Angsty and Clichéd. Oh dear.

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It is difficult to feel at ease when you carry around so many unresolved matters, and angst verging on anxiety is your default state. But gratefulness is always wholesome.

So as I sit, with this gorgeous view, stumped over how to best translate يتكتل I am thankful for this opportunity. I spend too much time and energy fretting over what will come next, at the expense of appreciating what I have now. So as to conclude this strange bout of positivity I will take some time to acknowledge the mother of all clichés, and try to hold on to taking a moment, to just be.

Maybe even utter a سبحان الله or two.

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I am great at the periphery. The edges of life, its fine-lined exterior. That is until you turn your gaze to what lies beyond the margins. I am the beautifully-neat borders of a picture on a colouring page. I stay in the lines, always. But the inside matter is in disarray, the essence a scribbled mess.

 

 

From you I learnt integrity. The beauty of a confidential reassurance. The sincerity in heartfelt gestures, away from the public gaze. There is much to be said about those are kind in private. Goodness purely for goodness’ sake. I do not have to worry about ulterior motives, nor fret about favours being held against me.

Ikhlas is a beautiful thing.

A Cloak of Comfort

A year ago I thought that the only thread connecting me to Islam was the garb I chose to dress myself in. Perhaps my decision to appear Muslim was due to an unwillingness to out myself, or a lingering sense of affinity to my community.

I have since reconsidered.

This past summer I have become reaccustomed to wearing an abaya, an item of clothing previously my sole outer-wear wardrobe choice. After shucking it off for the better part of the past year – determined to start the process of cutting ties with my waning religiosity – I have had a change of heart, and clothes. Covering myself is an act of convenience. It alleviates the worry of how I should present myself. It reminds me of better days when conflicting ideologies were not a daily struggle.

I dislike apologetics, yet I can speak from experience. I am an insider after all. There is a liberation that comes from turning your back on normative western clothing conventions. I feel composed and elegant, presenting a recognisable image to the world. Religious convictions may be derided but they are part of the fabric of a multi-cultural society. After spending much of my life abiding by certain tenets, a return to these rules, albeit without the convictions is comforting. My mental energy is better conserved for other things.

This is my norm. I like draping myself in layers of cloth. Hypocritical it may be to wear the uniform of the faithful. Yet, there is comfort in my cloak, and for now that is the important.

 

 

The dusky air at dawn is just short of cloying. During the summer months when even early morning offers no respite from the soaring temperatures, it is possible to taste the heat in the air. A sandy flavour.

Today at fajr I opened the window to hear the Qur’an being recited. The melody of the jama’ah alongside the slight savour of humidity puts me on the edge of unease. The two together flood my senses bringing back past feelings of dread. It was amidst this medley that Islam and its rituals seeped away from me.

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A pretty portrait of African ladies, selling fruit by the roadside. A haven for the privileged folks holidaying at Lake Malawi, eager for the authentic taste of untampered-with sweet satsumas.

A snapshot capturing the women’s bright clothing against the dusty backdrop of the African landscape. A lovely holiday memento. I did not capture the din of the children surrounding the car eager for open windows through which they push their produce, desperate for a sale.

We bought our goods and enjoyed them later, eating more than we should.

No thought spared for the sellers by the road-side and our meagre contribution to their livelihood. As we paid peanuts for their peanuts we were audacious enough to barter, desperate for a sale.