Fake Friends // Meriem Ahmed.

I was always seen as “fake”.

For smiling too big,
saying hello too loud,
and giving firm handshakes.

I was constantly called “two-faced”.

For hearing both sides,
greeting an enemy with a smile,
and forgiving too quick.

I was never seen to be a friend,
even when I was the only friend you had.

If I am genuine, it is seen at worst deceiving and at best a naivety.
A stupidity that you use and abuse when it suits your needs.

But I have spent years with dozens of “friends”.

A long list of names in my phone book –
not a single one “friend” enough to call on my worst nights.

I may not be on your party invites,
or posed next to you in your photos,
but I am always ready to answer your call.

So, which of us is the “fake” friend after all?


My First Tattoo: Gemini Star Sign.

On the 13th of this month, I got my first tattoo. I got a Gemini symbol on my lower inner right arm. Growing up, I was never keen on tattoos. I liked how they looked, and I definitely held the creativity for thinking of designs, but my major fear of needles was enough to swear me off them for life… or so I thought.

My best-friend Julia and I were discussing the topic, because she had decided to get her first tattoo this summer. I had definitely started thinking about it more, and I already had a couple of ideas, (two mainly) of what I would get done if I ever got inked. I was still extremely indecisive about it for several reasons, one of the biggest being whether it was permissible in Islam or not. I’m quite OCD about certain things too, so the idea of having something permanent on my skin that I might not find as aesthetically pleasing as I thought it would initially be freaked me out.

I did a lot of research about tattoos in Islam, and I came to my own conclusion that I believed in my decision to get one. For the most part, and to the best of my knowledge and research, tattoos are not permissible in Islam. But, I firmly believe that we have all been created with unique mind and personality and a capability of doing our own research and making our own decisions about our lives. I won’t go into detail about the reasons I decided to come to peaceful terms in the area of religion with my decision to get a tattoo, because I made a decision about my own body, and I wouldn’t want to influence someone else’s decision about their own body.

So, to clarify, I am in no way saying that tattoos are permissible in Islam. They are not. Do not use me as your scapegoat to justify your actions. I am content with my decision regardless of my faith’s views on the matter, and if you make a decision for or against tattoos, I would hope you would be content in doing so, rather than excusing it under my personal name and action.

I didn’t originally want a Gemini symbol as my first tattoo. The Gemini sign was supposed to be my second tattoo. The first tattoo I had wanted to get was my dad’s name (أحمد) in Arabic. I wanted to get it curving my left boob, right over my heart. Now, naturally, for an Arab-Muslim mom (like Samia), tattoos are a big no-go. Right up there with alcohol and pre-marital sex. (Well, maybe not the v-card, nothing is bigger to them than that). But, tattoos are still a pretty big taboo for them. Despite that, I have an extremely close relationship with my mom. I would rather argue with her and agree to disagree but still address my decisions with her, than to go behind her back. There is very little that we don’t share, and I figured since it’s her house, her rules, I still answer to her.

So, as scary as it was (and it was), especially because we weren’t even on good terms at the time, I sat her down to talk to her about my want for a tattoo. And, she freaked. My God, did she freak. I think especially because she expects this kind of stuff from my little sister Mihar, more so than me – so it always comes as a bigger shock to her when I “act out”. Surprisingly, she seemed to be more concerned with what I wanted to get (my dad’s name) and its placement, rather than getting a tattoo itself. Don’t get me wrong, she was not happy with the idea of any tattoo, but she was too preoccupied with the name to focus on the general topic at hand.

Extremely sensitive to me getting my dad’s name across my heart, and with a fear that I was acting impulsively out of a personal hurt and blinding emotion – she came to me a few days later, saying she would agree to disagree, and would recognize that I’m old enough to make this choice about my own body… IF I got a different tattoo, other than my dad’s name. I wouldn’t have to dismiss the idea all together, she just asked that I get something else, and think about my dad’s name for a couple months longer. She said if I still want it after thinking about it for a longer period of time, then I can get it when I move for my MA degree. That way, it’s no longer “her house, her rules” and I answer back to myself, not to her. She stood from a point of view where she didn’t want me to get something so personal and emotionally charged like that, that I could look back on and regret it later in life, which I think is extremely fair. It is also the best outcome I could have ever imagined from an Arab-Muslim mom.

So, I decided to switch it around, and get my second tattoo first, and my first tattoo second – my Gemini sign. I’m born on the 6th of June, and I am a true Gemini. A lot of people mistake the Gemini for being “two-faced” but that is not true. It’s more that we’re a “split-personality”. The damage of being “two” impacts us more than it ever does others. I believe that for every star sign, a battle takes place between the person and their sign. For example, you can be more yourself than you are your sign. I feel like I am more Meriem than I am a Gemini. Never the less, I am insanely and majorly true to my star sign.

