My writings

Reflections and Selected Quotes: The Good Children (Roopa Farooki)

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The novel starts off with the theme of regret of brothers unable to protect their sisters from their mother’s toxic treatment and from forcefully being taken out of education and being placed into another family through marriage. Contrary to the typical representation of South Asian ‘brothers’ in novels who are able to voice their opinions and be emotionally and mentally strong, Jackie (Jamal) and Sully (Sulaman) struggle to even maintain their own identities with dignity. This in itself shows how they are unable to defend themselves against the unjust decisions made by their mother against themselves, so how will they ever be able to prevent such treatment with their blood sisters?

Within their home in Pakistan, we see the structure of a matriarchal family. It is apparent that the father was struggling to place his foot on trivial day to day matters and maintain his honour and dignity in contemporary day Pakistan as his wife had the final say. Not only that, the mother, as the head of the home was able to manipulate servants, her husband, children and guests and win their awe over through her “charming” smile and carefully chosen words. Once again, we see how males also struggle to maintain their familial traditions and principles when there are conflicts of power within the home.

Even after moving to America and London for studies and becoming academically and financially independent, Jackie and Sully’s relationships are far from that. Whether it be with colleagues or prospective life partners, both brothers feel inadequate of being with the other person due to lack of communication and not knowing how to approach the other, forget fulfilling their emotional needs. However, I do admire the bravery of breaking away from social norms and expectations. Although a lot of their South Asian principles were compromised, their behaviour and mind-sets appears to be conflicted with western expectations of what should and should not be. Towards the end of the novel, Sully and Jackie realise that Pakistan is where they belong. It is where they had left their identities.

Farooki focuses on a cycle of the ‘child’ being used as a tool in adjusting to one’s role as a mother or father. At first, we see how their mother (I don’t think her name is ever mentioned) places herself at the centre of every matter, thus making herself the only one who benefits from her decisions. When her children become parents, they don’t impose the restrictions they had on themselves upon their children. In doing so, they realise that too much flexibility in their relationships didn’t do them any good either. However it is too late to change things. In neglecting what is best for the ‘child’, not only were marriages and family ties broken, relationships and bonds were destroyed too. As a consequence of not receiving love in their childhood, they had showered so much onto their own little ones that they were unable to strike a balance of two extremes. The false portrayal of religiosity of their mother led Sully, Jackie and Mae far from religion, with only Lana left behind to pick up the pieces which she kept close to her heart throughout her life. They all “grew up in a place that pretended piety, but the truth was that we were all tangled up in revolting ways”. Nevertheless, all 3 of Lana’s siblings were able to rely on Lana to be sensible in everything she said and did in religious matters, as she was sensible. Not strictly over-doing it like her mother, and not living a life absent of God-consciousness like everyone else. Religion was her comfort-zone. Even after the passing of their mother, Lana is the only one seen to be holding a Qur’an and reciting it during the mourning period.

Now.. Jackie. We see that even as a doctor, he feels unable to help the patients in his own home. The ones suffering from the disease of a broken family. He is able to help those who are emotionally distant from him whether they be in hospitals, refugee camps or over the phone, but stumbles and struggles with his family. He can deal with blood, but not his own. He is so close to home, yet so far. Every year, he visits Pakistan to help those affected by the war but does not make nearly as much effort to find out how his bed-ridden mother is doing. It is the same with Sully. He wants to prove to his wife that he can be successful and give the world to her and their son, but in doing so, he does not realise that he has forgotten what it means to be a husband and a father. He lives like a stranger in his own home. Unable to even find cutlery and juice, we see how his obsession with uplifting himself in his career results in his marriage going downhill. His son no longer wishes to recognise him, let alone speak on the phone. Once again, failed parenthood due to only thinking of one’s self. Both brothers struggle with their emotions and tending to their loved ones. It is only unfortunate that they realise their role in their family through the death of loved ones. At least it is not too late to make the most of the time they have with those left in their lives.

