Set Sail: A Ramadan not fasting

white and black selling boat on bed of water during daytime
Photo by Arek Socha on Pexels.com

I set off on a voyage a long time ago, and now my ship has reached the seas of Ramadan. The moon has been sighted, Taraweeh prayers have begun, and my heart-sails have been unfurled and now fill with the winds of joy and anticipation at the powerful potential this beautiful month has for lasting change, growth, and evolution.

This year I enrolled in the Evolve during Ramadan workshop by LaYinka Sanni. The four week course was a dock of sorts, where I pulled my ship in, and underwent necessary repairs to ensure my ship was “sea-worthy” in the lead up to this beautiful month.

 

Repairing the hull, reflecting, and learning

Pulling into port and undergoing ship repair looked like; reflecting on myself, who I am as a person, learning about how past challenges or “failures” are actually opportunities to learn something, opportunities to identify where I am, where I’m going, and where I want to be; Opportunities to re-chart the course of my journey, and realise that I do not simply need to retrace the route of Ramadan voyages past. I can set a new course, explore new facets of myself, and ultimately exit this Ramadan (body of water) having attained taqwah.

I wanted to share a gift with you, something I discovered during my time spent in port. (I’m having too much fun with these nautical metaphors :D)

This will be the fourth Ramadan running where I am not fasting. This year I am at peace with that. Not only am I at peace with it, but I am also incredibly grateful for it. I want to share my journey to this place, in the hopes that those reading this who are setting sail on a similar journey can develop this feeling and be buoyed up by it.
Becalmed & Unsettled

The winds still, and the waters silence, dark clouds gather rapidly on the horizon, threatening a storm of catastrophic proportion. And the little ship sits uncertainly in the sea, the water’s current suddenly nowhere to be seen, and any way to avoid the gathering storm a distant dream.

This is exactly how I felt during the last three Ramadans.

The first Ramadan that I wasn’t able to fast, I was mid way through pregnancy and battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I could not keep down water at all, and not much food either, I had been in and out of hospital due to dehydration, I’d lost over 10 per cent of my body weight, and now weighed less at 20 weeks pregnant than I had before getting pre-pregnant; Physically very weak, and unable to stand in salah (prayer) I was struggling with the realisation that fasting was not an option for me.

I cried a lot, saddened because, I felt like I was disappointing Allah, and letting myself down. I knew that not fasting Ramadan was a concession for those who were unable, but I wanted to fast.

So much of my Ramadan experience was tied to fasting, going to iftaars breaking the fast collectively. Spending time at the mosque, that first sweet sip of water or bite of a date after 14 hours of fasting, the spiritual heights of spending hours suppressing hunger in an effort to seek my Creator’s pleasure. I wanted that. I didn’t want to be so sick and weak that at times my salah consisted of head movements only.

Thunder and lightning crashes, and abundant rain pours down on the ship. The hope of blue skies and plain sailing are woefully far away. 

The second Ramadan that I wasn’t able to fast I was breastfeeding an infant, and still recovering from the physical toll Hyperemesis Gravidarum had wreaked on my body. I felt disheartened and resigned. I’d tried fasting some days sporadically leading up to Ramadan, and it hadn’t worked out well, aside from that I feared losing my milk supply. I looked for articles online, ideas for how to get that Ramadan ‘feeling’ when not fasting. There were plenty of ideas but my heart wasn’t in it. I tried to do what I could, Tried to pray the full amount of taraweeh prayers at home on my own, but eventually, between sleepless nights, exhaustion, anaemia, (one of the left over results of 10 months of near starvation where my body kept breaking itself down to find energy to keep going), and my infant sons’ natural & frequent demands for milk, I ran out of steam.

The little ship had come to dread sailing into Ramadan waters; sad and longing for pleasant, spiritually reviving Ramadans of years past.

