The Denim Jacket

A Bold Statement?

So what’s the big deal about a jacket? It’s only an item of clothing. Perhaps so but, for me, purchasing this addition to my wardrobe had a far greater significance than for most other people.

Growing up, through my teens and beyond, the denim jacket was perceived as a symbol of rebellion. Whether this was all in my mind or not, I felt wearing a jacket of this type would not have been received too well by those around me. There’s something about denim and the deviance it implied. But it wasn’t just that. I myself never had the confidence to dare wear such a thing as it wouldn’t have helped with my low self-esteem at the time. So, it remained out of reach more by choice than anything else.

Fast forward to my current life and I am now the proud owner of my very first denim jacket. Admittedly, it’s been a very bold move on my part. Just making the decision to buy it was one that had me to-ing and fro-ing for a long while and even though I now have one in my possession, I am still questioning my own decision. Would it really suit an older woman? Am I trying to recapture my youth? What am I trying to prove? I can sometimes be my own worst enemy. If that wasn’t enough, I’ve not had the courage to take the price tag off despite wearing it a couple of times! It’s as if I’m half expecting to return it and haven’t been able to commit to the decision I’ve made. Crazy, I know.

But there is the other part of me that knows I am over-thinking this decision. I know that this jacket, along with any other item of clothing I have, will always be worn in a way that protects my modesty and keeps me within the fold of a suitable dress code for a Muslim woman. That’s why I didn’t hold back when buying it. I always had an image of what I’d like to see for myself -on myself – and Alhamdulillah, I know I’ve ticked all the necessary boxes to fulfil my duties of Islamically appropriate attire.

There’s nothing to say an older woman cannot be chique but modest. These two concepts have never been mutually exclusive. In fact, even as a woman myself, one of the things that I find really pleasing to see is a fellow Muslim woman dressed elegantly. It reinforces the notion that a woman dressed according to Islamic principles can actually be beautiful without being decadent. There’s nothing to say that a Muslim woman has to look like a sack of potatoes. As much as some hardliners might try to sell this concept, I know it’s nonsense and is oppressive. It denies the woman any right to individual expression and her innate desire to want to look and feel pleasing to herself, never mind others. Also, as I continue on my own weight loss journey, I want to celebrate my success along the way. Buying clothes which were once forbidden to me because of my own distorted perception of myself, is a way of affirming my freedom from that mindset. Goodbye Cinderella! This latest phase of my life is all about me now. No more waiting in the queue for my turn to enjoy a few indulgences.

I hope never to feign youth and be in denial about the ageing process. I know it’s happening. By the same token, I refuse to give up on some small pleasures in life and pretend to be content to live at bare miminum level when I know I could do better. Allah has given me the opportunity to do so and rejecting those blessings would be ingratitude in itself.

So, the denim jacket is a potent symbol for me. It is a small huge victory of self-determination over self-doubt. It is a statement to say I have some zest for life still. It is an outward reflection of an inner rejuvenation that I have been feeling for some months now. Whilst others will never know the courage it has taken me to get to this point, I know that the jacket will always be worn as an acknowledgement that I have the strength to overcome my deepest inhibitions without worrying what others think of me. I only need to consult my Islamic conscience and nothing nor nobody else. That is a wonderful liberation.

A Successful Son

The Stereotypical Picture of Success

We all have different perceptions of what a successful son might look like. For some, it’s about having raised a young man to stand on his own two feet financially. For others, it’s about academic achievements and yet for the rest, it may be about neither of those things necessarily but more about good character overall.

The truth is, a successful son probably embodies all of those elements above in varying degrees. And more. As time moves on, I know my definition of it has become more fluid. I am less and less fixated on the worldly or tangible measurements of success such as a degree or a high-flying career. I’ve definitely never been one to covet material wealth and feel it’s one of the most nauseating characteristics of any individual. That’s why the latter scenario does not constitute success since more often than not, people flaunt their wealth and there’s an associated arrogance that comes with it. Not the most inspiring people to emulate.

Dangerous Distractions and Delights

As I mature in my own age, so too does my outlook on life. For my children, what has always remained constant though is the need to inculcate good Islamic values since this is what underpins everything they do. No career aspiration or academic goal is worth anything without this. It is the foundation upon which everything stands. So if my sons’ goals are not realised or if they fall short in some way, I hope I will stand true to my word insha’Allah and recognise that they are not failures. Failure (and success) is too often measured in very narrow terms – in light of someone’s academic trajectory and/or career path. All this is born from the fact that parents project their own definition of success onto their children because they themselves are victims of society’s expectations. It takes a brave individual to dare step off the hamster wheel and see this for what it really is.