There is so much to get from this book. I love the way it was written – I got to find out how all the main characters felt through the first and third person narratives and the constant switch from past and present. This really helped in understanding why and how actions in the present were being shaped by experiences and memories from the past, for everyone.

I also wanted to share my favourite quotations from the book. These made me think a lot:

  • “Our education, their marriage. Our crime, their punishment”.
  • “That I grew up in a place that pretended piety, but the truth was that we were all tangled up in revolting ways”.
  • “The servants did what they were told, just like we did when we were children”.
  • He’s a writer; he spills his guts instead”.
  • “The rich have no race, and we all speak the same language”.
  • “I wonder if that’s the inevitable cost of getting what you want; that once you do, you don’t want it anymore”.
  • “Separated again, like we were in our rooms, at our table, on the sofa. Another pragmatic partition”.
  • “He knew how words could be weapons”.
  • “I think you’re the bravest of us all. It’s easier to run away than to stay. You stayed. You were here”.
  • “She supposed that war was liberating; people did things differently, they realised they had less time, and less to lose”.
  • “Occasionally Mae resented how easy it was for her [mother], and had to remind herself that this was what motherhood was meant to be, correcting the mistakes of her own childhood, rather than getting her own back”.
  • “We all go back to where we belong”.
  • “Lana knows it is impossible to hold on to anger across a lifetime, to keep the storm seething and the thunder rolling and the lightning flashing, just s it is impossible to remain madly in love”.
  • “She grieves for the living’ those who are falling apart, their pieces shattering on the ground, scattering with the wind. For those who do not believe or belong”.
  • “The living deserve the truth; the dead have already discovered it for themselves”.
  • “It was a gift that she had, knowing when to offer comfort, when there was no solution to offer instead”.
  • “It was like the moonlight had stripped all subtlety from us both along with our colour, and we were just black and white all the way through”.
  • “You don’t live in the past. You live with it”.

And when Sulaman finally felt he was able to do his part….
“I didn’t cry for my father, but I cry for her. The soft. Living part of me, wimpled in my soft white clothes, rocking in the chair. I’m so strong enough to weep, and as I finally split open, it feels that the tears of years are released. The walls of this white room come tumbling, crumbling down; they flatten and fall. The glass box breaks, and I can finally be touched. I’m free”.


Until next time,

Happy reading.

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Appreciating Allah’s beautiful creation


In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Especially Merciful.

السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you.


“And on the earth are signs for the certain (in faith); and in yourselves.
Then will you not see?” (Qur’an 51: 20-21)


Ship Tour: Antalya to Alanya


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We saw other ships and boats along the way. It was nice waving to others enjoying their trip through the Mediterranean just as we were.
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Beautiful.
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This is MASSIVE! SubhanAllah. You really do feel tiny when faced by other creations of Allah.
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This Castle, which is 820ft high, was built on the remains from the Byzantine and Roman rule. During the Ottoman Empire, this and other buildings in the area were used as defence with individual villas built in surrounding areas. Now, there is a museum with exhibitions for public viewing.
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When my eyes fell upon these two colours, I felt so amazed. I mean, the two types of water meeting in the oceans and seas is enough to make you appreciate Allah’s design as it is, but seeing this melted my heart even more.

 

“I would have you know that a pebble proves the existence of God just as much as a mountain, and the human body is evidence as strong as the universe that contains our world: for this purpose the small and slight carries as much weight as the great and vast.” [Al-Jahiz]

That’s all I have to share… for now.


معالسلامة
May you be accompanied by safety/peace.

We are never ‘alone’…

Growing up, I realised that no matter how many times I wailed and no matter how thick my tears were, my words would never reach the ears of those who only wanted me to keep my mouth shut.

Attending a school where everyone was trying to fit in and make the right friends, I realised how I had spoken too soon and how it had caused much more harm than good. I really felt that I was the only one going through the usual teenage ‘problems’. One day, I thought of using my words in a different way, in front of an assembly of my entire year group – those who assumed they knew me and those who would spread rumours about me both online and in classes. I was thinking that this one time that I was presenting myself to them with my thoughts and feelings might just make them realise that this life is valuable, and it is a gift. We have no right to take the gifts of others, nor do we have the right to ruin their gifts. Gift gift gift. We have taken these for granted and fail to see how much others value theirs. But, I had hoped too far and expected too much. Some hearts just don’t relate to the ones that are aching.