The third Ramadan, Alhamdulillah, I was pregnant and once again battling with hyperemsis gravidarum. This year I was hopeful that I would still derive some benefit, and had more practice with not fasting. I looked for little things I could do, to feel connected to Allah, to the benefit of this month. I worked on my relationship with dua (supplication). I tried to find a deeper peace and connection in salah, active toddler noises notwithstanding. Still a large part of me longed to be able to fast.

A Loftier Goal
So here we are. I’ve pulled out of the port, and sailed into Ramadan, the journey is the same, but my outlook is poles apart from year one, and year two, a huge development from year three.

My little ship bobs on the Ramadan sea, and my eyes are on the horizons not on fasting, but on a loftier goal. Taqwah. 

This is what I want to share with you. The goal of Ramadan is not to fast. The goal of Ramadan is to attain taqwah. Said another way the aim is to develop an intimate relationship with Allah, that steadies you and keeps you on course for the entire voyage of your life. Fasting is of course a wondrous means to attaining that connection, alhamdulillah, for those that fasting is not an option for, there are still abundant means to working towards taqwah.

You have been gifted with a different path to achieving that same lofty pursuit. Do not despair. Instead make a choice?

A Choice

Make a conscious and intention filled choice. Receive your gift from your Rabb:

He has bestowed it on you for a reason. Think and reflect on the lessons can be learned, the good that can yet be attained. Work with your strengths and your weaknesses. What strengths have you been blessed with? How can you use these to attain your goal, to draw closer to your Lord?

 

By not fasting, I am accepting Allah’s generous concession for me. I am gracefully and gratefully accepting it. He knows. He knows my circumstance and conditions, and potential, and longing to please Him. He has given me this opportunity and gift. How pleasing to the giver of the gift when it is happily received, accepted with grace.

With the answers to these questions, set forth on the Ramadan seas with winds of hope, and gratitude, towards greater consciousness of your Lord.

 

 

Hospitalisation and How it Affected my Writing

I was looking back at some old blog posts on a different host site, and I stumbled across a long forgotten post from Novemeber 2010. In it I wrote

…So that’s what’s been going on with me. Well that and a stint in hospital, which I think had completely broken me.

I’ve not been able to write anything, which in turn has led me to be upset… but I just don’t feel things the way I used to. It’s weird and horrible, and I hope no one has to feel the way I feel.

My sense of humour has totally changed. Things I found funny before are now not nearly as funny. I have officially become an unenthusiastic person. It bites and I don’t know how to change it, or how to feel things anymore.

I’m not asking why. I accept that this is something that has had to happen, because it did actually happen, I just wanna know what to do about it.

Reading this seven years later and being confronted with that former version of myself is hard. My heart swells and remembers the faint echo of its old wounds whilst reading this post.

It was written shortly after I was sectioned under the mental health act and hospitalised. I am someone who is pretty open about this having been part of my life experience, though I feel where I come from, both from a cultural and religious standpoint, there is still at times a stigma attached to mental health problems, and being open about difficulties people face in that regard. I stand by my resolve to be open about my experience though, because it is through sharing, open discussion, and sincere reflection, that I believe we all learn, develop, and reach new levels of compassion and understanding.

What is very weird though, is that I’d forgotten that my writing slump coincided with my being sectioned. Prior to being sectioned, I would spend countless nights losing sleep because I was pouring out a new story idea, or working on a new poem, or just scribbling my feelings out in a journal. After being sectioned I just couldn’t do it. I tried, I tried to force myself to keep writing, I even attempted NaNoWriMo from my room on the triage ward, but it just didn’t pan out.

For perhaps the majority of my life words and writing have been places of refuge for me; from spending summers folding a4 sheets of paper in half, stapling them in the middle and designing books, writing endless stories fuelled by a youthful imagination, to journalling during my time in boarding school, even those angst filled poems that littered my teenage years. However, in the midst of one of my most difficult life experiences, that tool and solace was lost to me.

