Fallen Leaves…

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How is it that without you, home doesn’t seem so much like home. Our family, that once seemed faultless to me, blanketed in love and care, now seems sparse and separate. I had accepted that you wouldn’t be with us forever, but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

I’m so used to being welcomed by bright eyes and open arms, wide with welcome. The same strong sturdy arms that held me as a young child, the same steady grip that held me as a young women. I don’t know what it’s like to not hear your hearty voice as you call my name and tell me how glad you are that I’m here. I can’t imagine walking in and not hugging you tight and placing a kiss upon your stubbled head as I always have done while being submerged in your familiar and wonderful scent. This is a comfort that I had taken for granted so many years.

You required nothing from us, just our presence. My mere insignificant presence was enough to make you smile from ear to ear, and now I crave yours. I crave the sound of your shuffling footsteps and ambient humming as you carried on your daily tasks.

When I saw you, lying motionless, I knew at once that you were in peace. Your eyes were smiling at me in a silent chuckle, telling me you were fine, and to not be sad… and I’m doing my best. And as I placed that final kiss upon your brow, your skin becoming cold, I knew that no-one on this Earth had been blessed with a grandfather like mine, and that we were truly amongst the lucky.

They wheeled you away to your final resting place…and with you, they took your stories, your tenacity and the foundation on which this family stands. Oh Allah, allow my grandfather and grandmother to be amongst those in the highest ranks in Jannah, and allow us to meet again one day. Ameen. I will pray for this every day…

Love you always Ankiubu

Strangers Again…

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Do you think it’s possible to become strangers again? Can we ever unlearn someone that once felt like home?

You once told me of a dark December that caused you to question your very being, well I believe that it is now my turn to feel an earth shattering grief that cannot be as eloquently explained as it can be wept and I’m torn between wanting to fold into your voice as you tell me all will be well, and to exhume the anger and frustration I feel at your so deafening silence and lack of regard for my emotions….but I understand that neither one will give me the peace of mind I so urgently crave…

I made that textbook mistake. The pitfall I advised others to avoid. I begged you to carry my heart and presented it to you, adorned and absent of any scarring. How foolish of me, to hand over my greatest asset, my most abundant gift, to a mere mortal who could do nothing but observe as it grew bitter and distressed…it was never your burden to carry, it is designed only to be lifted by the one who created it.

Does pain ever die? Or is it some kind of circuit like force that only passes on and never disintegrates. You carried this pain, this charge of energy with you, until you found a suitable candidate to dispel your own anguish.

I never saw you as a broken person… a heart that required healing perhaps, but never lacking. But I see now that you were broken after all, you needed an empty canister to pour your pain into… and unfortunately that vessel was me.

You saw me as a perfect chasm for the turmoil you had been carrying. Empty and light, free of all baggage, and you did not prepare me for the burden… now, I carry it with me everywhere I go. I can only hope that you’re lighter as a result and your weight seems more manageable.

Our last meeting is something I think I will never forget. Over the years I have held a lot in and I have revealed very little, bar the occasional emotional outbreak…but that day, I could not hide my pain nor use the poker face that I was so adept at using around you and your vacantness.

Did you hear it? …my heart break for the last time? …I didn’t think so…you’ve long since forgotten the sound of its calls. After that I could no longer look you in the eyes, without summoning an upheaval of unwanted agony, like a tsunami erupting in my chest cavity, ready to betray me from my eyes. Since then, every breath I have drawn has waded through the thick debris of what is left.

I’ve never known your eyes so empty of regard, and your manor so distant that it was almost possible to believe it was our first meeting. Now that I think about it, you gave me ample warnings last year when you left abruptly and did not honour what I thought had become an integral part of your week…perhaps you were already becoming aquainted with a new heart…I understand now though, that you were doing it for me. You too must have felt my heart change, my tone soften and the look in my eyes become less guarded. I only wish I had paid attention. They say you should never make homes out of people, and its true. Week after week, i’d visit the small place i occupied in your heart – the make-shift home i had fashioned, but it appeared the windows were boarded and the shutters were down. You had locked me out long before i ever realised.

