“I’m making up for a month of fasting,” she said, humorously.
The day of Eid arrived, signifying the end of a month of daytime fasting. Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims who spend it (primarily) by abstaining from food and drink from sunrise until sunset (among other nitty gritties). But from sunset until sunrise, all (halal) food is allowed. So when people are stunned at the ‘no eating for a WHOLE MONTH?!’ thing, I’m kind of confused. Like, huh? You missed the part in the memo about ‘from sunrise until sunset’? It’s not thirty (or twenty-nine, depending on the moon) straight days of no eating.
(SIDE NOTE: That link for ‘Ramadan’ provides a nice exploration into what Ramadan is, if you are unfamiliar with it, though it still has that from-the-outside-looking-in feel to it, with some minor inaccuracies. But a fair read nonetheless.)
And that brings me here. The narrative that started this.
So Eid soon arrived. And Muslim women (yep, no men at work here) the world over began the sacred ritual of preparing feasts for their families to eat. Eid, after all, quite literally means ‘feast’.
The feasting is great. I love the feast. I love my mom’s pie (which in recent years, with mom getting older, have instead become a collaborative effort between my sister and me — she does the filling, I do the pastry and the baking bit). I love home-baked bread. I love soutvleis. I love my momma’s fruit cake. I love puddings.
But I don’t love the frivolous idea that one needs to eat all that good stuff to ‘make up’ for the month-long fast that preceded Eid day.
Eid is not about making up for any lack of eating. Eid is not about celebrating the end of not being able to eat, like: ‘Shoo, hallelujah, that’s finally over! Let’s celebrate and eat until we can’t breathe.’
Everything that you eat on Eid day could have been eaten on any day night during Ramadan. You weren’t deprived. Rather, you were gifted. We were gifted. We were gifted with opportunities for redemption. A multitude of opportunities. We were gifted with opportunities for forgiveness, with showers of Mercy, with visions of love and kindness, with inspirations of generosity and compassion. We were gifted by having food taken away from us so that we took focus off our bodies and tummies and paid attention to our hearts, our souls, and our minds. We were gifted with closeness to our God, with time in His company and that of His angels.
I don’t mean to berate the person who said that line about ‘making up for a month of fasting’; this post is not intended to preach. The purpose for this post is that her flippant statement saddened me. And because it was to an audience of non-Muslims who would consequently also have the wrong idea of what fasting and Eid is all about. This post is because I was reminded of a time when I, too, didn’t quite grasp the gift of Ramadan. It was merely something to get through. That is a sad place to be in. It is lonely there. In that place, we don’t get to have conversations with Allah. In that place, our hearts don’t have the opportunity to feast on the love and the mercy that surrounds us. We don’t get to read His Love Letter to us (i.e. the Quran) and be moved by it. In that place of ritualised ‘starvation’ we don’t get to truly celebrate Eid for all that it is.
Far more than a grand feast, Eid is supposed to be a day of celebration of all the energy we exerted in worship. And a celebration of the hope we have in the Mercy of Allah, our hope that He will accept our worship and attempts to know Him and Love Him better. It’s also a celebration of togetherness and family. A celebration of love and goodness.
All that is so much more than the food we get to eat.
So no, on Eid day we do not eat to make up for a month of fasting. Just like on my birthday I do not eat cake to make up for a year of not having had birthday cake. The cake is merely a symbol of the celebration of life — hopefully one that will show love, goodness, success. (Or if you do not celebrate birthdays with birthday cakes because, like my sister, you’re not into the self-servingness of it all, and the lack of any basis in religious practice, then please feel free to insert your own appropriate analogy here. 😁)
How do you celebrate Eid in your neck of the woods? What does Eid mean to you?
Just yesterday I peeked over in my Poetry folder on my laptop and I realised that I had no poems to show for 2015.Gasp!This year, so far, has been odd. I feel like I’ve been onpausesince the December holidays. I haven’t yet figured out how to pressplay. And that is reflected by being over 4 months into the year with no great emotion to show for it. (Great emotion = Poetry).
How boring, right? An emotion-less 4 months, stuck on pause.
So just a couple of hours ago, without me having asked for it (I promise I didn’t ask for it) some emotion came to smack me in the face. And so I have a poem. Yay. I think. Or not yay. Nay.
So here’s my first blog post for 2015 (and in over a year). And my first poem for 2015.
by Ruqaiyah Davids
Yeah, I want a man I can love.
But I also want a man who will love me:
I want a man who will love my strength,
Even while he accepts my weaknesses.