It was not that I couldn’t access writing, it’s just there was something off about it, even now it’s so hard to express this in a way that makes sense. It was almost as though in the same way that my self confidence had withered away during my time in hospital, the creativity I normally overflowed with when it came time to put my fingers to the keyboard or even pen to paper had shrivelled up too. I can still remember the desperate struggle to write, how huge of a mental block there seemed to be, how it was almost as though I’d lost not only the capacity to express myself, but also the will to do so. I believe this is very much a parallel to how things stood for me at that time mentally too. It took a lot of work to get back on an even keel, Alhamdulillah! I do feel that this experience, as much as it knocked me down, was useful in that it was a way to start rebuilding myself with a stronger foundation.

Eventually, painstakingly slowly my love of writing did return. I started of with a journal, a hot pink faux leather bound lined notebook; no dates or days, just blank lined pages a year after I left hospital. I didn’t write every day, in fact weeks would go by and I wouldn’t pick up my pen at all. When I did write, I would write a sentence here, a paragraph there, and there were a lot of days where I couldn’t find the motivation to get out of bed, talk less of the mental effort it took to pick up a pen and organise my thoughts enough to write what I was feeling.

I kept writing though. A new year started and I was still using that same hot pink diary… occasionally. Gradually I was recovering, and so was my writing. Things were not exactly the same, just as I had been altered by my experiences, I believe my writing was too. At times writing can still be a challenge, but I am so grateful that it wasn’t lost to me forever.

To anyone who’s found that mental health issues have negatively impacted their writing I wanted to just put this out there, don’t lose hope. It can come back, it may not be the same, but the challenging things that we go through in life don’t have to forever be dark ink blots on the pages of our life stories, we have the capacity to grow from and learn from our experiences. To transform the inkblots into fantastic illustrations of growth and starting points for change.

Lots of love

Stay Listening

Peaceful Parenting 💙🦋

My 23 month old is crying; his face is all crumpled up, and tears are streaming down his face. He’s got quite the pair of lungs on him, so the sobs that wrack his chest are pretty loud. I don’t immediately rush to shush him, or tell him not to cry, or even tell him that there isn’t a need to cry over small things. Instead I reach for the tools and skills I’ve been developing and learning from my peaceful parenting course. The ones that empower me to parent from a peaceful place inside. To not let the tides of my own emotions overwhelm the ship of my parenting. To listen to him crying, to be there with him in that moment.

The huge swell of panic that used to immediately overwhelm me, the need to just make him stop crying, at near any cost, that, alhamdulillah has gone. Sure it has not suddenly become the highlight of my day when my toddler starts crying and screaming, but slowly slowly I’m building confidence, finding pockets of peace and breathing room, to think and make decisions as opposed to just react. I’m learning to listen to his upset, and not have it rock me and my emotions. I’m able to put my trust in my Lord that my child’s behaviour right now does not mean in future he will be whatever it is I fear. Crying over sweets doesn’t mean he will become spoilt. Pinching somebody else doesn’t mean he will become a bully. It just means his behaviour is off track. It just means he is learning.

He needs my love, connection and listening most, when he is off track. It is exhausting work, any type of parenting is.

But, I’m able to recognise his cries now, for what they are. A way of letting me know that he feels disconnected, that he needs to reconnect with me. He as young as he is, is still subject to his emotions just as we all are. He also faces the challenges and tests that come with living life, and the best way I can foster intelligence both emotional and other kinds, and encourage him to learn ways to deal with these challenges, is to offer connection during these times, to stay listening, and to maintain the limits.

Traditionally speaking, I will be, and have been told, that his behaviour is something I should control, that it is disrespectful or rude for him to be upset by things (perhaps a certain household rule, or something I have told him he is not allowed to have), that I ought to punish him so that he learns to respect me. What I’m coming to realise, is that punishing him for expressing his need for connection serves only to push us further away from each other. The truth is, it is impossible to control anyone else. In fact at times even controlling ourselves can be a struggle. Rather it is Allah that is in control of all of the affairs of the heavens and earth.

One of the gems I picked up during the course which really shook me up, and made me contemplate, was this. My child as he is, is not yet accountable to Allah for his actions, at least not until he reaches the age of maturity. I however am. If his spilling a cup of water on the floor sends me into a rage, or initiates a huge over reaction on my part, then where does this show of injustice lie on the scale of parenting as an act of ibadah. Quite far from ihsan (the best) I would say. And very far removed from the person I want to be.

I have been giving a lot of thought to the woman I am, and the woman I want to be. My personal standards and the esteem I hold my soul in leave me unwilling to be reactive in my parenting approach. I want to be better, and do better. It’s a journey, and not an easy one mind you, but I’m ready and willing to put in the work bi’ithni’llah.

…. A long cold winter

سلامواليكم – salamu alaykum- peace be upon you,

I know, once again, it’s been ages since I posted anything of note on here. I have such valid excuses though 😛

My Excuses

1) arabic grammar is kicking my butt.
I have to devote a lot of time to reading during my week, if I have any hope of actually learning arabic.

2) British sign language linguistics is also getting in on kicking my butt.

Yeah, a lot of reading/ studying going on right now, and with an exam coming up in January, I’ve got to be on top of things ^_^

3) I’m studying for my driving exams.
I need a licence, and a car, and I need to be off public transport ASAP bi’ithni’llah.

4) I feel pretty unwell right now. Some sort of winter virus combo… Flu/ cold, you name it 😊

Still I just wanted to let you guys know, I am still alive, and kicking 😀

Take care lovelies
Salaamu alaykum

Azeezat

Here have a picture 🙂
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Make hay

سلامواليكم،صنج الخير

Peace be upon you, good morning!
That lush review is definitely coming, I’ve been pretty busy finding a routine where I can go to class, study, eat well, sleep enough, exercise, study, revise, reread my notes, spend time with family, stay on top of scouts preparations, AOHL tasks, and work.

Alhamdulillah it seems that I’m getting there, but blogging seems to have scuttled down to the bottom of my list of priorities.

Ah.

Also I need to start driving soon. In’sha’allah

Xx

In the meantime, please have at some pictures I took.

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The sisters I chose

We all have a family we are born into. Alhamdulilah (all praise is due to Allah). We may or may not always get on with them or like them, or even live with them, or know them that well, or understand the language they speak, or their modes and methods for getting things done. They are however … our family, both a test and a blessing.
In fact they often demonstrate that they are a test and blessing in the same breath.

This post isn’t about them today. Today this post is about those people we adopt into our life as family. Today’s post is about the sisters I chose for myself.

Alhamdulillah, the road my life has travelled so far has been filled with potholes, pitfalls, and rest stops. It has also been filled with the wind in my hijab, the sun on my back, and laughing voices in the backseat of the vehicle of my life.

I have sisters from Italy, and sisters from Singapore, sisters from Spain, and sisters from The Phillipines, sisters from The Gambia, sisters from Nigeria, and sisters from America. TabarakAllah! (Blessed Allah) May Allah grant them goodness, guidance, sakinah (tranquility), pure intentions, and blessings; in this life and the next.
Amin.

Current view on the road
Current view on the road

… <3

ahhhhhhh

salamu walaykum 🙂 (Peace be upon you )

That noise up there? It’s the contented sigh of my heart.
Please don’t mind my cheesiness, I’m just, happy alhamdulilah (all praise is due to Allah). A lot of new things have happened since the last time I posted anything, and you know despite any of the new complications or struggles, or even challenges, that new things tend to sometimes invite, I can truly say that I am one happy bunny.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably figured out, that when something really good happens in my life, I tend to not want to share that news with people immediately… I don’t know why that is exactly… and if I try to examine my reasoning too closely …. it might bring up some interesting results. So i’ll just leave it at that.

I’m sure someone reading this recognises that feeling of not wanting to share your good thing immediately… a sort of protective feeling if you will, like not wanting to expose a new sapling to too much to quickly, for fear that it might stunt it’s growth…

Just a request: please keep me in your prayers, you’re in mine 🙂

Moving in, The Sunnah way

Moving in can be a daunting occasion for anyone of us, I’d say it’s because we’re naturally opposed to change, but that would be exaggerating. 😉

Here are a few tips.

