From young age I’ve loved writing, reading and studying. I’m a self confessed geek who enjoys note taking. I am someone who always carries notebooks and is drawn to stationary. The moment pen hits paper and you form words and your brain starts processing ideas is joyful for me. Growing up and being the daughter of first generation immigrants I was not read to *well not in the traditional way.* My parents were not heavily involved in my schooling as parents are now. BUT I was immersed in literacy and learning in a different way; which has had an impact on my desire to learn.
I have memories of creating things with my mum and transcribing things for my dad as soon as I learnt to read and write. It may not sound innovative or exciting, however at that time it felt like I was progressing as I was practicing things I had learnt at school. My parents were never told to do this it was just something they did naturally. I do not think they would think about this and give it any significance but these small things had an impact on the way I coded things in my brain. Being exposed to different languages at home also made a difference. At school we were taught in English. When we came home we spoke in Sylheti. We were taught to memorise in Arabic and then attended a Bengali school at the weekend where we learnt standard Bengali different to the vernacular dialect we spoke at home. In addition to this we would watch films in Hindi thereby being exposed to Urdu as well as both languages can be understood if only one language is knows. All of these different elements contributed to the passion I have for linguistics, literacy and study-which I am hoping my children also benefit from. However, it was never a conscious choice that was made to ‘boost’ our literacy skills.
I recall being told stories in our native language and imagining kings and queens in gowns. I would conceptualise their attire in our traditional cultural clothing. That would be saris draped across the main female protagonists and the male protagonists sporting Sherwani’s with brocaded cloaks and a turban on their heads.
I reflected on this after I attended a conference about Literacy. It was attended by many professionals who discussed the achievements made in the area. Unlike other parts of the UK here in Bradford literacy professionals are attempting to raise levels in ways that I have not seen whilst working as an English teacher. The event began with an overview of pupil achievement in the core subjects which has improved massively over a span of ten years. During this time the economy has faced many changes. Education itself has had many changes. Schools becoming academies, curriculum’s being overturned, subjects being collapsed, targets being altered, new qualifications being introduced, beaurocracy increasing- to mention but a few things. Amidst this teachers have ploughed on (sometimes begrudgingly.)
A quote that resonated with me was when the organiser of the Bradford Literature Festival said ‘literacy has to be brought out of the classroom.’ This was reinforced with the speakers of the Literacy Hub who working with the National Literacy Trust have developed new projects that they are piloting here in Bradford. It was refreshing to see organisations working together as opposed to reinventing the wheel. Moving back to the aforementioned quote I do think this is essential if we want to raise a generation that does not have homogenous literacy in my view. It seems that now in classrooms all pupils young or old are expected to excel. In contrast to this I think it is the process that should be appreciated-although results are important-they are not the sole goal.
My daughter has recently started reception and they are laying the foundations for her learning. These early years are important but the family plays a large part in this too which I think goes unnoticed. It was reassuring to hear someone else echo my sentiments about literacy being brought out of the ‘classroom.’ This in combination with the ‘Men in Early Years’ project lead by the Literacy Hub will hopefully encourage greater participation whilst drawing upon that which is familiar to families.
Even though I know about the internal elements of education becoming familiar with phonics has been a journey for myself. Other families do not have access to English so to hear that work was being conducted in family homes in mother tongue languages showed encouragement. The fact that parents were not expected to write rather tell a story in their own native traditions I believe will improve children’s literacy. This shows to me that it is not resources that are available that make differences rather it is how we execute resourcefulness.
Whilst waiting for my transport to arrive I saw that outside the conference there was a statue of a child taking it’s first step. On the plaque it was noted that it was created by a number of children from the primary schools based in Bradford. For me this symbolised what these professionals were doing by shifting away from the homogenous models of literacy and taking the first step- after all this is the hardest.