I want a man who loves that I have an opinion,
And yet never feels threatened in his dominion.
I want a man who loves my sarcasm and wit,
Because, honestly, without it, I’d too easily submit—
And I’d really just be a counterfeit.
The thought of it makes me too sick to admit.
I want a man who loves that I use correct grammar.
Yes, I’m that nerd who texts with correct spelling.
And I capitalise proper nouns.
But let me just announce:
Correct language use is by no means an obligation.
The absence of it, a mild irritation, yes.
But a well-spoken woman should not call for arbitration.
I want a man who sees that I am strong.
You had me doubting whether it belonged—
Does a woman’s strength put a man under threat?
No. You were wrong.
A strong woman still knows how to duet.
P.S. This poem is sort of a sequel to another poem I wrote quite a while back:A Man I Can Love. A continuation of the conversation, you could say. See below.
A Man I Can Love
by Ruqaiyah Davids
I want a man I can love.
A man whose love for me
Was decreed by our Lord above.
I want a man I can trust,
A man who I’ll want to respect and honour,
Not because I ‘must’,
Or because obedience to him
Was upon me thrust,
But because he respects me
And honours me,
And deals with people in a way that is just.
And because, above all that,
He respects and honours the Words of our Master,
And this will make my heart beat a little faster.
I want a man I can learn with,
Someone to hold hands with.
Let the man
To whom I’ll give my hand
Be a man I can laugh with.
I want the little things,
And from this,
And with it,
From our Lord it brings.
I want a man who will lead me,
A man who will accept me.
One who will guide me,
And lovingly correct me.
I want a man who makes mistakes sometimes
And is willing to take some time
To admit when he is wrong.
One who doesn’t always try to be strong
All on his own,
But allows me to come along,
Stand by his side,
And be his partner,
He should be a man with a beard—
I know you might think that’s a little weird,
But, even though I want a man who will love me,
I want him to love our Prophet
SallAllahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam
More than he does me.
I want that love to show on him,
In the way that he dresses,
And the way that he moves.
The way that he loves me,
And the choices he may choose.
It should be the means by which
Our life together improves.
I want a man I can grow with,
Someone I can sow with
The seeds of our trees
In the Gardens ofJannah.
I want to fall in love.
Forever and ever.
Are you a strong woman? Do you know a strong woman? Share your thoughts with me below.
I made it five days into the glorious month of poetry before bowing out (gracefully?). Well, that’s not entirely true — I have still been writing this past week and I have a few poems to show for it, but none that I want to share right now.
NaPoWriMo is just not happening for me this year. Pieces of my mind are scattered in so many different places that I can’t quite gather them together long enough to compose something I like enough. And trust me, if I don’t like it enough, you’re sure not going to. Perhaps after some revision to those poems I’ll share them with you at a later time. I’ll still keep writing for the rest of the month, naturally. Will try to keep up with each day as much as I can, but what I really want to do is focus on more extended pieces of writing for now. So we’ll see where that goes. But besides that, what I even more really want to do (I know that isn’t right, but it just sounds so much more fun — why can’t we have fun with words?) and what I am doing a lot of right now, is concentrating a lot more on developing good writing in my students. And that takes a lot of time and energy. More than you’d think. So that also takes away from time given to my own writing. But I love it so much! And don’t worry, I won’t teach my students to write incorrect sentences like my one above — but I will teach them to experiment and have fun with the language and perhaps come up with their own funny ways of saying things that are otherwise just boring.
As a final salute to NaPoWriMo from me for this year, I’ll share one of the poems I wrote this past week — just to not leave you with nothing.
It was supposed to be a love poem to an inanimate thing. And this is sort of a love poem… though not quite.
To My First Car
by Ruqaiyah Davids
I never liked you much.
In fact, I could hardly stand you.
And it was no secret too.
You were unwanted and unloved—
A harsh, cold, ugly truth,
Just like your harsh, cold, ugly exterior.
But you were needed.
I needed you like you needed a good paint job—
Without you my life would not have been the same.
Without you, I would have been stuck,
You gave me freedom;
A temporary escape on the journey between two worlds.
You gave me reflection and introspection.
You weren’t very well-liked by my friends or my family.
And I’m not sure if you know this,
But they often made fun of you.
My sister hated you—
She always complained
When having to climb into your hard, unwelcoming backseat,
Which was a mighty task considering you only had two doors.
But I wonder how she would have got around without you…
Or how I would have.
