Nearly…but not quite

I looked out a the night sky today and was taken aback. We are in that time now where the days are longer and with the weather being milder the change from day to evening is enhanced with the contrasting gradients of blue. From my bedroom it looked picturesque with house lights turned on and the street lights also filling our cul-de-sac. It reminded me of a feeling that I have not felt for a long time. You see Ramadan is coming at the end of this week and I was (and still am) apprehensive.

As a new mother I was scared when the month approached as I felt I could not manage, but Allah made it easy for me-Alhumdulillah.

Looking out at the sky today gave me that warmth I get when breaking the fast (when I have a moment to myself.) Its that time where you can reflect and really appreciate aspects of life you otherwise take for granted. Its the serenity I think I feel as when my girls go to sleep I stay awake for sehri (dawn meal.) I am not saying that I accrue knowledge or spend this time worshipping I just have a few hours whereby I can work on connection (or think about what needs doing to make the next day easier.)

On that note I pray that Allah makes it easy for everyone to fast, I pray he accepts our humble supplications and efforts to come closer to him and I pray he places infinite barakah in our time and gives us the strength to worship Him in the manner that is most befitting for him. Ameen.

Unnoticed

I am a bit uncertain about the title of this post-but I wanted to write about a conversation I was had with a friend of mine. I had a query with regards to a matter which lead to the both us talking about personal aspects of our lives. This is the norm really; when you begin a conversation it naturally veers off into multiple different directions. It had been a long time since we had spoken like this and we realised that the two of us were in very similar situations in terms of our deen, how this related to our marriage and the impact of our culture.

It is only very recently (two years or so) that I have come to realise that those long held traditional beliefs are still very much ingrained in our culture and Bengali heritage. The Bengali culture has many traditions that I believe are great and love to be a part of- but it is when there is an expectation (I say loosely) that I think it goes against being nice and becomes cumbersome. The reason why I wanted to make this point- is because there are a new second generation of Bengali-British-Muslim girls that are getting married and having difficulty balancing all these elements.

I feel as though it is not discussed very much. This may out of respect, out of knowledge or to preserve the union of marriage or simply from fear. However, as Muslims it is hugely important to be honest and admittedly when things are to much. Ourself has a right upon us and by restraining ourselves we are not making the situation any better, rather we are in danger of oppressing ourselves and inadvertently everything around us is also effected. I am not condoning or suggesting that everyone should be outspoken and dismiss courtesy but being the martyr can lead to issues such as mental or emotional. Many a times I speak to friends who were once confident and full of life but have now become bitter, which is sad as this is not what marriage is about. It is a celebration of unity that lasts until eternity (this is a different blog post altogether.)

Really I wanted to say that these women should be shown appreciation in doing all of these things amongst as in reality they go unnoticed although they are ones holding onto the thread that binds everyone together. Of course Allah is the one who is Al-Raqib-the watchful, observing us and deciding whether these tiny deeds will be accepted in the hereafter.  At the same time giving ourselves a break or being shown recognition can make a difference that may just mean the world to someone.

Ordinary Moments

I feel as though I have not had the time to sit and write this past month or so. It has been a transitionary few months filled with visits from extended family, a family wedding, day trips here and there and of course the usual day-to-day activities.

During this time, both of my daughters have had chicken pox too. Any mother knows when your child is slightly ill it moves away from the steady momentum that you know to be family life and days and nights merge into one. Thankfully my husband, his family and my family were there to carry out tasks whilst I held them close, soothed them whilst they cried or managed to nap with them (an hour makes all the difference.) During this time it seems like it is never going to end but alhumdulillah my two girls got through it (although the younger one cried at night- which was expected.) However, I felt there was something else that made it easy for me. This I believe was my duaas that I make to Allah. Its not the ones I say after salad or anything but they are simply ones that I unconsciously speak of throughout the day or when I am presented with something unexpected (which when you you two youn’uns, live with extended can become the norm.)

It was at these times I was silently grateful for my children that were calm and also that I was able to attend my brothers wedding and be a part of the celebrations. It was important to me as I live away from my family and everything has become that much more prominent.

It is in such Ordinary Moments one realises the extraordinary power of Allah.

