Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to those badass dads I see on my timeline.

My father is not a badass. He is just a bad ass. To add some context – he abused his family, cheated on my mum and raped women, stole land of the local poor, was a horrendous son (my grandmother actually said he would see her when she dies and her wish came true), bullied me for wanting to succeed, never paid any child support after mum kicked him out, and I could go on but I don’t want to.

I did not need him. But I did want him. I did not learn how to ride a bike. I won’t have a dad for my future husband to ask permission to marry from and my brother doesn’t have a man to ask “man” questions to.

Shout out of course to my ammu for giving me more than I deserve and need. But that does not let him off the hook. He should have been better.

Whatever.

I do not need him.

Ramadan diary: day 11

Yesterday was exhausting. I don’t know if it was simply from sitting through technical workshops trying not to yawn or my very unhealthy (but great) lunch of chips + baked beans but by the time I went back to the hotel I was done. Feeling refreshed after a quick wash I settled down to do some work on my bed and next thing you know I was out by 7.

I had a nightmare about missing work the next day so woke up disorientated and nervous. Frantically grabbed my phone and thank God it was only 3 AM. I had of course missed dinner and was feeling very thirsty. But as I was going to grab a drink I wondered if I should be fasting today.

See in the past my period has lasted an average of 10 days. But I noticed that for the last 2 months – the only 2 months I have recorded down – it lasted 8 days. And today is the 9th day. At 3 AM I was conflated on whether to fast anyway – even though I was super thirsty and the last meal I had eaten was lunch the day before. I would have attempted it but after some googling I found you shouldn’t fast until you are sure. Since I was unsure, and since my periods have typically lasted 10 days before, I thought it would be ok not to fast today.

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I’ll be travelling back home today anyway so can have a nice bath and get back at it tomorrow. Very excited to start fasting again – it’s just not the same not doing it.

I did catch the England v Wales game. Come on England! It’s weird how patriotic watching a ball being kicked around can make you. I was filled with gushing pride upon hearing the fans sing  the national anthem. It is interesting how many European anthems are about ruling and then you got the global south singing about the beauty of the land.

And on the topic of patriotism – my prayers are Jo Cox and her family. An MP who is fighting for her life after being attacked by a far-right, Britain First, terrorist. Of course this white man will not be named a terrorist. He is the wrong colour and follows the wrong religion for that. The hypocrisy is once again so clear and disheartening.

Terrorism has no religion or race. What it does seem to have is a gender. When we hear about an attack we automatically wonder about the race or the religion of the man. What was his motive? Never does it cross our mind that it could be a women. So when politicians consider banning or targeting a certain group, maybe they should consider that.

Edit: Jo Cox has passed away. My heart goes out for her two sons, husband and family. This was a political assassination yet is being reported as a stabbing. Not calling it what it is is unjust. 

Ramadan diary: day 10

Into double digits and we’re in the last days of mercy – stepping into the days of forgiveness.

Yesterday I had dinner with a colleague I am staying with. It’s just the two of us doing some work on this site for the week so we thought we’d go out rather than having hotel food.

Over dinner, the discussion of the EU and #Brexit came up. It’s pretty hard to avoid the topic – especially with the vote right around the corner. I was surprised to hear my colleague used to support UKIP, and much of his family members still do. I did ask why and was told, “well they’re a bit racist to be honest.” In other parts of the conversation, discussing parts of London he said “I have to be honest, it does annoy me when I’m walking in the street and I don’t understand what people are saying. I mean this is England but you wouldn’t know it sometimes.”

I was pretty taken aback but did the strenuous smile and nervous chuckle you may know too well. Not everyday dismantling racist views. Some days enjoy dinner. (Dinner itself was lovely – courtesy of my company expenses, thank you).

Normally these everyday reminders of living in a world that is so cruel is harsh and bares heavy on my soul. But I wanted to think of forgiveness. Often racist views are deep rooted in ignorance, upheld by racist structures. It is these structures that need to be dismantled and once we do this, I hope, we can start to rebuild a lovelier world.

Will we ever get there? Perhaps not. But we can hope. Does it hurt – absolutely. Is it our responsibility to teach others all the time – no, nobody has that much energy and self care comes first. But we can forgive them in our hearts and focus on the structures. Lets focus on dismantling the masters house.  

For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices. – Audre Lorde

And since we are on the topic, here are my views on Brexit –

The European Union is an inherently problematic. It upholds structures that are Eurocentric and this is detrimental to the global south. However, given that we currently have a Tory government, it is dangerous to have such an upheaval happen now. It will mean cuts and lives being destroyed. The Left-wing argument of reform will fail – and we cannot take that risk. Look at what happened after the financial crisis. Happy to explain further in comments.

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 😛

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