A Day in the Life of a Saima

I had made my intention to fast for Allah (swt) the night before, and now my alarm clock was waking me up for suhur. Actually it was my adhan clock. I had set it some time before fajr, to give me time to eat. The nights are so dark in winter. My head was heavy with sleep, and my inner shaytan whispered,

“Just turn over and doze for five minutes. Then you can get up.”
So I turned over and closed my eyes, but something woke me up again suddenly, al-hamdulillah. My eyes were wide open. It was one of my angels.

“Remember there is benefit in suhur”, it said.
I got up, but did not switch on the light. I prepared my suhur in the dark, just a cereal and some dates, some milk and some water. I had twenty-five minutes until fajr. My shaytan reminded me of the cosy feeling of sleep. Yes, I could sleep until fajr. But my angel reminded me that it was good to read some Qur’an. I put on the light. I staggered through some ayats. Just a few. And then I became aware of the stillness of the night, and I became aware of the night sky, and I became aware of outer space, and I became aware that here I was, a tiny speck of life, on a tiny planet in a vast universe which my Lord had created. And I became aware that I was going to die, and that maybe my life might extend for just seventy or eighty years, and then, after that I would disappear, and I would be forgotten, and life would go on as if I had never existed.

And I thought about the praise that people gave me, and it seemed to become just a sea of words, washing like waves on a shore. What was praise from other people, when I was just a human being who would die one day and be forgotten? And I thought about the insults that I received from people, and the hurtful words became meaningless sounds. What was the pain of other people’s insults, when, if I sinned, I might face the agony of separation from my Lord?

Then I wished fervently to know my Lord. Who is Allah? Ya Rabbi, who are you? Your signs are everywhere. You guide me, You bless me, You warn me, yet who are you? I wish I knew.

Fajr came. I did my wudu and I prayed. A pool of tranquillity spread around me. I felt the day begin to breathe. The birds cried out “SubhanAllah, subhanAllah”, even the crows with their harsh cries. I wanted to dissolve into that tranquillity, to vanish into that moment, but I remembered that I had to go to work, so I went back to sleep for a couple of hours before morning.

I kept dreaming that I was eating and drinking, and that suddenly I would remember that I was supposed to be fasting. I was relieved to wake up. Yes, I was still fasting. I hadn’t really drunk that strawberry juice and eaten that doughnut.

Once outside, the world hit me. Here I was in a civilisation of discontent. I saw no nur on anyone’s faces. The eyes and the ears and the tongue are meant to fast. Where could I look? I stared out of the window at the passing scenery. And my angel said to me “Close your eyes and praise the Messenger (saws)”. I turned my attention to RasulAllah (saws) lying buried in al-Madinah, and I asked Allah to send my salaams to him. “Allahumma salli ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa ala ?lihi was-salam”. Amid that bus, packed full of people with grey and discontented faces, I felt the beautiful spirit of the Prophet (saws), and in my heart I saw him clearly and felt closer to him (saws) than I did to the people who pushed and shoved past me as they got off and plodded into the rain.

When I got off the bus I saw some drunken men sitting together on a wall, singing ugly songs, and I heard two people behind me arguing, horrible ugly words firing from their mouths. Then two women passed by, talking about some people they knew, engrossed in the details of the other people’s lives, and my shaytan said to me “Listen to them. Who are they talking about? What’s going on?” How could I protect my ears from such things? And my angel said to me “Remember Allah”. So I in my heart I said, “La ilaha illallahu, la ilaha illallahu”, again and again, until I heard the rain humming on the pavement “La ilaha illallahu, la ilaha illallahu”, and the wind in the trees murmured “La ilaha…”, and then again, “illallahu”. A woman had stopped outside a shop, and her baby sat in his pram. I caught his eye and smiled at him, and he giggled, burbling in baby-talk “Allah… Allah… Allah”.

I passed my day at work more quietly than usual. Our minds were subdued. We were more reflective. Our shayatin wanted to make us complain in loud voices, “I’m so hungry!”, and “I’m so thirsty!”, but our angels reminded us that it is more noble to bear our hunger and thirst in silence, and even to smile. And I thought about the millions of people around the world who have to fast for two or three days at a time in order to survive. I had heard of mothers who fast every other day, so that their children can eat, and I had heard of children who die because they have no clean water, and I realised why it is so hard for them to fight against oppression and to build their country: it is not easy to fight when you are starving.

The day was drawing to a close. I had managed to guard my tongue against loud or over-familiar speech. I had managed to guard myself from making stupid jokes or sharp remarks, al-hamdulillah. What would we do if we could not speak? And yet we abuse this gift by shouting and screaming and cursing as if we are shayatin ourselves. Ugly language is the language of the shaytan, and beautiful words spoken with sincerity is the language of the angels.

Then maghrib came, and I heard the angels descending, and blue and white lights filled the corridors, as we came to take some dates and to drink some water.

“Allahumma laka sumna, wa ala rizqika aftarna.”
And I prayed, “Please accept my fast, please accept my fast.”

Then the men went to drink soup together, while the sisters remained and had their soup, and as we were revived, a sense of well-being encircled us. Our bonds as mu’minin were strengthened. And I saw wave upon wave of people, from Indonesia, to Malaysia, China to Pakistan, Iran to Arabia, Zanzibar to Kenya, Egypt to Turkey, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Romania, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain, France and Britain all breaking their fast as the sun disappeared from the sky, and around the globe there rose up into the evening sky a wave of gratitude and relief. Allah (swt) had blessed us for another day.

By Aisha Masterton