Whilst there is every need to guide our kids, there isn’t an absolute necessity to impose our perceptions onto them. They must be allowed some room to explore their own strengths and weaknesses for themselves. On the other hand, they should never be completely left alone to become complacent about life. They could learn a few things from their parents’ personal value systems.

I am mindful of the need for my sons to be decent, kind and respectful human beings – essentially to be good representatives of Islam. Although these are qualities that have no official certification awarded to them, they should be at the core of their existence. These traits have to permeate all the things they put their minds to in order to carry them through to a good final destination beyond this life, insha’Allah. In essence, the qualities I value in my sons are that they strive to do their best in every aspect of life and remember humility at all times.

We are all works in progress especially our spiritual beings. Whilst success is not an elusive thing, I do believe it is ever-expansive such that we can never quite say we’ve reached our full potential. There’s always room for improvement. Acknowledging that is a form of success in itself. Knowing that Allah is the ultimate Judge of success is what should motivate us each day to do more and give more rather than take more. We pour from our own jug -a jug which we must fill ourselves. Nobody else can be expected to fill it.

For my own sons, I measure their success according to what is expected of them as Muslims; not what my fickle mind tells me is acceptable. I think society still has a long way to go whereby there needs to be a shift towards focussing on the internal qualities of a person rather than the external accolades accrued through school and work per se. Perhaps our children will have better self-worth and eradicate the feeling of failure if we stop placing our own egoistic values on them.

Learning to Fill and Pour for Ourselves

Fight or Fight

Packing the Punches

No, this time it’s not a typo…although my writings are filled with them.

Today, I am reflecting on several things at once but the one thing that dominates my mind is a message for women who, like me, are facing life alone at the head of a household. We don’t have the option to fly away and escape confrontation of pressing issues at home. Those issues, like it or not, have to be faced and overcome because there is no other option. There is no recourse to a man (husband) to call upon for support or guidance. The buck stops with mothers in the absence of fathers who wander off into the sunset.

Do I appear fed up? You bet.

This is one of those days when things come to a head and the collection of little incidents along the way remind me of the long-term ramifications of being divorced. I don’t have the luxury of looking over my shoulder to see if someone has my back. I alone have to reconcile my myriad of thoughts to arrive at a conclusion. It’s not that anything ‘bad’ has happened lately but just the string of events that remind me that I can’t take a break and take my foot off the pedal. It’s not like the movies where a brick placed in lieu of a human foot will keep the car in forward motion. I have to be there all the time and there’s no letting up.

Not the Headline News

This is why I don’t believe ex-husbands have the privilege or right to be kept informed of any milestones that their (abandoned) children achieve. After all, had they been that interested, they’d have stuck around to have found out first-hand. In my own case, I don’t interfere with what my sons share with their father. I simply feel him knowing or not is of no consequence any more as they are now adults and can make their own decisions. In any case, their lives are not on a live ticker tape as a constant news feed.

I would implore any mother in a similar boat to me, to fight her corner. This is the hallmark of self-respect and, therefore, the demand to be taken seriously by others. Unfortunately, these days children tacitly abuse their parents, especially mothers, in ways which undermind the authority of the latter. The departure of a father seems to leave a mother exposed to ridicule, undermined authority and vulnerability. Children subconsciously play upon this. But it needs to be nipped in the bud. No child has the right to denigrate their parent – not least the mother who singlehandedly has raised them. Alhamdulillah, I have not had concerns of that nature only because if it has threatened to present itself, I have throttled it immediately. This is the unfortunate legacy of single motherhood. The damage that fathers cause has far far wider-reaching reverberations than they care to understand.

On the flip side, it’s important to teach children to articulate themselves privately and publicly; to let them know the value of their input at home and outside. I have inculcated a sense of self-respect amongst my sons so that they know they are no less important than a young person who has had two parents to support them.

Just like how I know my self-worth, with or without a husband by my side, my sons have come to know their self-worth even though they do not come from a traditional family with two parents. We may not be traditional but Alhamdulillah, we are ideal because this is what Allah intended for us and I am grateful that our current situation has created opportunities for us all to excel in areas we’d never have ventured.

There is no flight for us. We are not cowards. We will stay the course and see it through, insha’Allah.


What Peace Might Look Like…

We tarry in this world for a short time and become consumed with so much nonsense so much so that we lose sight of what’s important.

This is one of those moments where I remind myself of what I’m searching for in life.

With that, I’ll keep my ramblings brief on this occasion and allow myself to hear the silence inside and outside my head.

