From Migrant to Muslim Identity

Identity Crisis: Definition, Symptoms and Examples
Trying to find a niche to fit in

I am the product of two immigrant parents who left all that they knew in their homeland in order to seek out better lives for themselves in the UK. Like many migrants before and after them, the impetus for leaving was economic reasons. Today, we see across the world not a lot has changed. People are still uprooting themselves and foresaking everything they have known for the Unknown and (ostensibly) Utopia. Perhaps the biggest difference nowadays is that the journeys the migrants are taking are infinitely more dangerous.

As second-generation children, my siblings and I were exposed to much more in England than our parents could ever have been. We were born here and like it or not, we have been imbued with aspects of British culture. For some onlookers, we are a beautiful blend of two diametrically opposed cultures able to effortlessly slide from one to another. It reminds me of a visual image – that of oil and water. The oil is suspended in water and sits comfortably in it but is never totally assimilated with its host. For other people, we are a confused and chaotic culmination of mixed languages, food and clothes. We are too Asian to be British and too British to be Asian…

Fast forward many years and here we are today with our own children. Whilst ties to the motherland of our parents (their grandparents) is even more tenuous than our own, at the same time, our children seem to know who they are more than we ever did. I have always considered myself and other “second-generationers” to have been the transitional generation; the one that had to make the sacrifice for the generation before and the one after. We are the bridge between the past and the future.

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Making the Sacrifice for a smooth transition

So why am I talking about all this anyway? It’s because I sometimes feel my children’s generation is more fortunate than us in some ways. Because they had us as parents, who knew the workings of both the savoury and unsavoury elements in society, they know how to navigate their own way through it. Many people of my generation could not resort to parents who would have understood what racism in schools looked like, how difficult it was to explain your religious beliefs to your English friends or why your mother wore strange ‘ethnic’ clothes as opposed to ‘normal’ people. We could not even begin to explain to our parents the seemingly nicer things like the benefits of taking up a sport outside of school which many of our friends would have done. Of course, I don’t blame my parents. To be fair, they had their own struggles. However, the cumulative experience of my generation prepared us for parenthood.

Even before I had my own children, I knew that instilling a sense of identity and belonging in them was absolutely vital. I myself have lived a life going through different labels and trying to see which outfit suited me best. I realise I came full circle back in my twenties. Having tried different labels, ‘Muslim’ was the one I realised I had been searching for all along and yet it had been staring me in the face my whole life. It was – and is – the one label that supercedes all others. There is a permanency about it which pervades everything else. I knew this was the one identity that my own children would need to be equipped with if they were to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Alhamdulillah, it was a belief that has paid off. I say that because even though my children are of mixed ethnicities, the one thing they have been able to carry with them is their faith as a Muslim. No matter where we have lived (and there have been many cities and countries) they know identity is not a question of belonging to a physical place or ethnic group. It is knowing what they believe in terms of their religous disposition and letting that notion precede them wherever they are. It is reassuring to see that they don’t have what I call “colonial siege mentality”, the mindset of my parents’ generation where they felt inherently inferior because of their colour, ethnicity or religion. This next generation exudes a confidence and is proud but not arrogant, Alhamdulillah.

Having taken the insults and physical abuse at the hands of racist strangers on behalf of the generation that has come after us, we will not sit quietly and let them suffer the same fate. As a result, I see that my children claim Britishness with more ease than we did at their age. Looking back at my youth, I see I was someone who questioned her loyalty to her parents’ motherland which seemed a remote and arbitrary place. There was also a conflicting and almost guilty loyalty to the country where I existed in real time. It was a bizarre and confusing crossroads to be at.

If there is any harbour which we would want our children to anchor in, it would be a wise choice to make it the one of Islam. Of course, I would say that as a Muslim and I make no apologies. From its inception, my faith did away with racism and other cultural hierarchies which are so divisive and unethical. Alhamdulillah, I have experienced the beauty of Islam and still am. I can still say that I have seen the best version of Islam through my own marriage, even though it did not last as long as I had wished. I hope my boys will continue to hold the torch, inshaAllah and pass the light of their faith on to their progeny in years to come.

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Beauty begets Beauty…

Know Thyself

Know thyself Picture Quote #1

A lot of debate surrounds the origin of this legendary quote. Some historians attribute it to Greek philosophy, namely Socrates; others say he cannot take the credit.

