Aug 25, 2013 - poetry    Comments Off

You are sleeping now


Sonnenlicht (Sunlight)


You are sleeping now
The love fills me.

Not an easy love,
Oh no;
A painful love,
An uncomfortable love,
A deep love,
An unconditional love.

One that I can’t contain.

A love that brings me
Instantly to despair;

A love that makes me
Shine like the sun.

Again I look at you

My heart fills.

Aug 14, 2013 - writings    1 Comment

Ramadan in London

This is the first year I’ve spent Ramadan in London and it’s definitely been an interesting one! The fasts here in London are from about 3am until 9:30pm! Long days and probably the longest I’ve ever fasted. I was a little worried about this, but as long as one eats nutritiously (and very sparingly) and drinks tons of water from Iftar to Suhoor (and takes a nap in the afternoon lol) it’s not so bad!

We visited a number of different kinds of Mosques they have here: wealthy one’s, ghetto one’s, big one’s, smaller one’s, even a brand new one! Each mosque has a different set up for Ramadan. A few distribute Iftar snack bags to the public with Samosas, fruit and water, and one even provided a full little Biryani boxed meal donated by a local restaurant. Some pray 8 rakats and some pray 20. Recitations go from Shaatri-esque loveliness to fast-Desi-qirats. Some have the Imams do little talks before Taraweeh begins. In the last 10 days they also have Qiyaam around 1am and provide Suhoor. The nice thing is that it feels like a carnival in the Middle East sometimes as they set up tents and stalls and sell things during and after Taraweeh, like cakes, ice cream and my favorite: burgers!!

Despite the huge numbers, the Mosques are very organized with a lot of volunteers that are usually clearly marked in every Masjid wearing vests. They help direct people, distribute Iftar, clean up and make the ladies move up and make space and try to make the kids that are running around go back to their Mums! It’s actually really nice to see the amount of people helping and being active here (instead of like the one or two ppl who have to do everything at Mosques in America!)

I’ve had a lot of good experiences (and also some not so good) during Ramadan. I met some very nice people like a sister in a wheelchair whose name is Banaan (fingertips! –like the one’s Allah will resurrect us from on the Day of J.), a friendly Greek convert and an Italian one with two beautiful little girls with blonde hair and blue eyes. I hung out in the last 10 days with an American sister whose husband is here to teach classes during Ramadan. (We went to Halal KFC for fried chicken and Bebzi like true Americans of course and giggled over Britishisms!) One evening at Taraweeh I saw some beautiful deaf Muslims signing away at each other and one translated the talk to the others. It’s really fascinating going to all these Mosques and meeting so many different people and seeing everyone from policemen, to taxi-drivers, to bus drivers still in their uniforms all praying together. London Muslims are really diverse, even for Muslims, and are from every tiny country on the globe and are so numerous and part of society here it’s really fascinating.

One thing to note is that Ramadan is on a big scale here. Mosques are hugely crowded big city affairs. You have to go early and be prepared for crowds and sometimes ugliness. Just going to the Mosque to pray, dealing with the crowds, annoyingness, the weather etc brings to mind memories of Hajj! It’s so similar to what it feels like there. (For the Westeners at Hajj it’s not very difficult for us in terms of accommodation or food, but what’s really difficult is dealing with other people, personal space, the crowds, ignorant ppl etc.) The one thing I feel that is really missing here and does not compliment their huge numbers and organization is Adab; just basic consideration and kindness, having the character of a Muslim. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s a big city or because Muslims are so fractured here, but it’s glaringly lacking, even in Ramadan. Basic things like just saying Saalam, or talking to someone next to you, or not gossiping in a foreign language, sharing one’s food, making room for elderly sisters. And honestly I find myself doing it too! If no one else is doing it, why should i? Then I have to shake myself and remind myself Adab is for Allah and not anyone else!!

