Cover yourself…and others

We shouldn’t expose our sins, or the sins of others.

Abu Hurairah RA reported: Messenger of Allah ﷺ(sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “Every one of my followers will be forgiven except those who expose (openly) their wrongdoings. An example of this is that of a man who commits a sin at night which Allah has covered for him, and in the morning, he would say (to people): “I committed such and such sin last night,’ while Allah had kept it a secret. During the night Allah has covered it up but in the morning he tears up the cover provided by Allah Himself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

I don’t know why but sometimes we have the urge to confess.  Confess shortcomings or wrongdoings, faults…maybe it is an attempt to be self-deprecating or not to get a big head.  When discussing life we often feel the urge to not boast.  Okay.  But we must also not uncover our sins.  We need to repent and keep it private. This is not something I would have thought of as obvious, but there it is.

Similarly, if we see someone doing something that we think is bad, we should try to make excuses for them.  If they do something that we know is definitely wrong, we should say something – to them, and not to the rest of the world – we’re often quick to gossip but find it hard to tell the person to their face what we think they are doing is wrong…and in the end we end up wronging ourselves and maybe them too.

But if we are uncertain, or if they have made a mistake, we need to find an excuse for them and not judge.

And then, forgive.  This is especially hard for me.  I tend to write people off forever for some real or perceived wrong that they have done to me or others.  But this is baloney – if I can’t forgive others, how can I expect Allah to forgive me.

As always, trying to find that delicate balance between hope and fear.  But there is always love.

Nieces, nephews, the apple-butterfly story and a shout-out to Mr Darcy

Some of the most random conversations I’ve had have been with my nieces and nephews.  One night when the lights went out we all sat on the floor and told stories. Nuha’s one was about a butterfly and an apple (I don’t think she’ll remember this now because she was so young, and I’m not sure that I’m remembering it correctly either) and when we all started giggling she yelled at us for being “erretating”! Which is funny now still, especially because Nuha is so cool and calm nowadays.

For some reason one of the first words I remember Imaan saying is “water”, so I always associate watermelon with Imaan.  This kid really knows how to do a supermodel pose for a photo (at some point when she was about 2 years old she couldn’t smile for the camera at all – I think the concept of a fake-smile confused her sincere and uncomplicated picture of the world).

Aside: did you know (who knows if this is truly true but I read it somewhere) that we learn what smells good and what smells bad?  This means that roses smell rosy and sewage smells gross because at some point we taught our brains that we should have good or bad reactions to those smells.  This means that we could potentially have taught ourselves to like all smells!  If only I had known this before walking the smelly streets of India!  Anyways, I think that we also learn what to fear, for instance, the dark.  When the lights went out on that fateful storytelling night, the kids weren’t scared at all – why? Because they had not yet learnt to be afraid of the dark.  I wish that I could unlearn my fear of cockroaches and insects and things with wings.

Also, don’t underestimate energy – when Rania, Hanna, Nadia and I were babysitting one day, we thought we could get the kids tired by running around the yard, and then we’d all get some quiet time – well, we ended up tired, but the kids kept running (bad plan).  I want boundless energy!! How do we get that?  How can a kid spend hours playing the same game but I can’t even do one thing without looking at Twitter or email etc – what great focus they have.

The girls also sometimes end up in endless fits of giggles.  Nuha, Imaan, Tahani and Khadeeja have these insane laughing fits that remind me that kids laugh hundreds of times a day and adults, I think, laugh under 10 times a day.  How sad.   Why don’t we find things infinitely funny?  Are we afraid of being silly?

I also envy their sense of style and self-confidence.  Khadeeja, who I once thought was a tomboy, felt confident walking around with a tiara, heels and a flowy dress for a whole evening out.  How cool is that?!  Tahani, a bit more shy, still manages to surprise me when I notice her busting a move in one of our impromptu dancing moments.

The boys – well they’re just another ballgame all together, but I must say that I’m surprised by how affectionate they can be.  Momo is pretty much a tall almost-adult by now and he scandalizes me by how much he knows about…stuff.  He’s just about one firm handshake away from being a man, but it’s still strange to see this proper fully formed person moping around when I still remember the chubby cute baby (oh gosh I sound old).  Talha is an adorable little ball of energy, strong as a house and sweet as a marshmallow.  Although it’s little Uzayr who teaches me most about manners, always politely saying “Jee” to everything and everyone.

Laughter, confidence, manners, fun – I want to be a child for a day – and it’s not that hard – hanging out with these guys, my childhood feels just a skip and a hop away.

