Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A box called Responsibility

One of my friends texted me today to say ‘it’s good to see you posting about women positive thinking again rather than the men bashing posts you have been writing lately.’ I am not a feminist nor do I hate men, I just don’t like incompetent men, men that cheat, men that lies, men that pretend and fake, men who are indecisive, men who are racists, men who are control freaks and men who don’t take on responsibility. So, to be honest, I don’t think it’s such an exhaustive list of men I hate, just maybe there’s more men in the world with those characteristics nowadays than there ever was before.

Anyway, I thought this is a good opportunity for me to post about the men I actually like and appreciate. Unfortunately, not many men will fall in this category as far as I am concerned. One of my work colleagues recently made a remark about women being ‘too much’ nowadays and my response was; maybe it’s not that women are too much, just that we have high standards and guys don’t meet them in general - here we go, I am men bashing again!

I think there is distinctive difference between what is a man and what is a boy. There seems to be more boys around than men - or maybe I just don’t come across men that often, I can literally count on my fingers the number of ‘men’ I have come across in the past 10 years, and literally I think Muslim men are a drop in that handful.

So here we go, thank you to those few men out there who are actually being men and doing what they are supposed to do, and following the example of the prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him)- the best of men.

My daughters are of the age now where they understand our family is different from most traditional muslim families - where you have a mother and a father. They do not mind it as such - single parenthood is quite a common thing in Europe, maybe not so much in the muslim community but they come it across at school etc. Nowadays, there are many more single muslim mums - not due to being widows (which was more common at the time of the prophet) but more so because of a higher divorce rate.

So, they ask questions about my marriage, whether they have a father or not etc. I have never lied to them - so they are aware their biological father is alive- although according to them, he lives ‘abroad’-something they came up with- and if that makes them happy- then so be it. People are easy to pass judgements, my kids are mixed-raced and their surname definitely give in that they are mixed. Not a lot of Muslims kids carry an English surname.

There are so many assumptions among Muslims, like for example if you are married to someone from a different race- it has to be a ‘love’ marriage; or if your spouse has a non-muslim name- then he/she converted to Islam out of love for you. Maybe in some Muslim ‘cultures; this is the norm - but to assume that this is the case for every single Muslim is choosing to be ignorant and judgemental - not all born muslim are cultural - some actually practice the religion, not the culture.

Moving on, the story I told my daughter is called ‘A box called Responsibility’. I made up this story so they can understand better and be grateful for what they have. The story goes, when babies are born, along comes a gigantic box called Responsibility. This box is the heaviest box anyone ever gets to lift - and only the strongest of people can actually do that. In a lot of families, two people need to lift this box and carry it cos it is SO heavy, and Allah knows one of them is not strong enough to do it by oneself, so he asks BOTH to carry it. 

But, in our family, Mummy is super duper strong, so Allah said ‘Mummy you can do it all by yourself, you don’t need dad’s help.’ So Mummy bent down and lifted the box, and she knew she could carry it all by herself. The box was heavy, but it was a lot of fun, and Mummy didn’t have to share any of things inside with anyone - she felt privilege that Allah chose her to have all the goodies in the box to herself. Some days though, this box does get heavier than usual, Allah puts more goodies in it, then Mummy feels tired and her back starts hurting - those are the days she needs help lifting the box. So then, Allah sends other people to help her carry the box; those are the nice people Allah puts on Mummy’s path and her children’s path - the people who just want to come and help just cos they are nice!
And sometimes, just because they (my kids) are so strong themselves, they give me a hand to carry the box. Kids from a single parent household tend to learn about responsibilities much earlier than other kids; the single parent depend on them as much as they depend on him/her.

Those friends, relatives, strangers who help us carry the box are our lifelines. Most single mums rely on their support network - they say it takes a village to raise a child and indeed it does - no matter how small that village is. Single mums tend to support each other, as we know of the struggle and the battles; but what is more amazing are those people who have not experienced our struggle, and yet they care enough to give us a helping hand and a shoulder. Those few people who recognise us, and see our struggle make a real difference to us - that stranger who stops in the shop to distract our children when they are having a meltdown, that friend who call to ask us how we are doing and if we need anything, the men who choose to play daddy in their lives - all of those people contribute in supporting us and we do not acknowledge them enough maybe verbally, but deep down you have no idea how grateful we are to those people. We do not want pity- we do not want those sorry looks - all we want is people to actually put into action what they are saying- actions speak louder than words and your actions tells us about your intentions.

So to those men, who comes in the form of our father/brother/cousin/friend or even stranger a big thank you for re-storing our hope in manhood. I am lucky enough that my brother chose to play that role in my family - although he has his own family, he still helps me with the school runs, with babysitting duties and so on. I could not have done it without him - when I gave up and didn’t believe in me, he pushed me to stand on my own feet - when I need a break, he takes time off work to look after my kids - and whenever he mentions having 4 kids, rather than 2- somewhere I feel even if something was to happen to me, he’d be there for them. My kids chose to call him ‘daddy’ and people have frown upon this as he is their uncle and it could confuse them- they are not confused - they are just giving him the respect and love he deserves.

A real man knows when to stand up and when to sit down; a real man knows how to take responsibility on (whether it’s his or not); a real man doesn’t just do the talk, but he also does the walk; a real man does not live in a fantasy world but faces reality ( no matter how ugly it is); a real man will know where his priorities lie; a real man will guide and support and finally he will give and command respect. So cheers to all the real men out there - keep up with it - we need you!

