you come from a place where the mundane is holy…

You come from a place where the mundane is holy.

When you were young and you entered your home, your nani would excitedly sing, “mein bismillah karaan, laakh vari karaan, hazaar vari karaan.” Invoking the Lord’s name to celebrate your entrance and her excitement. Invoking His name, she exclaims, a thousand and a hundred-thousand times.

Entering anyone’s home, let alone their rooms, required that you place your right foot in first. It’s a sign of respect, you were told. Always place the right foot in front of the left, they said.

When you saw a shoe with its sole facing upward, you were told to flip it rightside-up. You always saw everyone else doing it, but took this opportunity to ask why. You were told that the bottom of the shoe is filthy and it isn’t becoming of filth to face upwards; upwards being the same direction that your hands faced as they cried out to their Lord. The act of flipping a shoe over became ingrained in you so that you did it unknowingly every time you saw a shoe’s sole facing the wrong direction.

The foot of your bed always faced southward. It was easier that way so you knew your feet didn’t face westward, towards the home of your Lord, when you were sleeping.

When a child tripped over his or her own foot, every woman stopped in her path and said, “bismillah.” You never understood why, but it became normal. So when a person tripped, you said “in God’s name” as if even falling had a holiness to it that needed to be acknowledged.

When your nani’s rosary beads slipped out of her hands and onto the floor, she would pick them up and bring them to her lips–to kiss them–in reverence. Each bead had passed through her fingers while she recited God’s names and blessings on His beloved. Those beads now deserved more reverence than the gold necklace that hung down from her aged shoulders.

The sanctifying of objects, spaces, directions and people was normalized. It was a way to live.

But then you moved to a place where the holy is restricted to certain times, places, and occasions.

You were told that the place where you come from doesn’t truly understand religion or scripture and must be left behind.

You believed them. How could you not? They are unencumbered by the pitfalls of the place you come from. You took in every word that they uttered, you sanctified them, but you built fortresses inside of yourself. You compartmentalized yourself so that one half of you doesn’t touch the other. You began to live in pieces, never as a whole.

You watched as a friend took an entire book of supplications and placed it on the carpeted floor in front of her. Your heart folded unto itself with discomfort. But your mind put you at ease and let you know that this isn’t the holy text. It’s just a text with a bits of sanctified words. And, slowly but surely, your heart became comfortable. You saw this repeated with different texts in different places by different people. And then the moment came when you saw someone placing the Qur’an on a low shelf; your heart looked out and shrugged.

One day, you move everything around in your room. The foot of your bed ends up facing eastward, towards the home of your Lord, and you realize that you are still not at that point. The direction towards your Lord’s home was still holy. You changed everything back.

Later, you found yourself leaving out your prayer rug on the floor of your room. When you went out, you came back to find it folded up and put on a shelf. You took it down for prayer and left it, once again, lying on the floor. You walked barefoot over it occasionally to get a book from your bookshelf or exit your room. Your parents explained that prayer rugs shouldn’t be left out or walked about all over. Their words fell on deaf ears. You knew that your feet were clean and the prayer rug was just a rug. So long as it was clean, it was fine.

Then came the day when you placed your own supplication book in front of you, on the ground. Because, after all, it wasn’t completely filled with holy text. Just partly.

Having built up the fortresses between your religion and parts of your identity, you travelled back, by yourself, to the place where you were from.

You looked out in dismay. Again, you heard the utterances of “in God’s name” as a child tripped; you saw the sanctifying of everyday objects and directions. Internally, you scoffed.

As you sat reading a book in the village where you were born, you came across an odd passage.

The passage told you that the Prophet and his companions were on a trip. The Prophet’s camel tripped and a companion yelled out, “Cursed is Satan.” The beloved of God looked to him and said, “Do not say, ‘Cursed is Satan,’ for if you say these words, Satan becomes arrogant and stronger and says, ‘With my strength, I made him fall.’ Instead say, ‘in the name of God,’ for if you say that, Satan will become small and weak as a fly.”

You read that passage over and over and over again. Once out of shame, another time out of longing, and, finally, out of submission.

This was the first time your internal fortresses shook, but it would be enough to break them down bit by bit. This was what you needed to begin reconnecting the different pieces of yourself to make yourself whole once again; to begin seeing the ordinary as holy; to begin to reconnect with the roots you sought to sever for so long.

You stem from a place where the mundane is holy and you hope to God that this small piece of you survives as you plant yourself in a place where even the holy is mundane.

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