Ramadan diary: day 30

And here we are – the last day. So I failed to keep a daily diary. Very apt since I kind of failed doing Ramadan this year.

Yesterday I found myself having to literally convince myself to get up and pray. It was an internal battle between my body and soul – I could physically feel myself having to rip away at whatever was holding me down. And once I stood it was a battle to keep standing. And every time I completed a section I had to fight to stand back up.

And I am terrified. Terrified that I won’t be able to keep steadfast. My soul won last night but barely.

When I started this month I knew it would be hard. When you have stayed away from prayer and His words for so long of course there will be some resistance. But what I found was my heart yearned for it. There was nothing I wanted more than to feel tranquillity and complete submission. There was however an almost physical barrier holding me back. And even after all these days I have not been able to break through.

And I know exactly why. I don’t think I have read even a page of the Quran. I have slept more than I have ever slept before. And I have spent more time on my phone than I have ever before. I wish I could say I was being productive – but no. I have literally been hooked to “watch me draw” videos – and I can’t draw and have no intention of getting into it so I have reached new levels of procrastination.

I know what I want but have not worked for it. And we all know the path to change is not easy. Essentially my insides feel hard and cold. And even though I know exactly how to change it, I haven’t. It’s that barrier – some sort of resistance that I have not been able to succumb the strength to smash.

As I write this, once again I am reminded of the power of words. Writing provides a clarity that no amount of shower thinking can give. I know what I have to do. I am currently in the process of deep cleaning my room – preparing for Eid. So, I can play out loud the surahs I have memorised already and read along. A small little action but a win for me nonetheless.

I pray you have all had a productive Ramadan. And if you haven’t then don’t loose hope. It has just hit me that I should be focused on doing little things – crawl before I try to run. Ease my body into it. Chip away at the barrier rather than smashing it immediately. Perhaps this method will be more sustainable?

“He who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And he who comes with vice, his reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive him. He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me.” (Muslim)

And of course Eid Mubarak. Hope you all have a day full of blessings, fatty foods and surrounded by family. I will be spending the day at my “aunt” (mum’s best friend)’s house where all the family and friends will come together. The day will typically involve me dressing to the high heavens just to sit around and eat all day. And of course taking a new picture to finally change my social media display pics.

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How we live now

Seconds to minutes to hours to days to weeks to months to a whole year. A whole year has flown on by and here we are in a world void of so many that filled it with their breath and voice and movement.

It was in last Ramadan that the world mourned for our dear brother, our leader and our friend Bashir Osman. Those who had met Bashir, even once, will tell you how they fell in love with his warmth, his humour, his character. He made everyone feel like his best friend. And for how well he was known and how much he achieved he still remained grounded and humble.

The response after his death was equally warming and numbing. He had messages from scholars across the world, people who did not even know him got to know him. People donated to the building well project he had started. It was truly exceptional to witness.

As I remember him now I remember one of his last tweets, hope simple yet so powerful.

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When I think of Bashir I think of the amazing life he led. But in all he did – leading FOSIS, all his charity work, the immense friend he was – he did as a student. A young person just like you and I. I wonder how I will be remembered after my inevitable demise. Will strangers sing my praises and wish to know me? Will my acquaintances mourn me even after a year? Will my loved one be proud of me? Will I have a legacy that can live on?

Bashir fills me with hope. We all have the potential to be like him. So let us take heed of his advice. Take advantage of today, worry not of the past.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Allah said: ‘O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.’ ” [Narrated by Tirmidhi]

This is my entry for Ramadan diary: day 15. 

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 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)

Faith 

When it all builds up and my heart feels heavy I place my head on the ground and cry. And with every tear shed I feel lighter. And with every sob shuddered I feel stronger. And in the end I am ready to fail again.

The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allah, Blessed and Exalted is He, says, ‘O son of Adam, as long as you call on Me, I shall forgive you of what you have done, and think nothing of it. O son of Adam, even if your sins were to reach up to the clouds in the sky, and then you were to ask for My forgiveness, I would forgive you and think nothing of it. O son of Adam, even if you were to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, and then you were to meet Me after death, not worshipping anything besides Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as the earth.’” [Tirmidhi]

Being glum

It is hard to be anything but glum.

When bombs fall like rain onto the honest whilst tyrants laugh in their chambers. I will never forget that. The sound of them chuckling after they voted to bomb people. People who, like them, have families and children. Who, like them, get terrified and are terrified. And there was nothing we could do about it. They ignored our pleas and cries in the streets. Nothing to stop this tiny island – once a beast but now a fragile shadow –  shoving in trying to demonstrate its relevance. And I know, 2 extra planes isn’t going to add anything. But one life destroyed is one too many. People are not collateral.

More news of shootings. More news of terrorist attacks not named terrorist attacks because the perpetrator was not brown or Muslim. More news of being falsely accused of terrorism – a whole route closed down because a man with a beard was on the bus, students being kicked out of class for being anti-war, a boy threatened by the police for fighting to keep his youth centre open – all suspects whilst the real terrorist live in their mansions.

Winter is here – I leave my room whilst it’s dark and watch the sunrise from the train. I leave work after it’s dark – completely missing sunset. I go into my room, usually after forced niceties,  and go on my phone to catch up with the world. A cycle of darkness. And I am left glum.

Blessings to al-Shâm, blessings to al-Shâm, blessings to al-Shâm! (yâ tûbâ li al-Shâm). Because the wings of the angels of the Merciful are lowered over it. – Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Ramadan Reflections

The beautiful thing about Ramadan is how it lasts for a month. It is not just a day of trying your best, or a few days of trying hard. It’s a whole month. This allows us to train ourselves, to keep trying to get to where we want to be even if we’re not there right from the start, and to build habits. As only a few days remain, I look back over what I have achieved, what I hope I had achieved and the things I hope to continue. I aim to use this post to continually reflect throughout the year, so that hopefully this time next year I can have better aims – and from there I will grow strength to strength. Continue reading

The passing of time

Me: All the time. Source

My first concept of the passing of time begins in year four. Our classroom had a blackboard and on the top right hand corner my teacher wrote the day, date, month and year in pretty yellow chalk. Every day she would change the day and date. I would notice how the month would change after some passing of time. But I remember impatiently waiting for the year to change. It remained 1998 day after day and I even asked her when she would change it.

Time past by so slowly then.

I remember the day she finally changed the numbers at the end. 1999. I was so excited and relieved. Finally!

Time passes so differently now that I know how many months make up the year and how many days make up those months and how many hours in that day. Now, rather than waiting for time to pass I try and make it stop. So much of my time is spent worrying about how little time I have – the upcoming deadlines, the forgotten projects, the pile of books I’ve not yet explored.

Continue reading