Last February I took my daughters and visited their aunty in the city of York. I decided to travel on the train and prayed that the girls would not be to difficult to handle (which they weren’t.) The journey there was filled with questions from my three old and her eyes were filled with excitement. My one year old simply slept which for any mother who is travelling is a blessing of relief. Once we arrived my sister in law met us part way to her flat and ensured we were fed before leaving again for work. In the silence of the flat I simply watched the two sisters play and explore their surroundings something I often take for granted. After they settled I decided to visit the the surrounding area. You see where my sister in law lives is in close proximity to libraries, museums and galleries.
We first went to the library. Each of the girls selected stories which I read to them. They then drew pictures while I snapped a few pictures being the photographer that I am. After this, the three of us went shopping and found some great bargains. Walking through the city and its cobbled streets reminding me of the history lessons at school. This was further reinforced by the Viking exhibition that was taking place. Whilst walking through I sensed the student vibe that the city is also known for, which reminded me of how I wanted to study their myself. The buildings boast of archaic architecture even houses that are being built now. Being able to go through these thoughts was a blessing and a far car way from the daily routine I undertake at home. Having said this I enjoy the day to day activities as well but a change helps to refresh things.
Although this was not an extravagant holiday anywhere my daughter remembers this trip. She enjoyed the journey there going through the tunnels and looking at the landscape. She liked conversing with me and spending time without rapidly moving onto the next thing. I guess I wanted to say sometimes just taking a step back and giving them time gives our relationships revival.
With the era of high paced technology, the influence of social media and convenience at our finger tips you would think that people would have peace of mind. I do not not know about anyone else but I myself feel as though it can be a cause of isolation and give rise to unknown worries that you did not know you had especially in the new generation of teenagers that are growing up.
I remember growing up and my cousins share little snippets of gossip they had heard. Celebrities were inaccessible except through TV and websites that you had use dial-up connection to access. When you came home from school MSN was THE way of communicating with friends. I even remember writing letters to cousins who resided in London and looking forward to a response. Yet at this time I felt secure and confident. I did not feel as though there was a need to ‘be’ a certain way. Of course there was peer pressure. Growing up in a predominantly ethnic-minority less area came with its own obstacles. Now it is different (this I will expand upon in another post.)
I am not condemning social media or technology I think they are great tools and have many advantages. You can see your beloved ones on FaceTime, share pictures on whatsAPP, update events on snapchat and express yourself how you want. It would be ironic if I was to do this as I am using this platform myself to engage with people. I guess a part of me misses the proximity of the old ways. Another part of me is a worried mum. I have two young girls and do not want them to be consumed by the ‘idealistic’ (I say loosely for want of a better word) images presented on these social media sites.
I have been thinking about it for a while and encourage my eldest daughter that she is beautiful just the way she is and also encourage her to be confident. At the same time I see my adolescent nieces and my heart churns when I see the turmoil of pressure there is. I was recently teaching past exam papers at work and the sample text was a letter written to a daughter from a mother. The advise she gave echoed my own thoughts.
I am just a bit skeptical of the exposure to ‘perfectness’ (I know this isn’t a word.) With the way APPs are developing I think the social media is only going to escalate. What does that mean for parents who just want their child to create a secure identity? If anybody has any further thoughts please share 🙂
This Wednesday I found out about Grenfell tower like everyone else watching the news. It was a shock to my system. It just seems like theres one thing after another when we switch on the TV. This was utterly hurtful. My immediate thought was are there any survivors? Deep down I knew people had not made it and this got to me because they were innocent lives. Then I began thinking about how could this happen- what was the cause. You see for me when the incident took place I was getting on with my normal everyday activities on that particular day I had not switched on the news as I was doing previously to check the outcomes of the hung parliament. My mother-in-law actually informed me of this tragedy. Shortly after I started reading the papers online, checking my social media feeds and what I found was haunting. Stories of mothers, young children, elderly who had not survived. Of course for us Muslims it is the month of Ramadan and I saw clips of people praising Muslims and being grateful for this month as the Muslims were able to help. However, inspite of this the tragic event depicted how the community is able to come together irrespective of beliefs because of our common humaness.