And for those Muslims out there who are scared of us single mums for whatever reasons - the prophet (peace be upon him) was raised by a single mother until she passed away, his first wife Khadija bint Khuwaylid was also a single mother and business woman, Maryam bint Imran was a single mother, Sawdah bint Zam’a ( the prophet’s 2nd wife) was a single mother who was old, Umm Salamah (another wife of the prophet) also a single mum and barren, Zaynab bin Jahsh a divorcee ( wife of the prophet), Ramla bint Abu Sufyan (wife of the prophet and a single mum) and Safiya bin Huyay (wife of the prophet belonging to a Jewish family).  We single mums and divorcees have so many examples to look up to and we should know our worth according to what the prophet has set and not what society wants us to think. Ladies let’s try to please Allah and his messenger (peace be upon him)!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Happily ever after is in the Hereafter

I was reading a post earlier and it said “Happily ever after is only in the Hereafter” and this made me smile. We are always running after this ‘Happily ever after’ in this world - the dream job, the dream house, the dream marriage/partner, the perfect kids, the perfect education, the perfect look etc etc. So many times, we feel we have failed cos we are nowhere near the targets we’ve set. We still have a long way to go or maybe we have given up on the idea of ever even getting there.

I personally had to change a lot of things in my life. When I was 18, I set some goals with a friend and we both decided by the time we are 29 we would have achieved so many things in life. Sadly, my friend passed away just after his 20th birthday so he didn’t get to fulfil any of his dreams. It was a bit of a wake up call for me then, we plan but Allah is the biggest of planners. The targets we tend to set are more to do with the achievements of this world, the best target we could set is to do with the hereafter.

I must admit, many of things I set out to achieve by the age of 29 has not been fulfilled; some of them I know deep in my heart will most like never become true; though somewhere in me, I have hope that Allah’s plan is much better and bigger than the one I had.

Becoming a mum before the age of 25 was really not part of my plan, but it was part of Allah’s plan and probably the best I have had so far.  It has taught me so many things about life and about myself. I have been blessed with motherhood, even though maybe I have had to give up on other things; but I wouldn’t change it for anything else in this world.

When I turned 29, I decided it was time to change those milestones I had set; some were outdated and others were just not practical; maybe the best choice is to leave it all to Allah, for Him to decide what is to come without really planning too much ahead.

When my dad passed away, me and my siblings decided to talk to my mum and let her know that we will support her if she ever decides to get married again. Loneliness can be something quite hard to deal with, especially if you have spent most of your life by someone’s side. I clearly remember my mum’s answer: “ No matter how hard it gets here in this world on my own, I at least have the hope that in the hereafter, I will be with your dad again, as his wife once more.” This for me is one of  the “Happily ever after” - to have experienced true love and to be willing to wait for the rest of your life to re-live it. They did not have the perfect marriage, but they had what it took to understand each other and to survive through their 25 years of marriage.

So, I have hope that no matter what I have had, and what I have in this world; what is to come in the Hereafter in every aspect of my life will be much better even if I have to wait for eternity InshaAllah. We are but travellers in this world.

My dear sisters, let’s stop running after the goals we have set here, and focus on the fruits we will reap there InshaAllah.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

FREEDOM behind the veil

All we really want sometimes is to be truly free. Our daily struggles make it almost impossible to reach this freedom until we reach breaking point and we have to put everything in perspective. What if real freedom is actually separating us from all the life goals,all those milestones we have been setting ourselves to meet the standard of success set by society?

For years I have been busy trying to put the broken pieces back-  what if the pieces are not meant to be put together agin? What if, it was meant to be broken in the first place so that it can be a unique and beautiful piece of work? I told one of my friend once that I’m broken, and her answer was you are a beautiful kind of broken cos you are expensive and no one can really afford you. Bearing in mind that at that time, my friend was having her own crisis and feeling ‘broken’ herself- it hit home at that time- not that what she said meant much- but the simple fact she had something to say to make me want to feel better about myself. 

Today’s blog is mainly a thank you, first and foremost to God - the Creator and the Healer and then to all those people who have contributed in a way or the other to shape me - the people who’ve left good memories and those who have also hurt me at times. When we are at a point in life where we feel low, everything else feels negative - but when we manage to drag yourself out of this self-pity mode and look at things - even the negative people in our life has brought about some positivity.

Society has set certain standards and certain rules, culture has also set additional norms to follow and sometimes our value system does not agree with those rules and norms but we want to fit in badly - we feel the need to belong as humans and we try to adhere to those rules and norms set. Then we start living a lie - a life to please others: our parents, our family, our friends, the community and so on- we try to mould ourselves into their mould, but we forget we were not made for these moulds, so failure was guaranteed from the beginning.

We live in a world where everything is materialistic, where relationships have become a business deal - whereby people won’t help you  unless you give something in return; where friendship,love and all relationships have become business dealings of give and take and once you have nothing to give - you are sent to the scrapyard. This can be hard for givers - who were born to give automatically, who were raised to not expect anything in return when they give. As a giver, you are constantly intentionally or unintentionally putting yourself in positions where people will take, to the point where you are drained of giving and you have given too much of yourself- where you are exhausted from putting others’ needs above yours. 

A message for givers: you have needs too and you also need to learn to take and find other givers who will give you back and not just take from you. Your kindness is what makes you extraordinary, but your kindness is also what makes you vulnerable. Some people are born takers: everything is a business deal and is about making profit - and if you are not careful, you will end up losing more than you intended to give. Do not let anyone have this power over you without them intending to give you something else in return. It is a selfish world out there and you got to look out for yourself! Learn to say No! Learn to say Enough!