I do miss my community back home where everyone knows each other and everyone makes huge efforts to be kind and earn good deeds in Ramadan. Everyone invites each other over for Iftar or hosts open Iftars at the Mosques. Community Iftars are really special and bring everyone together. I remember one community Ramadan Iftar we girls even made a pact for everyone to go sit with someone new and to make at least one new friend! If someone did not have food everyone would immediately give their entire plate to that person! But alas, even though I missed that, alhamdulillah in every place there are good things to take and learn from. I was able to attend many Ramadan seminars in London, Iftar fundraisers and lovely talks and workshops. The sheer amount of money they raise for Muslim causes in London during Ramadan is absolutely incredible, and praying with thousands of Mussaleen has it’s own special qualities.

Here I leave you with a few pics…(sorry abt the quality, it’s all i could surreptitiously get!)

And a Blessed Ramadan to everyone. May Allah accept.

Jul 5, 2013 - news    2 Comments

My Aunt

My aunt in India passed away a few weeks ago. As a young girl she contracted Polio and for as long as I remember lost the use of her legs which became deformed. She lived in our tiny ancestral brick home in our little village in India probably since she was born. She would move around only using her hands. They did not have the means to buy a wheelchair and how could she move around in it anyway in that tiny brick open house, that was basically one open room and a courtyard. Her bed at night was a woven cot or a large wooden table that would become a living area by day. She would rise at Fajr and pray and I’d find her reading Quran in the morning for at least an hour without fail. There was a small bathroom to take baths in with a bucket with water from the well in the courtyard. She would use the old fashioned metal hand pump to pump the water and drag the bucket to the bathroom.

After a while a girl from the village would come to help make chappatis, rice and daal which were the staple meals. In the afternoons I’d find her doing some sewing or embroidery, ordering some things from town, writing letters or doing accounts. A dobi washerwoman might come and collect clothes to be washed. Sometimes a traveling salesman/woman would come selling fruits wrapped in cloth or glass bracelets wrapped up on a sari clad woman’s head. In the late evenings I’d see her walking with her hands to the kitchen, using thick sticks for fire in the old mud brick cooker making food for us.

What changes she must have seen in her lifetime as India moved from an Agrarian economy to an Industrialized one! A tiny village that must have been the same for the last 1000 years all of a sudden in the last 50 was invaded by electricity, television, telephones, cars, refrigerators, bollywood and the rest of the world. From farmers, most of the men of the village had to leave for places like Dubai and Saudi to make money for their families.

Our village was truly a simple, traditional place, even by Indian standards. Going there I could always imagine what life was like during the Mughal period.

I’d sometimes see her and feel sad thinking about those disabled people in the West doing marathons, working or achieving things. I’d ask her what she wanted most and she’d always say she has everything, what else could she need. Once or twice she said she’d like to go to Hajj one day. In the last few years I asked her again if she wanted to go to Hajj, and she said ‘Pshhh…how can I go to Hajj! I’d just be a burden on everyone.’

She had a very sarcastic, ironic sense of humor and a very practical outlook on life. She was always kind to me but never so much over interested in my life or how things were somewhere else. She seemed happy to be daughter of the house, until her father died and then managing what she could and living independently.

Because of her disability she never married or moved, the consequence of which her brothers and sisters and related families all would come back to the village for special occasions and be kept together even when life flung them to far-reaching places like America.

I keep thinking what a difficult life she had, to endure so much hardship, to never find love. I have no doubt it was difficult for her but I’ve never seen her suffering or in despair. She accepted that this was her life. Despite it all she had what we all strive so hard for; a small amount of contentment, independence, time for ibadah, free to do the things you love, her own little home, surrounded by her family and culture, seeing the generations being born and getting old.

I ask Allah to forgive her sins and enter her into Jannah.

O Allah, Forgive her, have mercy on her, give her peace and pardon her. Receive her with honour and make her entrance (grave) spacious. Wash her with water, snow, and ice and cleanse her of her faults like a white garment is cleansed of stains. Requite her with an abode better than her abode, with a family better than her family and a spouse better than her spouse. Admit her into Paradise and protect her from the torment of the grave and the torment of the Fire.

O Allah, Your female slave and the daughter of Your female slave is in need of Your mercy, and You are without need of punishing her. If she was pious then increase her reward and if she was a transgressor then pardon her.

O Allah, surely Razia Phupi is under Your care and in the rope of your security, so save her from the trial of the grave and from the punishment of the Fire. You fulfill promises and grant rights. O Allah, forgive her and have mercy on her, surely You are the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.