Writing this I feel internally conflicted. Do I really want to share what was some of the most difficult months for me? The time my heart broke into tiny pieces. As some friends would know and others wouldn’t: I lost my dad, my Abba Jaan, my baba, during May of last year. I watched him takes his last breath, I watched the noor (light) overcome his face and body, as he left this world. Despite death being one of the most guaranteed and unavoidable things in this dunya (world), nothing can prepare you for losing a loved one. And to this day, the most haunting thing to have ever reached my ears was the imam calling my baba’s name for his Janazah prayer.
Grief. I’m not sure how to describe it; whether it’s an emotion, a period, a phase. There are etiquettes in Islam of course in how to grieve, but in the end, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. All I can say is that it comes in waves. At times I could stay strong and take solace in my dad’s passing and how Allah (swt) placed so much barakah (blessings) within it. During other times, I would find myself crying when stumbling across his jumpers, that he refused to throw away because he thought he could make them last for a few more years. You see my dad’s presence is everywhere, which perhaps, is bittersweet. Reminders can either make me smile at the beauty of the memory or reduce me to tears of what used to be. And more painfully, what can no longer ever be.
Reminders are not just in our home. My father was a community orientated man, and though not a very ‘religious man’ he was devout in practice and in adab (manners). Many of his days and nights were spent at the local mosque and around the local community as an elder and friend to anyone and everyone. When the local imam was reciting a dua (supplication) for my dad, upon his passing, he mentioned how even the pavement that he walked on, to get to the masjid, would miss and weep for him. Walking down that very same path feels too heavy for me.
The emotional rollercoaster was exhausting and draining and often I would want to be far away from home, away from the reality, a place where my dad no longer exists. I was unsure of many things, and my mind and soul were in a constant state of limbo; questioning myself, questioning whether it was too soon to go out with friends, to smile and laugh, to travel. I felt like in losing my dad, I lost myself.
However, traveling feels like finding comfort in what I know, like going home. And through my recent travels, there were times and moments, where I felt like I was coming home to myself. Especially when surrounded by the vastness of nature; taking in the sights from my bus window, relaxing by the sea, chilling under the waterfalls or overlooking the city from hilltops and mountains. In those moments I was able to embrace my solitude and be ok with just feeling ok. I was able to watch sunsets; be reflective. I felt calm and comforted by the warmth of the sky. It was only through being away that I could pay attention to the universe, or more importantly God, telling me that everything was going to be fine, and to have faith and trust the process. Such moments reminded me of Surah Ar-Rahman, a personal favourite of mine, it states:
“The sun and the moon adhere to a schedule, and the stars and the trees, all bow down in worship. He raised the heaven high and set the balance. Therefore, do not upset the balance: weigh with equity and do not give short weight” (55:5-9).
When God meticulously aligns and schedules the world in such a perfect manner and harmony, you can’t help but trust your Lord. You are scheduled exactly where you need to be, in times of difficulty you are; growing, refining and easing into your soul and that is why perhaps the most quoted ayah during adversity is “Verily, after hardship comes ease” (94:5-6), you will slowly and surely be at ease, with yourself and where you are. Throughout my travels, I could truly trust this spiritual journeying I was on, where I was being reminded, more than ever, that this was all part of the Divine plan. We just have to take a deep breath, trust wholeheartedly, and exhale ‘Allah hu Alam’, (Allah knows best).
Ar-Rahman is a beautiful reminder of all Allah (swt’s) creations, for He is Al Khaliq, (The Creator), and we the Khalifa’s (stewards of the earth) are bestowed with the responsibility to care and protect his creation. Within the first few ayahs it states “He created man” (55:1-4) and many of us forget; before the plants, animals, birds, and trees, was us, humans, we were the first creation of God, we owe it to ourselves, to honour that Divine and scared bond. We must care for, and preserve our being, mind, and soul.
Travelling allows for self-care; even in the smallest of ways; from being able to sleep in, to giving that temporary moment of deliciousness removing the worries and responsibilities from our shoulders. To see and encounter others that are also navigating through their own hurt, and are healing too as a result.
To be sun soaked and nourished in Vitamin D, made me feel healthy and happy. To indulge in not doing anything, without the guilt subconsciously became true acts of self-love, nourishment and healing.
On my travels, I also cried (a lot!) but it was the good- let it all out- kind of tears. On one occasion I was sitting on a bus, on my way to Krka waterfalls from Split, I remember going through my phone and coming across a picture of my dad. In an instant, silent tears started to fall.
Often, in our day to day lives we hold so much in; our tears, anger, confusion, and naturally, our heart gets heavy. However, whilst travelling I could unpack all of those emotions, and more importantly, I could do it at my own pace and control. It soon became evident that all it took was another time zone to slow me down, to look after myself and allow my being to be a priority. For the times I cried, I’m grateful and I owe it the blessing of being able to travel, it was and continues to be, an emotional detox. In travelling there is vulnerability, yet we are taken care of too, especially at times when the soul is so fragile. During travels prayers are shortened, fasting is not obligatory and my favourite of all, our prayers and duas are heightened in acceptance. I could feel secure and reassured in the duas I was making for my baba, be it on the plane or when moving from one country to another, this was my healing, this was my comfort.
Echoed by a Nayyirah Waheed poem:
you expect rain.
Through my travels or “noormadic ventures” (noor the Arabic term for light) much light has poured into me and the journey that I am on, but I also feel a thousand times lighter. From my loss, I am still healing and this wound, may forever stay open, but I trust that light will only continue to enter.
This one is for you, dad.
Shabana is a King’s College London alumni and currently a geography teacher in South East London. She loves to travel and immerse herself in new places, cultures, and cuisines. She enjoys staying fit and of course forever trying to get those gains. She has a ridiculous obsession with cheesecake, calling sweet things an enemy of her progress), She loves to read books by POC; current read Malcolm X’s autobiography. You may follower her journey on Instagram @noormadic_ventures