To be honest, I am not interested in the historic roots of this maxim. I am only interested in what these two simple words mean for me when put together. It is that the journey of self-discovery should never stop. Yet it does. We go through life in erratic bursts of finding out what we want, when we want and even who we want. Then we settle into a routine of complacency and stagnation. It’s a normal process of life and there is nothing wrong with that until we are jolted from our seats and realise that the old way of handling things will no longer do.

When life throws a curveball, sometimes we fall right off the path which we were once on. Whilst we try to refocus and time moves silently on, this leads to retrospection which itself leads to introspection. In the process of that, we really begin to know who we are. We learn our limits vs. our capabilities, our strengths vs. our weaknesses, our friends vs. our enemies. All those things suddenly become more apparent than ever before.

It’s all in hand now

I never once imagined I would be running a house alone without a husband to raise my children – especially not because of a divorce. However, here I am and in these last five or so years, I’ve learnt a lot about myself. Here are a few of those things:

I will not allow anyone to denigrate me for being divorced; I have to shout much louder than a married woman to be heard and/or taken seriously; I have to be the steel armour which contains and protects the delicate parts of my family; I will never let my boys feel bereft in the absence of their father; I will do my best to remain financially independent of any help from others so as not to give them the chance to feel indebted to them.

The list above speaks of a certain kind of defiance in the face of a society that really does not do much to support women facing life on their own with their children. I can honestly say that it does take its toll on me mentally. It is quite draining to be perfectly honest. I have to present a bold front to the world and then turn around and face my boys and do the same for them. In a sense, I am living between two parallel realities and serving as a buffer between the two.

However, life doesn’t afford me (and other women like me I guess) much scope to have bad days where you don’t feel like getting dressed or going out of the house. I have no choice but to go on. There is no second person to hand the reins over to. And the irony seems to be this: whilst I wear that armour as a strong facade, inside, the core is also very tired and weary.

People have sometimes asked me if I would consider remarriage. The short answer is ‘No’. I believe there’s a time in life for everything I wouldn’t feel the excitement one does when in their twenties and all the expectancies that come with the vigour of youth. I don’t have the desire or energy to get to know someone and nor do I wish to explain my own story so far. I am not cyncial of marriage or love but I know that marriage is not the panacea to my life now.

So, in summary, I have come to know about myself in ways I perhaps would never have done if I had continued in my marriage and allowed someone else to control where we would be going next, both in real terms and spiritually. Allah has given me a new set of circumstances through which He wants me to shine. InshaAllah (God willing), I hope I don’t miss many of those opportunities. Along the way, I will continue to know the updated and revised version of myself.

When Ordinary is Anything But…

Never Underestimate the Impact

Sometimes, the best memories come from the simplest of things. They do not always emerge from exhilirating adventures or adrenaline-filled excursions. It can often be the most nondescript days that produce little moments of ineffable joy.

Today, I write not about my own trip down memory lane. Quite unusually, I write here to talk about the recollections my sons and I have been sharing of times gone by; memories from all the different places we have lived in over the years. (And I can tell you, we have had quite a peripatetic life for the most part).

It’s heartwarming to learn, for example, that my oldest son recalls a time in Saudi Arabia, when he and I had walked together along a palm-tree lined avenue and then were sitting perched against our parked car sharing a bag of Doritos. It was early evening, so the sun was tolerably hot and we were enjoying a chat about nothing in particular. I myself had forgotten that day and I certainly had no idea he had remembered it till he told me just recently. It’s lovely to know that those kind of special memories don’t only belong to me but also to my sons.

The backdrop to a significant memory

It goes to show you never know the impact small things make on your children. Better still, those indelible photos taken with their minds are born of surprisingly unassuming outings with the family. Memories don’t have to be created from lavish and expensive displays of affection. They certainly don’t need to be created in the public domain. I much prefer a private and quiet life without drama of any sort. For that reason, despite existing on a select few social media platforms like Facebook, I consider my own life definitely not for the scrutiny of random strangers.