In the process of giving, I’ve lost myself more than once - but i’m glad i’ve learnt to step back and to say No! Enough! For years, I’ve been trying to find myself again - but I was looking in the wrong place all along - I was looking to find myself in a society/community I didn’t belong to. But today, I’ve found myself - and I know I do not belong and never will - my values are too different, my beliefs do not fit in and I certainly would be more unhappy trying to fit than live by what I believe in.

When I was at uni, we had this cartoon picture where friends would tag each other according to the type of characteristics/personality  traits  others thought was closer to them. I remember being tagged as ‘the one who takes no crap’. At that time, I remember laughing about it but never really pondering why everyone agreed to it. But today it makes perfect sense: I was the type of person who would tell you things the way they were whether it offends you or not and I just didn’t let anyone walk over me. I was actually proud of that me- because I stood for what I believed in and what I believed to be right rather than what would be acceptable according to society’s standards. I set the rules back then- I was the Alpha- the pack leader - the one nobody dared to mess with.

But then, life happened and I broke. My ex-husband was warned about me - I warned him myself and people around me warned him - I was too strong for my own good - I was not one to break easily and to put up with nonsense. Maybe, he took it as a challenge and had to prove everyone else wrong. God knows best, but you cannot completely break what God is protecting. Today, I thank God for the bad experience - it has made me even stronger and firmer in my belief. Every experience good or bad counts and make us who we are today, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the bad experience. Some people come into our life to stay, others to teach us a lesson and move on. So, I would like to thank him too for the lesson - my experience of him has taught me a lot and has definitely make me believe that God believed I was stronger than I thought.

Some years back, I used to wear the face veil - something I took on because I wanted to. My family was not keen on the idea though they did not contest it. They believed I was going through some form of extremism in the religion- and truth be told even I started to think maybe I was lately. Wearing the face veil though was not for me to show my piety but it was something I did in my personal journey, something I did to please God as an extra act of worship. Then I found myself alone - raising my daughters; I felt the pressure of finding a job to provide for my family, the pressure of being a single Muslim woman out and about in the street with 2 kids in a non-muslim country and I gave in. I found all the excuses to take it off - to make my life easier. 

Today, I realise this was where things started to go downhill. It is just a piece of garment that doesn’t mean much maybe - but it was my decision- it was my faith that I jeopardised it. From then, all the other pieces of clothing became a formality - something that was accepted in the society I was trying to conform to, but it was a lie- a lie I was living as it didn’t represent me - I was not identifying the way I wanted to. I grew tired of 'practsing' Muslims who were completely hollow from inside and wanted and still want to separate myself from them - those cultural muslims who pray 5 times a day, dress like a muslim but who's character did not conform to the teaching of Islam.

For the past few weeks, I asked God to free me rather than to give me something I wanted - I wanted to feel free again and that’s the prayer I made. I attended my Sunday class in the mosque and prayed there and one more time asked God to free me when I come out of the mosque. This time, I felt a relief, I could not wait to be out of the mosque and I went home and as I got home- I texted 2 friends and said I feel like putting my face veil on. One asked me why and the other told me to do it if that’s what I feel like. So I went upstairs and rummaged through my box of clothes and found my face veil and gloves. Just as I was putting them on, my daughters walk in and they both said “Mummy, you look so beautiful like this. I like you like this.” 
Part of the reason I had given to myself before to take it off was about their safety - what if I get attacked while they are with me? But their little sentences struck home, so I looked up in the mirror and I recognised the person I was looking at - it was someone I have seen before and someone I was proud to be. It was then that I realised this is who I was looking for all along. It was God who protected me all along , not men.

So, I took them to the park with their scooters, we ran like crazy - had a race which I lost, but we haven’t had that much fun together in a while - they didn’t care I looked different - they valued me for being who I was - their mum. But, I felt FREE from everything that tied me down before.

So thank you, to you Miss I - my partner in crime for always supporting me; my family for your support and positive criticism, Yezarck- for being my role model and the big sister I always need and all my friends.
But I will also like to thank those people who intentionally or unintentionally have brought me hurt and pain along the way - cos without you, I would still be struggling to find myself, FREEDOM and PEACE. You as much or maybe even more than others contributed in making me stronger and helping me recognise my true identity. Some people are not meant to stay with us for the rest of the journey but they come into our life to teach us a lesson.

May God bless all of you!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Time to refresh, re-evaluate and re-construct Single Muslim Mums!

My blogs address a lot of the issues face by single muslims mums- as I am one. I have let this become my only identity- someone who is constantly thriving, constantly battling to survive . It has been a long, exhausting and lonely journey and it still is.

Most people don't choose single parenthood- it chooses us. The reason being is we are the chosen ones because God believes we can pull this up. We are strong enough for it, and as he promised "Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Qur’an, 2:286).

I've hit rock bottom so many times now that I've lost count, but what brings me back every time is my faith. I've had a long struggle with my imaan for about 10 years now. I threw myself in the deep end 10 years ago- raising the bar really high for what I consider make myself the best Muslim. This by far has been the greatest test of my life. I've lost perspective on what my aim is so many times. I am here to worship my Lord, and the rest is just experiences on the way. I mean obviously we need to have a career, a family life, friends etc but that's not our purpose- our purpose is not to please people or even to seek happiness in this world but rather in the hereafter. 

I blog to let other single Muslim Mums out there to know we are all going through the same thing- yes  we have to deal with the stigma of being divorced, single mums, of being a particular skin colour, of suffering from certain conditions which most people don't understand. 

