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The Aram

with Tahmina Begum
I have found forgiving myself to be the key to a lot of my pain and worries. Forgiving myself has been perspective-altering and anything but self-serving. Forgiving myself may sound trite these days, with internet quotes, sometimes empty, smacking us all over the place but forgiving myself has enabled me to just be, right now.
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Ramadan is such a reflective time for so many of us and though I genuinely look forward to this month, the tranquility these holy thirty days bring, it is also a time where Muslims are usually asking for forgiveness from the Most Compassionate and Merciful. This extends to forgiving their loved ones and perhaps, in the spirit of freeing oneself, forgiving those that have hurt them too.

But sometimes, in all honesty, it is really hard to forgive people for the really terrible things they have done, especially when you know on any green Earth, how wrong it was. But as a woman, who's come from a woman who's come from a woman who knows how to blame herself first before anyone else, learning how to forgive myself has always felt harder than forgiving anyone else. 
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Forgiving myself is not a warm place. It is definitely not comfortable. Forgiving myself makes me aware of how fragile or vulnerable I can be. It's a true reflection of the cracks within my self-esteem and frankly, it is work. Because forgiving myself is not a one-time thing. You have to forgive yourself over and over again, for it to work. It is like any real change: it feels frustratingly slow. It can make looking in the mirror confusing because you know where you should be mentally but in reality, where you are. 

Forgiving yourself is not making yourself feel bad. It's not judging your past self with what you know now nor forgiving others through the kaleidoscope that is empathy but only seeing yourself only through unrealistic standards. 

Forgiving yourself for so many of us is simply realising when it was easier to be kinder to strangers than to ourselves and learning in our adulthood, when to be our own friend. It sometimes looks like physically holding yourself and admiring how much your body and spirit have pulled through all the years that felt like a thick fog. A thick fog in a maze where maybe some robots were chasing you with a cleaver knife, (you get the picture). 
On the surface, forgiving myself may have robbed me of some evenings, that have turned into months, crying over what I should have done then making myself guilty for giving in to the 'shoulds' of the world. But I take it and I would do it all over again because this is what forgiving myself has taught me: 

How to cut myself some slack. How to cut others some slack. To understand what compassion actually means. How to recognise in someone else's eyes that they're going through a hard time and could do with a dose of tenderness, so some pouring of external affection too. How to observe how much I am going through it when I am going through it and appreciating exactly that. What my needs were and what my needs are now. How to stick to my word while being realistic about what I can offer because forgiving myself is a lesson in not wanting history to repeat itself. Therefore my actions, and the relationship I have with myself, needs to bend and alter too.

Forgiving myself is holding both myself accountable and the fact that sometimes things go tits up and there is no rhyme or reason (other than my personal belief that it's all khadr and God's supreme knowledge and all we have is how we react and go on), in both hands. 
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So much of the time, it has to be someone's fault something didn't go how we expected, whether it be ourselves or the person sitting across from us. We live in a world where we frame everything we do as inputs and outputs: I did this so I deserve this. Or I didn't do this so I don't deserve this.

Very rarely do we accept that it's actually out of our control what happens to us, so all we can try to do is move with grace and be grateful we can mess up because you never really learn anything without getting it wrong. That's the thing about forgiving yourself. It humbles you, makes you prostrate and ask for better. 

It does not surprise me that in Ramadan ten days are dedicated to forgiveness. As a woman of faith who does believe it's important to ask for forgiveness from God from everything from moments of ingratitude to not trusting it will be okay and having enough tawakkul, I believe it's just as important to forgive yourself.

Sometimes we make the same mistake over again in order to really learn our lesson so I hope in the last ten days of Ramadan, whether you're Muslim or not, practicing or not, you move with forgiveness and be easy on yourself. You don't need to punish yourself in order to let things go. 

As at the end of the day, all that stuff, makes it impossible to feel like light. And one thing I know for sure is that we all our own and someone else's light.

With noor and aram,


This newsletter is dedicated to Fahima Jilani, who always makes me feel like I can fly, Alhamdullilah. Happy birthday my dear. 
I've been nominated by National Diversity Awards 2021 for the Positive Role Model award. Feel free to vote for me here and a big thank you if you do!
The Aram is a bi-monthly newsletter that explores our relationship with ease and joy. In "Getting Aram With...", I ask a woman of colour and/or Muslim woman I admire, three questions surrounding her comforts.

#12 is Sumi Ali. A freelance florist based LA, whose work with flowers are pieces of art. Also, I don't know about you but I need to know more Black and Muslim women who are taking up botanical space so here’s another name to get to know.
What's currently bringing you aram?

Aram has recently been a privilege in my life that I believe has only flourished since I decided to surrender to something much bigger than myself. For the first time this past year, I have been completely open to all Allah has communicated with me and I feel liberated because of it.

I read more spiritual artifacts and trusted everything I was reading was for the betterment of my soul and it’s allowed me to further explore the relationship I have with mother earth and Allah alone.

Stretching first thing out of bed has nurtured my body; being able to release all tension I felt in my sleep or the evening before. Dhikr-ing throughout my day to help with any negativity I feel beginning to resurface. Mainly placing myself on the farm and being in a certain otherworldly silence that only Mother Nature can bring. 

What are the small ways we can bring plants and flowers into our lives to better our wellbeing?

Flowers, planting, and all things relating to farming have helped my spirit grow in ways I would have never imagined. I am able to bless the very space I find solace in and show gratitude to these living things for giving me and many others a safe space to return to.

The life cycle of many blooms is what brings me humility and courage to keep moving forward throughout my life. Seed saving has taught me the longevity of blooms if we just tend to them and care for them the way we as humans need to be cared and tended to.

It is all give and take, but making sure we are showing ourselves and all other living things that we co-exist beautifully when we as humans care for them. Mother Nature will always do its job for us if Allah wills. We just have to set the right intentions to care for all and others around us and ease will naturally begin to flow into our lives.

Spread the maya and tell me about a platform or person you'd like to bring light to this Ramadan.

@Browngirlfarms! A Black queer female-owned farm in Hayward, California. 
The farm I am working on and where I’m growing my flowers. I wouldn’t be where I am today with as much knowledge I’ve gained if it weren’t for my experience and journey there! Immensely grateful for that space.
Hola! I'm Tahmina Begum 👋🏾 I'm a writer, editor and creative consultant. The Aram is currently free to subscribers but it does take a labour of love to write and produce, so if you'd like to support, you can buy me a digital Ko-Fi. If you'd like to commission me for any work, feel free to check out my website

Images via @jahied @marianna_hewitt @velascarves @slow_roads @sumifleur

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