On Duaas Coming True

Today is my younger sister’s 17th birthday. This young lady—who is different from me in a lot of ways but nowhere less awesome—has a little story attached to her existence.

For the first decade of my life I was the only daughter and a middle child. I had an older and a younger brother who tormented me to no end. I would weep and keep asking my mother if I could have a sister. She would tell me to pray for one. I don’t remember if I did (I had some foundational Islamic knowledge but didn’t get into practice until I was twelve or so) but man, I wanted that sister. I loved dolls, and I thought how wonderful it would be to have a live doll, a little being to look after and play with. (Nope, I wasn’t objectifying her at all!)

Imagine my thrill when my aunt approaches me one evening with a beaming face. She didn’t even have to tell me the news. I yelped. And then proceeded to have the most enriching experience of my life: helping look after and take care of my baby sister. So what if other kids were gossiping on the phone, going to parties, and shopping? For me, this is where it was at.

Now, when I am being affectionate towards my sister, I call her my duaa. On an occasion or two I have joked about how she wouldn’t be living this awesome life if I hadn’t wanted a sister so badly. But I don’t labor that point, because, well, that would be weird, even a bit Phraoesque.

One of my closest friends once said to me: “I created you out of my thoughts.”  That’s how I feel about the people who are closest to me, and the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. Allah (SWT) took care of me from the very beginning, and I know He continues to take care of me when the things I want come true, regardless of whether or not I explicitly pray for them. If that isn’t evidence of Allah’s mercy, I don’t know what is.

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On Mercy

It turned out that there was mercy, too, after all.

The taxi driver who drove me to the airport was a tall, strapping man who gave me a hearty salaam with a booming voice as he loaded my bag into the trunk. As we made our way onto the M25, he spoke in an endearingly lilted Cockney accent about his children and grandchildren, about his love of his job, about how much things have changed for those of the Pakistani diaspora living in Britain. I went from having the usual reluctance I have with people who are excessively friendly to letting my heart be opened, letting the warmth and friendship of a stranger pour in.

And before I knew it, I was telling him everything. He just seemed to know so much, and I had nothing to lose by telling him what was hurting me, so I did. He listened compassionately. He told me his own story, a story that mirrored mine so completely that I started tearing. I asked. And he explained matters to me, adding: “There was a time when people prayed for adversity so that they could be closer to Allah.”

In spite of the company, in spite of the so-rare feeling of being seen and heard, I felt more out of sorts than ever. Maybe because it was too intense, too much for me to take. As I paid him, he seemed to sense this, and he pulled me into a tight hug. Usually a person so wary of physical contact, I didn’t resist.  “It’ll be aright, love.” he said reassuringly. I nodded through my sobs.

Once he drove away, I continued to cry for a few more minutes, not caring who saw me or what they thought. But then I wiped my cheeks, took a deep breath, and started pulling my luggage towards the entrance of the London Heathrow terminal. And as I did so I had a strange sense of something I hadn’t felt since I was a child: that this was a scene in a novel. More than that, I felt that this was a fitting scene to end the novel, to finally finish off the never-ending narrative.

And it really did get better, later on.

On Contrast: Love Thy Enemy…Selfishly

Long ago, I wrote a post on friendship. This post serves as its antithesis. 

There is a presence in my life that does not please me.

It may sound vague, it may prompt a “so what?”, so perhaps I should ground this in the context of who I am. It takes a lot to not please me. Indifference is my normal. If I were to take issue with anyone, they rarely are so pervasive in my day-to-day life, in my thoughts, that it is worth even acknowledging that there is something detrimental about their presence. For the most part, I have been blessed. People around me either keep me content, or I am indifferent to them, since most of the time I have the luxury of choosing not to be around them when I like, of choosing to be their friend on my terms.

There is one presence, however, that has remained outside of my control. It has stayed put as a big, ugly rock the stream of life has to pass over and around.

