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 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 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 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

Home

Home is not where you were born. Home is where all your attempts to escape cease – Naguib Mahfouz

I was born in London – in fact not very far from where I live now. I am a ‘proper’ London-er by all lists and calculations. Everything outside the M25 is “up north”, I ignore all acts of friendliness in the streets and can’t stand people who don’t know how to use an escalator. London is my home.

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But I have so many conflated thoughts about it. This is my home. I have no other home. But when people ask where are you from? I instinctively know they mean why aren’t you white? But I play their game. London. No, where are you really from? Yes I was right. I have a pre-prepared answer now, “well I was born in London and lived here all my life but my parents were born in Bangladesh.”

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It is this other-ing, not just by that comments but in so many ways, like filling in forms – I will always be British something else* – my kids will always be British something else and their kids after them will be British something else, that makes me realise even though this is my home, I will never feel quite at home. I will always feel like I’m squatting.

Maybe I will be able to go a whole week without feeling it. But then something will pop up on the news, someone will say an off-the-cuff comment and I will be reminded.

*something else because what they call us changes over time.

I wonder if I will ever be allowed to feel at home. Probably not in my lifetime. But I wonder how many generations of children immigrant families have before this goes away.

Daily alarms

When I started this blog I had intended to write daily. I had a 47 day run. Then I ran out of steam that dramatically dropped.

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My style of writing has also changed. My earlier pieces were chockablock full with gifs and memes – made possible by my laptop. Now I write most of my posts on my phone. Except this one – because I am meant to be working … procrastination is a massive blogging motivator!

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Well in the spirit of new year (and with the help of that methodological restart button) – I will once again attempt to write everyday – except weekends because I need to do more non-computer activities (like crafting, knitting and reading – things I have not done since starting my new job!). Writing on here keeps me sane and I feel like I’m being productive even though I am not – but feeling productive is step 1 of being productive so I’m on my way. & on days I am unable to write full on feels (because some days are just not inspiration) I’ll just post a quote summarising my day. For example, this one:

My sister *applying for job*: What can I write for initiative thinking and problem solving skills… how about spraying air-freshner before going to the toilet?

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Don’t worry – my blog will not turn into a toilet humour filled space. Unless everyday is filled with that kind of thing. And it won’t be because the world is not that funny and is filled with actual shit worth writing about.

How often do you plan to write – do you even have a “how often” or do you just write when you can/feel like it?

Being visibly Muslim

I wrote about the stares and the fear on my personal Facebook. As I waited for the next train home a man walked towards me, giving me a glance that send shivers down my spine. My brother saw it too – my 16 year old baby brother. Without even saying anything he stood in front of me, protecting me from the tracks – just in case. Just in case this was another person filled with so much hate that they could push a women into the oncoming trains, or rip the headscarf off her head, shout vile abuse or spit at her.

He walked by, I was safe – that time. And I wanted to cry. Because I felt so exposed and so paranoid. I wanted to sob because my little brother felt it too. And I wanted to howl because I knew it was so much worse in other places – Paris and outside the multicultural bricks of London – and if I was struggling here, how on earth were my sisters getting on there?

The response I got felt like a punch to my gut. White friends from university – who I hadn’t spoken to in 2 years – telling me I’m the same as Donald Trump and all the facists. How I was spreading hate and I did not deserve to be in this community.

I don’t feel safe. Not in being visibly Muslim, not in expressing my feelings and not in finding solidarity.

This post was written in response to the daily prompt Safety First

Being ready

She wakes up ready.
Ready to take on everything she is not ready for.

As her kettle brews she brushes her hair. She irons the clothes that fit too tight and don’t fall right. She lines her eyes, applies mascara and taints her lips. She wraps her scarf around her head and pins it into place. She drinks her tea. And puts on plasters before wearing her heels. She is ready.

Ready to pretend she understands the capitalistic world she’s thrown herself in where the corporate call themselves the alternative. They pride themselves as diverse and inclusive yet she sees no one like herself and does not fit in. She pretends she does not mind that they get drunk and speak too close, spewing horrible fumes and dropping alcohol onto her beautiful gown. She pretends she does not feel offended when they assume she is against LGBT rights. She tries to laugh as the scoff at “chavs only buying clothes from Primark” whilst she is dressed in mostly Primark clothes and lives with her mum in a council house. She is patient when they ask “are you Islam?” and “so what are you doing about ISIS?”. She hides her offence at the “I volunteered in Africa (because obviously Africa is a country to them). It was weird because I was the only white person in the village”. She goes along to yet another evening of networking with the same clones and the same stench of wine.

And when all is done, she can come back home. She takes off the heels at the door, unwraps her scarf, wipes off the black around her eyes and changes into her mexi. She does not have to be ready anymore. She sighs with relief and gets ready for bed, dreading the morning ahead.

Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman. – Maya Angelou

I write

I write.

I write because the words I want to say remain jumbled in my mind, the voices repeating themselves again and again – so loudly yet remaining silent. Taunting me with the “you should have said this” and “you could have responded with that”. Hindsight. I want to feel the joy when I say it like I meant it and you get it like I intended it and we connect – even just for a little while.

I write so my heart aches less and to fill the void in my soul. To release build up of pain and bottling of frustration. I want to feed the juices that run through me, feel the buzz, rejoice in the energy.

I write to hide from my world. The judging eyes and piercing lips that with just a few sounds can crush my spirit. I want to feel unchained and winged. To say what I want without the fear of politics or religion or love getting in the way.

I write to be the many sides of me. To be more than my big brain or small body. I want to be multi-dimensional and fluid. The happy, the angry, the strong, the lonely.

I write because I can. Because I can’t say. Because you don’t see. Because we don’t listen.

Dear future me 

In just a few days I will enter a world I don’t know. The corporate world. And I’m terrified. Frightened of the place, the people, the money, but more so of what I could become. So here’s a reminder to future me, for the times the present me is not so familiar anymore.

Be You

You’re adaptable. You’ve been able to fit in your whole life, being in but feeling out. But you’ve found who you are now. Know the world you’re entering and know that it is not you. So when you’re trying to mix in, don’t forget how happy you felt to find your cause and faith, how much you care and how important your values are to you. Continue reading