Take a familiar scent with you, it can be a spray, spray it everywhere. You’ll feel at home much sooner, or should I say sunnah 🙂

Try to put as much stuff as you can on the floor. (Once you’ve cleaned it of course) 😉 it’ll make you feel like a kid again, sure, but its all part of the process of getting stuck in.

Last but not least, take your time. Don’t rush yourself. Moving in can be scary or not scary depending on how you ‘approach it’ like most things in life. Maybe say a prayer, make, yourself at home, for at least three days, because wherever it is will be your home for a while. 🙂

So get started, the sunnah, the better.

I need to get married, fast!

I really need to get married.

I mean I’m still young, I definitely find men attractive, and can unfortunately feel myself slipping into sin. I really need to get married really soon.

To the extent that any Muslim will do really, its gotten to the point where I’m walking around with a wedding ring on my finger, and telling any boy who approaches me, No ring?… NO WAY!!!! (check out my campaign 🙂 )

But in all seriousness, God please send me a good hubby please?

I mean I’m actually quite neurotic, I’ve actually convinced myself that I’m dying. I mean fair enough I’ve not been able to keep anything down for over 24 hours, but dying really? Like I’ve actually just started asking random people to pray I go to jannah (paradise) and that all my sins will dissappear with the end of this ilness.

So yeah, I think if I had a good husband, he’d convince me I wasn’t dying, I’d believe him, because he would probably have come to my house to convince me rather than trying to convince me over the phone, and then he could give me a bath, a nice hot bath.

Do I sound crazy? I feel it. All today I’ve been drinking orange juice, and have managed to eat a tiny tiny tiny corner of a dry loaf of bread, pretty dehydrated from yesterday, forced myself onto the train, so that if I do collapse then at least I’ll be around humans who might (if they can be bothered) call the ambulance if I fell down in there midst.

Smh.

Its pathetic but my Creator understands my needs, so hopefully he’ll send some really awesome, hot, funny Muslim guy along 🙂

Pray for me  people 🙂

‘”Don’t you like talking?” vs “Don’t you like keeping quiet?”‘

cropped-hadithe-steadfastness.jpgI think it’s important that we have regular conversations with ourself.

I look at it this way, my body, and my soul, and my mind. They are three different reflections, of me as I’m standing in front of a three-way mirror. Other people might walk by and pass and comment, but ultimately I’m the one standing in front of the mirror.

They, “the people”, society! say that we are often are own worsts critics, and this is true. But we can also be our own trumpet blowers too. It is important for me, and for you, to strike the right balance between this, the right balance that suits your own innate nature.

For me there’s a mental check list that my mind keeps hold of.

“What would please my Lord, my Rabb?” my mind asks.

“Doing this” my soul replies, hastily wanting to answer before my body does.

“Doing ‘that’!” my body butts in, not wanting to have it’s opinion trampled.

Ever patient, having been given reason by My Lord, my mind asks again, “What would please My Lord, the Creator (Al Khaaliq) ?”

“We could do ‘this’?” My body wants to compromise.

So does my soul, “We could do ‘that’ though”.

Again my mind asks, “What would please My Lord, Creator of all that is in existence?”

I reach a compromise.

My soul says, “I want to do ‘other’.”

My body says, “I want to do ‘other’.”

My mid says, “Okay, let’s do ‘other’.”

It can work out like this fast, or it can work out like this slowly, either way, as long as it works out like this I am happy, because “Other” is actually my name. As in I am another person. A different person from everyone else. Yes everyone is different, and that makes for some sameness. But in all honestly, if I sit down and take some time, that true me, that inner me, created by my Rabb, is the me that will come out.

So i guess in a way… I’m advocating patience.

:).

That’s it from me, take care.

Azeezat A.B.A.

Pst! (whispers) I wrote an article, following in my uncles footsteps… but don’t tell him 😉 It’s a “not so secret”, secret.