We have been discussing what has happened and the atmosphere instantly fills with sadness when you hear the stories of those who have lost their loved ones. The one that really struck a chord with me was of a young women who’s children were trying to stop the smoke from coming in through the gaps of the doors. At this point she was on the phone and the relative broke down whilst speaking in an interview when recounting the the events. The relative said she could hear the fire crackling. There are countless stories like this. I cannot imagine the despair going through their minds.
At this moment my prayers are with them. May Allah provide everyone with ease and save us all from facing further calamities. Ameen.
We awoke today at around 08:00am. Given that I only slept for a few hours after the dawn prayer and its Ramadan I wanted to desperately retreat into my bed. Alas! my daughters thought differently. Whilst lying down I remembered that my eldest daughter was given a project to complete. It was centred around a story called ‘Jasper and the Beanstalk’ and she was asked to make a flower that could be placed upon a display.
Reluctantly, rising from the bed I decided to make this into a lesson about growth and related it to Ramadan. However, as we began preparing, drawing, tracing, cutting, gluing, sticking, taping and finally painting (long list I know) subconsciously my mind had already made other links. My husband clambered down the stairs and sat down beside our youngest daughter and I could not wait to inform him of my analogy.
So I began explaining. When I came downstairs I looked in the storeroom for miscellaneous items that could be used. I thought it would be good to do this to encourage the use of materials at home. I then asked my daughter what does a flower look like and she found a flower hair slide to answer my question. Then the three of us went about preparing the items we would require for the activity. Similar to this we are recommended to prepare for this month, not just spiritually but physically and mentally. Although, we may not prepare in terms of gathering items like my daughter did, we do prepare for the meal after we break the fast and this is a blessing that Allah has given us.
Once we sat down we began to draw around the shapes that we had found. Now going on a tangent when I do things with my children I like to encourage autonomy. I do this for their own sake but recent research into child development promotes child lead activities. This is also promoted in Islam. As we are encouraged to raise our children with independence, be it through attempting the salaah or praising them for doing a good deed (this is another topic I will write about in another post inshallah.)
Anyhow going back to what I was writing about. As my daughter drew around the shapes to create the petals (which were in an array of colours), she started to cut around the lines and then we assembled them. In the process my daughter could not wait and was eager to simply paint. On seeing the final piece she smiled. It made me think of Ramadan. This is because just like my daughter cut the paper to make the petals the first fast (for me anyway) is like a sharp cut- as we struggle. Some struggle as they have work, some struggle due to ill health, some struggle as they have young children and there are unknown struggles too. By the end we hope that our souls are rejuvenated and our spirituality is assembled (or reassembled in our case) like the flower its just that like my daughter we are eager to see the result and undermine the process which is not something ordinary.
I began reading Surah Mujadilah today. On reading the translation I could not grasp what Allah was referring to so I decided to read the tafseer (commentary) of this particular chapter (which I would do with any chapter as I do not have a high calibre of knowledge.)
When I read the background I was amazed at the reason behind the revelation of this chapter. It was sent to the Prophet (SAW) after a women had come to him and sought advice regarding a dispute that had taken place between her and her husband. Before the verses were revealed the Prophet (SAW) advised her to have Taqwa (fear) as her husband was old. However, whilst she was there the Wahi (revelation) came down and what the husband had said to his wife was refuted. Writing these things now I am thinking that whoever is going to read may think what is so amazing about this? Well why I was amazed was because marital discord is common not only in the Bengali community but across all communities and often one party is given precedence according to the societal norms. Words are dismissed alongside the feelings of a person leading to resentment and in some cases further conflict. Here by admonishing what was said, Allah provides a balance.
When speaking to my husband later and explaining what I had found out and stating how if we understood and lived by the Quran life would be more simple-he simply agreed.
I realised that even behind dispute there is harmony.