As the years went on, I felt silly for thinking that only I know how I feel and that no one can help me. I should not allow myself to believe that there is no one there for us. There are those who care about us and love us. Whether it be our parents, siblings, close relatives and friends, our neighbours or a stranger on the train, there is a genuine and honest concern for one another that we share between each other. In recent unfortunate and heartbreaking events that our communities have been suffering, we have found individuals and groups of people who have shown one another that they are willing to support and protect one another, no matter how bad things get. Whether it be by sharing a smile, asking how one’s day went or spreading awareness of the injustice and discrimination one is facing, these are the things that make us one. These are the things that make us united.

In these times of confusion and fear, it is important that we reach out our hands and help people before them having to ask us, to comfort someone before them having to turn to us, and befriend someone before them having to cry to us.

Reflections: Revive Your Heart, Nou’man Ali Khan

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Especially Merciful.

السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you.


Before starting with this book, I expected it to be very similar to ‘Reclaim Your Heart’ by Sr Yasmin Mogahed with some academic touch to it. You could say they are quite similar, in the sense that the main element of both books tackle the issue of us, as individuals, changing ourselves first and foremost instead of always expecting other people to fulfil their roles and responsibilities. However, they are also quite different, but that’s now what I wish to talk about right now.

They say when you love someone or something, you start to be influenced by them. Your speech, actions, your mindset even changes. We see this in the way that Ustadh Nou’man gives naseeha (advice) based on the profound lessons he learns whilst studying the Book of Allah.

He begins by dealing with issues of the heart. He delves into the first issue we all need to reflect on an change: asking Allah for help. With insights into the life of Musa alayhissalam and other examples from the Qur’an and Seerah, Ustadh takes us through a journey of how we can make our du’as meaningful and life changing. After reflecting on it, I really appreciated the next chapter of the book. In going through how we can build a strong Muslim community, Ustadh goes back to the matters of the heart. Personal aspects. What are these? Taking criticisms, making assumptions, and also the responsibility of being leaders. Without a sound, focused heart and mind, we cannot build that community that we are all aspiring for. Many examples and stories are given in encouraging us to take heed from generations of the past and apply them into our lives. Ustadh makes you have a different outlook on everything, to be more positive and optimistic for others and towards others, to have taqwa of Allah in doing so, so that we don’t become from amongst those who cause more divisions because of a few differences.

The next step: our financial dealings. Usually when we listen to the seerah or read it, we don’t usually think about the significance of the order of events that occurred. SubhanAllah, the first thing that the Muslims were taking care of as soon as they settled in Madinah was their financial investments, and doing so without being unfair or unjust. Allah commands the believers to be honest and open with one another and to show clarity when trading. Ustadh highlights different scenarios and tells us that if we aren’t fair in our finances, the way we buy, sell and manage, then there will be more corruption in other aspects of our lives and other peoples’ lives as a result of it.

In speaking about contemporary issues, Ustadh Nou’man discusses issues based on the current social climate. They are: discrimination against daughters, Islamophobia and our roles and responsibilities as Muslims, and music. After addressing these topics, he talks about the main topic of the book: Putting life in perspective.

Throughout the Qur’an, Allah reminds us that this dunya is nothing, absolutely nothing in comparison to what Allah has in store for us in the akhirah. So why should we, especially as believers in the akhirah, put any value to the dunya when it will end anyway? From my understanding, the main message being portrayed here is found in Surah Al-Asr, that when it comes to the concept of time, mankind suffers a loss unless we are accumulating good deeds. A believer no longer has ‘free time’, because every minute, every second should be used to invest for the akhirah that we are moving towards. The fact that we believe in returning to Allah should make us realise that none of our actions are meaningless. They will all come to show in our book of deeds – things we remember saying and doing, and things we have forgotten too. Nothing will escape us on that day and Allah will hold us to account for every single thing. So, after knowing all this, do we really want to hold grudges against one another and not move on? When we compare all that we go through in this world to what will come in the hereafter, it literally weighs nothing in our minds, and that’s how it should be.

