Ramdan diary: day 9

The first 10 days of Ramadan focus on mercy. One of the biggest mercies Allah grants us is our mothers. Mothers who sacrifice all they have for their children. But migrant mothers in particular are simultaneously rocks and pillows.

Our mothers moved through mountains. Literally. They left everything they know – the greenary they grew up around, the families they grew up with, the cultures they grew up in. Spat in the face. Ridiculed in the street. Ignored by the state. The trauma.

They taught us maths and they taught us to write neatly. They bought us books whilst they wore less. They taught us our values – patience, humility, respect. They shared the things they knew – kameez, plaits, curries, oils. We rejected. Straighteners and jeans, pizza and chips. English is cool. The trauma.

They stay with violent and controlling men. Continued to suppress their dreams to feed ours. Unable to leave and destined to stay. For us. So we could have the things we need and the things we want. The trauma.

All the trauma they face. The anxiety and depressions they suffer with silently. How many of them describe physical heart pain? Unable to distinguish the anguish in their heart.

And yet we are so harsh of their minor omissions. So unforgiving of their misunderstanding. So impatient when they call us.

Ami tumrar lagi shoba korsi (I did it all for you). – my mother

Ammu I can never tell you often enough. All the beatings you took so we could eat. Using the little money he would give you to use as our tutoring money. Turning him away for our safety even when the community talked trash about you. Pushing me to never quit – at college, at university, from work. My rock and my pillow. Reminding me constantly of who I am, what is important, what will always matter. Everything I gratefully am and everything I am gratefully not is because of you. Our mercy.

Even a few days ago my taxi driver gave me a recipt without the total on it. I had partially shared a journey so only had to pay half. Of course the expenses team do not know this even the driver hinted I could make back £20. Cash money – easy. My friend said I deserved it, it’s taking from the rich, think of it like a little blessing. My mum reminded me that every penny I take that does not belong to me is money that can never bring me any good. My mercy.

Oh Allah. Have mercy on our mothers. Let us be coolness of their eyes. Let us be the righteous children they deserve. 

Ramadan diary: day 8

Ramadan, naturally, is centred around food. The eating of it and the abstention of it. I remember when we were young iftar would be a feast. All types of fried food, several curries, several types of rice (pilau, plain, rice pudding), and of course mishti (bengali sweets). My mum would spend hours everyday, slaving away, preparing in the kitchen.

We have now changed our priorities. That much rich food, everyday, is not only unhealthy, wasteful and expensive, but simply unnecessary. Eating to bursting point and then struggling with prayer – what is the point!

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“No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” – Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) (Tirmidhi)

Now we enjoy one main food, some light side dishes (preferably grilled rather than fried) and fruit too. We all help out before iftar so mum does not have to spend hours. In fact, some days my sister will take over completely. Mum has time to relax, and more importantly to her – to read her prayers and reflect on the day.

Each of us has our own task so that the whole thing happens quickly. My brother has his role too. He cuts the watermelon, takes the plates of food into the living room, and prepares the sheets that we sit in. Three simple tasks yet every little bit makes the job go quicker. In so many households it is the women who are expected to do everything while the men sleep waiting for the food. We must teach our sons to be better – to do better. For the sake of our daughters if not for their own sake.

Iftar is a special family moment, but there is no reason why the whole process cannot be so – from the preparation, to the minutes before when you’re hungrily eyeing up the food with date in hand, and to when we actually take the first sweet bite or gulp that first cold sip.

What we eat is something we rarely consider outside of eating halal (lawful). Yet the obligation of eating halal came with and good:

And eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] lawful and good. And fear Allah , in whom you are believers. (The Holy Quran, 5:88)

For a few years now my family have been exploring the and good part of this command. It is interesting how often this part is completely ignored and our teachings focus on the halal. How is the produce treated? Where does it come from (it’s carbon footprint)? And what is actually in it? We try to eat organic fruits and foods. We have tried to reduce the amount of oils, chilly and salt we consume. Unfortunately organic meat is too expensive for us to afford, and of course I understand how eating healthy is a privilege in itself. We still consume too much meat and this is something we are working on.