Lately I have been a lot on survival mode- I was basically living because I have kids under my care- and I couldn't possibly abandon them. I lost interest in everything else- I forgot being myself. As a single mum who is not co-parenting it's hard to put yourself first. It's hard to find the time for you- when you are always busy providing and caring for others. The only me time us mums possibly have is when the kids are in bed. This doesn't even count so much as me time- as you are still stuck and limited in what you can do- you cannot step out, you cannot really enjoy a banter with an adult if you live by yourself. So, you try to find other things to do: like watching a film, reading a book , work out etc- but it get to the point where you are frustrated of the same routine day in and out- there's a void that's not being filled. 

I find that I struggle mostly when I forget to be who I used to be before being 'mum' and maybe the problem lays in me being so different from the old me. I am living a life contrary to my personality- from an extrovert- i've become an introvert, I used to have a lots of friends, now I can count all of them on the fingers of my right hand. I've learnt over the years to choose my friends carefully and not everyone is worthy of your trust - something I knew form a long time ago, but something that never bothered me much back in the days. I've learnt to bite my words and to adhere to social conventions, whereas the old me was outspoken and didn't mince my words. I've learnt people get offended easily when you speak the truth, I've learnt that nowadays you are in people's life only as long as you are useful to them. All those things re not really problem in themselves as this is how the world functions- the problem is when you believe in a different concept about what the world should be and you have the conviction that it should be something completely different and you struggle with the fact that you can't change it. You focus on bringing about the change in others- knowing full well that such a a change will never happen. Then anger builds in, and cos it's all been bottled down deep inside and you've not been able to convey your feelings- you start to suffocate under it and in all this you lose a little bit more of yourself.

I think not long ago I blogged about the fact that growing up, my dad used to say to me if someone shows you an apple and he believes it's an orange - there is no way in the world you will change his mind. I completely agree with the statement, but somewhere deep in me, I have to fight this injustice- It is just not right. I tried to ignore such things- just g with the flow- live according to the norms of society but it is just not me!

So then I sink into depression, cos I'm battling who I am with what I am expected to be. I had this thing about doing what's right since a very young age. I remember in primary school- some kids refused to play with certain kids cos their social status etc- even at a young age I made it a point to play with them at break times and to sit at their table when it was end of year party. I decided to ignore those other children who thought they were better than others. You can call it pride or ego if you like- but for me it was doing what's right.

As a single mum, we live by a lot of principles because we've seen people disrespecting our rights over and over again - and after becoming a single mum - I feel even more strongly about doing the right thing and to fight for the inequalities. When I give up on this, and just abide by the fake rules created by society- a piece of me die every time and so does my faith.

I have to keep reminding myself, it's not the religion- but the people. Do not judge a Islam by the actions of Muslims or else I would lose my beliefs. I have so many times given on different things that I upheld when my imaan is at its best, but when it's at its low- then I struggle and give in to worldly pleasure- such a listening to music rather than the Quran. And being fully aware - music is the disease of the heart. Music deal with emotions, and how we are feeling rather than what is the solution- the Qur'an on the other hand offers the solution "Which of the favours of your Lord will you deny? " ( Surah Al Rahman). This is one of my favorite surahs among many others. So now I blast it off- set new goals on where I want to be religiously. I was never too strict- the society was too lenient. When I'm pleasing my lord and I know all my actions are pleasing them- then in that I find happiness. I need to stop running after worldly things and keep preparing for the hereafter- let go of all the distraction and entertainment and fill my heart and my soul with that which will please my Lord.

So for all of you single muslim mums who are battling depression day in and out - cut everything else out- including your children- make Allah your only focus point and 'with every difficulty will come ease" (94:6). You do not need to become lenient towards your deen to please a society thats not aiming to please their Lord. I know this may sound weird because I've done it myself- kept to the strict minimum and think that's enough- but if you believe there is more to the religion then give it your all and put in practise all that is right- whether you earn a few friends on the way or lose some- but you will always have God by your side.

"Allah is sufficient for us and He is the Best Guardian". (Quran, Surah Al-Imraan)

Our rewards is and shall be with Allah alone.

Keep rocking and rolling my dear single muslim mums- lets aim for the hereafter together and quit trying to please others.

Umm Safia

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Extract from The Mum's Diary

This is a short story I've written which is part of a bigger story. All characters are fictitious but might bare resemblance with some people.

Day 1
It’s 1 a.m. The kids have been asleep for a long time now. I should be too. I’ve been trying. I told myself it’s time to go to bed too but it’s been more than 2 hours since. The house is quiet as usual. It is the time of the day/night that I used to enjoy; the few hours where there’s no shouting, no fighting, no rush, no homework, no chores, the house is clean and quiet and when I could enjoy the sweet silence.

The same silence now that I dread; I wish it wasn’t night, I wish they didn’t have to go to sleep, I want to hear the shouts, the fights, the arguments. The silence is starting get eerie, it’s the sort of loud silence that you can hear even when there’s nothing to hear. 
I try to read a book, get past the first few lines and decided it wasn’t doing any good; I don’t care about whether the character wants to move somewhere else because the grass is greener. She’ll eventually figure out it’s not as green as she thought, then reality will hit her and throw her down once again, and she will have to start all over again and it won’t be heading anywhere as usual and if it does, it’s all fantasy as in real life nothing as such happens.