Nothing profound to say tonight. I’ll let peace reign in my head instead…

A Personal Paradigm Shift

No More Status Quo

When I made the decision to move from working online at home to working in an office, I trusted my instincts and knew it was the right thing to do. As convenient as it was to simply shift from one room to another and log onto my working life at the switch of a button, there was always something that felt intrinsically wrong – as if I hadn’t made a real transition into my working role.

The institution I was representing at the time wasn’t the most supportive or inclusive either which compounded the feeling of isolation. In total, the setup did not lend itself to a feeling that I was valued in society, or that my presence – or absence- in this world made a difference to anyone. That’s when I knew something had to give. I threw in the towel and decided to jump in at the deep end and force myself to not sink to the bottom of the sea. For six months, I searched for a new opening. A new beginning.

Alhamdulillah, it paid off. Now, I’m in a job where I interact with adults and what an eclectic mix of people they are! But that’s where the challenge and simultaneous satisfaction lies. I have face-to-face human transactions every day with people from all walks of life and different backgrounds. It’s exactly the kind of thing I cherish. Coming from a past where I’ve lived and worked amongst a diverse range of people in different countries, I love these such encounters. Not only do I learn about others but they also learn a little bit about me or what I represent as a Muslim woman. I’ve always been an ardent advocate of the idea that these such interactions are opportunities to educate one party about the other.

Although it is early days still, I can say that I’ve never woken up for work feeling a sense of dread or tedium. Perhaps a few more months and years may change my perspective. However, the thought that sustains me is that I believe Allah has been generous in the first place by giving me this opportunity to ease my way back into mainstream work after a long hiatus. Knowing that this is all His design, helps keep me in check. I can’t afford to waste the chance to make it a success.

This is why when I think of work I say to myself, “I am busy living. I am not busy making a living.”

Something to Look Foward to

Of course, there’s no denial that a reasonable paycheck at the end of the month is very welcome. However, that was never the sole incentive to go out into the world of work. Right now, the driving force for going out to work is to maintain my sanity and self-worth. I want to be part of a bigger project. Given my sons are these days self-reliant, my role as mother has become increasingly narrow and so the time is ripe to contribute to this world in other ways. Whilst my paid job isn’t anything to write home about, it is still a heartwarming feeling to know I may have positively impacted someone’s life in a small way each day.

It’s taken several years to get to the mental state where I am but I always knew it was a work in positive progress, Alhamdulillah. Being still and stagnating were never options I would have subscribed to for myself. When friends advised me to get busy post-divorce, I knew they were speaking with the benefit of personal experience but I needed time to figure out what ‘busy’ was going to look like for me. I believe I’ve found that balance where work is not something that consumes my life. It serves me rather than the other way around. And that’s how I wish it to always remain, insha’Allah. I am living a life now where I see everything around me as a blessing.

This phase of my life is the best that was to come…and came, Alhamdulillah.

The Completeness of Being Incomplete

Focussing on What We Have Rather Than What is Missing

My musings today are another iteration of things I have mentioned on numerous occasions before. Yet, given we have just celebrated Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, it seem an appropriate time to share my thoughts again.

Yesterday, my sons and I spent the day with extended family and had a memorable time together. Although some individual members were missing because they couldn’t – or rather didn’t want to – be there, that was not enough to negatively impact our fun and laughter, Alhamdulillah.

Even in the case of my own situation, the father of my sons has long been out of the picture. Yes, he may have contact with them and there is the occasional visit back and forth between countries, but he is very much absent in the frame of our family. Being on the perphery is never going to count. However, whereas I used to lament this loss, I am now much more accepting of it. That’s because I know my life and my sons’ lives have continued largely unabated, Alhamdulillah. True, there are many sociological statistics that speak of the disadvantages that children of one-parent families invariably have to face and try as I might to deny them, I have had to concede the drawbacks that come with trying to raise a family as a lone parent. Even with all the best intentions, innate human limitations can’t always be overcome.

However, I vowed early on to regain control over aspects of my life in order not to let this family come apart at the seams. To be honest, my faith in Allah has been the glue that holds everything together and the more I succeed in doing that, the more I have faith that Allah has bigger plans for me and has been Merciful all along. There is no room for loss. It’s almost as if His message to me is, “You’ve got this.”

This is why I don’t need sad sentiments handed to me regarding my status as a divorcee. I don’t need pity as if there is no recovery from the situation I found myself in over six years ago. I don’t need derision either where the assumption is that a family such as mine would only eventually succumb to waywardness. Over the last six years, we have muddled our way through and found a workable alternative to the traditional family setup and made it work. The reasons for that success belong as much to my sons as it does to my own efforts and, needless to say, none of this would be without Allah’s guidance. It’s because of the new life which has morphed from the old that I say we are complete – for now.