What healthy tips do you have for Ramadan and otherwise?

Today I will be breaking my fast alone again. But alhamdulliah I do not have to prepare any food and will be ordering room service 😛

Prayers with Orlando 

[I am a straight Muslim person living in the UK. I am just an individual and the thoughts I have here are not representative of straight people, straight Muslim people or Muslim people.]

My heart breaks for my LGBTQ+ siblings. Despite what they say on the news – this is 100% about you. You have every right to feel hurt that this is about you. That is not divisive. This attack, regardless of what people say about the murderer not able to say his motives, was done in an LGBT+ club. And that is in itself enough of a reason to unequivocally say it was a homophobic and transphobic attack. I mourn with you and send love and prayers to the families of those effected and the communities this has effected. Once again we are reminded that the world we live in is not a safe one for those who do not fit into the heteronormative standards that are peddled out.

It is tragic that news outlets are adding insult to injury by making this about “humanity”. The #alllivesmatter brigade needs to stop for a moment. Listen to what our LGBTQ+ siblings are saying. Listen. Your fear does not need to be highlighted here.

There are many intersectional issues I want to outline. These are all factors I have seen discussed and stated by QTIPOC friends. It is their voices I want to centre here but am not pasting directly as they were posted in certain anonymous  groups and I could not seek permission to share (as my blog is also anonymous). I am therefore paraphrasing.

  • The night targeted was catered to queer and trans latinx people. It was therefore people of colour who were targeted. Granted there were white peoples present and killed but this is once again highlighting how it is non-binary and trans people of colour who face so much violence.
  • It is disgusting how the murderers identity is used by the far-right to pedal hate. Do not for a second act like far-right people are not transphobic, homophobic and racist. When there are currently transphobic political discussions taking place that is furthering hate. When their politicians vote against same-sex marriage. Let us not forget that when they quote these Muslim countries that have laws against homosexual relationships – a) these laws are the remains of the British imperialist rulings. And very often these countries had very rich and inclusive homosexual communities & b) the western world only very recently started to reconsider their LGBT+ laws and policies – in fact in many of our living histories. So do not use the pain of people to push forward your hate and political agenda.
  • LGBT+ Muslims exist. And for people to outright claim Islam to be LGBT-phobic without understanding this are erasing their existence. Transphobia and homophobia does exist within the Muslim community, as it does with all communities because these things are structurally upheld. And despite the many instances of transphobia and homophobia you also have many instances of love and respect.
  • It is not the job of Muslims to disclaim this viscous attacks. Communities should be allowed to grieve and show their respect without apologising. We do not have to apologise for these murders. Just as all English people do not have to apologise for the hooligans.
  • The murderer is allegedly the son of a CIA-employee, worked for G4S himself and there are several images of him in NYPD clothing. This is not someone who did not love the military/American state. This is important as many of the attacks on him will be racialised and focus on his Muslim identity, hiding the many other intersections of his identity.
  • Once again a hate filled man had access to guns. In the last 3 years there have been 999 mass shootings, with shooters killing at least 1,135 people and wounding 3,937 more in the US. How many lives are too many lives? Gun control is absolutely the solution to reducing these crimes. The stats speak for themselves.

Once again my prayers go out to all those affected. I have seen some straight people comment on how there are other mass murders happening all around the world – in particular Syria – and discussing the bias given to this particular case. To this I answer yes the media is biased. But our humanity is not finate. And we can with the same lens critique the media and still empathise with how this particular attack will effect particular communities that are already marginalised.

It is the month of mercy and here we are thinking about these things. Where is the humanity?

Ramadan diary: day 7

Wow it’s already been a week! Today I finally got round to reading back on my posts last year and I was surprised to see how little progress I’ve made in one year. My post-Ramadan goals are the same ones I am practising again this year.

On the 10th day I wrote:

My heart feels void. Even after 10 days I do not have the Ramadan feeling that it so desperately earns for, that feeling I have basked in before and that feeling I hear people talk about now. My prayers feel empty, my mind distracted and my body reluctant.