My mother reacted like me

In a previous post I discussed a section of a podcast I heard. In this post I am going to discuss another section. Nouman Ali Khan spoke about the slander faced about Aisha (RA may Allah be pleased with her.) I shall briefly (as brief as I can) write it here for those who are not familiar. During the time of the Prophet (SAW) it was customary for one the wives to accompany him on an expedition or battle. On one such occasion it just so happened that it was the turn of Aisha (RA.)  At this time the women would be carried by men in carriage with two poles either side. This would be covered so no one could see inside. Aisha (RA) was very light in weight so when the expedition had ended her carriage was lifted and taken without her being inside it. She was left stranded. A companion came across her, he turned away and allowed his camel to kneel down so she could be lead to army.

After this, there were some people who spread rumours about Aisha (RA) and the companion. She was unaware of this until one of the other female sahahabi’s informed her. Her world came crumbling down she cried for three consecutive days and resided with her parents. The Prophet (SAW) was not coming near her either and eventually when he did he said that ‘if you are innocent seek forgiveness and if she is guilty then she should seek forgiveness.’ Upon hearing this, she turned to her parents and asked them to speak on behalf of her, they could not respond. After seeing everyone’s reaction Aisha (RA) says that her tears ‘dried up.’ It her reaction that I want to draw attention to-she said to her parents and the Prophet (SAW) that God would declare her inoncence and and turned away from them likening them to the Islraelites who did not believe Musa. She was angry and she responded. Now I have heard about this incident several times but I was not aware of how she had reacted.

When I was listening to Nouman Ali Khan he described her reaction and then related it to the Qur’an. We are told if you raise your voice to the Prophet (SAW) then the consequence is that all your good deeds are wiped away. We are also told (which is used against us much of the time) not to raise our voices to our parents. I struggle with the latter a lot. Now I am not an angry person but if a situation requires I can become egregious and indignant. As and when this has happened I have thought myself to be ‘wrong’ spiritually in some way. Hearing Aisha (RA) also reacted in the same manner as me, made me feel hopeful and less ‘wrong.’ (I am no way near the level of Aisha (RA.)

Now I am not saying that we should all go around and disrespect our parents, or the Messengers. I would not condone something like that. What I am saying is that we should be less harsh on ourselves and understand more about hadith’s, Quranic ayah before we advise someone else.

Echoes of my thoughts

I listened to one and a half podcast’s today whilst ironing (as you do.) The speaker echoed some things that I believe are invaluable. He began by providing a history of his relationship with the Qur’an (the Muslim holy scripture.) I was astonished to find that his journey was similar to mine and he also began understanding the Qur’an dismissing some teaching and practices he had encountered whilst growing up. The reason as to why I was astonished was because he too found that the Qur’an and Islam had much to contribute and was not restricted. This was contrary to how it was portrayed to me as a child and a young women growing up in a western country. I always find it refreshing when I listen to speakers and they are able to relate to contemporary issues faced by Muslims and the community as a whole but take examples from the Qur’an.

The podcast was entitled Sabr through action not emotion. He began by talking about Musa (AS) and the time when he lead the Israelites to the desert to escape Firaun (Pharoah.) The Israelites faced many hardships and the hardship that really struck a chord in my heart was that of having their children murdered in front of them. No parent can withstand their child going through the smallest of pains and these parents had to physically see this and then live with it day in day out. At this point I thought of what was happening around the world. Parents are being tested differently with their children. A community I thought of was that of the Syrians and Palestians. We all see across social media the devastation that is occuring. We may only feel the pain whilst scrolling through our feeds and become indignant and outraged at that time and then continue with our daily tasks but we should try our best to remember them in our supplications (that’s the least we can do.) This then made me think about a poem written by Carol Ann Duffy about war. I remember her writing something about ‘reading about the catastrophes and the turning over to the next section’ (this is not a direct quote I am just taking from what I remember.)

