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God and I, we used to be such good friends. God, don’t I miss that friendship! There was no rush of leaving the prayer mat after praying. I’d stay there and just talk to Him, you know? Maybe because I was lonely. And it was such a comfortable safe space to slide into. I could cry, laugh and say all I wanted to say that my anxiety wouldn’t otherwise let me. Or maybe because of the way people judged me a little too harshly. I had always been recognized as the religious one. Why? I didn’t shake hands with men. Or maybe because I did all my sunnahs like they were compulsory. Or my sujoods were noticeably longer. And I wasn’t even trying. That was my comfortable zone. I remember leaving school earlier on Fridays just so I could go to a distant mosque where nobody recognized me so I could have alone time with God. It was beautiful.

Update 1: I prefer hugs to handshakes now 🙁
Update 2: Where did y’all religious friends go?
Update 3: I’m doing compulsories like they’re sunnahs now.
Update 4: Refer to update 3

Thing with friendships though, you don’t realize when they’re breaking. It’s so gradual and smooth before you know it you’re the friend that people are coming to for good music. The religious friends are spending less and less time with you. You’re spending your nights in clubs. And then one day after so many days you’ll find yourself in a dirty pitch in your room or on your way to work wondering, “How? How did I become this person? How did I get here? I just want to go home.”

So yeah, I’m not in a very good place with God now. And that hurts me. I’d be in Jamia mosque praying and look at people who look so engrossed in their own prayers and duas with Allah and i’ll feel so much envy and pain and a

“That used to be you” Must be the devil hat whispers with his tongue out.

Like there was this girl in a red Hijab once. She was at the very first line. Flawless skin and such a beautiful hearty and warm smile. I imagined she woke up in the depths of the night to pray. The way I used to. The way I want to.

Sometimes, I’m reminded of God in the most bizarre and unexpected way or place. Take for example this friend. Said friend isn’t Muslim. Said friend asks me, “How are you and God, love?”
That has stuck with me for so long since it happened. I wish we had such honest conversations more often. Or this time I’m watching a play, in the form of contemporary dance, about a group of people escaping their homeland because of war, and so they’re fleeing to safer grounds. I remember sitting there alone, telling myself, it’s time to start that journey. Go back home, darling.

Thing is, it’s such a big place. When you’re being pressured into stuff, you can not remember anything like peer pressure. You’re not even doing it to be cool for anyone. You tell yourself that you’re doing it in the spirit of being ‘adventurous’. And really, maybe you are. Because, the world our parents think we live in and the world we actually live in, it’s mars and venus. Two totally different realities. And people are busy. Everyone is going on with their business and here you are, taking whatever path you deem right. Which to be honest, I don’t really have a problem with. Only thing is, ‘Is there room for my faith and God in this?’ Most times that answer is no. And almost all those times, you’ll go ahead with whatever it is.

I haven’t been to a club. I haven’t taken alcohol. Alhamdullillah. But I have seen how weak I can get, and I don’t know when that day will come. I have close friends that I have seen traverse the ‘halal-strict-hijabi’ life to the party all night, ‘take buibui off in the corner close to home’ life. And yes, they are STILL my friends. Because a part of me gets them. A very big part of me gets them. And then there’s this part that’s hanging on to whatever trail that’s left of my friendship with God. That i’m holding on to with my dear life.

There’s that voice again.
“Go back home, darling.”

Yours truly,
Your Favourite Stranger 🙂


P.S: You can read more of her pieces on her blog: https://www.favouritestranger.com/

Photo Courtesy: MTY Organization

Hey Amedo,

Assalam aleikum,

I would have said Ahmed but then who recognizes you with that name anymore? Haha, you are all grown Mashallah. I hope that’s how it is spelt? The Mashallah I mean and the assalam aleikum up there…haha what do I know anyway? I’m just this old pal from upcountry living in Mombasa. I remember hearing your parents use such phrases so many times…ah, your parents. I miss them, you know that? I wish they could see how grown and smart you are right now. Your parents and I, we had this special kind of relationship. I bet you wouldn’t remember much though. You were just eight when that unfortunate accident happened right? *Sigh*

When I first came to Mombasa twenty years ago, I remember how warmly I was received by your parents into this neighbourhood. I still remember your dad, tall and lean, with such a loud laughter, welcoming me like I was a long-lost brother. Your mother, on the other hand, prepared dinner for both me and my wife that night. “I bet you are tired,” she said in her shy voice. I was a bit puzzled with the reception. We were different people, different tribes, different cultures, different religions…what could have made them so comfortable to bond with us immediately? My wife was a bit suspicious at first. You know, we had heard of rumours about the Mombasa genies and how witchcraft is so common and human sacrifices are made to become ‘viti’. Well, we never even understood what those viti were. As far as we knew it, viti are chairs. Nonetheless, my wife, she was a bit worried at first. But then by the next three to four months, we had interacted with almost the entire neighbourhood. We came to learn that this is just how Mombasa is. Warm and lovely; feels like home. It is why we decided to remain here longer. We decided, this is the best place to raise our children.

