Reminscings of Ramadans Past

One of the ways in which we’ve ushered in the holy month of Ramadan as a Hareri community over the years is by doing a deep clean of the home – a spring cleaning if you like. Those that can afford it will paint their houses and change their carpets and curtains – bringing out the best they have. A decluttering of our physical spaces precedes Ramadan – perhaps an indication of the decluttering and the detox that must also take place in our bodies and minds. Some families do this systematically – flushing out their bodies of all toxins in preparation for the month.

Next, once the start of Ramadan is announced, families embark on ‘aboredena hamdi’s’. ‘Aboredena hamdi’ loosely translates to ‘gratitude that we are alive to see this day’. So entire families will call to wish each other ‘Ramadan Kareem’ and then go visit each other in person. This is usually done within the first two weeks and if possible within the first week and preferably particularly for close family and the elderly, the eve of Ramadan, if possible.

One of the responses to greetings of ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Shahr Mubarak’ is often ‘Kulu am we antum bi khayr’ or it’s Hareri equivalent: ‘Amet amet zom yabordena’ which is basically saying may we live to see many more Ramadans for years to come…

This year it was more significant than any year before and I said it much more purposefully and consciously because there are those who were here last Ramadan who are no longer with us…and this has been the case for the last few years but this year as I greet family with this familiar phrase, I think to myself to be grateful for this moment because this time next year, I’m not sure if they’ll still be around, or me for that matter.

One of my favorite memories of Ramadan is of daddy bringing home fruits of all kinds and turning them into juice for us to consume voraciously during Iftar. Decades later, it’s a tradition we still maintain – fruits and juice are always a staple during Iftar. I also remember him bringing home bread balls – kind of like bread sticks but instead of sticks, they’re balls. I’d break them in half, stuff pitted dates in them and devour them like only a child could, popping one after another in my mouth – as fast as I could assemble them.

I remember daddy, regal, dressed in his best jalabiya, shal and koloyta ready to go to the mosque and pray tarawih. His perfume would linger in the room, long after he’d left. He always believed one should be in the best shape and form when going to the masjid.

Ramadan was always very communal. If we sat at the table the rest of the year, during Ramadan, we gathered on the floor to break our fast.

Ramadan is special in ways I can’t describe. People are on their best behavior. They are nicer, kinder, more considerate and conscious of their words and actions…perhaps because it’s re
quired of us – all year round – but more so during Ramadan when we believe the shayatin are bound and cannot sway us towards evil.

So this Ramadan, as we get close to hitting day 10, may those who’ve passed rest peacefully, surrounded by the fragrance of jannah and reassured they are not forgotten. My we live to see many more Ramadans, may we use the remaining days to work on ourselves so that we may emerge better human beings and sustain the beauty that emerges this time of year for the rest of the year until Ramadan comes around again, if we are lucky enough to experience it.

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18 life lessons you taught me daddy

It’s been eighteen years since you passed daddy. And though we miss you more than words can do justice to, you live on in more ways than one.

Every time they ask me my name, every time I sign Nebila Abdulmelik, I’m reminded whose daughter I am. You live in our memories, our dreams, our prayers, our thoughts, our poems. You live on in us and the munchkins who have your blood running through them – one who took your name as well as your ears and your countenance.

You live on in our mannerisms, the way we talk and walk – in our characters that seem to mimic yours.

You live on in the way we live our lives and who we are and who we’ve become – because of all the lessons you and Mommy have instilled in us. Here are eighteen in honor of the eighteen years you’ve been away.

1. Humility – that it doesn’t matter how high I get in school or wealth or status, you taught me to keep my feet on the ground, stay humble and never look down on others

2. ‎To look up. To see the stars. To appreciate the workings and magic of the Almighty.

3. ‎To be good to others – to be kind. That ultimately that’s what we’ll be judged on. Not how much money we have or how many degrees or how many acres but how we treat others.

4. ‎Not to be afraid of the dark. And in doing so, to allow our own lights to take shape.

5. ‎To be comfortable with silence.

6. ‎To fear nothing and no one but the Almighty. That ultimately it would just be Him and me

7. ‎To give the best of ourselves and the best of what we have to others.

8. ‎To love and devour fruits, in all their various shapes and sizes. To become a fruitaholic.

9. ‎There was nothing I couldn’t do because I was a girl. You kept reiterating that I was anbessa, ye anbessa lej. Perhaps my first lessons in Feminism.

10. ‎To be a father was to be present.

11. ‎That love could start in the womb. That a parent could love a child even before it was born.

12. ‎ Kelam faregh. That sometimes words are not enough.

13. ‎That you can’t always get what you want. That you must sometimes wait till Alghefra zezelema sa.

14. ‎That our prayers are not about the words we utter but rather our intentions

15. ‎What true, meaningful and deep friendships look like

16. ‎That there’s such a thing as more than a whole. More than 100%. Gobez we nus.

17. ‎That children can be confided in too. To spend time with both young and old.

18. ‎To be generous – with time and money – and quietly so. To make sure the left hand doesn’t know what the right is giving.