I would always defend you when they’d mock you.
Because even though you were loud and rough,
And dusty and dented,
And peeling and painful to look at—
You were mine.
You were my first.
You came to me at a time in my life that I did not want you,
Hi there! Today’s poem is an interesting one. It’s called a“golden shovel”apparently, which is where you take an already existing poem and you use each word in that poem as a last word for each line in your own new poem. Sound confusing? Just wait, it’ll make sense in a minute.
This is the already-existing poem I used:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light!
–Edna St. Vincent Millay
So look at each word in this poem above and then look at the last word in each line of my poem below. See it? It’s the whole ofFirst Figright there. Pretty cool, but was pretty tricky too.
Oh, The Light!
by Ruqaiyah Davids
As I began this journey of my heart – and to my
Heart – I felt warmed with happiness as I became swarmed by the light of this candle.
It illuminates my path and my past; the want for more burns.
I stand looking down the way ahead, and looking back, and at
Once, I want to go both
Forward and back. The questioning never ends.
To go forward would be wise, to go back would be dangerous, yet it
Plagues me so, the wonder of what lies there. Will
It ever be enough? I wonder and I wonder, not
Living now but impossible to live then, too. It’s been long since I last
Knew where the road was headed; long since I journeyed on my own. But now the
Enlightened trail is darkened. The sure way is shrouded by night.
There lingers still a faint light. A glimmer. It is dark still but
There is light! Ah,
There is always light. Sometimes only a spark, sometimes only a flicker, but sometimes a fire. My
Path has not yet ended. I will travel on with friends and I will travel on with foes;
Both will help me to my ultimate end. There is purpose to it all. And
There is light. There is still light. Oh,
There is light! It is small, it is shy. It is not yet strong or bold enough to show itself proudly. My
Thoughts linger; they sit for a while and breathe in the smell of old friends.
They take time looking around. Much too familiar, and yet much too strange. It
Is still there – the path. Waiting for me. It gives
A fair chance. But too much longer and the light might dim. Too much longer and a
Wind might change the course. But for now it remains. And how lovely
This is something very important to me, though it’s not something I would have thought to write about in this form. It kind of just found its way out of my head and onto my laptop screen while thinking of what to write about in today’s poetry prompt by the folks over at NaPoWriMo. This style is called a lune, which is like a haiku, except that instead of counting the syllables in a line, you count the words. And instead of 5-7-5 (as in a haiku), it’s 3-5-3, i.e.. first line of the stanza has 3 lines, second has 5 lines, third has 3 lines.
So the reason this topic is very important to me is because all too often I see adults around me telling children to be quiet or to not be “so loud” when all they’re doing is playing — loudly. Adults get upset when toys get smashed loudly to the floor or into each other in a fight between the army man and a car (odd fight to have, I know, but hey, it happens). And naturally, there are sound effects that go with that epic fight. But the children are told not to make so much noise; “play quietly”. This upsets me. Deeply. Let the children make a noise! Let the children hum and sing loudly, or mutter nonsense to themselves if they want to! Let them play! For goodness sake! No, literally… for goodness sake. I mean, when children have the freedom to play and have fun and make a noise — and let’s be honest, they all go hand-in-hand, because how much of fun can you have quietly in a corner by yourself, and how much can you play without some sound effects and shrieks of laughter? — they grow into whole people, confident people, positive people, intelligent people, kind people. And isn’t that just good for everyone?
So, let the children play.
Let the Children Play
by Ruqaiyah Davids
We tell them
They’re naughty when they’re noisy.
Ain’t that crazy?
Children are meant
To be noisy and dirty;
It’s their journey.
We shouldn’t stop
Them from shouting in play;
They’re young today.
Before long though,
Our rules and reprimands will
Make them still.
Children will be
Too scared to have fun—
Damage we’ve done.
They won’t be
Young for much longer, sadly.
This is reality.
When they’re grown,
They’ll be shells because we
Didn’t let’em be.
I cheated a bit on that last line there. I know “let’em” isn’t the conventional way of shortening “them”, but I would have had one word more than I should. So I whipped out that ol’ poetic licence I have stuffed in my wallet and used it.
This one isn’t quite finished yet. I’ve been sitting with it since yesterday (which is why I didn’t post anything yesterday), because it wasn’t ‘right‘ yet. I don’t yet know what will finish it or how to finish it, but I’ve decided that that’s okay. I’ll share it with you anyway. This is what it is for now.
by Ruqaiyah Davids
The second hand of an ancient clock;
Listen closely for the far-away knock.