Her acquaintanceship does not serve me in any way that I can conjure even by stretching the limits of my imagination. Her presence does not serve me in terms of my deen or my duniya. She is not a source of personal nourishment in any way. She has the potential to be a positive influence that faintly glimmered a few times before fading–for good.

But somehow, she’s stayed. And I am annoyed. Not at her, but at her presence, at how life is letting it overstay its welcome, at how that presence so blatantly disrupts my pattern of interaction with the rest of humanity. What is this supposed to mean?

I came to the realization that perhaps this serves another purpose.

For when I am in the throes of that annoyance–and that’s really what it is, annoyance and frustration, not much else–everything shines brighter. I am so relieved to step away from her that I find a renewed hunger for the parts of life I am content with. I love coming home to my family in a way I haven’t for months. I murmur prayers of gratitude as I ride the subway to class, to intellectual freedom, to an esteemed educational institution I’m so lucky to be part of. I rejoice in the company of all of my friends even more deeply. When one is mentally in a place they do not like being in, they stop taking for granted the places that provide them with so much support and comfort. A child who is wandering outside all day may become weary and bored; the one who has been trapped at home or at school all day flings her shoes off and races across the field.

The function of this presence, perhaps, then, is to pose a contrast. In the manner of a sage who doesn’t want a painful experience to end in their desire to draw closer to God, I would–for much more selfish reasons–like that contrast to remain, so I can keep feeling like that child breathing in the sweetness of that longed-for fresh air.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Considering I’ve delved into the topic of love plenty in this blog, I’d like commemorate this occasion and send out warmth, appreciation, and, yes, love, to all readers of this blog.

I do lean towards the sentiment that Valentine’s Day is largely a Hallmark holiday. I dislike the idea of spending money to celebrate it and prefer enjoying the day’s dredges by hitting the candy sales afterwards.

However, Valentine’s Day can serve as a reminder to rejoice in whatever form of human connectivity we have in our lives, to pray for those who are struggling in their relationships, those who are searching for a significant other, and those who are feeling alienated from humankind in general. We should also, perhaps, pray that those with successful relationships keep being granted with baraka, and that they be protected from jealousy, especially on a day like today!

Oh, and THIS!! Courtesy of Love, InshAllah:

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Innit cute?

Have a wonderful and blessed day, everyone!

On Friendship

A friend who can experience terrifying glimpses into your mind without blinking is a keeper.

A friend like that does anything but judge. A friend like that is also a sounding board. A way to release the pressure of thoughts that build up in one’s head. For when I talk to my best friend, I feel like a pressure valve has been released.

Part of it is how deeply she cares, and the extent to which she can put herself aside to help me. Even with a new baby who wreaks havoc on her sleep and sanity, even while undergoing the incomprehensibly overwhelming sensations and life-altering complications that come with being a wife and a mother, she asks me how my life is. How work is. How this blog is going, how my family is. And she doesn’t ask once. She asks and asks and asks continuously until some buried nugget that has been festering has finally been unearthed. She rolls up her sleeves, urges me and pleads with me to join her until I give in, and we get to work.

I sometimes think of how ironic it is that my loneliness comes from being a person of faith. When it comes to being a friend, Muslims have to, first and foremost, be generous. And selfless. We have to forgive, overlook, and lend support. We have to honour our friends as guests and pray for them in their absence. We have to give and give and give. And not expect gratitude. Not expect anything, really, in return, because we seek our return not from them, but from God.

I’ve upheld this model for many years now, and while I’m grateful for how much it simplifies things, let me tell you one thing: at times, all that giving can take a real toll on you.

My deepest friendship is the one that is not so centered on giving. Somehow, all of my generosity is returned to me by manifold by this one woman. The giving and taking are divinely proportioned, reminding me of how Allah draws much closer to us as we try and get closer to Him.

I cannot define what it is that makes her so, and the inability to define her is part of why I love her so much. But I do know that she is a divinely bestowed gift. She’s a mechanism Allah built into my life so that I can come close to understanding what it is that goes on inside my head, so that I can understand what divine love is. She is there so that I can keep being me.