By the way, on the anniversary of my Elizabeth Bennett day, a bucketful of love and toasties must be sent to my very own Mr Darcy.  It’s probably time to read Pride and Prejudice (again).

But in the meantime, I need to remember to enter the world of these kiddos more often – so much fun has yet to be had, and they remind me of all things good, and teach me many things forgotten.

 

It’s just the dishes, but I’m grateful – and my husband taught me all I know about ironing

I’ve heard (or read?) that if you remember Allah when things are good, Allah will remember you when things are bad.  So let’s give thanks.  If you are reading this you are part of the literate educated elite, with internet access and some spare time.  Any problems we may have are not of the basic-survival kind.

For me, the small things hit me hardest – like waking up after a lazy late night to find that the Husband has washed all the dishes left in the sink.

Guess what, I didn’t know how to iron when I got married.  Well, I had one experience a few years ago in Durban, ironing Raha’s husbands shirts in the hotel ironing room (who knew that hotels had ironing rooms) but that was more of a game to see whether Nadia, Rania and I could do a halfway decent job of ironing – and I’m not sure whether Raha went and re-ironed our first sad attempts.

But Husband taught me how to iron a shirt, and then a kurta (which is a massive thing) and the other day he re-ironed a trouser I was struggling with, and showed me where the lines are.  You have to iron trousers on this pressed line thingy.  So much ironing complicatedness!

Anyways, I’m grateful that the guy not only changes all the broken lightbulbs, removes any wandering spiders, fixes door-handles and clocks and other things that I brake (break? which brake/break is correct?), but he also patiently teaches me to iron all manner of different clothes.  He even wields a huge chef’s knife to tackle onions when my eyes can’t take it.

This reminds me that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did his own chores: he mended his own clothes, took care of the goats (I think it was goats) and served his family.  He did not claim any superiority over other human beings, even though he was the best among us.

Anyways, while I try to learn house-hold-y things, thank goodness I have someone around who is more skilled than I at many of these mysterious tasks.

 

Mothers, sisters and khalas

I believe that having a sister is the coolest thing ever.  Ladies, if you have just one daughter, try for another.

My own sister Hanna is my fashion guide, movie-buddy, mind reader…and spirit animal (just kidding, I don’t even know what a spirit animal is).  I can always count on her to be with me at those interminable functions or events that us Indian girls are forced to be at (where are our brothers at these events, you might ask? They were allowed to stay home and play Playstation.  Maybe our parents thought the girls are like those debutantes from Jane Austen’s time, who needed be “seen” on the scene.  But I digress…)  Hanna will bust a happy-dance move with me for any small random awesomeness that only we understand, and we can talk in half-formed sentences, sometimes just one word conveying a whole history of meaning.  She is also always ready to say “BAM!” at any given moment, and everyone needs a Bam-Girl around.  It makes life worth living.

Then there’s  the cousins who are like sisters, and these often inevitably end up being the Khala’s daughters.  The reason probably is that our mothers also know the value of their sisters, so we end up spending a lot of time with those ladies, to our immense benefit.

I have only 1 sister and I have only 1 khala, but my 1 sweety-khala was kind enough to have given me 4 more sisters (thanks Aunty-tjie!)

If I ever vaguely yell “mum?” into a room where both sweety-khala and mum are sitting, they will both look up and say yes.  Khala’s are second moms.  Sweety-khala is not afraid to tell me when I’m wrong, treats me like a daughter, planned my wedding and made sure it went smoothly, calmed my mom down when I was acting crazy, and just generally being one of the most fun, practical, energetic and lovely ladies I know.  Khala teaches me the value of a good list (I love making lists) and how to throw a shoe with flair (in long-gone days she was always throwing shoes at the kids to get their attention:)

Moms are well – moms.  My mom has a laugh that can stop traffic (in a good way), a giggle that can warm your heart and a streak of perfectionism that I will never match. She is always trying to psycho-analyse us, much to Hanna and my amusement (because I have no idea where her theories come from) but she is always there: to stitch up a trouser, whip up a meal, laugh at a funny picture, dish on the gossip and give tons of advice.  Having a young (and young-at-heart) mom and khala keep things rolling at the speed of fun.

I spent most of my childhood with Rania, just a few months older than me, who is one of sweety-khala’s middle children.  We spent endless days together, sharing our common belief that one of our great-aunts looked very much like Nelson Mandela, studying together, making big decisions together, crying and laughing and chilling and everything in between.  Rania was my first love (in a totally platonic way guys!) And she is so beautiful MashaAllah!  May her future daughters have all of that beauty and more, InshAllah.