Today, I read the verses below:
On the day when thou (Muhammad) wilt see the believers, men and women, their light shining forth before them and on their right hands, (and wilt hear it said unto them): Glad news for you this day: Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein ye are immortal. That is the supreme triumph. (12) On the day when the hypocritical men and the hypocritical women will say unto those who believe: Look on us that we may borrow from your light! it will be said: Go back and seek for light! Then there will separate them a wall wherein is a gate, the inner side whereof containeth mercy, while the outer side thereof is toward the doom. (13) They will cry unto them (saying): Were we not with you? They will say: verily; but ye tempted one another, and hesitated, and doubted, and vain desires beguiled you till the ordinance of Allah came to pass; and the deceiver deceived you concerning Allah; (14) So this day no ransom can be taken from you nor from those who disbelieved. Your home is the Fire; that is your patron, and a hapless journey’s end. (15) Is not the time ripe for the hearts of those who believe to submit to Allah’s reminder and to the truth which is revealed, that they become not as those who received the scripture of old but the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts were hardened, and many of them are evil-livers. (16) Know that Allah quickeneth the earth after its death. We have made clear Our revelations for you, that haply ye may understand. (17) Lo! those who give alms, both men and women, and lend unto Allah a goodly loan, it will be doubled for them, and theirs will be a rich reward. (18) And those who believe in Allah and His messengers, they are the loyal, and the martyrs are with their Lord; they have their reward and their light; while as for those who disbelieve and deny Our revelations, they are owners of hell-fire. (19) Know that the life of the world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the husbandman, but afterward it drieth up and thou seest it turning yellow, then it becometh straw. And in the Hereafter there is grievous punishment, and (also) forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure, whereas the life of the world is but matter of illusion. (20) Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whereof the breadth is as the breadth of the heavens and the earth, which is in store for those who believe in Allah and His messengers. Such is the bounty of Allah, which He bestoweth upon whom He will, and Allah is of Infinite Bounty. (21) Naught of disaster befalleth in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before we bring it into being – Lo! that is easy for Allah – (22) That ye grieve not for the sake of that which hath escaped you, nor yet exult because of that which hath been given. Allah loveth not all prideful boasters, (23) Who hoard and who enjoin upon the people avarice. And whosoever turneth away, still Allah is the Absolute, the Owner of Praise. (24) We verily sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance, that mankind may observe right measure; and He revealed iron, wherein is mighty power and (many) uses for mankind, and that Allah may know him who helpeth Him and His messengers, though unseen. Lo! Allah is Strong, Almighty. (25) And We verily sent Noah and Abraham and placed the prophethood and the scripture among their seed, and among them there is he who goeth right, but many of them are evil-livers. (26) Then We caused Our messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him. But monasticism they invented – We ordained it not for them – only seeking Allah’s pleasure, and they observed it not with right observance. So We give those of them who believe their reward, but many of them are evil-livers. (27) O ye who believe! Be mindful of your duty to Allah and put faith in His messenger. He will give you twofold of His mercy and will appoint for you a light wherein ye shall walk, and will forgive you. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful; (28) That the People of the Scripture may know that they control naught of the bounty of Allah, but that the bounty is in Allah’s hand to give to whom He will. And Allah is of Infinite Bounty. (29)
In truth, I only read the translation a few minutes ago so what I am going to write are my thoughts in real time. Yesterday I felt a reassurance that Allah is aware of our efforts. However reading through the verses now was almost like reading the expectation almost of myself for myself. A few months ago I listened to a lecture by Nouman Ali Khan regarding the light and it made me ponder whether what I have been doing will be accepted or rather will it be enough? I know we can never be certain of our deeds being accepted however we know that the next life is permanent so we have to make adequate preparations. On reading the verses I felt tearful because it was as though these ayahs were what I needed to hear. Although I can never be certain if what I am preparing will be accepted I know that my efforts will not be in vain as Allah has ‘twofold mercy.’ Nonetheless it made me think about where I am lacking and how I can make improvements.
I do feel I have been negligent in reading the Quran and become lost over the past few years. It is only very recently I have began to feel the sparks of spirituality amongst my daily life. My salaah had become mechanical and I was not really conversing with the Most High. Yet I knew I was and am blessed- which sounds strange based on what I have written in the previous paragraph but its true.
I am hoping to reflect and continue further with these gems and improve myself. May Allah accept it from you and May He accept it from me. Ameen.