I feel so alone in my thoughts. Whilst everyone is on their high, I am at my lowest. I had hoped to spend this time reading, contemplating and watching inspirational videos. Instead I’m spending my days in bed, on my phone. Even starting this blog is a procrastination tool!

Though I am struggling again with gaining that Ramadan vibe I have learnt now that this is a struggle that comes with growing up. Perhaps the days of what I used to feel are gone and maybe that’s not a bad thing? That feeling came with no other responsibilities. No exhaustion. No worries.

Part of the beauty of Ramadan this year is it is real. How I practise my faith this year is how I can realistically continue to do so after Ramadan leaves us.

Now of course I want to do more. The blessings are exponential. We have Taraweeh. It is the month of the Quran. It is the month of mercy, forgiveness and salvation. But I want to do more – and so I can do more. It’s up to me. I don’t need a feeling to do these things and I shouldn’t rely on a feeling to do it either.

And part of the beauty of Ramadan itself is how it’s never too late to try again. I pray all our efforts are accepted and we are one of the lucky ones who leave Ramadan as if we just accepted Islam.

I am adamant on one thing though – next year I do not want to be making it a goal to keep up with my prayers. I will be so gutted if it is. In my heart I don’t see prayer as a little bonus in my life. It’s something I need to survive and be myself. So I don’t understand why I keep letting it slip and in the process feel myself slipping.

Ramadan diary: day 6

Yesterday I spent my morning watching the beautiful memorial service for Muhammad Ali. Never before had I seen an event with people from so many different faiths, tribes, cultures and backgrounds all there, unified under one cause. The loving stories they shared about this great man, this champ, welled me with tears. I had no idea just how generous and kind he was. A black man willing to believe in himself at a time when this was not meant to be possible. And later a Black Muslim who did not compromise on his faiths despite the threats and powers that stood in the way.

I cried and I cried. What a hero we have lost. And I promised myself that I would try to be just a little more resilient and a little more thoughtful and a little more loving just like him. Keep his legacy going.

“When a man passes away, his good deeds will also come to an end except for three: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (for the deceased)” Narrated by Abu Hurairah, Sahih Muslim

Muhammed Ali has all these things – charities he built, peace be bought, people who he helped. The inspirational messages he spread to this day are used by people to love themselves, trust themselves, trust Allah. And as for children he has many.

Two thoughts crossed my mind once I had finished.

  1. What will people say about me when I die. What stories will they share? What good deeds will continue? How many peoples’ hearts will I have touched?
  2. I wish I had someone who could just hug me right now. I was emotionally drained and lying in bed in a ball. And all I wanted at that moment was to be a little spoon.

I spent almost the whole day on my phone yesterday. Either that or napping. Right now I feel angry and disappointed at myself. I just don’t understand why I have no self discipline. I know who I want to be and what I need to do it. So why do I still just sit there in bed on my phone? Please pray for me guys and give me your tips on making Ramadan productive. It’s nearly 10 days I am yet to memorise even a line. 😦 Feeling very low right now.

Ramadan diary: day 5

I’m home! Well not right now because I’m working from the local office but home in the wider sense and it feels glorious. My work – both occupational and voluntary – means I travel up and down the country quite a bit so being away from home is not new to me. But being away during Ramadan is a different ballgame entirely and I was feeling very homesick.

When I found out on Wednesday I could come back, I decided to surprise my family. Watching my mum’s face light up as I walked in was priceless. And that hug was pure comfort.

Iftar was everything it should be. Us sitting on the floor, chatting and laughing and reminding each other of our faith through little tidbits. Dates and watermelons. Mum reminding us to go and pray Magrib but us wanting to stay and chat a little longer. Then all sitting on the sofas, content, reminiscing about funny memories like mum falling flat on her bottom (unhurt) that year it snowed, planning the future and of course a little hating on the Tories.