Anyway, the book was a bad idea to start with; so I move on to look for a good film to watch, nothing is good enough - there’s not a good horror, not a good thriller, I don’t like fantasy, the romcoms make me sick, the chickflicks are fake, just absolutely nothing interesting. Maybe I should go back to watching ‘Women who kill’ I thought, I used to enjoy that. So, instead I try to find a film that I used to enjoy before, put it on, but I already know all the scenes and even though I watched this a million times before and loved it, now it seems boring and I fast forward most of it. 

So far, it’s only 2 a.m. Nothing much has changed. So I get up and decide to pray a bit more, maybe God will listen to my prayers and bring some meaning to life. So I pray, and pray and pray. It’s only 3 a.m now. I’m tired of praying. I’m not sure if it’s just a physical tiredness or there’s more to it. But who cares!

I crawl back into my bed, the same bad I’ve been spending days and nights on that badly needs to be sorted, the bedding needs to be changed , there are creases all over, but I don’t care anymore; that just means additional work: more washing, more tidying up, more getting stress over why this side of the bedsheet is not being tucked properly and why it’s longer than the other side. I don’t want to do it, I refuse to contemplate about beddings and bedsheets.

It’s 4 a.m. now. I hear a muffled noise, it’s my own. How long have I been sniffling? I have no idea - time and day doesn’t matter anymore. We are passed that stage. Actually I don’t even remember what day it is anymore. I’ve started to wear my watch 24/7 so I do not lose the notion of time as well. I forgot too many times in the past few days what day and time it was - I was doing the wrong thing at the wrong time; I forgot it was time to pick up for school, I forgot it was swimming day for the kids, I forgot I had an appointment - forgetting seems to be the new black! I want to remember the little things that needs doing, not the things I have been trying to forget. But the old memories are like a stubborn old man, they are not ready to leave to make place for the new ones. It’s like, they made it a point to block any new ones from entering their territory - they rule and they will carry on ruling.

So now it’s actually 5 a.m, a ray of hope - the day is about to start. I’ll be so busy that it wouldn’t matter anymore. I won’t have any time to ponder over my uselessness. Just another 1.5 hours, and the kids should be up and there should be enough noise and mess in the house; which I will hate but which I will also love. It’s like having a bitter-sweet relationship. I hate the mess, I hate the noise, but maybe that’s what keeps me sane and give my sleepy and inactive brain something useful to do.
Tick Tock Tick Tock. Just waiting for the little voices now - anytime it will be there!

Finally, they are awake, I can hear them talking about coming into my room and discussing if it’s a good idea or not. They have to tread carefully at the moment, they have been walking on glass - any wrong movement from their side and they can end up in trouble even when they didn’t call for it.

A little knock on the door, ‘Can we come in?’ asked a little voice.

I have been waiting for this. ‘Yes’, I said but there was still no enthusiasm in my voice. Maybe I should fake it, and show them that I do want them around.

Kisses and cuddles, just what I needed and the little ‘I love yous’. There’s something magical about a child telling you they love you - because you know that they are the only people who really mean it. Kids are not scared to show their emotions, and being able to experience a child’s love is an amazing blessing that I should be thankful for. But I’m not.  I’m just an ungrateful being who can only see the negatives in everything. 

So they hop into the bed and start to fight about wanting me to be right by their side or which side of the bed I should be facing. Now, I’ve had enough. I don’t even want them in the room anymore. It’s getting too loud and I’m missing the silence of the night. So I shoo them off to their room telling them I’ve had enough of them arguing over everything and to leave me alone! 

Alone! - a word that means nothing yet everything.

The morning has started, so I will keep busy, there’s breakfast time, washing, getting ready etc. There’s no time to waste. We have to get there on time. We need to rush through everything even though we are actually early. I’m just looking for a reason to shout at them now. Why are your shoes still not on? Where’s your hair clip? Any excuse is good for me to have a go at them at this point. 

‘I’ve told you to get your school bag, didn’t I?’ I shouted
‘But you never took it out of the car!’ the older child says.

Indeed I haven’t. When was the last time I actually did some work with her or listen to her reading books? I couldn’t remember - all I know is it’s been a while. What do I even do when I’m home? 

I’ve told her to read a book to her younger sibling everyday and she does - so I don’t even need to keep an eye on her reading. All I have to do is make sure the are fed, they quite like cereals anyway so that does the job some days. But I’ve been trying lately to cook different dishes, to re-invent myself - maybe If I make good enough food, it will turn into some sort of hobby and skill. But other days, I can’t be bothered to even get the cereal box out.

So I drop them off to school. The rest of the day is easy, being spent between doing some actual work and staring at the ceiling. Maybe I should do something interesting, like go running - but it’s raining as usual. How about making new furniture with the pallets - this is something I enjoyed before, not a really good idea since it’s raining outside and working inside means more mess and more cleaning.

It’s almost pick up from school time, but I forgot cos I was too busy staring at an empty ceiling, so now i’m running late. But I end up there just a few minutes later.

So we set off for home. 
‘Where are you going?’ asks the children.
‘Home, where else?’ I replied. 
‘But it’s Wednesday today.’ says the older one.
‘Damn it! I forgot again!’

So a quick U-turn, one of many nowadays and back to where I should be heading.

Finally home and dinner time. I dish the food - I sit down and eat with them, they are busy telling the things that they did today and I have no idea what they are talking about- it seems like they are so far away , all I can see is their mouths moving but no sound coming out.

‘Is that right mummy?’ the little one asks.
‘What is right?’ I ask.

So she starts all over again, and I still can’t hear it. I’m gone now, I’m very far in my mind.

