Everyday 

I am struggling to make my days productive. This is fustrating enough of a normal day but even more so in Ramadan. So I made my ideal day – visualise what I want to achieve, set myself realistic targets and know what is possible. 
I hope everyone of you are having a blessed and light filled Ramadan. Start everyday with a fresh heart, ready to be a new. End everyday with reflection, ready to let go. 

Advertisements

My bi brother 

My sister found my little brother’s phone still in his hand late on night. Light still on and headphones still plugged in. He was fast asleep. She reached to take the phone from his clutch and place it on the table besides him. And then she dropped it. 

He had been watching porn. And not just any porn but gay porn. 

Her little brother. 17, brown and Muslim. 

She didn’t know what to do and and came crying into my room. She gave me his phone. He had been messaging a older man. The man had sent him pictures and videos. And he had sent pictures back – but only of his face, fully clothed (as far as the pictures on record showed). 

I proceeded to printscreen and send to myself so I had this man’s number. A man who was sending naked images to minors. And accidently locked the phone. Fuck. 

The next morning my brother saw someone had messaged me the pictures. I called him into my room and explained I that I was simply worried about the pedophile and reassured him I still loved and cared for him. I apologised for going through his phone and told him he could speak to me if he wants. 

He told me he was bi. And I told him it was ok. He begged me not to tell mum and I promised him I wouldn’t. 

And I haven’t. 

But we haven’t spoken about it since. Not me and him. Not my sister and I. 

I have always been an advocate for liberation and this included LGBT+ rights as you cannot separate them. Yet as a straight, cis person – it has not been personal before as racism, disabilities, sexism and islamophobia have been. 

Since then I have been doing a lot of thinking about queerness. I do wonder if we are all born queer and socitial and other pressures lead us to live one way or another. For instance, LGBT+ communities were very prevalent and accepted in south Asian communities prior to western, Christian colonisation that outlawed it. And yet Islam specifically prohibits non-heterosexual relationships. It also prohibits all sexual relationships prior to marriage.

I guess it is easy to speak about rights that go against your culture when the two don’t have to intersect. This whole thing has made me question my allyship. Clearly more for show than I had previously realised. 

And of course this is not about me. I am sure my brother is going through a very complicated thought process, being outed without his choice and having to navigate life as a bi, brown, Muslim man. 

Yet that does not take away from me having to do a lot of learning and growing. 

#BurkiniBan

I am sick of women’s bodies being used as collateral to make points. What a women wears or does not wear should not be the choice of any person – certainly not of any man. 

For the mayor of Cannes to ban the Burkina whilst saying the Burkini is a”symbol of Islamic extremism” demonstrates the move towards demonising Islam as a religion – as opposed to demonising the very few who have extreme views. It once again ignores the statistics in global terrorism and ignores the academic literature on what causes extremism. News flash – Islam itself is not the cause. 

I find it extremely hyprocitical for a person to claim they will help women who are forced to wear something by forcing them not to wear what they want. The covering of the hair, arms and legs is a very common practise amongst Muslims – and is no way a sign of extremism. Linking the two only fuels the already heightened rhetoric on how a women in a hijab must be an extremist. 

I wear my hijab as a sign of my devotion to my Lord. No one asked me to wear it – and yes I was inspired by my mother and the strong faithed people around me. But they also inspired me to study hard, to be brave, to love myself. I am also inspired by other women who do not wear the hijab – Malia Bouattia, the first Muslim women as NUS president – for example. And I am inspired by non-Muslims – both women and men. 

Taking inspiration from people does not make you an extremist. This banning of an item of clothing once again assumes that Muslim women are weak, that they are not smart enough to make decisions about what they wear, that they don’t have the free will in their communities to choose what their wear. 

How far from the truth. It is the women, our mothers and aunts, who propel us to be where we are. Strong and fearless women who push us, make sure we don’t settle for anything less and keep us going. If only they knew. 

This ban has not liberated anyone or stopped any kind of “Islamic” extremism. What it has done is stopped women enjoying a swim, provided further ammo for gendered islamophobia and and once again shown the political system does not ask the opinions of those it effects. 

I find it very telling that there has been silence amongst many “feminist” groups about this. No outrage in support of their sisters who are having their autonomy stripped from them. Once again highlighting just how white mainstream feminism is. 

When, as happened in France, an attempt is made to coerce women out of the burqa rather than creating a situation in which a women can choose what she wishes to do, it’s not about liberating her, but about unclothing her. 

It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism. 

It’s not about the burqa. It’s about coercion. Coercing a women out of her burqa is as bad as coercing her into one. – Arundhati Roy

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.

13508978_1035693613134545_2979124855699764333_n

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 12 – 14

I guess I’ve been having feelings that I didn’t want to share under my Ramadan blogs so I didn’t. Here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to instead.

This weekend I travelled to join some friends and strangers at an annual Iftar gathering. The atmosphere and the generosity of the family hosting was nothing short of beautiful. It was lovely catching up with like minded friends I had not seen in several months. And the food was banging! Inshallah if I have the capacity I hope I can host annual Iftar gatherings for friends and neighbours when I am living in my own house. Food really does bring people together and during Ramadan it is just like magic.

Some of my friends were driving back after fota (sehri/suhoor) and had a spare seat. I had a train booked for the next day but that would have meant I did not get home until 4 – less time to see mum. We stopped by at a local mosque to pray and I was pleasantly surprised to find not only did they have a women’s section (and a large one at that) but it was open for women for fajr. Even one of my local mosques which is one of the biggest in the country closes their women’s centre during fajr.

The drive back took several hours and was full of laughter and sharing stories. The sun was shining and the scenery was breath taking. At one point we did make a small stop to take it all in only to be attacked by little bugs. I did manage to capture this view though.

somewhere up north

By the time we got home it was just after 9 and I was shattered. I thought I would take a little nap and then wake up with everyone else. You see my mum was a little annoyed I had decided to go away for Iftar since I am working away anyway and we had a dawat (gathering) on Saturday. I know she could have used the help and I’m sure it wasn’t fun for her to explain I had decided to go out with friends to her friends and family. I was planning to make it up to her but next thing you know it was 5PM. Naturally she was annoyed I had wasted the whole day and was throwing me ample shade throughout the rest of the evening.

All is well now though. And I will remember to buy flowers of Friday inshallah just to quell any remaining remnants of anger.

I’m currently sitting in first class on my way up to the north. I hate sitting here and feel very conscious of my presence. As I walk in I know people are surprised I am even here. The man sitting next to me actually asked “this is your seat is it?” when I asked him if he could move his coat off of my seat. The man infront of me is taking up a significant portion of my leg room. I’m a small person so usually I’m ok to let people have a little more room. But he keeps moving his feet onto my mine every few minutes to the point I’m currently sitting crosslegged with one of my legs on the other side. The whole idea of “class” carriages annoy me. It’s not exactly about class anymore. I assume many of the people sitting here will be getting their tickets reimbursed. So it’s a better service – just call it that without gripping onto the horrible class segregation histories associated with the two carriages.

Damn I sound grumpy. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep.

Wishing everyone the best today – it’s the longest day of the year here so it only gets easier from here on out!

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.

9921307926_fd7cdbfb02

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!

Untitled

“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.