I’m sure those reading this post now would argue that I have fallen into the very trap I promised myself not to fall into. Precious moments between my sons and myself should be kept out of view. However, the very purpose of mentioning such an anecdote here is to serve as a modest attempt to help others see that there is a happy and intimate alternative to the public carnival lifestyle. Wonderful memories don’t even need to have heavily-planned prior investment. That is a fallacy that Covid-19 has definitely taught us. Magic memories can evolve naturally on their own without any effort. My wish is that adults understand that there is no definite correlation between the amount of money spent on something and the memory which it creates. What does matter is the presence of the heart.

For me, I live little private celebrations every day.

The Inside of My Mind when with My Sons

Finding Feminism in Islam

Antonym? Oxymoron? Paradox?

Feminism within Islam

On the face of it, ‘feminism’ and ‘Islam’ are two diametrically opposed traditions.  Some would argue that no two things could be further apart in their outlooks.  

If we defined feminism as ‘the advocacy of the equality between men and women’, I can just imagine how many people would be clamouring to argue that it’s impossible that Islam is a feminist religion.  To some extent that is true: in Islam, men and women aren’t considered equal, especially physically and emotionally.  However, I would go deeper and not just skim the surface of the argument. 

What those outside of – and even within – Islam forget is that Allah recognises the inherent differences between the sexes.  After all, it is He who has placed those default settings in us.  Yet he does not ask us to compete on the grounds of physical and emotional differences.  Allah gives both man and woman a level playing field called ‘duniya’ (the world) and it is here that we exert ourselves in racing to do good and be good.   The equality that we inherit is to do with our starting point in taqwa (God-consciousness).  We all begin at zero and work our way up.  Some falter along the way; others forge ahead.

All is fair in the race for equality

The trouble is that not many Muslim women are aware of their equal position at the starting line.  We’ve all seen athletes taking their positions on the running track in a race.  The one who starts in the innermost circuit seems to be the furthest behind whilst the athlete running on the outside lane seems to have an unfair advantage at the front.  Yet, the reality is they are all evenly positioned despite what it may look like.  This is the same for life.  We women may be running in that innermost lane but, in fact, we are on an equal footing as the men. 

So, ironically, as I go along my personal journey in life, trying to figure out my rights and non-rights in Islam, I have come to learn that this great religion defends my corner very well.  It is both judge and jury working in my favour.  I’ve so far lived a life as a single (pre-married) woman, a wife and mother, and now as a divorced and single woman again.  As I have moved through each phase of my journey, I have also unearthed hidden truths about what I can and can’t do within Islamic perimeters.  The net result is that I have not found religion inhibiting. 

I know many people would beg to differ.  Islam has such a negative image in today’s media.  In so many arenas in life, Muslim women are usually side-lined, silenced or sullied.  However, I feel it is incumbent upon me to stress that this behaviour is the working of a dystopic patriarchal society that does not recognise the rights and honour of women.  If we all truly lived within the boundaries of Islamic tradition, we would not have modern Eurocentric ‘feminism’ serving as the alternative rhetoric to Islam.  As it is, there is a growing body of Muslim women who feel betrayed by Islam and can’t see that it is their menfolk, and not the religion itself, that has let them down. 

We do ourselves a great disservice by keeping the beauty of Islam hidden from our own women.  Maybe some men fear a rebellion.  For example, if we teach a Muslim woman that she has inheritance rights, that her money is her right to do with as she pleases, or that she is not only allowed but she is encouraged to get herself educated, then all these bold assertions will necessarily shake the self-serving pedestal that men put themselves on. 

Knowing my rights as a Muslim and as a woman, is not an option any more.  In an age where divorce is rife, women can’t afford to be ignorant about these things.  I believe now that Islam incorporated feminism from the beginning.  It’s just that it was never given a title.  Feminism isn’t inherently antagonistic to Islam.  I believe it is the inner of those two concentric circles. 

I have recently been told I am a feminist.  There was a time I would have considered that as a possible criticism.  Today, I see it as a compliment. It does not offend. Instead, it is in keeping with my identity as a Muslim.

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Not a dirty word

Mind the Gap…

Looking back in prep for looking foward

…between reality and fantasy.

It is a harsh truth we must learn to face.  Who has not lived a life where, in our youth, we had high hopes and an innocent confidence of what was yet to come?  Then, as time passed, those hopes slowly diminished and at the other end of the time spectrum, we look retrospectively at life and realise that many of those ambitions never came to fruition. 