Spectator Seats Reserved for Absent Dads

We have worked out our own solutions for any problems we might encounter and don’t rely on the input of their father for practical advice or solutions. These days, he is more a spectator on the occasions where there is a need or desire to share but he is not the one who makes decisions any more – not even a back seat driver.

As a mother and sons, our family is very much complete, Alhamdulillah. We have figured out how to weave through one another’s lives and support and strengthen. We have also learnt when to leave one another alone to allow the individual personality to learn to have confidence in making independent decisions. A lot of mistakes have happened along the way but inshaAllah, I would say none have had irreversible or lifelong negative implications.

Allah knows I was up for this challenge and whilst it hasn’t always been easy, I relish every moment that I have been blessed with a soul that, even in life, feels it has already returned to my Maker.

Individual Strands Working Together to Make Something Great

Just Below the Surface

Random Thoughts Bubbling Away Below…

In Ramadan, we are well-acquainted with the advice to keep negative thoughts and actions well at bay. Given the heightened spiritual ambience that this month brings into our homes and hearts, for the most part, it is a much easier thing to do than in times outside of Ramadan.


I cannot feign perfection. There are often moments when painful memories surge back to the forefront of my mind when I least expect. Usually, I might be caught in a daydream and a catalogue of random thoughts all fuse together to thrust me back to a past incident I’d much rather forget. Before long, I’m spiralling downwards into the dark recesses of the past.

Focussing on What is Important

The beauty of Ramadan though, is that those thoughts are sporadic and more easily channelled into positive energy. I can snap out of them and quickly redirect myself to a thought process that brings out the best in me and not the worst. I manage to diffuse the negativity before it consumes me. That’s because I want to capitalise on this precious month and other activities, especially ibadah (worship) take precedence in my day. I don’t want this time to slip away without investing in what is to come – not just in this life but especially beyond. A heightened consciousness of Allah is often achieved through worship. But worship itself is not limited to the five daily prayers and Quran. It’s about engaging in the realisation that every action, in between those other overt acts of worship, connects back to the fact that Allah is in control and He knows us better than we know ourselves. So, I can relax. I am in good hands, Alhamdulillah.

So, yes, although sadness is part and parcel of this life, I’ve come to terms with that. But acknowledging that the presence of sadness has an actual purpose helps makes it more bearable. And had I not contemplated that fact, perhaps I would never had had the chance to draw closer to Allah and have private conversations with Him. I now understand that through it all, I have actually gained more than I ever lost. Whilst the gains may not be tangible, I know they’re real because the proof is that I am buoyant about life still. I haven’t thrown in the towel. I am still eager to make the most of the limited time left and give back even more insha’Allah.

Throughout my life, I know my inherent nature has always been about positivity and a willingness to fight. The last few years didn’t extinguish that desire. If anything, they reignited the passion to be the best version of myself and follow the dreams I’ve been waiting to make real.

Onwards and upwards, insha’Allah.

Love Life!

A Worthy Weariness

Sleep Becomes a Luxury…

It’s a well known fact that fasting and the associated routine of extended prayers and extra ibadah (worship) begins to take its toll at some point during Ramadan. As much as a Muslim would love to retire to the comfort of a bed and slip into a deep slumber, there is simultaneously, an overwhelming desire to push on and maximise on the precious yet limited time that the month offers to earn plenty of reward.

To be honest, I’m sure like most of my Muslim counterparts, the physical tiredness actually does not come from fasting but from the nocturnal routine where the natural order of our daily lives is reversed. Sleep at night is a welcome luxury but always interrupted. That being said, there is an alacrity many Muslims experience in greeting the nights knowing that the chances of reward are multiplied. The sacrifice of sleep is worth it.

The Most Superior Use of Time

I write here during one of those precious nights of Ramadan. Perhaps some would argue that I could be spending my time pursuing better things – asking Allah for forgiveness, reading more Quran or performing an act of charity. But my account balance is a private matter and I know – and Allah knows – the condition that that balance may be in. I consider writing here as an indirect act of charity. Whilst it may appear I am distracted from overt acts of worship, I am actually using a few minutes of my time to help others understand that Ramadan is not a month of starving oneself with the goal of losing weight. Whilst the latter is a nice bonus, the month means much more than that. It’s about self-sacrifice in a myriad of ways. Unless one engages in fasting, by which they become physically enervated, they will never know how that ties in with the diminishment of the ego and thereby the realignment of the soul with the spiritual invigoration. SubhanAllah!

