Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Public Speaking

So, the poem I worte and read out at the Sangeet, my friends loved it. I'm really glad they liked it. I even saw the groom (both bride and groom are old friends since way back) wipe a tear away. I didnt mean to make anyone cry! But I'm happy that it made them happy.

When I went up to them after to give them the poem and get a hug (they were well surprised) they asked me to read it out at their wedding. That was my surprise. I was so humbled.

The wedding is on saturday. About 400 people. Eeeekkkk!!!

I know I teach public speaking, now its time to actually do it...but 400 people!! Need to get some practice in. Some words have changed since I posted it cos of a few suggestions that I liked. I'm going to leave it as it is now. I'm getting nervous thinking about it. But I know it will be a good expreience inshallah.


Friday, 25 September 2009

Surprise Poem for a Friend's Wedding

There is a field out beyond right and wrong, where wisdom resides.

I will meet you there. Perhaps a meadow, under which rivers flow,

Shaded by palms, fountains and stars. I will meet you there.

Where there is you, where there is me; where we need not be perfect, for perfection already exists.

Where there is you , where there is me, and it is worth it.

Where coolness cleanses our eyes,

Tranquility for our minds, peace in our hearts, serenity in our souls.

With the sturdiness of a rock;

The steadfastness of a mountain,

Patient in the dessert, holding on to the essence,

Searching for the One.

Searching for the One,

In each other’s eyes, through each other’s souls, the promise has been agreed.

May our embrace, and let our mercy,

Lead us to One.

Through mountains and meadows,

From great heights and shallow waters; tempestuous oceans and testing waves,

Serene sunsets, along autumnal hues, spring time blossom.

May you glide on wings of hope and fear, guided by your love, towards divine grace.

Let us not be entangled by days, by nights, by this world.

We have another space, we have another time.

I will meet you there.

I wrote this to read at one of the events of a very close friend's wedding. I've known her since secondary school, thats most of my life. Its a surprise, I really hope she likes it.

I've taken some bits from Rumi and Iqbal, and even some words from the Quran and hadith. Then I added some bits of my own. Some of it I had already written before and put in another friend's wedding card, but I thought it would still be ok to include it here. Now I'm scared that I have to read it out infront of about 60 people. No learning objective and no plenary, those listening can make of it what they will. Its kind of like my dua too. I hope the poem, and surprise, go down well.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Chilling with Mum

Shaykh on TV: ...the following types of people will always have their dua accepted; a traveller, a father praying for his child, and a fasting person.

Me to mum: Lets send dad on a journey during ramadan and give him a list of things to pray for.

Hehe ;)

Ugly Exes and Randomness

I was looking through some old photos the other day. Thats what I do a a lot of, look at photos. I came across a bunch from a friend's nikkah. She really was one of the most beautiful brides I've ever seen. Simple and elegant and absolutely stunning. Said friend has since divorced, and its been over a year. It was such a happy time, and looking over them made me feel sad and nostalgic, even though I hadnt known her for very long then. What really got me though was the sight of her then husband in the pictures, ugh. Looking at him just made me feel sick. What I woud like to do to him if I ever saw him. How he could single handedly cause someone so much pain and grief. I actually felt physically ill. Its like when you see something disgusting on one of those medical dramas, you can't bear to look at it, but at the same time you can't not look at it. I would't mind pushing him infront of a bus, or off a cliff. And he's so ugly. I hate saying people are unattractive or whatever cos I think its wrong, but his actions have made him something detestable. Put chewing gum in his horrible hair, or cause him some sort of pain. Ok I'm not that violent, really, but he just made me ill. I feel ill thinking about it now. Its like his ugliness has seeped though his innards to his exterior. I also feel horrible thinking of it and saying it and writing it but uuuggghhhhh he makes me ill. She's so much better than him and worth so much more. And I'm not just saying that cos she's my friend, we hardly even see each other anymore but that doesn't mean you stop praying for someone. But its true.

And another friend and her new shiny husband (mashallah - love these guys) came over for iftar last night. Was so nice and civilied and grown up. Not that we are not civilised, we are, very. But the grown up part, dinner parties n all that...that's what grown ups do. Which reminds me, I want to make salmon n noodles for friends after Eid....sooo good...but may have to wait a while cos of another friend's wedding. I'm quite sad that ramadan has come and is going, so fast. It always does doesn't it, starts off a bit slow, and then rushes by you, and you're left thinking, what happened to all the things I was meant to do, and the all the things I was meant to change and improve. What happened to the good intentions and resolutions, and the beat and the rythm, and the heart and the pace, as the moon rises for the night, the sun sets on another day. Clocks keep ticking, alarms keep ringing, doors open and slamming, but what about us? Are we still the same?

Monday, 7 September 2009

A sweet dream, or a beautiful nightmare?

So like, what’s the dealio with dreams after fajr? Is it that they mean nothing, or have been inspired by something within us rather than something higher? Or maybe even something lower?

My dreams are always very clear, almost like watching a film, or a short clip. Vivid in visuals and sentiment. I often awake with a strong sense of whatever I was feeling and experiencing during slumber, which often overrides into waking hours and sometimes even tends to punctuate my day. On awaking, but sometimes a while afterwards as well, I can clearly remember what happened – the plot, who was in it – the characters, their actions and motivations, themes, ideas and emotions, as well as colours, sights, sounds and any physical sensation. Ok so its sounding a bit like a GCSE mark scheme (not the physical sensation bit), but I can even dream in different languages. Ok, English and Spanish.

I don’t often know the meanings of dreams, but I know that they meant something, or were about something in particular. A beautiful thing is dreaming of someone you love who has passed away, seeing them dressed in white and happy. That’s when you know dreams are made of something special, something not from this world.

I’ve dreamt of you many times. Anoche soni de ti. Ya lo se que todo se ha terminado, pero todavia, a veces, estas conmigo. It’s not like I was trying either way, pero voy a decir las cosas como son. So we were on Green St, of all places! You weren’t fasting and eating a sliced tomato, y estabamos hablando y charlando como normal, como antes. Hemos quedado desde hace mucho tiempo, and you convinced me quedar otra vez. Ademas, deje mis amigas por ti. Anyways, fuimos a un sitio para romper el ayuno, y querias mirar en una tienda, y probar una chaqueta azul. You were your old lovable self with me, bailando y hacienda algunas tonterias y bromas. And suddenly, diste una vuelta en la chaqueta, y me besaste por la cara. Un beso muy dulce. Y me despierto. Y el sueno se ha terminado. No lo se si todavia me quieres. Pense que no te quiero, pero la verdad es que no estoy seguro seguro. Quizas siempre te querre, quizas siempre tendras un trocito de mi Corazon. O puedo ser, que dreams after fajr mean nothing. Quien puede decir, entre nosotros, que es el amor, o que son los suenos?

Sunday, 6 September 2009

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.

We are lutes, no more, no less.

When you’re full of food and drink, Satan sits

where your spirit should,

an ugly metal statue in place of the Kaaba.

If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting...,

every moment a new song comes out of the fire.

The fog clears, and new energy makes you

run up the steps in front of you.

Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.

Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.


Saturday, 5 September 2009

How Blissful is Ignorance?

Ignorance is bliss, I’ve always thought. Yet my practices in life seem to demonstrate the opposite. I love to know stuff, and find out, and I love learning and trying new things. However, I also love doing this to my detriment it seems. I must be some sort of sadomasochist who likes pain or something. Forget facebook, its face stalk. I’ve lost count of the number of times, I’ve clicked a few times here and there, and there it is, information that maybe I wanted to know, perhaps needed to know, but really doesn’t make me feel any better. In fact, it makes me feel pretty crap. Therefore, ignorance is bliss. But then, if you know stuff, you’ll be better prepared for when the truth comes out anyways? But then, if you know stuff, you can’t come clean and say you know can you, cos you’re not meant to know in the first place, and then answering the question of how did you find out…that’s another story. I probably come across as bit of a psycho, but then most women are. Nay, most humans. And I'm not half as bad as some people, fact. I hope. I'm just being honest here, everyone hides their psycho side till its too late.

So I’ve found out lots of things I’m not supposed to. I’m naturally quite perceptive, and my own instinct and inclination play a large part in the way I interact. I’m no psychic or anything, but gut feelings are more often than not correct. And top of everything else I have communication issues, and I’m a very private person. I hate people lying to me, especially when I know something is going on. Do not insult my intelligence. Just be honest. Say yeah there is stuff, but I’m sorry I can’t tell you. Fair enough. Don’t cover it up with some stupid story that I can see right through.

Anyways, some random things I have found out, some small and insignificant, some quite big: who is going out with whom, who is friends with whom and what they are up to. The places people go and things they have done, the ex and the ex of the ex, what the ex is doing and who with and his whereabouts and friends and relationships. How close people really are and what they portray themselves to be. The potentials, and the potential’s potentials (yep!), and what the potential is up to and who with and their comments on other’s notes which leads to their blog which you’re not supposed to read yet…yep stalker extraordinaire. I need to stop, I wonder if I can. And its not just the internet, although it plays a large part.

So how blissful is ignorance? And does knowledge get you into too much trouble? Cos islamically, if you know something, you’re meant to pass it on, and act on it. (And consider one person for marriage at a time, right? Ok different point, and marriage is a bit far off right now) I’m my worst enemy.

And is exclusivity too much to ask? Ok this is a different topic, but when you’re getting to know someone, is it reasonable that you are the only person they are getting to know? Say you found out, that you weren’t the only person they were emailing, and my emailing I mean long, deep and meaningful emails about stuff you may not have even articulated before. Hmmmm…now say you haven’t made your mind up yet about the potential, you’re ok with meeting up and going out and stuff, but you want to be the only one he is seeing, right? The same way he is he only one you’re seeing? Other offers were coming up, and I brushed them off cos I wasn’t sure if ‘talking’ to two people at a time is ok? Ok, I’m not sleeping with them, just talking and getting to know them, but the end objective is in mind. And as the world keeps reminding me, I should be married, or getting married by now, but that’s for another post. It’s not like this guy is the rebound, it’s too late for that I think, and I have met loads of other guys since, but this is the first one I’m getting to know properly. (I also think I need another note on c-to-the-l.o- 4 sure, uh oh uh oh!!) Even though it is just over email. And what are emails after all? Are they that meaningful? I guess I can just see how it goes. But I know that he’s juggling potentials, but he doesn’t know that I know, see the problem? So, ignorance; bliss or burden?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


I just realized that the title of this blog, The Orange Tree, sounds like the name of a pub. Actually I think there is a pub with the name in Finchley. Ah well.

This was on a friend’s facebook post and I had to copy. We are tested in so many ways. Sometimes, when things are good, or life isn’t too bad, we forget we are being tested. We forget our blessings and who we have been blessed by. As the one whose all sins were forgiven - the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, ‘Should I not be a grateful servant?’

The aim of the game – write down one thing for each letter, with a small explanation if you want. Try it out.

A. Always Ultra – this sounds dumb, but we can afford the little things that let us get on with life as normal. Imagine if you were in a war torn country, and supplies ran out. Doesn’t bare thinking about really.

B. Beauty – it’s a harsh world, but its there. And lots of it. Open your eyes to receive many gifts. And Beyonce – good times!

C. Chocolate – need I say more? And contact lenses. My glasses annoy me.

D. Driving – I love my car. And Dancing. Its all about shaking what ya mama gave ya aaiiight!

E. Everything? Ok how about Eyes. Big ones, pretty ones, deep ones, ones to stare into, ones to see with. Oh and Education.

F. Food! – I’m a foody. Also half the world doesn’t have enough and we have too much. And it’s Ramadan, so you know what I’m talking about. And family. And friends.

G. Ghana – all expenses paid, yeah that’s what I’m talking about!

H. Halal marshmallows. Yeah baby!

I. Ice cream – see how most of mine are to do with food? And Ice in coke with lemon on a hot day.

J. Jumpers – when its cold we’re snug and warm. Hoodies also falls into the ‘jumpers’ category. And my Job – really hard work but I am grateful for it.

K. Kenya – so beautiful and although some people can be annoying I’m glad I’m from there, east African Asian is the best kind of Asian!

L. Love – there’s not a lot of it around, but some people don’t have any. Parents, siblings, family, friends, your partner, your deen, the Prophet Muhammad pbuh, Allah. Love it.

M. Money – some people have none. And mobiles – can anyone remember life before them?

N. Nandos!!

O. Orange trees

P. Parents. Don’t know what I did to deserve such great people in my life.

Q. Queues in this country. Ok so I’m inherently British, but in a mob I’m always scared I’ll get pushed to the back…I’m not a pushy person

R. Riaz. I love my brother the most!

S. Silly-ness. Why so serious all the time?

T. My driving instructor T. I wouldn’t have passed without him, and he also became a good therapist for that time! And travelling.

U. The umbrella song – no I don’t like it that much but it provides for a karaoke classic as my girlies will tell you

V. Vitamins…vitality…the letter V..did you know it doesn’t exist in Arabic?

W. www – what would we do without the internet? Go to the library maybe. Has made life lazy but easy 

X. xxx – kisses. Mwah!

Y. my Yellow cardigan , a piece of sunshine in my wardrobe. And YumYums, one of my favourite restaurants with some great memories

Z. Zzzzz…yep its sweet dreams in my lovely bed. Night.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


This was written by a friend, and i thought it was so spot on I had to share. She's managed to articulate what I've been thinking and feeling. Enjoy.

It is Ramadhan.
I'm not the sort who really talks about these kinds of things. Religious things, matters of belief. Not in any kind of concrete way, in any case. I don't really discuss my belief in a deity, my visions of heaven and/or hell, or even whether I believe in them. I'm not really that way inclined. I don't hide it - as soon as you look at me it's fairly obvious what faith I follow. But I don't talk about the nitty-gritty. For me, it's very personal. I don't like to make an issue of my beliefs, I don't want you to feel as though I'm attacking yours and I certainly don't believe in trying to 'convert'.
So it's unusual for me to write something like this.
During Ramadhan, Muslims aren't supposed to eat or drink between the hours of sunrise and sunset. Or at least, that's the general perception. Now, the reasons are many. Partly, it's to experience the hunger and thirst that many people feel every day. Partly, it's to increase will-power. And, partly, it is mental to be a symbol of self-sacrifice, our attempt at asceticism. For a month you forget your carnal pleasures (for what is more carnal than food?) and you pursue 'higher' experiences. One is encouraged to aim for spiritual perfection, and, with it, nearness to God. How you attain it is, of course, highly personal. Some pray. Some read. Some meditate. The paths to spirituality are many; the goal, however, is singular.
Or so we like to think. For I believe, as I have for many years, that we have lost sight of the goal. The goal now is a dinner which will provide all the calories you've denied yourself throughout the day. The fast? A means to an end. An excuse to gorge, to be seduced by plates piled high with sweet, fattening delights.
I'm a firm believer in abstinence during Ramadhan. I'm not some kind of joyless Puritan, but I do believe that if you wish to cleanse your mind, or your spirit, you must first cleanse your physical being. For many thousands of years people have denied themselves that which they crave in order to attain a higher state of being. Separation from worldly desires allows one to experience altered perceptions.