So, who is to blame?

Frankly, I believe no single person can be held responsible for those missed opportunities. Life is complicated and often the trajectory we map out for ourselves is met with unforeseen circumstances which put a dent in our plans.  The thing that I have learnt in recent years is that it is up to me to close the gap between the ambitions I desire to fulfil and the actual job of fulfilling them.  Reliance on someone else is a dangerous dependency which I have cured myself of. 

I would argue that having seen life from both sides of marriage, the gap between reality and fantasy is even more possible to close.  That’s because I am in charge of my own affairs now and do not need to consider someone else’s views.  That may sound pretty selfish.  However, I beg to differ.  It is precisely because I put a great part of my own life on hold to facilitate others’ progress, be it my children in their academic lives or my ex-spouse in his career goals, I feel I have earned the right to focus on me.  Now, I come first.  If I’m not going to take this stance at this stage of my life, then it’s never going to happen. 

I would advise anyone anywhere never to rely on someone else to make your life happen.  It is entirely within your grasp.  If a goal can’t be achieved now for whatever reason, never give up on it altogether.  For women especially, they must carve out a niche in life for themselves which nobody can enter.  It is a zone which allows them to be as creative or as relaxed as they wish but it must be a place for their wellbeing.  It has to be a place where they call the shots because goodness knows they don’t get to do enough of that in so many other realms of their lives.

Higher goals yet to achieve

An example of what I mean is this blog of mine itself.  It is my own space where I am liberated from the drudgery of life’s routines and can almost have a conversation with an invisible audience.  The bonus is that nobody can interrupt my train of thoughts.  Another goal I have is to sit solo on a cliff top lost in reverie – a nelipot overlooking the azure sea and sky on a sunny afternoon!  Neither of these are examples of unattainable goals but to have them and make them happen is so important.  It is a satisfying sense of independent accomplishment set and achieved by myself. 

There are some gaps in life which may never be closed but I could do worse than not to aim to at least make them narrower.  I refuse to be held back or feel disadvantaged because I do not have a man by my side.  This will not be my handicap.  It will be my liberation.  I don’t deny that good company would have been a wonderful bonus.  However, I totally believe I am a work of Kintsugi as I mentioned so many blog posts ago.  I have not given up on myself.  I have not given up on life.  InshaAllah, I will do my best to keep moving forward as long as Allah Himself allows.   The only gap that I need to keep in mind is the one where I am forging ahead and others cannot keep up. 

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leaving the Past Behind

The Best Things in Life are Three..

Who would deny that the simplest things in life are the best?  We spend the better part of our lives vying for this and that, be it a job, a house, a car and a myriad of other material things.  Age does give the benefit of hindsight and a wisdom that cannot be gained from reading books or simply listening to others alone.

Nature

In my own limited experience, I have come to know that I derive the greatest pleasure in life from the simplest of things: a stunning flower, the subtle sounds of water lapping on the riverbank, the mellifluous sounds of chirping birds, the susurration of trees swaying in the breeze.   Nature displays its charms so unreservedly and it is there for the taking.  I like to think I rarely miss an opportunity to lose myself in its midst.  Alhamdulillah, I am fortunate to be living in a place where all these things are at my disposal 24/7.

Family

Quite apart from nature, there is one other aspect of my life which I relish.  It is the time when my boys and I come together to sit and talk about anything and everything.  It’s not so much what the topic of discussion is but that we are simply fortunate enough to be in one another’s company at that time.  I know as they become fully-fledged adults and the demands of modern life pulls them into their own distractions, their affection is real and still draws them back to me as their mother, Alhamdulillah.  I may not have had a daughter but I don’t miss her absence.  My boys have often combed my hair, pampered my tired feet and massaged my head.  (There have been varying degrees of alacrity in those moments but at least they have obliged). 

I do remind them of the many things I juggle in my daily life.  It is not to instigate sympathy for me or a word of ‘thanks’.  It’s my way of preparing them for their own future.  One day, inshaAllah, when they get married themselves, they will already be aware of the work involved in running a household – especially as a woman.  My hope is that they will never take their wife for granted as, chances are, she will be doing the lion’s share of the housework.  Feminists can roll their eyes here.  However, I’ve rarely seen a reversal of traditional roles sustain itself in a marriage and not without a negative impact in some way.