It kills, it steals, and it heals;
The future is what time reveals.
Forever caught in time’s wicked trap;
It is somewhere in the middle that the stream and the storm overlap.
Tick, tick, tock.
Yes, I know it’s pretty despicable that I’ve last updated pretty much a year ago (I don’t really suppose that my one lone post last October counts for much). But… uhm… Okay, I have no acceptable excuses. I’m all out. I’m just really terrible at time management. Like, really terrible. And way too easily distracted. Like, while typing this post right now, do you have any idea how many times I’ve navigated away from this window? To Google something that has just popped into my head that I’ve meant to Google for a while now; to talk to my mom; to reply to an e-mail; to drink some water… I’m terrible.
But anyhoo, here’s a poem that will hopefully make you forget all about that! Yay.
NaPoWriMo Day 1: The Kind of Lives We’re Living
by Ruqaiyah Davids
What kind of lives are we living?
Weren’t we meant for more?
Our innocence and youth has just gone through the door.
Nothing left for us to fight for anymore.
You had big dreams
Of simple things.
Not important any longer, it seems.
I had visions of happiness;
I saw days of what-seemed-like-bliss.
I never thought it would be like this.
We were meant for more,
We were meant to be better.
You were meant for greatness
We are meant to have goodness.
What kind of lives are we living?
Stuck in the past.
It was not meant to be like this.
It was not meant to be like this.
We’ve got to stop wishing.
We’ve got to start living.
From the deepest parts of ourselves.
Stop grieving for a life lost,
One that was never meant for us.
The kind of life we should be living
Is still waiting.
To be honest, I’m not all too fond of this poem. I don’t hate it, I just feel that it needs (quite a bit of) tweaking. I suppose I’ll get back to that some time, but in the quest of writing a poem a day, I wanted to get this up for Day 1. Day 2 will be up shortly. Yes, yes, I know it’s the 2nd of April already! Hush!
My family and I have recently moved into a new neighbourhood. In this neighbourhood, we have a new place that we now call ‘Home’. I’ve only ever known one other Home in my life; that Home, I had known for over 25 years–more, if you count the time that I was moving and shifting around in my momma’s belly. That was Home. And, a bit unnervingly, I still call it that even now. I don’t mean to, I really don’t. I like this new Home I have. I really do. I like the space and the air, the greenery and the birds.
But my old Home was family; it wasn’t just a brick and cement building. Imagine moving into a new Home and leaving one of your family members behind in the old one… That may sound extreme or exaggerated, and before moving, I might have thought the same if I had heard someone else make that analogy. But, I promise, that is how I feel. I have left part of my family behind. An old grandpa. Or old uncle. (Yes, my old Home was a man. Grey and wrinkly. And cracking in certain places. But he was loveable and dear.) It is impossible to bring him along, but it feels almost as impossible to leave him behind. I drive past this old Home and I struggle to picture other people inside it. I try to imagine them in our kitchen, eating around our table, or lounging in our living room, and I feel like they are intruders. I want to visit my old Home, just to see if he is doing okay. To see what they’ve done with him, and if they’re treating him well. Now, I know I am bordering on insane here, but how do you not become just a little bit crazy when you leave behind 25 years of running up and down the passage even when Mum said not to, banging bedroom doors to relieve teenage frustration, family breakfasts, lunches and suppers around an antique dinner table, or sounds of creaking doors that would alarm you to the approaching parent just in time so that you may hide that novel that you should not be reading or that movie that you should not be watching while you actually should be studying Bio or Geography for your final Matric exam? And if you think that sentence was too long to digest, perhaps that gives you a slight indication of the length of time I am trying to squeeze together into some comprehensible and tangible form so that I may keep it alive for a little bit longer.
Now I know they say that Home is where the heart is, or where the family is, and that this is just a new place for me to make new memories, and that change is good and all of that. I’m sure they are right. But change and a new Home takes some getting used to, and memories take a while to become memories. So while I do honestly love this new place, I am still waiting for it to really feel like Home. In the mean time, let me share with you some things I miss about my old Home, my old uncle that I left behind. Some of the things on this list I had already documented elsewhere, on more temporary media forms, and due to a concerned friend, who kindly advised me to try to think of things I like about my new Home, rather than reflecting too much on the past, I stopped that list. But now I want to continue, but please note: this is not a lament. This is not a form of nagging and moaning for what is lost. This is just me reminiscing and fondly replaying the memories of a place that was Home for the first 25 years of my life. I’d like to look back 25 years from now and remember that place, and the details of it. But by then I’ll be 50. And I might have Alzheimer’s, or just plain ol’ bad memory. So these words might help as a supporting aid.