After your parents passed away in the accident, your divorced aunt moved in to take care of you and your younger siblings. Your aunt was another very lovely lady. She is charming and full of life; the kind to hear her voice sweeping the compound as she sang famous taarab songs. She is the one who taught my wife how to cook biriani and pilau and all these tasty coasterian foods. I never get enough of these foods.

It was all going well for us until Timmy died. You remember Timmy don’t you? Sometimes I see you walk by my home and I yearn to talk to you, ask you if you remember him, if you remember how you two used to play football together, or how you used to stay up late playing PS until your dad would come force you out of our homestead. If you remember that your birthdays were only two weeks apart and that today, he would be 22 years old like you are. Perhaps that would lessen how much I miss him. But then every time I want to start up a conversation, I see the lines form on your forehead. I see how quick you respond just so as you can leave, how bothered you seem by just calling out your name. I never understand it. Maybe it’s my age; old folk what does he want? Or maybe my skin colour or maybe you just don’t recognize me anymore. Maybe…the maybe’s are endless.

Timmy…my only son, my lovely boy, died ten years ago. Both of you were just twelve years old. My son, he was killed. Do you remember? Do you remember the shrieks of pain? The screams? The tear gas, the fear, the stones, the chaos? Do you remember the 2007 post-election violence? You were young but you couldn’t forget how Timmy died right? Your best friend, your brother from another mother, could you? There was too much smoke, wails, angry protests and there we were, caught up right at the middle of it all. Our neighbourhood had always been peaceful, serene…what was happening now? How could everyone forget our brotherhood so fast? We were among the few “outcasts” in the compound. After more than ten years in Mombasa, we suddenly became “outcasts” because our skin colour was darker, our mother-tongue accent betrayed us and our features were clearly “not of here” and that was enough reason to have knives stabbed into our bodies. Because of my origin, my vote automatically meant someone and some party, and at that point, my tribe betrayed me, betrayed us all. We were robbed and deeply injured that night…but one more thing, we lost our son.

It took me three months to heal my wounds and my wife’s’ but we still have one wound that will always remain a wound; unhealed and it just has one word, Timmy. Your aunt has been there for us, all this time, for better for worse, just like we stood by her side whenever she couldn’t afford some bread to feed you all. But you worry me. You my son, worry me.

I see how opinionated you’ve become. How strong and firm you are. It is good. But yet it could be dangerous. I see you sit with your mates barazani, I see the fury in your eyes, the anger in your tone. I see you young men discuss politics like this is a battle field and you want to win at whatever cost. I see you argue, I see the clenched fists and the tribalistic insults. I see how your friends look at me, how they purposely shout out “Kila mtu arudi kwao” when I pass by. I see how you all are invested so much in politics you forget you are supposed to be friends. I see how some of you have stopped talking to each other because “he is pro-someone” and you are “anti-them”. I see how much belief and trust you have kept towards these politicians.

I know it is your right to have an opinion, to vote and to be politically affiliated. Yet I want to remind you my son, when your parents died, I was the one who came to your home and took you for the next few nights, I want to remind you that Timmy was your friend despite me and your parents having different cultures and political opinions. I want to remind you that when we were stabbed, it was your aunt who washed off the blood in our house. That she was the one who nursed our wounds like she was paid for it.

I want to remind you, that during those ugly, dark moments it wasn’t my favourite politician who stood by me, by us. It wasn’t my tribe, or my mother-tongue accent that helped me through those difficult times. It wasn’t your favourite politician either. It was you and your people. It was my neighbours, my friends, my associations who have totally different opinions from mine. But we knew that friendship or any other form of relationship should never be sold for the sake of dirty politics. This game is too dirty. My son, I see how you and your friends are too aggressive in this whole politics business, remember, the game is too dirty, too cheap for your hands.