In his final naseeha, he talks about the life in this world being so short. There are people who have been spending thousands of years in the graves, so what is the time that we have in this world compared to the time we will have 6 feet under the ground, compared to the eternal hereafter?

I highly recommend that you have a read of the book. I couldn’t possibly summarise over 200 pages of Ustadh’s hard work, nor can I ever do justice to it. I promise you, you will develop a greater appreciation for the Qur’an, as all he refers to are the words of Allah! There’s so much to learn, and I pray that we benefit and implement even one thing to make our lives in this world and the hereafter a success, not regret.


معالسلامة
May you be accompanied by safety/peace.

Roots: Some Reflections

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So I basically just let out my reflections on my Instagram Story and thought I’d share on here too. Of course, there’s much more on my mind and a lot more can be said, but I’m just unable to articulate my thoughts into words at the moment. I recommend the programme and also wish to read the book originally written by Alex Haley too.

The Angel of Death missed him today

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Especially Merciful.

السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you.


At a halaqah (study and discussion circle) today we were taught about the barzakh (a time-period between this life and the next in the grave), what happens in the grave and death in general (which is the series at the moment). I left the Masjid thinking, how long is it going to take for me to forget about these reminders and warnings once again?

After today’s session, I walked over to Tescos, careful of the bike that was approaching me so I took a step back. I thought to myself, what if something happens? After I had finished, I walked over to the bus stop to the other side of the road. I kept thinking: what is going to be my last act before I return to Allah? I kept turning to my right to see if the bus is coming, and at one point something caught my attention.

Something, small and black, had gone from across 4-5 motorbikes and hit the floor. The rider leaned over to his left with his right arm out, whether to grab that thing or not, or as a reaction, I couldn’t tell. As my eyes widened, I witnessed how he had flown off from his motorbike and had been separated from it. I jumped forward as I watched his bike slamming onto the side of the pavement twice, and his body on the ground about a meter away. I took a few steps forward, frozen in my thoughts and had no idea of what was going on. Before I could move, about 6-7 men had rushed to him to see if he was ok. I pulled out my phone to call for help, and then realised there was already an ambulance approaching and it was  going to stop.

Alhamdulillah. The call of Allah is greater.

I could see that the man was in pain, his body was stuck onto his arm. I don’t know what happened after. My mind just went… blank.

Why did I do this? Why couldn’t I do anything at the time? My fingers were shaking but my hand was numb, I even struggled to hold my phone. What was it about another man’s struggle that made me feel like I’m the one who cannot move?

As I sit on this bus, I am thinking about the fact that he was saved. Allah willed for him to be alive. SubhanAllah anything could have happened, but Allah saved him. Allah saved me and everyone else who was present.

I wish I could express how I’m actually feeling, but I really can’t. It’s not that I didn’t think death isn’t real, I know it is – I was just talking about it an hour ago! It’s not about being fearful of death either. It’s that lingering feeling in my chest, a voice in my head telling me that Allah has saved me so many times.

As I was leaving the Masjid I was thinking “now I hope that I will change my ways” and then that incident occurred. I don’t know, my mind is a blur now. All I can think of now is my Lord and I’m just wondering what He thinks of me.

This is my life, my journey. I will not be asked about anyone but myself – what I say and what I do. Everything is Allah’s and everything belongs to Him alone. All praise, thanks, material things.. even love. We cannot be us without Him. We wouldn’t be without Him. SubhanAllah. How beautiful is it that Allah chose to create us. He could have created anything else, but He chose you and I. He shares his love and mercy towards us even through the calamities we face and the struggles we go through, so that even through all of that we can learn to love Him too.