Going back to Musa (AS) and the Israelites in the desert, there are a few important lessons we can take. Not only did they see their children being murdered and undergo torture, they now were on a desert not knowing what the future had in store for them. However, Musa (AS) had escaped tyranny before and gone to the desert. As I was listening to the speaker I was thinking what would be Musa (AS) advise? I was pleasantly surprised that it was an echo of my own thought. Musa (AS) advised them to be grateful and Allah will increase. Often times when faced with calamity and we ask for nasihah (advise) we are told to be patient. I do not know about anyone else but when I am not able to exhibit this I do feel spiritually deficient too. The speaker (Nouman Ali Khan) pointed out that to feel these emotions and be sad is a part of being patient. The precursor of this is gratitude-because this shows you what you do have and what Allah has done for you and where he has brought you. In saying this Nouman Ali Khan highlighted the importance of a persons mental and psychological state which I feel is at times overlooked.

I guess I wanted to share this with everyone and illustrate that our religion has answers and caters for all individuals we just have to search.

Cohesion

I was speaking to my youngest sister in law recently about a lecture she attended about language learning. She informed that the lecturer had said that sleep is a crucial part of retaining information. Research conducted has shown this. In an experiment that took place two groups were given the same information and asked to later recall this after some time. The difference was that one group was asked after they had slept where as the other had been asked after they had gone about performing their daily tasks.

The results showed that the group that had slept had demonstrated better results. The speaker then said that this may be related to bed time stories we read to children. I then related this to something else I had heard many years ago in a lecture I went to with my husband.

The speaker said that the day is for doing the ‘duniya’ (worldly) things and the night is for ‘Ibadan’ (worship.) It just reminded me of the pearls that are embedded within my (our) religion.

Response to Dear Muslim Mother

I recently came across a new blog written by the author ‘Education Enriched.’ It attained my attention because of it’s title ‘Dear Muslim Mother.’ It really was a reassuring and encouraging post that I think ALL mothers would benefit from irrespective of beliefs. The reason why it made an impression on me was because it integrated those aspects that are not often discussed or addressed in mother toddler groups or amongst Muslim Mothers. Before you have a child nobody really tells you of the ups and downs of parenting or how you can feel alone even if your surrounded.

It is almost as if those emotions are locked away. My experience with my eldest daughter was initially of guilt. It upsets me when I say it but it is true. I felt guilty if she cried at night, I felt guilty she was not active, I felt guilty that she was cautious, I felt guilty when I took her for a nap, I felt guilty I could not help with the housework. I felt guilty if we had guests and I could not be of assistance. I felt guilty I was not doing more with her. I felt guilty that I was not feeling guilty enough. My self esteem was really low. I blamed myself.  This was not how I was feeling constantly and I overcame it finding solace in spirituality and physical activity. But I would go back and forth between the ‘guilt.’

When I was expecting my second child the emotions amplified. As is normal. You are tired and having another child (or maybe more) can mean that your resting. Some women maybe at work, some maybe in ill health anyway (both physically and mentally.) I wanted to enjoy things but I could not. Believe me Allah (God) has blessed me with resilience but it was difficult-especially as we were moving home. Writing it now it brings tears to my eyes. At this time my father-in law had passed away and I was grieving because he was an amazing, benevolent person. I actually did not know who to speak to and dismissed things thinking it was unimportant feeling like I had to. It is strange the coping mechanisms we build to protect those things we care about.

It has taken me time to regain confidence and I am still getting there. It was actually going through this transition of emotional upheaval that put me on the path to seek that which is important. It is only in the recent months I have felt the voices in my head subside. It is in the last year that I no longer feel the guilt (as much as I used to.) It was not just associated with parenting. It had permeated into my other relationships. Now I savour those moments with my children. One thing to remember is that everybody has opinions (including myself.) Everybody can give advice. You and Allah know what is happening in YOUR life.

Reading the post ‘Dear Muslim Mother,’ gave me reassurance that there are other women who also feel like this and it is ok. Especially when I read the following which I have directly quoted;

“When you feel guilty about missing fajr prayer because you finally fell asleep at 5am and woke up when the sun was rising.

When you feel relief at having completed ‘ishaa prayer just so that you can sit down and rest your aching body for a few minutes (or even an hour, if you’re lucky).

When you feel angry at your husband for just asking if there is anything he can have for dinner.

When you feel like a terrible mother for losing it with your children, over and over again.

When you feel like just running away from it all (just so that you can sleep).

When you feel like your imaan has all but disappeared.

You are not alone.” 

I just wanted to commend and respond to the mother (I Know it is a mother) for aptly putting feelings into words.