I pray you’re blessed. I’m writing this with a cup of tea and a beautiful qasida in the background after spending a whole day in contemplation, meditation and life. It’s funny, life can be turbulent but the moment you have that warm mug of tea in your hands, you just forget. God’s mercy, eh?
This concept came to me last week. I’ve been waking up to pray tahajjud more than usual and it’s become my almost daily routine, just because I love how it makes me feel. I asked God a question at 4am and as I was about to go to sleep, I had this image of a coffee shop in my head. Simultaneously, the hadith “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller along a path” (reported by Ibn Umar) came to mind.
(For non-Muslims, a hadith is a saying by the Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him)
I’m no stranger to coffee shops. I love them. I love sitting alone and reading or blogging, I love having random conversations with strangers that take a very deep and spiritual turn (Coffee Plant on Portobello Road is the one for this) and I love the memories I make with friends.
Nothing warms my heart more than sitting with my best friends in a toasty cafe, with an oat milk americano on a winter evening, talking about life’s crazy affairs, whilst simultaneously watching people on the other side of the window passing by in their toasty coats and scarves.
Talk about Gilmore Girls vibes. Thank God for a woman’s ability to multitask, eh?
Back to my mini 4am visualisation. I started to really think about the way coffee shops are really the unsung heroes of society in the way they allow us to sit back and be present. Every single person who walks through that cafe would have been coming from somewhere and will be leaving to another place when they’re done. But for the moment they’re there, they’re just strangers having a nutritional, emotional and spiritual pick-me-up with a hot drink in their hands, flavour on their tastebuds and a whiff of humidity coming from the evaporation from their mug.
When I first came across the aforementioned hadith as a child, I was told it was a warning to me that this world doesn’t belong to me and I have no right to enjoy it. I was told that we must travel through this world with a hardened heart, because the enjoyments of life are only for those who disbelieve. It’s their world to enjoy and ours to suffer, as we enjoy paradise whilst they endure hellfire.
My heart knew that this wasn’t Islam and not the example of our beloved Prophet Mohammed, but I never felt into the hadith to really figure out what it means to me.
The dawn of my prayer, I realised the value of being a believer that is travelling. Our hearts are open to God and His creation, but from our ego’s perception, we detach. We travel through this world instead of taking ownership of it because our spiritual purpose is much higher than what is material. Just as my innocent younger self suspected, this Hadith is merciful advice to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I took a sigh of relief as the truth came to me.
In a way, coffee shops are a modern depiction of travelling and pausing to find inner peace. Picture walking in a desert and seeing someone building a fire after walking a parallel path to them. They start off as a dot on the other side of the desert and they become bigger and bigger as your paths narrow to meet. You see what they’re doing and you help them, speak to them, and absorb the light and warmth they created as they share a drink with you. As you get up, you may find that your paths may continue together, or maybe not. Or maybe they do for a while until they get wider and you walk further away from each other until you become dots in each other’s sight again.
To me, coffee shops serve the same purpose as those fires. We gather somewhere warm to take a break from life and we allow ourselves to embrace the present. Everyone’s welcome, everyone’s taking their own space and everyone will leave to go back to travelling this sweet, crazy, raw dunya (world).
Weirdly enough, I got this image when I asked God for help because I was starting to fear losing something in my life. I found myself growing into a reality that was peaceful to me, especially after I gave up something for His sake. With this, came something beautiful, but I wasn’t sure if it was in my head or just a lotus waiting to sprout. I still don’t know. Sometimes I’m okay with not knowing, other times I’m not.
At one point, my heart became attached and it was starting to make me nervous. I hate uncertainty. I just wanted direct instruction and by praying, I wanted a definitive answer from the Divine. I wanted God to give me an answer in the way a fortune teller would. Sometimes this happens but now is not the time. It’s annoying, but look at what came out of it instead. Alhamdulillah.
I’m still confused and it’s making me feel sad. What I did get, however, was something better. A gentle nudge to the Islam I knew in my heart existed inside advice to relax, wrap my arms around the present and surrender to the unknown.
Allah told me to travel through this and to not worry about this potential loss because he is ar-Razaq (the provider). He told me to treat the moment as if it’s a chill out session in a café and to use my faith as a clutch that I cuddle between my palms the way I cuddle my oat milk americano as I laugh with my girls.
What’s meant to be will always come to be. Waiting can be uncomfortable and can invoke feelings of melancholy, but we’re passing by in this beautiful journey that is life.