I pray that our souls are registered amongst the ‘illiyun when we return to the earth, and that Allah is pleased with us. Please keep me in your du’as.


معالسلامة
May you be accompanied by safety/peace.

Selected Quotes: Black Milk (Elif Shafak) and some reflections.

This was a different kind of book that I’ve come across. I either read pure fiction, or pure non-fiction, but this was a mix of both. I was surprised by and in awe of the narrative that Elif Shafak was comfortable in expressing of her journey through writing literature and how she adapted to her role as a mother. Throughout this book, she ties in the experiences of many other female writers from the East and the West, in how their passions and ambitions of writing either helped them to stay strong in their careers and personal lives or it destroyed them. After having read about their emotions and choices they made, I couldn’t help but sympathise with them and feel a sense of regret on their behalf. Why? They had such a one-sided view of motherhood which had become printed onto their world-vision, that their eyes were veiled to the blessings and the comfort which a mother feels when spending time with her child and raising them. I accept that there are hardships and difficulties, from pregnancy and even when the ‘child’ becomes independent as they become older, but we should never forget that the bond between a mother and child is not one that we can know of until we go through it.

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Below I have included some quotations which made me reflect:
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“It is true that birds build nests, but with every new season they abandon the home they have made to erect a new one in a different place. There is no bird that stays in the same nest for the entirety of its life.”

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“If I must resort to marriage as a metaphor, I can claim that literature is my husband and books are my children. The only way for me to get married is either to divorce or to take a second husband. Since divorcing literature is out of the question and since there is no man among mankind who would agree to become “husband number two”, in all likelihood, I will be single all my life.”

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“Silence is the worst.”

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“How did she switch from girlhood to womanhood? She had always thought becoming a woman was like walking a long, winding road with trees on each side, learning your way step by step. Why had no one told her that it was, in fact, a trapdoor you stepped on and tumbled into without knowing it was there”

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“You want me to kill myself?” I ask, alarmed.

“No, my dear. I want you to kill your ego.”

“Same thing, isn’t it?”

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“Time is not money, time is everything.”

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“Envy lies at the foot of our existential angst. Look at the history of mankind, all the wars and destruction. Do you know what they said when World War I broke out? The war that will end all wars! Of course that is not what happened. The wars didn’t end because there is no equality and no justice. Instead we have an imbalance of power and income, ethnic and religious clashed. . . . All this is bound to generate new conflicts.”

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“Above us a wispy cloud of smoke lingers lazily.”

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“The moon is still there – a day or two of fullness.”

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“Perhaps every writer is a pickpocket of some sort, stealing inspiration from real life.”

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“Better to die with passion than to die with boredom.”

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“They reminded me, across centuries and cultures, that there are other paths for a woman than conventional marriage and motherhood.”

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“Every reader brings his or her own gaze to the text, and ends up reading the story differently”

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“Just as you can knit the same pattern over and over, make the same recipe for years on end, you can also be content with a few books on your bookshelf and go over them again and again.”

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“Words are gifts from one human to another.”

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“But remember one thing: Where there is difficulty there follows ease.”

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“Is that what depression is about – the sinking feeling that your connection to God is broken and you are left to float on your own in a liquid black space.”

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“It is their passionate struggles – not the losing or winning – that make them who they are.”

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“Perhaps we forget how to ask for help when we need it most.”

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“After all, even the smallest glimpse into the lives of women writers – East and West, past and present – keenly shows, every case is different.”

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“Just as every writer learns to develop his or her own unique style and is yet inspired by the works of others, as women, as human beings, we all elaborate our personal answers to universal questions and needs, heartened by one another’s courage.”

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“Together we are learning how to live, write and love to the fullest by simply being all of who we are. Sometimes we manage this beautifully and artlessly; sometimes we fail ridiculously. When we fail we remember the moments of harmony and grace, and try again. That, pretty much, is the pattern of my progress in life: Take a step forward, move on, fall down, stand up, go back to walking, trip over and fall down on my face again, pull myself up, keep walking…”

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Until next time, 

Happy Reading.