Things I Miss about my Old Home:
1. My cousin who lived 3 roads away. Random evening or afternoon walks up to her house, or random visits from her–these are no more. In fact, just random evening walks anywhere in the neighbourhood. We still take random walks in the evening in this new neighbourhood, to my sister who stays up the road, or just around for the fun of it, but there’s no community here. No little children running through the streets at a time that they actually should already be in bed, no teenage boys taking skateboard races up and down a cul-de-sac, or people sitting on stoeps having casual conversations in the cool night air. I loved seeing these things while my parents and I leisurely walk through the streets at night. Oh, and bumping into aunties and uncles along the way and stopping to greet but then ending up having a 30-minute conversation. (All our neighbours are aunties and uncles. I mean, our ex-neighbours.)
2. My neighbours. We weren’t the tightest-knit community of people. There were people two houses away whose names I did not know. But there was Uncle Kevin across the road; we never spoke, but we always waved in passing. There was Aunty Faeeza next to him; she always sent us guavas from her guava tree in her backyard, and I grew up playing with her children. There was Aunty Zaida next door; she made scarf shopping really easy and convenient because she sells them. And Uncle Muhammad who always stood on the corner at the end of our road; I’m not quite sure where he lives, and I’ve never spoken to him at all, but he waved in greeting to me each morning as I took that corner. And, like I said, all my neighbours are aunties and uncles, even those that lived roads away.
3. Hobos that you know and who become regulars at your house. I used to have conversations with them. It was memorable.
4. Shorter distance between Home and my place of work. And no traffic. At all. Just some annoying drivers along the way. But other than that, it was just me and the wide, open road. Now… I have more distance, annoying drivers, and a slow-moving, car-crammed, accident-prone highway between me and my place of work. Granted, that stretch of car-crammed highway is not very long before I again get on the wide, open M5 road, but when there are slow-moving cars, the 3 minutes you should spend on that highway to get to the M5 turns into 10-15 mins of agony.
5. My beautiful, close view of the mountains from my front stoep. My old neighbourhood is not the most scenic of places. In fact, it is pretty crowded and houses are very close to one another. But we were also close to the mountains. And I loved looking at it as I stepped out in the mornings, or on sunny afternoons. I love the mountains. Sometimes, as I’m driving, I am in danger of getting too close to the car in front me because I’m too busy staring at the glorious mountains and the different patterns and fashions in which the clouds cover it, So having the mountain so close to my doorstep was a huge bonus that I never took for granted.
6. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the air from the nearby Blue Ribbon bakery. This one my cousin reminded me of–the cousin who lives three roads away. She lives in the neighbourhood too, so she would know. That smell… is beautiful. I would come to the red light at the intersection just outside the bakery and sit there just sniffing up that aroma. Gosh, I miss it.
7. Living around the corner from a masjid.That was just a blessing. There is so much attached to that. To which masjid will I rush through the streets during Ramadaan for taraweehnow? Which masjid will sound the athaan into our home now? There is no masjid near enough here.
8. The ‘Eid vibe. ‘Eid has just passed us. It was the quietest ‘Eid I have ever experienced. Reasons are already stated above: community, masjid, all of that.
9. Creaks, cracks and bangs that I knew. Here, there are sounds of creaks, there are cracks, and there are bangs that I am not familiar with yet. And they FREAK me out! Especially when I am alone at home. I knew every sound in my old Home, I knew exactly from which part of the house or from which object falling it came. Here, I do not. The sound of the wind even scares me.
I shall end it there. I do not want to make this list too exhaustive, lest it be thought that I am unhappy in my new Home. I am not unhappy. I am, indeed, very happy here. Alhamdulillah (All praise to Allah). I miss the old, naturally, but I certainly appreciate the new for what it is. It is spacious, fresh, lush, quiet and safe. I find new reasons to love it each day. And I know that soon, this Home will become an old aunty to me (this Home feels like a woman; a fairly young and fresh woman too). So do not be mistaken by my words of longing for my old Home. I long for it, and I will most probably always miss it a little. It was my first Home. It is where all my firsts happened. But I am excited at the new prospects. I have visions of amazing times here with my family in this new place to call Home.
Have you ever felt connected to a building or place, like they’re a part of your family? Or am I just a strange person?