I felt that maybe my heart wouldn’t betray me if I did what I never thought I could do and change the familiar pattern of excitement and disappointment that had become my every week, but unfortunately, it didn’t change…possibly due to some emotional malfunction in my brain, I don’t know…but you did it, you broke free…and I’m envious of that very fact.

Amongst the things that I long to forget…there are many that I hope to remember…and sometimes I find myself grappling onto my memories like marbles, not wanting to let a single one roll away. This I assume will fade…but I never wish to forget how effortlessly we danced in and out of conversation or how you looked, leaning against the wall, arms folded across your chest with one foot perched behind you while spinning some elaborate tale as i listened, half in anticipation, half in awe… I never wish to forget the softness and compassion in your eyes when you’d ask if i was ok…or the surge of excitement I felt when seeing you stride in. I want you to know…I never took a single moment for granted.

I don’t think I’m equipped to deal with these adjustments quite yet…I don’t respond well to the fact that I won’t ever be in your vicinity again, but I suppose this will allow us to heal. I will get over this…don’t worry…but I just need time. Please don’t judge me for reaching out when I did or for trying to summon the intimacy that I got so used to…these years have been tough on me…but I have taken on board the things you’ve said. I have given up on music, it only brings with it grief and sadness…I have begun listening to transliterations which sooth and help to align my intentions and priorities. I understand…we come from Allah (swt) and belong only to him…and unhealthy attachments become only a source of suffering.

I’m sorry if I annoyed you or ever got in the way of you and your loved ones…I never wished to outstay my welcome in your heart. The more i think about it, the more i realise that we hardly knew each other at all…i barely knew what you looked like behind your facade and you always doubted my sincerity…maybe you find it hard to let people in…maybe my heart tried to protect me after all.

I will look forward Insha’Allah…and will take every step towards moving on and finding a new heart to call home…someone that i can love wholly with my entire being in my own unusual way…. I no longer pray to run into you or subconciously search for your face amongst a crowd and i have come to terms with the fact that we will become strangers again…but maybe …just maybe…i’ll still hope to meet you there…in that place…where dreams and reality collide…

The Seduction of Inadequacy…

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Lupita Nyong’o, a relatively fresh face on the Hollywood scene, has done little to remain unnoticed. But it is not her eccentric fashion choices. Nor her captivating Oscar-winning performance, in her first feature length film ’12 Years a Slave’ that caused ripples. Oh no, it was the tenacity and pride shown in her engaging acceptance speech, at the Black Women in Hollywood Awards.

Her ability to assert her own vibrant character and embrace her ethnicity was resoundingly clear. Especially in an industry which has a set convention for beauty and hails anything that deviates, as foreign.

Within her speech, the eloquent starlet explained the insecurities she had faced, and how her glowing ebony skin had once been the cause of much anxiety. So much so, that she would pray to be fairer, to better resemble the much loved public ‘pioneers’ of beauty. That was until, Alec Wek, prominent Sudanese super model, erupted onto the fashion scene and wore her dark complexion with pride. “It was perplexing” she began “and I wanted to reject it as I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy”…

For me, as a real woman, not just of colour, but of irregular proportions, blemished skin and victim to the occasional bad hair day, Lupita’s speech resonated completely. The three consecutive words ‘seduction of inadequacy’ had plagued my thoughts and I was unable to shake the ramifications of what they meant.

These powerful words unearthed an emotion I had scarcely thought to explore. Could it be that we as a culture are lulled into believing we are unworthy of the title ‘beautiful‘? Are we barricading ourselves in with self-imposed mental barriers, obstructing any chance of acceptance and self -appreciation? And are we really seduced and comforted by the dull ache of feeling inferior to all those around?

I suppose the real question begs, why is so much prominence placed upon our physical exteriors? The media tells us how to walk, talk and dress in order to be socially accepted, but the truth is so far removed from this. I believe that beauty is not something that can be externally acquired, no matter how much enhancement you use. Beautiful is something you simply have to be. An inner confidence and compassion that radiates from deep within.

‘You can’t eat beauty, it simply doesn’t sustain you.’ this was the final thought left resonating with the awe stricken audience which comprised of fellow inspirational characters such as Oprah Winfrey herself. There is something so effortlessly enchanting about this young women, whose compelling performance far outweighs her need to conform to preconceived standards of unattainable beauty.