So, whilst I sit here in a tired state, I am humbled by the opportunity brought by this month to rejuvenate my spiritual being and realign my wordly pursuits with it. Never the other way around. This is one of the main secrets of Ramadan that needs to be propogated more widely. For this reason, I hope Allah accepts this week’s blog as an appropriate use of time. Insha’Allah.

Important Ramadan Aesthetics

…and then comes Ramadan

The Best Visitor in Our Homes

In recent weeks, months and dare I say years, I have reiterated privately and publicly about how I feel Allah has shown me an alternative version of happiness. Perhaps ‘happiness’ isn’t even the right word. Perhaps I should say, ‘contentment’. Because happiness implies a constant state of feeling positive and the reality is, nobody can sustain that feeling for too long, no matter what there is to celebrate. Contentment, on the other hand, is to look deeper and to accept and understand the workings and wisdom of Allah through the thick and thin of life. Whilst the state of euphoria may elude us from time to time, at least even when the chips are down, we understand the situation is one that needs our patience and so we live in hope for better things to come.

Not Planning Too Far Ahead

That’s how I have been training myself: to be unruffled by turbulent times such as the cost of living crisis that everyone has been contending with lately. I tell myself to stand back and remember that I just need to get through one day at a time. I’ve seen so many people pass away without any warning to know it’s not worth planning too much in advance. It’s not a defeatist attitude but a realistic one towards life – or death.

So how does this all come together in Ramadan?

Actually, this blessed month is one which further helps to peel back all the unnecessary layers of life and return to the bare minimum (which is where we should be anyway). Divesting myself of ego, wordly appetites and fruitless pursuits is where I want to be at any time of year. So Ramadan is, in effect, the precursor of the lifestyle I wish to aspire to above and beyond when this month is over. But for me too, Alhamdulillah, anticipating its arrival is something I feel is a natural progression as I strive to be a better person throughout the year. I am not feigning greatness; I am as fallible as the next person and I know I have a lot to improve within myself. However, the last few years have definitely taught me to let go of the duniya (world) a bit more. I am content simply to be alive and well and to have a roof over my head. Anything beyond those things I see as a real luxury and whilst I’m not averse to a few indulgences, I am also well aware that I’m already very fortunate Alhamdulillah. The wealth I have is intangible and invisible to others.

Over six years ago, I was dealt with a rude awakening and my life changed beyond my wildest imagination. The reverberations have been echoing ever since but most of them have been positive, Alhamdulillah because I refuse to let them be anything else. The light will always overcome the darkness. And so Ramadan is, for me, a reaffirmation that good times will supercede difficult times and blessings are abound if we care to look for them.

Darkness Succumbs to Light

A Week of Work

Working to Live and not Living to Work

This is an appropriate time to reflect and assess how I got on this past week in my new part-time job. One thing I promised myself was that work was not going to consume my life. So far, so good. Being a part-time role, I know that is a huge factor in allowing me to maintain the social distance between my working life and personal life. Let’s see how long I can sustain it but I am hopeful.

That hope is driven by the fact that I am determined that my paid job is never going to be the sole focus of my life. I continue to strive to make the most of my time and squeeze as much as I can out of every 24 hours. Therefore, my day will never begin and end with the job. I know I am fortunate to have the option not to work in a regular 9-5 job and the deep gratitude I have for that freedom is to fill that time with useful pursuits that will help me become a better human being. Whether that be my charitable causes or seeking beneficial knowledge of some kind, the time to be still and idle will be kept minimal, inshaAllah.

Looking back on the past 6+ years where I have headed a family on my own, I have learned a great deal. The experiences garnered along the way haven’t all been wonderful but they have all been soul-nurturing and for that, I am truly grateful. To have lived a life in ignorant bliss is one which would have been easy but not enriching. I know this duniya was never meant to be a place of constant ease and yet we are all tested within the parameters of our own tolerance levels.

I am grateful to be ‘out there’ again in mainstream society and to be learning along the way. It’s the first proper job I’ve had in the UK since having my children so I have a lot of catching up to do. It feels like I’ve been stirred from a deep slumber after 20+ years. I can’t imagine how the companions of the cave felt as is recorded in the Quran (Surah Kahf). I recall praying to Allah that He would give me a job which would suit my needs etc. and He has done just that. SubhanAllah. To remind ourselves of the prayers that are answered is to be humbled totally in the presence of our Maker. 

%d bloggers like this: