D22 – Odd Nights
8am – Yep. I’m sure it happened – I just wasn’t there to witness it.
11 am. This has become my new 7am. My new time when my eyes open. I can’t open my eyes before this time. I feel gross in this realisation. But I’m not sleeping until 3am. I am one of those 8 hour sleepers. 30 minutes either way and I feel rotten. I wake at 8 hours sleep without an alarm. It’s weird. Just my normal body clock inner alarm.
I have a bath and listen to BBC Radio 4’s drama ‘When the Pips stop.’ Nooooooo. Why did it end like that. I’m left feeling cheated. I won’t spoil it but if you are already feeling it after the GoT ending – wait awhile before you tune into this one.
The rest of the day feels like Sunday – it’s actually Bank Holiday Monday. It’s also the day after the EU Election results and the realisation that the world has gone mad. Far right mad. The ugly aspects of history – the parts that are never taught as the good things, the behaviour we should mimic, the people we should aspire to be like – the fascist far right – is now back. Did the people that have been voting in those parties across countries and yes I will add the UK here with votes for the Brexit Party, UKIP and TR – did they sit in class and feel inspired by history lessons telling us about the brutality of Nazi Germany? When watching war films, did they cheer on the SS Forces? For goodness sake.
And they need to remember that when this time is taught about – they will, like those that came before them, be considered ‘the bad guys’ that no one wants to be.
All this Brexit and Far Right stuff has been distracting me from the things I should be focusing on. It’s the last ten days of Ramadan – we are within that period – and it’s the most holiest time within the holiest of months. It’s the time when we as Muslims try to get as close to God as possible. It’s a time for quiet, for reflection, for contemplation and for prayer. I’m going to allow myself one day of stressing about the coming of WW3 and a new fascist army on the rise and then I’m going to focus on God and my spirituality.
4pm – I go out for a walk. He is being like a bear with a sore head – because he has an actual sore head. He’s got man flu. I can call it that. I’m allowed. He’s doing my head in. I plan to sit in the local mosque – to be quiet and to contemplate. I am full of anticipation of finding a quiet spiritual spot. And then as I approach I see the shutters up! It’s closed. How come the mosque is closed during the day? In Ramadan especially? And not only closed – but it’s on complete lock down. I realise that these are indeed the times we live in. It’s not safe to leave the mosque open. Anyone can walk in – and they do apparently. Signs on the door I’ve read on my way out, warn of possible attacks and being vigilant. I think also they keep it locked because of not wanting to encourage extremism. It’s so damn sad that in Ramadan you can’t just find your calm place in a quiet spot in the mosque because they are worried that folk might sit there planning something. That’s the immediate assumption.
It says on a notice outside on a shutter that the doors will be opened 30 minutes before official prayer times. So that’s at 5.30pm. I look in search of another place of calm to contemplate. It’s a bit hard to find on a grey day in Leyton.
I eventually end up walking through the park and finding my way home. I sit outside on the benches in the communal gardens. A father is having some bonding time with his son and I try not to watch as they laugh and play on the swings and race each other. It’s a soothing scene. He’s enjoying a day off I assume and the child is relishing having his dad to himself for the day or at least for now.
I look at all the other buildings and try to see how they’ve all been done up. Who has hanging chimes and plants on their balconies? What are the interiors like? I can’t see obviously but I try. I stare at the sky and see the planes either leaving or flying into London City. Where has she gone? That girl that used to be jetting off from one place to another? Who didn’t have to let anyone know or plan or even ask. Yes ask. I have to do that now. I don’t call it asking strictly speaking but I state it in a way that it could be interpreted as checking that it’s a good time to go. I miss those days. But for now I have other things. So I am finding my new normal and adjusting. The adventures will happen again and maybe after neglecting my own surroundings there is an adventure or some voyage of discovery that I can make closer to home.
I find myself, in my fasting state, trying to think of God and to contemplate life sitting out here. In the grey, threatening to rain, environment. I find myself looking at the bricks in the buildings and think how many there are. So many – all the same, all lined up and yet each one is crucial. The building might not fall down if it was removed but it would show that it was missing. And if enough were removed it would weaken the building. I don’t know what sort of analogy I am trying to draw but I feel its a profound moment. I decide to go in.