The Prophet said, “When a Muslim spends something on his family intending to receive Allah’s reward it is regarded as Sadaqa for him.” (Bukari)

In terms of faith boost – I did nothing yesterday but my sister introduced me to daily videos posted on Nouman Ali Khan’s Facebook so I will spend my breaks at work catching up with those! I also realised perhaps with my memorising the reason I’m not moving forward is because I’m not setting myself SMART objectives (you know those ones they make you set at school!). So from now on I am aiming to revise 5 short surahs a day and learn 3 new lines a day. InshaAllah.

And to all you queens spending Ramadan alone this year – perhaps you’re estranged from your family, perhaps you have to travel, perhaps you were just never close to your family – I pray Allah fills your heart with content and patience. Ameen.

Ramadan diary: day 4

So as fate would have it, I am not fasting today as I’m on my period. I keep forgetting to track my cycle but 2 months ago I did restart. The tracker on my phone shows I’m meant to start in a few days so perhaps two months isn’t enough for it to figure out my cycle. Or perhaps the change in diet affected my hormones? I remember there was one Ramadan a few years ago when I went on my period twice! It’s amazing the amount of things that can effect us and how delicate yet robust Allah has created us. What a balance.

You know when you can just feel that change in the deepth of your stomach. I prayed it would hold out for a few more hours. But alas, just two hours before Magrib I was able to eat again.

This unexpected start meant I was very unprepared. Luckily I have a local shop because otherwise I would have been totally stuck. Not so luckily they do not stock sanitary towels. So yesterday was the first time I used tampons!

Funnily enough I have been meaning to give them a go. Growing up I always thought they were haraam but reading into them I realised that was more of a cultural seasoning rather than based on fiqh and the women of the past used similar methods too.

Well what better chance to give them a go than when you have no other choice! Now skip over this paragraph if you’re grossed out easily. But basically after standing in several different positions, making a total mess on the bathroom floor and wasting 5 tampons, I finally managed to get one to go in properly. My review so far – very easy to go in once you know how. I only had the option to use the cardboard applicator ones which are meant to be more difficult so I’m actually looking forward to trying out the plastic ones. Or perhaps they’re worse for the environment? Never mind. The use of disposable products is bad enough as it is. It’s the coming out part that feels so uncomfortable and I still don’t know if I can feel it inside or if that’s just my imagination.

Not actually fasting is weird and I feel like I’m wasting Ramadan. Even though I know the blessings are there and the only way I will waste it is if I don’t do the things I planned to – all of which have nothing to do with me eating – there’s just a little emptiness in my heart. Also it’s just nicer to fast with everyone rather than fasting again on your own. I guess I have to make sure I stay focused. Not eating works as a constant reminder of it being Ramadan so I need to keep a conscious reminder instead.

I’ve decided not to eat in work hours. I do not want to have that awkward conversation with the men I’m working with. And I do not want my body to get unused to fasting.

Anyway, this time off has given me a lot of potential. I spent last night watching some lectures on the Quran by Nouman Ali Khan. And since I’m travelling home today and working from home tomorrow, I will have time to concentrate on Arabic again. Whether I will have the energy to do it is another matter.

There is nothing wrong with having a good job, there is nothing wrong with having a nice house, there is nothing wrong with that. There is something wrong when that is your goal – Nouman Ali Khan

Ramadan diary: day 3

I have had a slight headache today which I believe has been caused by lack of sleep last night. I often found I was in a trance-like state, when you know you’re dreaming but continue dreaming. It was so bad that I ended up missing my isha prayer last night.

This breaks my heart as I was really set on making it habitual to pray my daily prayers on time. I often find it difficult to pray at work – and in fact I don’t usually pray at work at all. This is due to a number of factors, primarily my laziness but also the hassle of cleansing oneself in the bathroom. (The troubles of bodna/lotta!) But I am using Ramadan as a chance to practice praying at work – and hope to continue after too. After all, 30 days of continual practice should make perfect.
Isha comes in at 11.30 where I’m staying. And it’s pretty difficult to try and stay away after work, when you’re bored alone and have a full stomach! But today I’ll say no to the nap and maybe watch some YouTube videos instead.