I am so proud of who you are, what you’ve become; an educated focused man who wants change. I guess we all need the change, don’t we? Just never forget that no change comes from animosity, rivalry, hatred or stubbornness. Remember that for better for worse, none of the politicians will be at your doorstep to help you with your personal problems other than your personal friends and relations. I need you to never forget the humanity joining us; these small joyful moments we have shared between us all; as neighbours, as brothers, as co-existing human beings, as people of the Coast, whether by nature or nurture, as people of Kenya. Never forget that we are naturally bonded as humans before politics ever divide us.

This coming election, my son, remember my words. Remember that chaos will never beget change. That your voice in the call of peace is important and necessary. Remember to hold your friends close together, in unity and preach to them peace like you preach politics and politicians. Remember my son, no more bloodshed, no more Timmy’s, no more crying over spilled milk. Let’s all hold hands and pray for peace and unity. Remember we are One Kenya, One people. This elections, as you cast your vote (or not), remember peace, peace, peace!! May God protect us all. God bless Kenya!

Your next door neighbour,
Baba Timmy.


 

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What is more interesting than standing together for Kenya that is united by all means? What is more interesting than a walk that preaches for peace and propagates for unity of all? The Dumisha Amani Peace Walk is a walk organized by MTY organization in conjunction to both MUHURI and Manyunyu community. It will bring together more than 200 youth to propagate the message of peace and unity. The peace walk shall start at treasury square and it will also entail performances by artists, holding hands pledges, peace mascots, security, media coverage and lots of fun, love and unity. Not signed up yet, text 0705 586 076. CHAGUA AMANI!!

 

 

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Of Blame Games
Stop. Let’s stop right there. Let’s have a moment of silence. Let’s take a moment to understand what is happening before pointing fingers or saying what’s wrong or right. A young man was killed by the mob; a wanted young man, part of a gang, and his mates now want revenge. But that isn’t the full story is it? There is a whole lot of things that have gotten us to where we are. One of which is the blame game.

Let’s stop because the too strong blame game will not bring any results. We need to critically look for a way forward soon and soon enough. We need answers not speculations. We need to come together not split further into antagonists and protagonists.

Of lost Youth, Drugs & Unemployment
What could have gone so wrong? Is it that we were raised in such a wrong way? Is it that our parents and leaders have failed us? Is it that we are too cool for planet earth? But no. We are all to blame. Parents, Teachers, Leaders, Peers…We have failed each other. We all have an equal role for we have brought ourselves down. Let’s not say there are no jobs. Let’s face it; jobs can be found. You just need to seriously look and TRY. Problem is, there are no jobs that we think we deserve. The problem is when we say, I have an education so I can’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t ever be a shopkeeper or a tailor or anything else that appears minor in our eyes. Let’s accept that our youth have gotten the wrong idea of life and success. Let’s accept that this is the generation that watches macho violent movies and we forget those are but fiction that we forget the part ‘Don’t try this at home’. This is the generation that is sooo obsessed with ‘Being Someone’ such that any way to get to that is good enough. Drugs that are easily found by teenagers, how does that happen under our noses? How are we training our young ones to be steadfast and upright in such a century? How are we being role models to the youth such that they can be something in this life without harming others? Allah (S.W) says in Surat Ra’d: Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. Can we be the change first?

Of Tearful Mothers and Hurt Fathers
We can all agree on this; No parent ever wants to see their children lose their way, being in the wanted list or harming other people (Not unless the parent/s themselves are involved) So let’s not be too quick to say, ‘How did his/her parents let him become a goon like that? It must be that they were negligent.’ Okay maybe they are negligent. Maybe they failed at some point in their parenting. Yes maybe they should have brought forward their spoiled child for rehabilitation or for justice. Maybe they should have tried harder…but who are we to criticize when we haven’t even heard their side of story. How can we ever know how much they battled and wept for the children or they still do? Perhaps they also had some little hope for them to reform, maybe they didn’t want to give up praying just yet.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on what happened with Nabii Nuh when he was asked by Allah (S.W) to ask all the believers to leave with him on the ship as from the qur’an.: “And [Noah] said, “Embark therein; in the name of Allah is its course and its anchorage. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.

And it sailed with them through waves like mountains, and Noah called to his son who was apart [from them], “O my son, come aboard with us and be not with the disbelievers.”

[But] he said, “I will take refuge on a mountain to protect me from the water.” [Noah] said, “There is no protector today from the decree of Allah , except for whom He gives mercy.” And the waves came between them, and he was among the drowned.