I draw so much inspiration from this speech. I derive perspective, encouragement and contentment. Be it the colour of your skin, or the condition, it does not negate your beauty unless you, yourself allow it to.
“You can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful, is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul”

Well said indeed.

Letting Go

Written for Pure Matrimony – The Muslim Marriage Blog

‘But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.’ (2:216)

Every single person we encounter in our lives, can be categorized as one of two things, either a blessing, or a test. Of these people, some will become permanent fixtures, and secure a place in our lives, while others will pass through, but not without leaving behind remnants of emotions and memories gone by. it is what these individuals teach us in leaving, that will resonate with us.

The heart, being a complex and powerful entity, does not always comply with what is right, or what is deemed acceptable. Sometimes, it invariably forms an affinity towards someone it simply should not. The reality is, that this is an incredibly difficult situation to deal with and can cause extreme emotional distress, and worse case scenario, a detachment with ones deen.

Whether it be that your parents disapprove of the union, or that the object of your affections is simply inaccessible, sometimes you find yourself harbouring feelings for someone you cannot be with, causing one of the most prominent trials you will ever experience in your life…the decision to let go.

You may question why you’re inclined towards someone that is out of reach. unfortunately, the heart does not come with a manual, nor does it come with a reset button. So if you find yourself manoeuvring on this difficult emotional terrain, know that there is a higher purpose to your strife. Hidden within this undesired situation, is a chance for you to prove your worth to the Almighty, in adhering to the prophetic ways and behaving in accordance with Islamic teaching. You may not be accountable for your emotions, but you are most definitely accountable for your actions and intentions.

Above all things it is important to remember that there is absolute wisdom in the way that Allah swt works, and unbeknownst to us mere mortals, his plans for us exceed anything we could plan for ourselves. Know that is for your betterment that you are being tested. After all, it is a test, of your patience, of your servitude and of your commitment to perusing an Islamic lifestyle.

Fear not, for “You will never give up a thing for the sake of Allah (swt), but that Allah will replace it for you with something that is better for you than it.” (Ahmad). Find relief in the promise, that in sacrificing something with the intention of pleasing Allah (swt) , He will never leave you uncompensated. Allah (swt) only takes in order to give, to empty your hands for the blessings that are yet to be bestowed.

I know what you may be thinking, If something is going to be returned in one form or another, then why does it have to be taken away at all? Well the answer to this is simple. It is in the process of ‘loosing’ that we are ‘given’. It may be that you were not ready to accept the responsibility of one of the greatest blessings, or perhaps you had a lesson to learn before you could fully embrace the blessings given to you by Allah (swt) . Allah knows while we do not.

So, I cannot tell you not to love somebody, nor to ignore the intricacies of your heart, but I can tell you, that this world is a trial for the believer and a playground for the disbeliever. Know that if you do possess feelings for an unattainable individual and you feel you are being tested to the very bound of your strength, it is because god loves you and wants you to strive for a better Akirah by proving your worth. It may seem difficult at first, but anyone who leaves anything for the sake of Allah will never regret it Also know that, no matter the size of your transgressions, It is disbelief to assume that your sins are greater than the mercy of Allah swt. Shaytaan may try and convince you otherwise, that you are far from forgiveness, and should continue on the path of self deprecation. This simply could not be further from the truth. True sincere repentance can be made at anytime and you can turn towards Allah at any point.

Allah (swt) says: “Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” Hadith Qudsi.

 

 

 

The Muslim Woman – The Protofeminist

As a proud Muslim woman, growing up in a western society, Im well acquainted with the popularised notion that Islam serves to oppress and subjugate women, robbing us of an identity and rendering us voiceless. This simply could not be further from the truth. Islam serves to liberate women, and free them from the constraints of this society.

From the inside, Its clear the provisions that Islam provides for women. We have rights, responsibilities and a duty to our Ummah. Islam has created for women, fundamental and imperative rights, not only to protect but to preserve our dignity.  However, im aware that from the outside, this isn’t always clear. Im all to often confronted with the perpetuated stereotype of the oppressed ‘Veiled Victim’ A voiceless entity in need of a western saviour to validate her.