I am convinced that if men were more acutely aware of the miracles that women perform in their daily lives at home, then perhaps many more marriages would have lasted today.  The same applies to women who are unashamedly disconnected from the daily grind that their husbands endure to support the family.  In both cases, being blissfully ignorant of the other is a disaster in the making.  I believe it’s why many marriages tragically come to an end. 

So, being in tune with nature, being brought back to a place of humility, is a good place to learn our own insignificance in the grand scheme of things in this world.  We are so deluded with self-importance.  A great reality check would be to stand at the foot of a mountain, or in the middle of a field, to know how tiny we are.  Our egos are disproportionate to our relevance to this world.  Likewise, just being present in the moment of a conversation with those we love or care about – these are the priceless treasures nobody can create.  Not only are these things free but they are humbling. 

Faith (Imaan)

Being humble is a means of connecting us right back to our status in this life.  It is predicated on the knowledge that Allah should always remain at the epicentre of our existence. I have found that having a reference point to conduct my affairs in all matters large or small, is by far the greatest free gift given to me by my Creator.  Acceptable behaviour is not some random set of rules I design for myself. Rather, it’s a formula which has been assigned to me from Above. But abiding by those rules with a conviction that Allah knows what is best for me, rather than leaving me to judge for myself, is such a wonderful gift that it’s surprising it goes unnoticed. In one stroke, it does away with manmde biases such as culture, traditions or habits, where these contradict Allah’s orders.

My advice to others?  Chase the things which are intrinsic to developing your soul and give you a clearer understanding as to why you are here in the first place.  Material things are anybody’s game.  They are simply an outward manifestation of purchasing power or money in your pocket.  But to appreciate nature and to value family is a testimony to understanding all of that from a station of gratitude and faith that everything is in perfect balance.

The Suitability of a Spouse

Bonding Together or Growing Apart?

For the last five years, I have, more often than not, wondered about the reasons which lead to the demise of my marriage.  I concluded that it must have been insurmountable incompatibilities rooted in cultural and ethnic differences.  Moreover, it was all my fault; I hadn’t worked or tried hard enough to move across those monoliths of ‘culture’ and ‘ethnic differences’ and adapted to a new normal.

All that changed for me recently.  I now know for certain that those were not the catalysts for the breakup of my marriage.  Why do I speak so boldly?  It’s because I very recently learned that my former husband, who had swiftly remarried after my departure, to a fellow thoroughbred of his own background, has recently succumbed to another failed marriage.  Intriguing.  How do I feel?  Vindicated.  Completely.  Utterly Vindicated. 

The years I have spent beating myself up for being the sole cause of my divorce, I cannot explain.  In my mind, I had failed my husband, failed my children and worst of all, failed myself.  He had not been pleased and had sought a new life to start afresh.  Now I see that actually, it wasn’t me who was to blame.  As clearly as I see the white full moon against the black canvas of the night sky, I believe the whims of man are often the cause of so many failed marriages.  Mine was no exception.  How else could I explain the sudden, erratic decision my ex-husband had catapulted onto our reality? 

An unpredictable change

I write today with an unreserved candidness to explain to others reading this that there are no fixed formulae for marital success.  For those who ruminated on my own marriage, offering their sometimes outlandish theories as to why it ended, I reject all they say.  There is no rationale for it.  Except this:  man is an irrational being.  And I mean ‘man’ with the exclusion of women.  Perhaps that will irritate many male readers but I speak with empirical evidence.  This has been my personal experience and my personal observations of too many countless marriages that have ended, including my own.  How else could someone wake up one day and quite literally do a U-turn?  I have seen men reach that critical mid-life point and suddenly become restless and confused – as if they have just awoken from a state of suspended animation and realise they need to make up for lost time.  They seek to rewind time and press the ‘Replay’ button.  How best to achieve that?  Release themselves from their present lives and find a suitable replacement which deceives them into thinking they are able to recreate their own youth….

I am writing today without any real editing.  I am expressing thoughts which I have had fermenting for some time but never gave any real attention.  Now, upon hearing that my ex-husband is divorced for the second time, but in a fraction of the time he had been with me, gives me the right to make these statements today.  He, who married a woman of the same ethnicity, culture and language, and therefore, an infinite ‘improvement’ on me, will have to admit that the common denominator in both failed marriages is indeed himself. However, I don’t believe he is quite ready to do that yet.