‘Is it right?’ she asks again. ‘Mummy!’ now she is getting annoyed.
‘Yes, it’s right,’ I say. I don’t really care, it probably is wrong but who cares what’s right or wrong. They’ll figure out as they grow up. I am not always right and I don’t know everything so whatever answer I give yes or no it wouldn’t make a difference to them.

‘You said we can have ice-cream today.’ says the older one.
‘Did I?’ I try to remember but it’s pointless, I can’t remember most conversation nowadays cos I’m not even participating in them.

Anyway, they can have ice-cream if that makes them happy and they don’t expect anything else from me.

‘Can we watch something?’ they ask.

Of course they can, that’s what they have been doing every day now - wasting their time watching useless stuff cos I can’t be arsed to acknowledge their presence, I might as well buy a TV and a tablet like all those parent who use them as babysitters!

So they watch until it’s bed time. But I want to do something different today, so I choose a film we can all watch together - I’ve been told it’s a good film. It’s about this little girl that is super intelligent and is being raised by her uncle after her mum passed away. Something which according my twisted mind is suitable for little kids to watch. But I forgot how sensitive my eldest is, she’ll cry at anything even a cartoon - so there she was in tears when the girl gets taken away and put in a foster family. So I cry along with her - not sure what i’m crying for. Maybe I’m sad for my child, maybe I’m sad for the little girl in the film, maybe i’m sad for the uncle for losing his ‘daughter’, maybe I’m sad because I just happened to be a sad person. I’m not sure but it felt good to hug her and cry.

So it gets to bed time again and the eerie silent night starts all over again.

Day 2 
Repeat of Day 1

Days 3 
Repeat of Day 1

And so on

The end.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Single mums battling stress and depression

I have never met any single mum who hasn’t had to battle with depression at one point or another in life. It’s a free gift that comes along with single parenthood. This is not my story but the story of single parents in general and of a lot of other categories of people.

As single parents, we have become accustomed to solely rely on ourselves, partly due to having been let down and partly due to pride. It’s having this constant pressure to prove to ourselves rather than others that we do not need anyone and we are more than capable to do everything by ourselves; that we have everything under control and all is well.

Let’s be honest, nobody has all their shit together, we try our best, but we are bound to fail at times or the other. We know it, and we understand it. We know we have good days and bad days like other people, but sometimes the bad can be overwhelming, it can makes us feel like we are failing in every aspect of life. We know in reality it’s not true. We know that we are not complete failures but unfortunately we have set high standards for ourselves, standard which when we fail to meet at times can feel like having devastating effects on ourselves ad those around us, in particular the people we love and care about the most, mainly our children.

Everyone deal with problems differently, some withdraw as a mean to find strength within, some are able to ask for help and find support in others. We are all different, and our reaction to stress tends to be different depending on our personality and experience. Dealing with stress is not the main issue, it’s when this stress take over your life, in particular your family life. 

From observing and discussing with single mums, I realised  a lot of suffer find comfort to suffer in silence as we are not used to asking for help or relying on others; when we find ourselves in a place where support is offered, we start to have doubts whether it’s genuine, it’s a show or it’s pity.

One thing we really have a hard time to accept is the fact that often we are made to feel consciously or unconsciously as this pitiful creature, with a ‘horrific’ past that needs to be saved and supported because life has been too hard on us. We are not looking for pity and the last thing you can offer us is this ‘I feel so sorry for you’. We do not need that, we’ve made it without you feeling sorry for us, we would rather you just offer us your companionship than support; we are more than capable of supporting ourselves and we have done a good job so far without your pity. Sometimes, all we need is knowing we can talk to you about anything, without you throwing your sympathy in our face. 

We are the role models for our children, and when things start to go haywire, our first reaction is how are the kids processing it. For example, when we are dealing with stress or depression, we might have the best of everything in life, yet it feels like we have achieved nothing-  our children may be doing everything in the world that makes us prude of them, and we genuinely are but somewhere in our mind, we have a battle going on about the other things we are not able to give them; those little pleasures they are seeking, when are unable to provide it make us feel like failures.

One of my friends kids have recently started asking a lot of questions about their absent father. This can be quite stressful if you do not hold the answers to certain question, especially as she explained that her children were now trying to find father figures in other people; linking her to men they think will make their family complete, and even asking people to marry their mum. As a single mum myself, I can understand how frustrating that is, it adds pressure on her to find someone to give her children a ‘normal’ family life - something she knows she cannot do by herself - she would never be able to fit in the shoes of a father no matter how hard she tries. She is bound to fail in this area. Moreover, marrying single mums is another subject in itself- how many men are actually whole-heartedly ready to step up and foot the bill of a ready-made family? Little things like that, which is not in our control can add on to the already ongoing emotional, physical and financial pressure we face on a daily basis.

I wish we could have a support system in place for Muslim single mums, where some of the pressure can be taken off them. Certain things are not always practical, such as going for counselling, it’s additional pressure, who looks after the kids when you go? Or suggestions such as go to the gym, really? when does she get to do that unless she can afford to pay for the creche.  It’s easy to tell her make me time for yourself, but how is she supposed to do that? Only other single parents understand this and unfortunately the pressure is so high on each of them that at times it becomes difficult to support each other.

I cannot offer any practical advice to any single mum in that position but I’d just like to remind you, you have been there before, many a times and you will be here again many a times - just remember that whatever you are doing, someone else is completely relying on you and you need to be physically and emotionally available and strong for them.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

I am a muslim and I am not a racist but I wouldn't marry a black guy!

