Category Archives: Life

The Spirituality of Tidying; My thoughts as a Muslim on Marie Kondo

I was fortunate enough to watch ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ on Netflix without having been exposed to too much of the criticism currently being posted about her on social media. I think I probably came across one meme of her with a speech bubble saying something about books. I’d seen the show come up on Netflix recommendations but never really paid attention to it till I saw her name popping up on Twitter a couple of times. I’m not big on home décor or lifestyle programmes and so it wasn’t something I considered my territory – that is, until I watched the first episode.

Marie Kondo met her first clients – a married couple with children – and asked them if she could greet their home. I thought her request would be met with amusement/cynicism/something negative (as I’ve later seen to be the case on social media), but I was pleasantly surprised when the couple said; ‘I love that!’, and she proceeded in her ritual. They even joined in with her and sat in silence, taking in the atmosphere of the house. And what’s more – they felt emotional doing it, feeling the significance of the silence. It was clear that they were visibly moved when Marie had finished.

This glimpse into Marie Kondo’s spirituality had my attention. (For more on the culture behind her spirituality/philosophy see this great Huffington Post article tackling the negativity being posted about her on social media: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/marie-kondo-white-western-audineces_us_5c47859be4b025aa26bde77c)

As I continued watching, she went on to present other aspects of her beliefs (aspects which form the basis of her philosophy of cleaning): that we should keep a hold of items that make us feel joyful, that we should hold onto what we would like to go into our future with, that we should remember the significance of the objects we possess so as much as to thank them when we do let go of them. I can well see how all these things promote a healthy outlook to living – helping one to move away from an unhealthy possessiveness, hoarding or the indifference which allows clutter to build up within our living spaces, and help one be happy with what they possess. What’s more, Marie’s spirituality is one that is accessible to people of no religion just the same way that Rumi’s translated poetry is – in that there is no mention of ‘God’ to frighten away the atheist, there is no gratitude towards a divine deity. The gratitude is posed upon the object, the house, the memory, the experience, really – upon ourselves. And I think spirituality – even in this form – benefits the person practicing it, giving them a basis upon which to feel something greater than themselves without having to give that something a name if they feel uncomfortable doing so.

This is the reason why Marie’s show really got my interest. As I watched her process of tidying, I thought about my own spiritual beliefs: to want less, to possess only the things that matter, to have a healthy relationship with everything around me (including my memories). When she tells her clients to thank their clothing, I think about how I could thank Allah for the objects I hold, how I could thank Allah for giving me the means to have them even when I am choosing to let something go.

I have heard teachers of Islam say that we should live like travellers in this life, that we should develop good habits, live with meaning and purpose, and work to clean our souls. I have heard stories of great people who have lived with very little – the objects they did possess being those of great worth to them. I have also looked at the millennial trend of minimalism and seen how this can apply to a follower of Islam who wants to rid themselves of the many material possessions which, in reality, they have no need for. And yet I never made the connection between tidying and my own spirituality as clear as I did when I watched this show. It was like the knowledge was there, but the practical means were not. And now…I’m thinking of the many things I want to donate to charity, the many things I own that I want to pick up and say alhamdulillah for before placing them respectfully into their rightful places around the house. These are not small acts, I see this also as part of dhikr.

And so, I’m grateful to Marie Kondo for fearlessly being herself and presenting her philosophy to a Western audience – even at the risk of it being ridiculed or completely misunderstood. It was a breath of fresh air which helped me to consider something seemingly mundane as tidying as having the potential to be spiritually cleansing. I would like carry a greater purpose with everything I choose to include in my life, and if I can handle objects as gently and gratefully as I see Marie teaching her clients to do, I’ll know that I have achieved a greater appreciation for what God has given me.


Dear Diary: Confessions of Inertia

Ya Lateefu, Ya Lateefu,

My husband told me that tayammum, the dry ablution, the washing of the skin and soul with dust, would not have been permissible with the earth if the beloved Prophet’s (pbuh) feet did not walk upon it. The beauty of this haunts me, drowns my lungs as something outside of my surroundings. Different – just as consciousness is different to matter. The epiphany is beautiful. I need it as fruit to devour, to survive, to transcend above survival in the grip of the darkness I feel inside, falling as I am into that same earth the Prophet (pbuh) walked upon with such purpose, humility and grace. I do not know how to rise to its surface, but keep digging at the dirt to try and find a way. He (pbuh) made the earth move with his steps, but I can only suffocate in it – cannot even become it.