Until men admit to themselves a great deal more culpability for their own shortcomings, rather than shift the onus on their womenfolk, then we can continue to expect to see many more marriages coming apart at the seams.  I am tired of seeing and hearing women beat themselves up about their own faults because they couldn’t live up to the impossible standards set by their husbands.  My plea to women who find themselves in this situation, is to not reduce themselves to a nothingness, a person of no self-worth.  Only Allah has the right to judge our worthiness.  In uttering those fatal words of ‘divorce’ or ‘talaq’, I see now that the real victim is the man himself.  He deludes himself that he will be moving onto Bigger and Better.  In fact, he has shot himself in both feet, not just one.  He has paralysed his own future.  Pity the man who does not recognise this tragedy.

Alhamdulillah, I have lived to see justice being delivered.  The best part is that I didn’t need to do anything except exercise patience, and Alhamdulillah the fruits of that I can see here and now.  The truth is nobody is a victor in all this sorry mess.   For five years, I have only ever wanted people to see the ugliness of their own actions.  Alhamdulillah, my prayers have been answered. 

Beyond Just Having Patience

I was recently listening to a lecture by Professor Abdul Hakim Murad of Cambridge University.  He is what I would call, ‘Britain’s answer to Hamza Yusuf’.  I say this because, like Yusuf, Professor Murad is also a revert to Islam and a very active academic in his field.  He is also extremely eloquent in the English language.  Listening to any lecture by both these individuals is, for me, a mesmerising experience.  It is not simply the content of what they talk about which rivets me to my seat, but the way in which it is delivered.  Eloquence is something I find very alluring in any human being and is testimony to a refined set of social skills and manners. 

The first phase of recovery

The topic which Professor Murad was deliberating on in this recent lecture was that of sabr, or patience.  More importantly, he extended his focus to discuss the concept of ‘ridhaa’ (contentment).  On the face of it, there may seem little difference between the two.  After all, sabr is to bear something unbegrudgingly and without protest.  To have ridhaa, is to be pleased with whatever situation we find ourselves in.

However, on listening closely, I realised that there is a significant difference between the two concepts.  Contentment is a state which encompasses patience and has it at its core.  It is definitely a higher position to aim for.   Looking back at my own personal situation in the last few years, I know I have had to learn the art of having patience; to control my thoughts which often belie the cool exterior I may have displayed to the outside world.  Patience is something we need to learn to master in the midst of any challenge we might face and it isn’t something we adopt retrospectively when the event has passed.  In other words, there is no point having a tantrum and regretting it later and promising to be patient next time.  We need to exercise patience in the very heat of the moment.  This is, arguably, one of life’s greatest challenges. 

Ridhaa

About that cool exterior….  Yes, sometimes presenting a façade to the outside world is necessary if only because it offers time and space to develop our own fragile mental states.  Prying eyes and constant questions from others often do more to shatter the delicate defence we try to build up for ourselves.  I have been through that phase.  Back then, I could not even begin to think of being content.  I was simply too busy trying to get through each minute of each day.  It was a mission just to survive.  I was too consumed with anger and frustration to even imagine being content.  That was too much of a tall order for me back then.  Yet I don’t chastise myself for choosing to let my emotions dictate my thoughts.  It was a necessary process to get to where I needed to be.

Alhamdulillah, now I feel I have recently entered a new phase of life where patience has been overlaid with the notion of ridhaa, contentment.  Having worked through a lot of negative energy, I have not only come to accept my fate but embraced it.  Where patience was a tender sapling, it has matured into contentment which is a tree firmly rooted in its place.  I have had time to ponder, reflect and understand how and why I have ended up where I am today.  Despite the losses, the gains are now the focal points of my life and my sight is locked onto them.

But contentment is not a one-way street.  It is not enough that I am content with Allah’s plan.  The unspoken but reciprocal arrangement is that He too is content with me.  The relationship I have with my Creator cannot flourish on my terms only.  In fact, I realise that I have no right to dictate any terms as I will always be in need of and reliant upon Him.  As the one who is in absolute control, Allah needs to be content and satisfied with me.  There is no escaping that paradigm.  Insha’Allah I have passed the test He has placed before me and the many more that will come to pass. 