Assalamu’alaikum dear readers and fellow bloggers,

I had taken a long break from blogging, probably more than year; I got busy with life, work and kids but inshAllah I want to re-start blogging or at least blog from time to time about issues which I think should be discussed.

My topic will touch a number of subjects, in particular, racism in Islam but I will also look at other things, such as single motherhood since this actionmum blogspot!

Firstly, I want to give bit of background about my upbringing which will probably explain why I failed or still cannot get around certain issues I found that majority of muslims prioritise. I was born in a practising family, with very limited cultural input; obviously we dressed according to our tradition, ate our type of food etc, but there was not any mixing of Islam with cultural beliefs or tradition. It has not always been the case for my family, before my birth ; my parents were pretty much cultural muslims, they did things because their parents were doing it without any understanding of why it was required and if it was required at all. Alhumdulillah, they both wanted to learn and Allah guided them. By the time, I came along, I never got to see the traditional/cultural side of them. My parents did not attend family gatherings where certain unislamic things were practised or things which they considered bid’ah (innovation) or where shirk was practised although good ties were maintained with family and friends; so I was pretty much ignorant about cultural muslims.

Growing up, I pretty much had a very simplistic approach to Islam, which was all based on Qur’an and sunnah. Obviously being  a teenager and myself, I was not a perfect or an almost perfect practising muslim, and had  and still do have my shortcomings which is from my nafs. May Allah reward both my parents for their guidance. Ameen.

I grew up in a multicultural society, we were the only muslim family in our area, and honestly we loved it. I hated the idea of living in a muslim only area. I was lucky enough Alhumdulillah to have friends from all shades and colours, from different nationalities and backgrounds. I even went on to study at a catholic secondary school, as my parents wanted me to be in a school where discipline was at the heart of it, and faith schools are known for being strong on discipline. During my years at secondary school, I mainly had non-muslim friends, and the very few muslims that did attend the school were not much practising or belonged to more cultural families. Till date, I am still in touch with my secondary school friends, muslims and non-muslims and so many have had such a beautiful journey, some of them, their lives have taken a u-turn and it’s amazing to see how they have all become stronger and better in different ways.

My point is, growing up, I never thought I had to choose my friends based on their ethnicity, nationality, religion, sect, caste, social status etc. I had no clue how important this is actually among muslims, please bear in mind I said Muslims and not Islam. My parents never discouraged me in anyway or talked down about people who were ‘different’ to us. For me, if you accept someone, you accept them fully as they are.

I then moved to a European country for further studies. This was my first contact with the muslim world without my parents involvement. When I came to the UK, I knew things were going to be different, I was to live by myself but I was also to make the right choices and uphold the trust my parents have put in me. Again, I was not always on top of everything but I tried my best. The city I chose to live in and study was mainly a ‘white English’ city; so finding common grounds was going to be hard. The university was chosen by many students for it’s wild nightlife. Let’s just say, it was famous across UK for getting drunk and clubbing. I didn’t struggle to make friends,; everyone on my course was ‘white’, my flatmates were all ‘white’ and they were all non-muslim. I just did not have much in common with them. Their favourite hobby was to go clubbing obviously and get pissed. By that time,  I had made friends with 2 practising Christians, who were not against the idea of sometimes going out for a meal. So, basically that was my social life.

I then came across, some people who were originally form my country but soon realised, I was better off keeping my distant from most of them, and basically I only got along with 1 Hindu girl and she didn't drink, she didn’t date and we had much more in common than the rest of the people I had met so far.

After a while, I came to know, there was a uni mosque; so I started going to the mosque to pray and also in the hope of making friends. Never did it cross my mind  how hard it was going to be to make muslim friends. My first year at uni was miserable in terms of making muslim friends. I realised that most people tend to hang around with people from their country of origin or belonging to the same ethnicity group as them. I mean people would say hello to you and be friendly with you when they see you, but that was about it, nobody was interested in becoming your friend for real. I almost gave up on making muslim friends then, I had managed to only make 1 muslim guy friend and that was pretty much about it. Now, I know it might be like omg, it was a guy etc. I was a tomboy, so having guy friends was never an issue to me, I pretty much thought of myself as a guy, and I’m sure, my friends who knew me back in the days would certainly agree with this statement.
So, after attempting to break through different ethnic groups at uni, I decided it was not gonna happen.

My second year at uni, was much better, there was a lot of young girls who joined uni, they were my juniors but they also wanted to practise the deen, so they used to come to the mosque , as we used to call it, the den. Those girls had something similar with me as they did not belong to any group, basically we used to call ourselves, the rejects. We used to laugh about it, but nevertheless, it was also stating  an important fact. Some were mixed-raced and thus did not belong to a group, others were asians born and bred in Arab countries, so the didn't have anything in common with the Arabs or asians, some like me, did not have anyone form their country of origin, or their parents country of origin, some were reverts, in a nutshell, we did not belong to a majority group. 
Uni was basically, my first exposure to racism among muslims and how you can become an outcast in the muslim community.

‘You are good enough to be an acquaintance, and I’ll call you my friend but you are not good enough to be part of my circle.’- Moi, I believe that was really the motto.

Following uni, there was talk about marriage and all, and obviously at that point in my life, I was not sure what I was going to do next, it was hard to find a proper job due to recession , I was considering studying further, but i was not completely against the idea of getting married if I met the right person. By that time, I felt so strongly about the whole racism in Islam thing, cos I would interact with people and realised how narrow-minded they were - they had to marry a person from a particular country of origin, of a particular shade, of a particular ethnicity, of a particular caste, of a particular nationality, of a particular sect, of a particular social status, of a particular educational level, of a particular profession etc etc. I realised that people have missed the whole point about marriage; people should be married for 4 reasons, and we agree on that, but there was one reason that topped all the others: that was virtue and deen!