So when posing the question, does Islam liberate or subjugate women? The answer simply lies in the amount of importance we, as a unit, are given.

Unbeknownst to most, Islam gifts women with many fundamental and legal rights. The equal right to divorce, active consent in marriage and the right to pursue an education, include some of the rights that are considered imperative for women in Islam. Some of which, were considered highly radical for the rest of the western world within the 7th century, in which women had very little sway in society.

It wasn’t until the first wave feminism many hundreds of years later, that western women were given the right to participate in political matters. The suffragette movement paved way for women in Britain and America with the Married Women’s Property Act, and later, the right to a political vote. However, very little attention is paid to the honours that where given to Muslim women over fourteen – hundred years prior.

Islamic history testifies the equality of women, and their importance in shaping the identity of Islam. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had the deepest respect for women, and showed it readily in his exceptional treatment of his wives and female companions. Our Islamic history is positively laden with empowered females, who helped perpetuate the spread of the message of Islam. In fact, Islam has a huge amount of female empowerment embedded right into its roots.

Khadijah (ra) played a significant role. Widowed by her husband, she maintained a position of a prominent business woman in a predominantly patriarchal society. Also, through her wealth, she funded most of the ventures of the Prophet (saw).  Aisha (ra) also portrays a strong female figure, with her political astuteness and Scholarly narrations. She took a public and prominent role in politics, representing the importance of the female voice. A voice that, ironicaly,  was silenced and ignored in Western society at the time.

These examples of strong independent women, serve to contradict the notion of the Muslim woman as a voiceless entity. In fact, they represent the sheer importance of women in constructing half of society and half of the Ummah.

The Curved and Crooked Rib

Written for and Published by Pure Matrimony – Muslim Marriage Guide
http://www.muslimmarriageguide.com/2014/01/curved-crooked-rib/

Woman was made from the rib of man. She was not created from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be stepped upon. She was made from his side to be close to him, from beneath his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.

The rib cage has been specially crafted by Allah SWT to encase and enclose the heart, and its surrounding structures. The curved and crooked rib, is perfectly formed to serve its enshrouding function. And just like the ribs protect the heart, women were created to protect and safeguard man.

The Prophet (saws) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (trouble) his neighbour. And I advise you to take care of the women, for they are created from a rib and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper part; if you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will remain crooked, so I urge you to take care of the women.”

The comparison drawn between woman and the rib, is a beautiful reminder that women, are created imperfect. We have our off days, our emotions are fervent and sometimes, the pressures of daily life can get on top of us. But this is all part of our nature, and we are created perfectly to fulfil our primary role as care giver. Our  emotions help us to be better wives, better mothers and to be compassionate when tolerance is running thin.

As a husband, its important to remember that your wife will not be exactly the way you want her to be. She has her own method of doing things, her own techniques and quirks, and these may not always coincide with your preferred ways. But rest assured, she is perfectly suited for her function, and for you, her chosen companion.

The beloved Prophet SAW, advises not to try and fix these ‘faults‘ in your wife, nor change her disposition, but to leave her as she is and accept that the female nature is comprised of many attributes, most of which are significantly different from the genetic make-up of man. This does not mean, that one is superior above the other, but that, just like the rib, men and women are too created in perfect adherence to their purpose. Neither man nor women is complete without the other, they both have a need for each another, like two sides of the perfect coin. For where one is weak the other is strong.

The Prophet SAW described women beautifully, as delicate glass vessels, to be handled with love and care. In your hands, know that you have one of the most abundant blessings of Allah SWT, a partner for you to dwell in tranquillity with. And If treated well, your wife will be a source of joy and comfort for you, a form of protection and purity, and a safe haven on this flawed and imperfect world.

Therefore, be not forceful with your wife. Embrace her differences and know that it is her fluid nature that makes her perfect for her role. Do not enforce your will upon her, women respond to kindness and affection, much more readily than harsh words and instructions. Do your very best to ignore her perceived faults, and focus upon and take benefit from her positive qualities, you will find they are present in abundance. Above all, be merciful towards her, for if you try and straighten her, sure enough, just like the rib

… you will break her.