Thank you for raising us to be strong, grounded women, the daughters of lions. For these lessons and more, for all the love you showered us with, we’re forever indebted. Rest in paradise daddy.

I remember

I remember sweet memories

Kindergarten.
Eating meals with me,
Waiting for me to finish
Me, in no hurry.
You, ever so patient
You asked a five year old permission
To leave early for your next appointment

Third grade
You waited for me at the bottom of the hill
Classic pose
My excitement was uncontained
As I ran to you

Fifth grade
Puzzles and prizes
Random homework checks

Sixth grade
Camping out in the living room
Screenings of the world cup
Passionate cheers in the middle of the night

Eighth grade
Night school
You, in your puffy jacket
Sporting a cane
I loved that you came for me
Walking
And back home
Arms linked,
We went walking

Fruits, I remember fruits
Enough to feed the entire neighborhood
Consumed voraciously
Never scolding never chiding
Finding 1001 things to do with fruit
But most of all
Just simply feasting
I blame my fruitaholic ness on you

New clothes
Cookies and candies
Filling up closets
In anticipation of Eid

Kelamfarekh & kerkasa
Gobez we nus
Anbessa ye anbessa lej

Two fingers in the air
You always knew
Ultimately it was you and the Almighty

Eighth grade
Hospitals
Restless nights
Empty houses
Screaming
Tears
Graduation sans toi

I remember….
Sweet memories
Dreams
Thoughts
Unspoken words
Unanswered questions

Fast forward 15 years
Today, I felt a breeze
Thought it might be you
Telling me, after all this time
You were still here
Witnessing precious moments
Graduations, wedding, birth of two grandkids
Praying for more blessings our way
We send them back

The umbilical cord is not broken.

Celebrating Daddy

By Semiha Abdulmelik

Losing my father was an exercise in a kind of growing up, an exercise in trying to comprehend as well as giving up on understanding, an attempt at resurrecting and reconstructing memories, buffing some and trying to darken others. It has been over time, trying to understand absence over time, and to borrow the words of another, ‘For a long time I stressed the absence, the hole. Now I find it is the shape which has become more important.’

Loss is an exercise in remembering and the funny amnesias. I can remember that it was a Sunday, and the minute details of the day, including the quick shower before heading out to what I thought was going to be a hospital visit, and I remember running to the living room to watch between the hexagonal grill the ambulance enter the driveway. But I can never remember whether it was the 20th or the 21st of February. Every year, mid-February, I turn back my calendar to February 2000, to check which was a Sunday. This major pilgrimage was always difficult, always different. The date, regardless that it was confusedly straddled between the 20th and 21st became a shrine in my mind that I visited and revisited.

Perhaps this year, I will try merely to celebrate a father’s, my daddy’s, love. His love was comforting-a comfort borne from being known, flaws and all, and loved deeply nonetheless. It was a love that saw all my colours and hues-bold, muted, hideous, beautiful. It was not loud or demanding, just certain, constant, and always present. I did not ever turn behind or around to look for it, certain as I was that it was always with me. It was that trusted gabi, neither too heavy and suffocating, or too light and unreliable. It was the feeling of sitting indoors, spoonfuls of cardamom vanilla honey laced oatmeal on a cold keremt day, whose sensation lingers into the summer days. His love I think come before and beyond my story-indeed when pressed, he would tell me, ‘I loved you the moment I knew you were conceived’.

If matter is neither created nor destroyed, perhaps so it is with my father’s love.

Daddy

How do I honor a man amidst the men?
How do I do justice to the extraordinarily beautiful person you were?
How do I pay tribute to he who loved us as soon as we came into existence – for no other reason than that we were?

13 years have passed but you remain forever alive in every moment
In our very beings
In memories replayed
In thoughts recalled
In prayers recited
In teachings reenacted
In values respected
In principles upheld

You were more than any girl could ask for, and the best she got.

‘I miss you, like the desert misses the rain.’
But I rest assured that InshALLAH you are resting in paradise.

Always,
The Lion’s Daughter

Daddy

Feb 20, 2000. 12 yrs on, and your legacy still lives on dearest daddy. You were the best example of what a father should be, and we will leave this earth better, stronger, more noble because of it. You’re missed more than words can express, but you are forever alive in our hearts, thoughts & prayers. May you rest in peace, and your soul at ease. May you rest in paradise ‘surrounded by the fragrance and light of jennah’.

It is said that ‘there are different wells within your heart, some fill with each good rain, others are far too deep for that’ (Hafiz) And though this empty well that you’ve left behind can never be filled, we rejoice that you were here to leave it.

The following peace was written at least 15 yrs ago but remains timeless. It was a girls portrait painting of her beloved daddy.

DADDY
by Semiha Abdulmelik

Looking into those sad
haunting eyes,
the dark steel pose,
the proud tilt of the chin,
like a
panther
fearless!

As we talk, I see a metamorphosis,
Those sad eyes have become
Brown twinkles in an expanse of white,
the face softens, the closed lips open
to a charming boyish smile showing

off

straight
white
teeth.

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