I remember I was so annoyed, I even started a group about interracial marriage on Facebook to change people’s mentality- I was crazy maybe, but I thought through discussion about the religion and through hadith and Qur’an, I could change people’s mindset. I started to see the stigma attached to non-white reverts ( I am sorry but white reverts, you do have it easier than the rest cos of your skin colour), to people of darker skin colour, to people who were not arabs or asian- yes! I mean black people. There was so much fuss over such petty things, when we were only meant to be striving for akhirah. I remember discussions with friends, and they put it down to personal preference or just pleasing their parents. I still believe it is not personal preference, it’s all this bullshit people have been fed through colonialism and their own belief that the fairer skin is better, or that we have better hair than them etc. I never had any issue with someone’s skin color, educational level, social status, caste, nationality etc; my parents taught me from early on, if someone is good enough to be your friend, then he/she is good enough to be part of your family. I knew my family won’t have any issues if I decided to marry someone ‘different’ as long as that person is a muslim. So I purposely looked for people who were ‘different’, as a single woman ( never been married before)  and a virgin, I considered people from all backgrounds: white reverts, black reverts, asian reverts, divorcees, single parents, people form African origin, people from Asian origin etc, born muslims who have committed zina but repented, people with a disability. I did not see why I should look down upon someone who had a past, who has a particular skin color, who has kids; for me the only way they would excelled themselves was in the deen.

I got rejected by many, and I rejected others for reason of compatibility and ended up marrying a white revert. My ex- husband was not as educated as me, he had a past, he didn’t have a high paid job or career,he was younger than me, he didn’t have children (though if he did, it would not have been an issue); but at that time I saw his love for the deen and that was all that mattered. I am not saying that look only for the deen, but that should be our priority. My marriage did fail, for different reasons. But, I have no regrets as such, I did istikhara before I got married and I believe it was Allah’s will, and I had my 2 beautiful children out of it. My point is, my marriage didn't go down the drain because of any of those superficial ideas that people look for when getting married, it was more to do with our personalities.

Now, as a divorcee and a single mother, I still have friends who don't belong. I have made new friends and we still fit in the ‘rejects’ category.  This now leads me to understand better the stigma attached to divorcees and single mums. Recently, things have been thrown more in my face. I have been going to the mosque regularly during Ramadan, so met a lot of other people,who would tell me how much they like me etc. And I have had discussions with my friends who are also single mums and divorcees. We had become so frustrated with Muslims; not Islam, but majority of muslims in this country follow their culture rather than the religion. I had been approached by aunties in the mosque to marry their son, until they realised I’m a divorcee with kids, my other friends have also been rejected for the same reason. Being divorcee, already gives you minus point, but being a single mum, double, triple etc your minus point depending on the number children you have. I’ve had people telling me they want to leave an abusive marriage but they are too scared to be on their own with or with our kids. How appalling is that! A person is ready to stay in an abusive relationship  for fear of rejection by the ‘Ummah’.

We forget that Bilal, the person with the most beautiful voice, was black, that Khadija (r.a) the first and only wife of the prophet (peace be upon him) until her death was higher in status than the prophet, was more educated, was more than 15 years older than him, was a widow with kids from her previous marriage, that the majority of the wives of the prophet, except for one were all divorcees and single mums and definitely not virgins ( as people seem to confuse chastity with virginity).

I just want people to reflect deeply. I am a mother of 2 mixed-race daughters, I wonder what the future will hold for my children. They have been raised by a single mum, come from a ‘broken’ family, they do not belong to any community in particular and one is fairer than the other. One day, InshaAllah I hope they find someone who will accept them for who they are. I hope I do not have to explain why certain people are ok with being ‘friends’ with us, but wouldn’t consider them as daughter-in law/ sister-in-law. I hope I don’t have to explain to my darker child, why her sister, being fairer gets more marriage proposals than her. 

Recently one of my friend told me she is suffering from a ‘disability’, she had been engaged for a year, when she found out about it. The groom to be and his family called off the wedding as they didn’t want a disabled wife/daughter-in law. My concern is, what would they have done, if she found out about it after the wedding, would they have just dumped her at her parents house? What if the situation was different and the guy was the one with the ‘illness’, would she have done the same? We look down on people because we think we are superior but all comes from Allah. Nobody chooses an illness or when they will fall sick, does that mean we have to consider those people as inferior to us?

Quite recently, I went through a phase where being fed up with the mentality of muslims, I was ready to give up on the religion itself, Alhumdulillah it didn't get that far. I have now decided to restrict my circle to people who accept us for who we are fully and not just as ‘friends’ but as family, who will one day consider to marry their sons to my daughters and will rise above those cultural barriers they have put up or their parents have put up. 

There is nothing more annoying than seeing people of knowledge or preaching knowledge, telling you all at the wonderful things about Islam, then realising, this is the same person that would never consider my daughter for her son or her brother because she wouldn’t tick her ridiculous boxes.

I hope that one day, the majority of muslims will release we are all equal in front of Allah, except in one thing and that is our good deeds.

Nobody choses any of the stuff that people give so much importance to, it was all given by Allah, except for our choice to follow the religion properly.

If you really think of people who are different from you as friends, then your actions should reflect that, and it should not be something that only comes out of your mouth to temporary please someone or to give you the false illusion that you are not a racist.
 Face it you are a racist! No need for sugarcoating.