I have watched as an elderly woman cried beside me about the son she lost to illness at an age too soon, and I did not hug her. This haunts me. I have held her a million times in the confines of my thought, sharing her grief as my own, but unable to make my rock-like bones move in reality where it may make a difference. I think about the times I have hesitated due to overthink, running something over in my head so much that my body became stiff. The times I have not spoken when I should have. The times I have not cried when I should have. I despise the way my voice comes out from my throat, barely audible when greeting strangers. The times I have not acted when I should have. The times I have not followed a decision because all I could do was stare into my thoughts trying to find a way to get up from the floor. The peace does not come. I did not call my mother the night I missed her so terribly that I lost myself to a living sleep, but the morning after numbed my brain into the routine of the day. I switch off. I put things off for years. I can put people to the side for a long time, and in that time they live inside my thoughts. I speak to them, apologising, praying for them, hoping that one day perhaps they can benefit from something I have intended although I have not done for them as I should have when required. To just be there for someone is a beautiful thing. I have never underestimated the strength of those who show their faces where they must, as propriety demands. As is a Muslim’s right over another.

For all of these regrets the dear diaries have been trapped inside my head. It is hard to release a great many experiences locked within their time which could not be written in the moment. It is difficult to write when most in need, just as it is difficult to talk to someone and get a grip over the subtleties of tears and madness. My husband holds me and does not give up. It is not good to submerge into water to deal with oneself. It is selfish.

I write now with a stronger hold over my mind than in such times. But the thick of battle offers no mercy. That battle is between one’s life and one’s limbs. I write after it has taken place – in retrospect, missing how the breaths of those moments wheezed out from my throat, how mind-numbing the onslaught of anxiety was. Internal darkness is a reality, not part of a diagnosed state of being, but a hardship with its own reasons that are above and beyond my understanding. But the depth of the heart’s abyss reveals itself in times of sorrow, showing how the human being has a great deal more inside than what the surface of happiness can expose. This darkness is not simply to be sad or in grief or in anxiousness or fear. It is the inability to move. It is inertia that takes over. A great weight bears down on me, as if a huge shadow is holding my body, engulfing my mental and physical form, and hugging tightly my heart. All I want is to have the strength to swing it off me, and by the same movement be able to get up and do something; to do what I should do, to follow propriety, duty, act justly, act mercifully, give myself to something other than this lull,

“don’t fall into a lull,” he says,

this silence, this extended pause, this spiralling thought. Something other than it.

This is not simply a wish, this is a desire, this is a prayer, this is dhikr.

Ya Lateefu, Ya Lateefu,

my love holds the hand of my inertia, rocking it back and forth until I get up with him and pray.


Dear Diary: A Step into the ‘Real World’

I said Qabool and realised that this is an act of ibadah.

I said Qabool and saw the sky turning red, and the gates opening for many, and the world having the potential to come to an end because that is inevitable.

I said Qabool and felt the strength of Allah pushing down on my shoulders as I understood the weight of my responsibility in what I was agreeing to, and felt my whole being ready to fulfil it.

Life has been moving fast. Not ahead of me. But fast. Like this car journey on the first day of Ramadan. To London. For reasons too complicated to explain. Our surroundings are blurred. Cars keeping the same pace as us are normalisers. We’re afloat. It seems as though we’re not moving, but still getting to somewhere important.

Things only feel like they’re zooming when you write them down in an effort to explain what’s going on, for someone to understand how crazy things have been. That’s why it makes sense to me that people write in their pauses. When moods are low, the mind allows you to magnify a water droplet in order to compare it to your tears. People understand such sentiments. Small things, insignificant at other times, but appreciated when you slow down. We can’t handle being aware of too much you see. The mind sometimes switches off all those parts of itself that help compose essays and poems, analyse arguments, verbalise abstract thoughts, form conclusions to theorised notions, or develop philosophies for how the human consciousness can be identified so that we can show people we’re not near-dead matter simply oiled by chemical reactions.