Every year, I hope to gain something from the fasting. The hunger isn't important to me; I can deal with the thirst. But I don't want to do it for a month and feel nothing change inside me. I'm not one for religious dogma; to me the essence is deeper than that.

It's quite common to be invited for dinner during Ramadhan. My first (and so far only) invitation was last weekend. It was a big thing - there must have been some eighty people there. So, after the requisite prayers, we ate. It's a vision I've seen many times and I hope to never see again.

There's something about being hungry that makes you grab every edible thing in sight. I understand that. I suffer from ‘eyes bigger than mouth’ syndrome. But, come Ramadhan, I try to stop it. I change my eating habits. There is something decidedly unhealthy about starving yourself all day and then devouring a mountain of deep-fried goods. It’s something I refrain from. I believe it’s more than one’s digestive system can deal with. It’s easy for me because I actually don’t like eating fried food. I accept that it is difficult for other people to abstain. My equivalent to fried food is probably something cake-ish.

So for me, an average meal in Ramadhan will consist of tea, fruit and a small plate of something substantial. I aim to subsist on as little as I possibly can, not in an attempt, to shed weight (decidedly NOT the point of the fasting) but in an effort to retrain my body, to teach it, and myself, that a life of excess and instant gratification is not the reason we exist. But, of course, we live lives of instant gratification. ‘I want’ regularly leads to ‘I get’. And we have no sense of the privilege of that situation. If I want calorific chocolate cake I can have it delivered to me in twenty minutes. I don’t need to work for it; I don’t need to earn it. I demand, and my demand is honoured.

Back at dinner, I saw what appeared to be a mob diving for food. Pastries, cutlets, spring rolls, chicken, lamb, bread, rice. No queues, no one waving someone ahead of them. Just people scrambling to the front. And not just for something to take the edge off the hunger pangs.

I imagine it’s been exacerbated by my recent trip, but I could hardly bear the sight of such privileged, comfortable people diving for spring rolls. I don’t understand how one can remain hungry for sixteen hours, perhaps more, and then lose all self-control the moment they see something edible. How can you lose your restraint like that? I caught myself thinking, as I have before, about our animalistic traits. Manners fly out of the window. We eat as though we will never eat again, as though we need to shove as much inside ourselves as we possibly can to survive the next day.

But in this we lose sight of one of the reasons for the fast – to remember those who don’t have food. Many people, prior to Ramadhan, will donate money to provide food for those who would otherwise go hungry. It’s an admirable thing to do, though I wonder who feeds those people during the other eleven months of the year. But feeding a hungry person isn’t enough. It doesn’t give you a license to forget about them and seek to satisfy only your own physical self.

And fasting isn’t about being hungry. Not really. It’s about learning to appreciate those things we take for granted. It’s not about going out for an expensive dinner and then walking past the hungry, cold homeless person sitting in the next doorway. It’s about self-sacrifice, it’s about empathy with other people, it’s about becoming more humane.

But we’ve forgotten all that. And we are the losers. We’ve forgotten that if you wish to attain spiritual enlightenment you need to do a bit more than skip breakfast and lunch.

God help us.

(By M.R)

Ramadan Nights

Is it me or is there something special about nights during Ramadan? Its just different. You can almost feel it in the air; something happens to the atmosphere and the all the molecules and particles and bits and pieces have a certain buzz to them -  or a certain serenity. 

Or am I taking hope to the next level?!

Its like peace has descended, tranquility is here, and calm is in charge. Although not the kind of in charge that yells and bosses you around, but the kind that reminds you, gently, of what you are wasting and the potential you have.

When people drive by noisily, imposing their choice of music upon you, or making lots of rude noise, I uncharacteristically feel like telling them to shush; you're disturbing the peace!

Surround yourself with coolness and sakeenah, let yourself be enveloped, encapsulated, embraced by the infinite mercy.

If only we really knew.

Soften your heart,
Open your mind,
Release your soul.