So why is prayer so important to me? Well the fact it is a commandment from God – one that takes around 5 minutes to do. But it’s so much more than that. Praying allows me to take a few minutes out of my day – when I wake up, after I eat, at the end of my work day, in the evening and before I sleep – to spend some time in solitude, just taking some time out to breath. Every so often I can refocus my energy. No matter how difficult or how amazing things are, I can remind myself of my ultimate purpose. I can ask for forgiveness for the sins I know I have committed and hope for forgiveness on those I am not even aware of. I am human after all!

My soul needs prayer. And I know this every time I miss a prayer. I feel myself slipping further and further away from who I want to be.

More often than I would hope I rush my prayer. But when I pray properly, remembering why I do it rather than just getting it over and done with, I find myself. I feel the weight of the world lessen on my shoulders. Tears fall naturally. My heart softens. I am who I am meant to be again.

I find it helps to sit for just a minute before starting my daily prayer on my prayer mat. Close my eyes. Think of the things I am grateful for. Think of the things I want to ask my Lord for. Think of the things I love about Him. And then I open my eyes and stand up. Ready to bow down to my Lord.

“O my Lord! make me one who establishes regular Prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring, O our Lord!, and accept Thou my Prayer.” – Holy Quran, Surah Ibráhím, ayah 40

The first thing that Shaytan will try to do is get you stop praying. You know why? Because he has to kill the guard if he is to penetrate the castle. Once the guard is gone then Shaytan can open the floodgate of evil. And he has a lot of patience. He has done this to many people before so he’s experienced as well. – Nouman Ali Khan

Ramadan diary: day 2

Last night was pretty difficult. But halfway through complaining to a friend I realised just how ungrateful I sounded. There I sat on a double bed, paid for by my company, snacks at the ready for when I was ready to break my fast, moaning away. Putting things into perspective and finding that silver lining really helped lift my mood. And the biggest silver lining of them all – the tougher the challenge the more satisfying the reward. Inshallah!

So yes the work here is very boring but it is easy to do and I have the opportunity to learn new skills.

So yes my taxi got lost for half an hour. But I got to see the beautiful countryside, the fields and the flowing river.

So yes my room has no fridge and is like a boiler but I have a family apartment size.

So yes everything bar the vegetarian pizza is haraam (and even that was burnt) but I have a 24 hour nisa local next door which I would not have had at the other hotel I was scheduled to stay at.

And yes I overslept so did not have time to have sehri but I somehow woke up just in time to have water and pray fajr. And I got to sleep for a little longer.

And through being thankful I could be full, able to get on enjoying what I do have.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said “Be satisfied with what Allah has apportioned for you and you will be the richest of people.” (Tirmidhi)

Ramadan dairy: day 1

For the last four years I have been unable to spend the whole of Ramadan with my family. Something always seems to pop up at the last minute.

One of the reasons I look so forward to this time – aside for the boost in faith and time to reflect – is how close we get as a family. Everyone eats together and prays together, something we never do throughout the year as we all have different schedules. I am very close to my family anyway but this time just to sit on the floor together, joking around whilst we wait for the Azaan is priceless.

But once again, I’m having to break my fasts alone. This time because I have been placed in another city for work. (I’ve been in London since January, eager to get out but there were no projects. How typical one comes along as soon as Ramadan is here).

Luckily I do have a friend here so I won’t be totally alone. And since she is also away from her family, we can keep each other company.

I did some thinking on my targets this year, and later on tonight I will look back on what my targets for last year. I wonder if I have improved at all? I do not think I have considering this year has been a very testing one in terms of practising my faith. But that is precisely what I love about this month – renewed intentions and a chance to try again.

For those of you who are fasting, what are your goals for this month? 

Abu Huraira related that the Prophet said: Allah the Majestic and Exalted said: “Every deed of man will receive ten to 700 times reward, except Siyam (fasting), for it is for Me and I shall reward it (as I like). There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts: one when he breaks the fast and the other when he will meet his Lord” (Muslim)