Month: June 2016

Celebrations of Faith

The sun is setting on another Ramadan. We prepare ourselves to welcome the day of Eid al-Fitr, but I can’t help but feel that Ramadan itself is a celebration. It’s a celebration of faith, and something that I feel blessed to be a part of.

A lot has happened this month that has made our hearts heavy with sadness, worry, and fear. But I can already feel the comfort that Ramadan has given me, one that I’m sad to leave behind. This solace we find as we swing from long days and blessed nights, from the breaking of the fast to the dawn prayer, and from the supplications we make and the prayers we recite.

Some may ask why we would even allow ourselves to go without food or drink for hours on end, for thirty consecutive days (dawn to sunset, that is!). It is a whole month that tests our self discipline, not just in the kitchen, but also within ourselves. But do we really need to go through the rituals of Ramadan just to prove we can become better people? Is it really necessary?

I ask you, is anything worth achieving in life easy to come by?

Finishing a degree. Getting a job. Buying a house. Becoming a mother or a father.

Anything that is worth something is never easy to attain. For us Muslims, Ramadan is about attaining the quality of being conscious of God. This precious trait is at the core of our faith, a crucial characteristic that helps us to govern the way we live. It’s a state of knowing that God is aware of our actions and that we should be accountable for the way we carry ourselves.

Should I have spoken to my mother in a more gentle tone? Should I have listened to my colleague, who seemed upset about something, instead of rushing to go home? Should I have offered to go to the shops instead of my father as I know he’s exhausted from work?

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These things are minute details in our lives, but no one ever said we had to save the day. It’s all about making sure we’re trying to do the little things right. The things that no one really notices, no one tweets about, the things that slip into the cracks of our fast paced days.

So how does fasting help with this? To me, keeping myself away from food and drink is almost like a gateway to help me discipline myself in other ways. Ramadan helps us to slow things down, take life in perspective, and provides a mechanism for us to improve ourselves.

This month holds a special place in our faith. It celebrates the Qur’an and its guidance in helping us become people who are conscious of God in the every day details of our seemingly busy lives.

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Masjid Negara in Kuala Lumpur. Pictures are my own.

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definition

Diaspora.

Sounds like a strange word, doesn’t it? Before I knew its meaning, I always thought it was linked with war, turmoil, or something else that I didn’t really understand. Another technical term. I wasn’t completely wrong, however.

Diaspora: a technical term for the feeling of being “not quite there”.

At least, this is how I feel.

I’ve spent many quiet moments thinking about my identity and how I’m often caught between a crossfire of different culture, so much so that it feels like I don’t actually have an identity. Now that’s a scary thought. Imagine being nameless and faceless when you’re surrounded by the vibrancy and colour of other people’s national or cultural pride.

But, of course, I’m not the only one who feels this way. I know that there are people in the world like me, probably not 100% like me, but they feel the same way about identity. Being “not quite there”. They know they can’t speak their mother’s tongue with perfect fluency, but they still appreciate its subtle phrases that express their feelings better than English. Or, they have a soft spot in their stomach for both homemade curry, and a beef lasagne. Or, they feel most comfortable walking the streets of their capital city more than they would driving through a market place back in the ‘homeland’. I know that describes me.

There are several directions I’ve been pulled in:

am I Muslim,

am I English,

am I Bengali,

am I British?

Many ropes that tug me in separate ways in separate moments, sometimes giving me a wonderful colour to my life, and other times wishing that the each identity wouldn’t clash so much.

I still wonder at my identity. Perhaps only to satisfy that human urge to belong. I have friends and family who are proud of their cultural heritage as well as their Britishness. But in all truth, I am neither proud nor am I ashamed of my culture. I just don’t feel that strong, irreplaceable connection that other people might do.

And you know what? I like it like that. I like who I am; I’m just trying to figure out who that is.

When I was coming from a holiday all the way in Malaysia, it was only then when I realised what my ‘homeland’ was. It’s England. More specifically, London. I never felt like I would miss England (in fact, I was more than happy for a holiday), but I felt a genuine homesickness for my home. Not ‘the country’. For home: the place where I wake up and feel secure, the place where I live with the people I have grown up with for the past twenty-odd years, the place where I feel my soul is connected to the ground that I walk on.

Sounds deep, but really, isn’t that what home is? When some people say that home is the people they love; you have a connection to your loved ones, right? So I have a connection to this home of mine, this city, this little part in the south of London that I’ve inhabited for my entire life. It’s my home. It’s not defined by a certain culture or language. It’s a mish-mash of many things, and I think that pretty much describes me. A mish-mash. Not quite 100% this, nor 100% that. So you can stick as many labels as you can on me to try to define my identity, but you’ll never be able to pinpoint me exactly to the letter.

I guess this means you’ll have to speak to me to find out who I really am.

One year ago

This is an old post from a blog I no longer keep, but I thought it’d be relevant to post seeing as we’re half way through Ramadan again 🙂

Thoughts from Ramadan 2015:

This year I was eagerly anticipating Ramadan much as you would wait for a gift that you knew you were going to receive. Ramadan brings with it many warm memories of night prayers, day-long fasts, and of course the irreplaceable sweet joy of breaking your fast by the dying sunlight. In this month your spiritual core is exposed for what it truly is and you see how your character really fares in the daily grind. You realise how much you’ve ignored this cultivation of the heart, letting the seeds of pride, envy and hatred being slowly deposited into this fragile vessel.

But that’s what this month is for. To use its blessed days and nights as a means to improve yourself, improve your relationship with others, and with your Creator. The first few days, even week or so I felt irritated at myself. I struggled through the fast initially, perhaps because before the month started you hype yourself up so much about how “amazing this Ramadan is going to be”, but then realise that the process of revealing your true inner self is not always pretty. I wondered at why I wasn’t feeling the spiritual high every night in taraweeh, the night prayer, and why I wasn’t being super productive whilst fasting a nearly 20-hour-long fast.

But then something struck with me. That in order to build yourself up into something good, in order to build anything into something good, you need to start off at the bottom. At the foundations. So in order to build my character into something more becoming of a Muslim, I needed to face the shaky core that for so many months I was put off from looking at deeply.

And with that I found a calming feeling within me that I hadn’t felt, perhaps, since this time last year.