7.30pm – Feeling smug because the Shorba – not so good as I killed it with too much vermicelli and he wanted mixed frozen veg in it (I don;t think it worked) – is ready and I just need to reheat it. I start to make some chicken breast marinated in Nando medium sauce. In my smug state – I burn the SHorba. And this time it is well and truly toast.
I call him to let him know I have burnt it and he says he’ll pick up some shorba from the Algerian cafe. It’s £7 apparently for a Ramadan Iftar which is shorba, borek and a meal of whatever they have.
9.05pm ( I think) – Break the fast – the iftar with dates. I have some milk – as it should be! He has water. We pray Maghreb and then come back to the table for dinner. I’m already full on dates and milk. He doesn’t like the shorba from the Algerian shop. I taste it. It’s ok. It’s food and we’ve been fasting. I’m more of the mindset that we’ve been fasting and this is all about being grateful. He’s very particular about the shorba but it is a big deal – getting the shorba right in North African Ramadan breaking tradition. And triumph in the knowledge that mine is better! The shop one does I admit taste a bit like hot water with some tomato, foreek (small grains) and a piece of meat. And the borek is 90% mash potato and a sprinkle of mince. I say that I can cook better than this and I have indeed arrived because he agrees. I did still quite like the soup and borek – I’m not a connoisseur on North African cuisine so for me it was fine.
10.40pm – We head to the mosque. It’s the last ten days of Ramadan – it has literally flown before our eyes. So in this time frame, many people do their best to make it to Taraweh prayers in the evening. The streets are filled with people speed walking to the mosque to make it in time for Isha. They are digesting their Iftars at the same time. It’s a see of white, cream or black thobes for the men, and headscarves for the women. It’s as busy as a Saturday afternoon in Westfield. But it’s 10.30pm at night and people who have been fasting all day, many of them having worked during the day too and who have had a degree of sleep deprivation during the month – are rushing to get to the mosque for their coveted place in full mosque with not even standing room left. Take a step back and that’s a bit wow, I always think.
The added component is that it is an odd night. It’s the 21st fast and the 21st night. In the last ten days we look for the Night of Power – Lailat Al Qadr. My mum used to teach us about the significance and the wonder of this night. I was always blown away by it. She would tell us about all the angels that come to earth on this night – more than we could even begin to imagine.
And what makes it so significant? It’s the night in which the Qu’ran was first revealed. And we believe it is the night that God has decreed is better than a thousand months. It is the night of prayers being heard and granted.
There is a surah in the Qu’ran dedicated to the Night of Power.
- Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Power)
- And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr is?
- The night of Al-Qadr is better than a thousand months (i.e. worshipping Allah in that night is better than worshipping Him a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months).
- Therein descend the angels and the Ruh (Spirit) [Jibrael (Gabriel)] by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees,
- Peace! (All that night, there is Peace and Goodness from Allah to His believing slaves) until the appearance of dawn.
Muslims believe the Qu’ran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) in Mecca – delivered by the angel Gabriel from God. The entire Qu’ran took 23 years worth of further revelations but this night is when it all began.
“Peace” refers to “security in which Shaytan/the devil (Ibis) cannot do any evil or any harm”, while Ibn Kathir quotes Ash – Sha’bi as saying that it refers to the angels greeting the people in the mosques throughout the night.
On this night, Muslims spend even more time in prayer, reading the Qu’ran – the word of God – which is our way of a two way dialogue. We speak to God when we pray and when we read the Qu’ran it is God speaking to us – those we believe are His words as revealed.
And also it’s a time for contemplation and seeking forgiveness, guidance and finding a place of deep spiritual connection.
We believe it falls on an odd numbered night and so seek it out. Which is why the mosque is extra crowded tonight. We are now officially in overspill territory and I’m praying in the portacabin in the mosque car park because there’s no room in the mosque itself. That suits me fine – I feel less enclosed here. I will admit ever since the Christchurch massacre in the mosque, I always worry about being stuck away from an exit point. In the portacabin it’s fine.
It’s an emotional prayer and I hear the words Gaza, Palestine, Syria, Kashmir, Yemen and the whole Muslim world and the words calling for peace and safety for the Muslims there and around the world. It’s in Arabic but this I can make out. So I say ameen.