I can’t function as such right now. Life has been moving too fast to think in detail and my body and mind is in survival mode. There’s not much space for analysis. I’m in action. Action is like fighting. That’s what you do in survival mode. You fight or you run. When I look at my legs I don’t think they’re running, so I’m doing the former. Fighting to understand the passages I’m entering while attaining what God has assigned for me. I’ve said yes to fate’s directions. I have found what I’ve been looking for, and I feel the warmth of the gift.

But there’s a lot of stress here. A lot of oncoming responsibility, a step into a new place in life, and each step carries an incredible amount of weight. You begin to realise why it’s necessary to switch off all of the you that thinks too much. If that part of me stayed on I’d be going crazy right now thinking of all the possible ways things could go incredibly wrong.

I’ve only had to deal with negative thinking for brief moments when the stress has overloaded and the practicalities have felt like a slap in the face. A couple of weeks before the big day, I was sitting in a diner with my closest friend having some ice cream to sooth my nerves and telling her that everything was getting too much to handle.

I need to get my life sorted. I can’t be a dreamer anymore. I can’t be me anymore. I need to be conventional. I need to take on responsibilities, act as others do when they’ve settled down and become someone’s life partner, someone’s daughter-in-law, someone’s sister-in-law…

‘I need to enter the real world’.

What real world?’ She asked.

‘The real world. Reality.’

‘There is no real world. This is reality.’

I understood.

We don’t just wake up one day and get pushed into the ‘real world’. Just like we don’t wake up one day and suddenly become adults. Despite the way our culture makes it seem so, the fact is that everything is a constant preparation for what’s ahead. If you look to Allah you realise how He has always prepared you to face what’s coming and shown you how to face what’s already here. As humans we’ve been given the ability to adapt to change, but adapting doesn’t take the same form for each individual. Just because I’m taking a certain step in life that most take at some point doesn’t mean I will conform to their conventions or become like them. I can already feel the realisation setting in of what is happening in my life; however I can also feel how life has been teaching me to deal with what’s taking place the way that only I know how, and that’s what I’m doing. The one requirement of me, my being, is that I stay close to Him, grow close to Him i.e. that I please Him, not displease Him.

On one of the occasions I was expressing my worries and what-if’s, and we were talking about rights, obligations and the difficulties a woman faces when leaving home, someone special told me something that stuck;

‘Whatever difficulties you face in future, whatever happens, just remember that where Islam comes in, everything else stops.’

And then he added as more than an afterthought; ‘Don’t stop dreaming.’

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This post stops here, so by all means stop reading if you have better things to do (understandably!), but thank you for taking the time to be here 🙂

A friend sent me a message after reading the above and I felt like it should be shared, not only because of the way in which she related to this post, but also because of the wider issues she thought of which I’m realising a lot of women (mostly of Asian origin) may relate to. Note: This isn’t the full message, just the parts that apply. So here it is;

“Roszeen,

I really enjoyed reading your blog post…I like in the beginning how you related the concept of agreeing to get married to a very weighty description of what I thought was judgment day.

The fear and uncertainty that you felt while at the same time realising this was ‘what you’ve been looking for’, the fear that you felt at having to change to be like everyone else ‘when they’ve settled down’ and the fear of not being a dreamer anymore and having to mould yourself to a predetermined thing, conceptualised and put forward as THE way to be in asian societies; that fear resonates with me. The fear of not being true to yourself, of being manipulated and moulded by backward traditions cultures and family. That is what frightens me the most, not celebrating the way Allah created you in terms of your personality and having to be a robot or in a cult like everyone else.

It reminds me of a quote by mark twain: ‘to wish you were someone else is to waste the person that you are’.

It’s inevitable that you’d feel the emotions described in your blog; fear, anxiety, uncertainty and stress. It’s such a huge new transition in your life that you’re getting yourself into. When you lamented at having to get out of dreaming and becoming a ‘daughter in law’, it reminded me of the conventional norms of the society we live in. Many married asian women I know seem to literally be chained to the kitchen sink and have no time for anything else. They are literally slaves to their husbands family and they have no opportunity to grow or learn.

I’m glad you came to the conclusion that just because your going through a process countless other people have gone through, it doesn’t mean you have to be like them. I’m also glad you realised and linked in Allah towards the end and how at the end of the day it is Him that only matters.”