So, how do I know I am not simply stating fanciful ideas?  I actually do believe I have found my own little Utopian space because I see the wonderful things that surround me in my life now – from my friends to the beautiful natural environment that I engage with so often.  Alhamdulillah, I know there are things I have been blessed with which I am not even aware of.  It is that state of gratitude which leads to contentment and awe.  If I endeavour to set this as my default mode, then I have no time to be anything else. 

Living between awe and gratitude

At its highest level, I believe ridhaa is to be in a state where Allah is pleased with me.  To achieve that, I have learnt that I must not only be passively accepting of my fate in life but to be genuinely satisfied with it.  Using all my positive energy, I must not only know how to survive but how to thrive.

A Personal Review of Ramadan

For the things we are aware of and those we are not

Alhamdulillah, we are almost at the end of the blessed month.  Perhaps saying “Alhamdulillah” might seem an inappropriate choice of word.  It suggests a sense of relief.  However, I mean it in the sense that I have been fortunate to have experienced most of this month and inshaAllah, will see it right to the end as well.

As all Muslims know, the month is not just about the fasting of the stomach.  At a higher level, we are urged to restrain ourselves from so many other undesirable habits of the body and mind like backbiting, wasting time and other fruitless pursuits.  At its best, Ramadan is a time where the heart is constantly connected to Allah.  It is a time of being more conscious of the actions of oneself and of the ego.

I have had the past few weeks to reflect on what I need to purge from within myself.  I know I need to learn more humility and point the judgemental finger right back at myself before waving it at others.  That is a serious reality check in itself.  I have had many moments of self-criticism and regret at past actions.  However, I am also full of hopefulness that I may be making some modest progress in terms of my life as a Muslim.  That middle ground is exactly where a Muslim is supposed to be: to live between hope in and fear of Allah.  To me, it makes perfect sense.

Ramadan is a time for re-energising the spiritual dimension of ourselves.  I know for many people, as good as their intentions may be, it is a struggle to even get started.  Sometimes life just gets in the way.  This is particularly true for women running a household on their own without a husband to help.  My heart goes out to them as I understand their plight too well.  Though my own children are no longer children as such, I can relate to the struggles these mothers are going through.  For them, it is not easy to listen to how others have achieved great spiritual leaps, through reading the Quran or extra prayers, when they are floundering with just the normal routine of everyday life.  If you are such a person reading my post now, I salute you.  I salute you for your commitment to your family and for going it alone without compromising your dignity and determination.  I salute you for having even just the intention to do so many extra deeds although you may not have had the chance to actually cross them off your list.  To all those women who singlehandedly are raising well-rounded children through personal sacrifices and societal sanctions, please know that this is a mission that is as noble as any other. 

My understanding is that Ramadan is a time to bring forth the best example of ourselves.  It is a time of community spirit and global awareness of what is happening across the Muslim world especially.  Whilst some of us may struggle to find time to read the complete Quran, or put our lives on hold to do extra acts of worship, the beauty is that worship can take many forms.  Looking after our children is a great example; sharing food with our neighbours; a phone call to an elderly or lonely person – these are noble causes not to be dismissed lightly.  So, even if the more personal goals for ourselves are not met, the part of our existence which is given over to taking care of the needs of others is a truly commendable one.  I hope some will take comfort from that.  Not all hope is lost.

Sometimes, striving to do more in Ramadan can be as simple (yet powerful) as controlling our thoughts while fasting.  This is a wonderful opportunity to learn to rein in some of those unsavoury thoughts rooted in anger, suspicion, jealousy and pride.  We try to pull the plug on them and instead, let them drain away.  That is not a small feat and it’s a continuous process but done at a time when Allah generously rewards us for any good we do, it’s a goal worth pursuing.

For myself, I am beginning to learn to have a more tenuous grip on this duniya (world) as I can’t hold onto it forever.  Indeed, I don’t want to.  To have lived another day of peace and good health is more than what I could have asked for, Alhamdulillah.  I am grateful for every seemingly positive and negative experience in the hope that they will all collectively make me move closer to my Creator. 

Thank You Allah Alhamdulillah For Everything
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