And the story goes on and he says:
“And Noah called to his Lord and said, “My Lord, indeed my son is of my family; and indeed, Your promise is true; and You are the most just of judges!”

He said, “O Noah, indeed he is not of your family; indeed, he is [one whose] work was other than righteous, so ask Me not for that about which you have no knowledge. Indeed, I advise you, lest you be among the ignorant.” (Ch 11:41-48 Quran)

Does that mean that Nabii Nuh failed as a parent? No. Or when Qabil killed Habil, did that make Adam (A.S) a bad parent? Some children are but tests to their parents and as much as some have contributed to their children’s ugly behaviours, some are nothing but helpless souls. We should be encouraging them to bring out their children for rehab instead of throwing off words to judge their parenting. We should join them in prayers for today it might be their child tomorrow might be yours. Yes, life is that scary.

Of misplaced priorities
Where is all our concentration? No, let’s be honest. What have we given our priority to? Hasn’t it been politics and what which politician did what or arguing over who is a better candidate? Hasn’t it always been on petty issues like what day was ‘real Eid’? Haven’t we put too much energy debating and roasting one another online over ridiculous issues like who holds a fake account and whose wife was seen where? For how long have these gangs been harassing different communities? Long enough to bring about call to action. I won’t discredit the efforts of some individuals and few leaders who’ve tried taming the situation but this should be something we all come together for; not with too much anger and remorse, but with wisdom, prayers and smart strategies.

Of unethical images and their widespread
Please people, it is wrong. It is so very wrong to publicly share photos of a dead individual especially when it shows his/her face or that makes him identifiable. It doesn’t matter if someone was a thief, a goon or a ninja assassin because when one dies, they just become a body. Those widespread photos won’t hurt him, but will hurt his loved ones who probably have no involvement in his/her actions. It is disturbing that you share those images even when you put a huge disclaimer that the photos are disturbing. I mean why are we so hungry to be the ones to spread some news? Please adapt the golden rule which says, ‘Do unto others as you would have done unto you’. Now maybe you are not a thief or a goon on the wanted list, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want such disturbing photos of your brother or friend or even someone you know being spread after they die or killed or suicide or during an accident…whichever the case is. Give the dead their privacy and respect. Their judgement is now upon the Most High.

Of second chances
I’m just trying to imagine, what if one of the gang members really wants to surrender right now?? But then there is the wrath of the people awaiting him. Would he really surrender? Should he? Would you, if you were in his shoes? We say we really want to help our young ones and children, but are we ready to give them second chances? Can we accept them back and forgive them? Perhaps they need reassurance. Maybe not all, but even if one is ready to repent then that’s a win for a community.

Remember the story of Ghawrath bin al-Harith. When the Prophet received word that some of the tribes of Ghatafan were mobilizing an attack on Madinah, so he undertook a small expedition toward their territory but they fled before the Muslims arrival.

However, while the Prophet was resting under a tree, an enemy warrior by the name of Ghawrath ibn al-Harith, who had pledged to assassinate the Prophet, quietly took the Prophet’s sword as he slept and suddenly declared, “O Muhammad, who will save you from me?” The Prophet awoke and simply replied, “Allah.” Ghawrath inexplicably dropped the sword and the Prophet picked it up and asked, “Now, who will save you from me?”

Ghawrath was astonished and pleaded, “Be the better victor!”
The Prophet Muhammad forgave him. He asked Ghawrath whether he believed in the truth of Islam and Ghawrath replied, “No, but I promise not to fight you or aid those who fight you.” The Prophet let Ghawrath return to his tribe, whereupon Ghawrath said, “Verily, I have come from the best of people.” (Mustadarak al-Hakim, Sunan al-Bayhaqi, and Ibn Kathir in al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah). Food for thought.

Perhaps there is too much bitterness right now; of harmed individuals and robbed people. There are also revenge plots looming, God have mercy on us…
It is understandable why people would choose mob justice any time, but can we come together to sincerely help them, forgive them? Can we come together to make a special prayer for our lost youth? Can someone who knows how to go about this, arrange please? I mean, last time we had drought we came together to pray asking for rain alhamdulilah, why not do it again, for our brothers and children and future generations too? After all, it is only Allah who can grant guidance to people. Why can’t we have these many sheikhs come together with our leaders and parents for prayers and for a way forward?? To ensure that those who need rehabilitation are taken there?

May Allah guide us and our young ones and our children and protect us from all evil and bloodshed. Let us remember to pray for ourselves and our cities and communities frequently. Ameen.