Nadia is the youngest of the bunch, whose childhood we stole by always being around – by this I mean that she was always surrounded by older girls, making her mature beyond her years.  This is the girl who will make a plan and enlist the help of strangers to get stuff done.  She is the youngest but the most resourceful person I know – and brave!

Rania, Nadia, Hanna and I were always off on a mission, building the tent, choreographing a dance, experimenting with make-up, taking our first selfies together, whiling away endless holiday hours playing scrabble or Jenga or building puzzles or playing TeacherTeacher/AuntyAunty/The Durban game (where we all pretended to pack up and be off on an adventure to Durban) and just plain being together.

Razina and Raha are the older sisters I never had.  They taught me the facts of life (to my utter horror), took us along on holidays, faffed around with us when we were too young to be cool or interesting and were really the inspiration for Rania, Nadia, Hanna and my growth into women.  I think the 4 of us all wanted to be just like Razina and Raha (not a bad idea at all).

Razina is gentle (with surprising outbursts of humour and laughter) while Raha is our ringleader.  Raha knows someone who knows something, she can get you a deal, give you directions, hand-make something that can be handmade (I can’t even give a concrete example here ‘coz I can’t hand-make anything) and basically sort out all of life’s problems.  Her mind works so practically that my mind just boggles.  Razina is the pacifier, keeping everyone happy and loved and feeling toasty inside.

Razina and Raha are now bringing up our next generation of ladies, and watching those girls play and love each other like we do, I know that their childhoods will be just as special as ours was.

With the backdrop to my life filled with scenes acted out by these ladies, I must say: life is good.

So here’s to all the amazing ladies in our lives.  Jummuah Mubaarak!

Lessons from Perr-Daadi, Nanima, Dadima (and that Bangladeshi aunty)

Getting milk at our street corner cafe.

The aunty wants to make conversation, tells me she is from Bangladesh, gives me a green apple and a huge smile and leaves me with her parting words “really, you are beautiful!” This lady reminds me that people are still doing it, what my grandmothers did – travelling across the world to start a new life, with a smile and a sense of humour (and really luminous skin!)

I wonder how hard it must be to try to start a life from scratch in a place where you can only speak your first language to your immediate family.  This aunty reminds me that giving a smile is an act of Sadaqa.

The stories

“When I was your age, I had to walk 5 miles in the snow just to get an ice-cream cone…..”

We sometimes tend to switch off when the parents or grandfolks start on about how hard life was in their days and how grateful we should be that we don’t have to poo outside in a long-drop hole, or plant our own vegetables or leave school to help support the family.

But I must admit these old-folk had gumption, to travel across the world in a ship, to a new country, to start a new life with nothing but a hope and a prayer, not knowing what awaited them on the other side (apartheid and sugar cane) but eager to leave the old behind (gaams and dusty roads, village life and extended families). And then later, deciding to stay when the South African apartheid government offered to buy back their citizenship for 25 rands (which apparently could buy you a plot in India in those days).

What did Perr-Daadi have to teach? Resourcefulness, flair and common sense.

Married at the age of 16 to a man she had only seen once (and at the time she wasn’t even paying attention), she spent her first night of married life in a farm in a roomful of other aunties.  When she asked whether they could switch on a light because she was afraid of the dark (and possibly this new life), she was refused, because that might disturb the other aunties.

When her husband passed away many years later, she took over the running of his general store and was always ready to implement an idea and make things happen. She couldn’t read but she tried new recipes anyway.

What I didn’t learn from Perr-Daadi (but my sister probably did) – a sense of style. The bag always matched the shoes always matched the scarf.  And high heels, even into her 70s.

Nanima and my over-used quote.

Nanima always said that all you need for a good marriage is “bread and butter, love and understanding”. Now that I’ve used this obligatory quote for the millionth time, let’s move on.

Nanima knew everything, but she would protect your secrets with a kind smile.  Her soft voice and sweet face hid the many difficulties she went through including the death of 4 of her children.  Nanima ran a huge household with quiet elegance, and taught me that not everything needs to be said.  If you can improve the silence, do.  If you can’t, be quiet. You don’t need to be loud to make an impact.

Dadima and the wet kisses

Dadima teaches about overmuch-love and selflessness.  Just a cough, and you’ll awaken to find her vigorously rubbing Vix on your chest, pushing bors-druppels on you and bundling you into an extra blanket.

Mostly, these lovely ladies taught me about resilience and pure gumption.  And awesomeness.