir: is also called Shirley.
A song, learnt in primary school:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.”
A ‘spiritual experience’ I think I remember from childhood is:
Feeling really sad, and looking to the stars. There had been a kids’ TV show I used to, along with my cousins I think: watch. ‘Berenstain Bears’.
And, in this show: the girl character would look to the stars.
“Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.”
The stars have been a continued source of comfort for me, AlHamduliLlah. And I worship my Rabb, who made them so pretty.
My friend Sasha made a wish upon a shooting star earlier this year, in January. And Allah Answered her call: she’d wished for peace. And then the steps occurred. And our Rabb opened up her heart to Islam.
When she’d texted me, when I’d been in London that time, to ask if I have an English translation copy of the Qur’an: I was surprised. And Allah Knows Best whom to Guide. He Guides whom He Wills.
“When I look up to the stars, there’s a burning deep inside me
And I feel a power growing in my soul
There is something I can sense, deep within a dream, to guide me
And I know that I am reaching for my goal
I can do anything at all, I can climb the highest mountain
I can feel the ocean calling wild and free
I can be anything I want with this hope to drive me onward
If I can just believe in me
When the skies are dark and gray, we still know the sun is shining
Though it’s out of sight, its light is glowing still
And as long as I believe there is nothing I can’t wish for
Not a dream that I’m unable to fulfil
I can do anything at all, I can climb the highest mountain
I can feel the ocean calling wild and free
I can be anything I want with this hope to drive me onward
If I can just believe in me.”
God’s Love reached me through: my teacher Ayesha, way back in Reception, I think. A love that is unfiltered and unassuming, and not on account of ‘whom your father is’ or what ‘status’ your family may hold in society.
And some ‘love’ based on appearances, it seems. Showy, or based on… an enemy or two in common. But Ayesha loved. And so does Tasnim. Pure and real. AlHamduliLlah.
And so did my Nan’s sister, that time. When I’d been a child. She showed that she loved me, and told me that I was special, essentially. Because I’d prayed beside her.
And my Grandfather’s brother used to single me out to say good things about me. Though: he couldn’t speak verbally. Due to some kind of illness or something, which had resulted in his loss of this faculty. He treated me special on account of my wearing a headscarf.
My Grandfather in Bangladesh, also: it has always been special to him, that I would pray.
Truly: as a child, I did not feel loved based on whom my parents are. And even if/when that happens: it does not feel ‘real’ to me, necessarily.
And nor did I feel ‘loved’ based on my ‘looks’: a) Former chubby kid here. b) The ‘beauty standards’ I’d grown up being enveloped in… were ‘not me’. And I watched as other children received more ‘love’ on account of such incidental, surface-level things, really. ‘Attention’, not necessarily love.
You are your heart, not your wealth or your face. Your good deeds: what you say, and do. How close and Beloved you are to God. The choices you make, all the time; the accumulation of all of them.
I am glad for how I have learnt this, over time. AlHamduliLlah.
Love is either true: close to Truth, Who is God. And here, love is real, and vast. Or: it is false. Far away from Truth: from God.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
The light that shines is the light of love,
lights the darkness from above,
it shines on me and it shines on you,
and shows what the power of love can do.
I’m gonna shine my light both far and near,
I’m gonna shine my light both bright and clear.
Where there’s a dark corner in this land
I’m gonna let my little light shine.”
Here is when my Lord knew, in that exact moment, that I’d just begun to wonder, momentarily, what to have for lunch. And A’iyshah, the effortlessly lovingkind: served me a plate of what she, too, had been eating. When you receive love from people: beloved one, that is your Lord – your Rabb – Speaking through them.
And Allah Puts love in the heart. For the right people. Like the maternal sort of love, in its fine intensity, that I’ve had for my little brother, since he was born, AlHamduliLlah. This is when I learned what love feels like, in the heart.
Then, of course, there has been Sasha. And A’iyshah. And Tasnim.
And Cambridge. The Cambridge Muslims.
I want to open my heart to the beauty that Allah has Placed – Painted – into my world. It’s always here: I must learn to open my eyes and my heart to it.
And not let ‘cynicism’ cloud and murken [that-should-be-a-word] things. And ever convince me of its own claim to ‘truth’: veracity. So:
you’ve been hurt before. Qadr of Allah. Love did not leave: but sometimes, it can take different forms, and then arrive all at once, on the ‘people’ level. Allah is the One to trust. And
Love is only a Divinely-orginating thing. So natural. You’ve got this.
‘Embarrassing’ old photo of me, age 7 or 8, with an owl on my shoulder in 3…2…
Yes, I’ve thought that I had not been ‘loveable’ back then. Not properly ‘cute’. And I’d been the type to get my hair messy. But then, I look at myself with better eyes. With a God-Assured heart, and with a lovingkind smile. Allah Has always Loved you.