#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

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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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Ramadan diary: day 16-17

Checked my phone this morning. 07.50. And my taxi is booked for 8. The guys are already in the car waiting.

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Repeating subhanAllah over and over and over again I ran around, adrenaline going, brushed my teeth, ironed my shirt (badly), put on the skirt from the night before (alhamdulliah I shower at night so no worries there!), scarf wrapped, socks on, laptop grabbed, face cream into the bag. And I was in the taxi by 8.05.

Great start to the morning.

InshaAllah the rest of the day will be much more relaxed. I have to travel up to a nearby town to help run a workshop but I am all prepped for that. The workload this morning is nice and easy. And my hot desk happens to be very far from my team so I can take my time doing it.

The day before I travelled down from one city to another with the ex-UKIP colleague. It was a beautiful route and although I was struggling to keep my eyes open, I am at least thankful he was doing the driving so I could relax. Regardless, all this travelling is taking its toll. Mix that with my general laziness and lack of motivation, I have been struggling to put into action all my goals.

The fardh prayers have been fine – and being a traveller they have actually been easy (since it is permissible for me to shorten and join them). It is my taraweeh, and reading and memorising the Quran that I have been missing. I usually get back with less than an hour before iftar. Winding down, showering and figuring out what I want to eat gobbles up that time. And before I know it I am just lying there with a few mins before breaking my fast, trying to desperately fill this void that should be filled with focus and to think of some prayers. My prayers feel empty and short-term – focused on the dunya (this world).

I am trying not to loose hope but the days are slipping away and I don’t know if I have improved at all this month. Thinking about it physically hurts my heart.

Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error. Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which You did lay on those before us. Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Protector. Help us against those who stand against faith.” – Quran 2:286

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 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