Being a Gemini is all about duality. It is a constant battle between light and dark. Between being an angel and a demon. It’s having so much good in you, but being very vulnerable to a bad place and state of mind. I struggle between both immensely. I appear to the vast as very kind and naive and all light and good, and for the most part (Meriem) I am. But, if you have been of the very few to see me at my worst, then you know that I am not exaggerating when I say, once I reach my threshold with something, someone, (most of the time it’s with myself) I am demonic. I can self-destruct, and I can lash out extremely. I do not hold back once you’ve pushed me to a limit beyond what I can control.

Being between the “two”, never really being fully one thing or the other is what makes a Gemini restless. We never feel like we fully understand ourselves, which is why others often find it hard to understand us. We pour ourselves into everything in our world, and try to find ourselves in different aspects of our lives – people, places, lovers, our work. Geminis are constantly seeking experience and adventure, which is why travel is our-best-friend. We can make the most out of anything and a home out of any place. We are never satisfied with the work and effort we put in and constantly want to prove ourselves… to ourselves, because we are perfectionists.

There is no doubt that Geminis are the craziest sign. And I am, loca. I am off the walls crazy. I am completely and un-apologetically crazy and I know it. Geminis are honest, impulsive, spontaneous, risk-takers, bold, courageous and vividly expressive – all traits which make us of the crazy kind.

Geminis are extremely honest people. It’s why I’m so naive, I feel. Because I project a complete honesty to strangers and people close to me alike. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and our tongues speak for our hearts not our minds. We don’t think much before we talk. Geminis are all raw and they have very little of themselves to hide.  I think that’s why we expect the same from people, we assume that people are doing the same by us, meaning everything they say and do, which is why we are left vulnerable when deceived.

This baring of the soul that Geminis have, is also evident in our physicality. In fact, the relationship between our raw minds and bodies is extremely closely linked, which is why many Geminis are sapiosexuals. I am. A sapiosexual is someone who is sexually attracted to someone’s mind, way of thinking and intelligence above any physical attribute. We also have a tendency to bare all nudity. We are extremely sensual and we have a sexual nature and appetite even if we aren’t fully aware of it, or haven’t been awakened to it yet. It shows in the way we dress, talk, walk, and in just about everything we do basically. That is why we tend to come off as flirtatious even when we are simply only being friendly and being ourselves.

Geminis are extremely creative and expressive. They make for great orators, singers, writers, song-writers, entertainers, media representatives, and artists in general. I am beyond grateful to this trait above all else in the Gemini star sign. I would be nowhere without it.

I got my Gemini symbol on my lower inner right arm to remind myself to always let the good in me prevail. To always let ‘Meriem’ outshine the traits of my star sign that I may not necessarily agree with but find myself in habit of.




Prayer; My Conversations With God.

The word “salah” meaning prayer in Arabic, is derived from another Arabic word, “silah” which means connection. So, prayer is the way in which we connect with God. The way we communicate with Him. The way we converse with Him. Over the past 7 months, I have been having a seriously hard time with prayer, and with faith in general. Not that I didn’t believe, but just that I didn’t have anything more in me towards my religion but the creed. I still believed, but that was it. Now, I’ve never been an incredibly practicing person of faith. Although I prayed, I always messed up the times, and never really got a hang of all 5 prayers in a day. I still prayed though. Aside from the 5 mandatory prayers a day, I had a strong connection with God through a different form of prayer, dua. Dua (not pronounced the same way as Dua Lipa) is just an informal prayer, which is basically just speaking to God aloud. I lost that connection too over the last few months.

This article isn’t about me giving up religion, I haven’t. It also isn’t a preaching article about how religion saved me. It’s just me sharing an experience I went through over the last few months and what I have come to understand and learn from it. This is what I have found prayer to mean to me. I am not here to tell you that this is what it should mean to you. I am not here to tell you to change the way you choose to pray, or to tell you to stop praying if you do, or to tell you to pray if you don’t. Religion is a sensitive topic, and so I felt the need to clarify that this is less to do with religion, and more to do with me and something I have self-discovered about a big part of my life.

When you’re really close to someone, and they fail to pull through for you, it hurts. Broken promises lead to a lot of anger and resentment. Well, that’s exactly what happened between God and I. Last year, I was extremely close to God. I asked for signs for every decision I had to make, and He would give them to me. I would talk to Him daily and I always felt like He was listening. I put all my faith in the fact that God had given me everything I asked for, so there was no way he was ever going to take it away from me. So, when God suddenely took away this one thing that I had been asking for, for the guts of a year – when he let me taste it, just to let me watch it helplessly disappear from my life, I felt betrayed. I felt so angry. I was so blind with upset that I didn’t realise that I was being a stupid little brat. All I could see was the hurt and pain I was in. I couldn’t see that my faith was being tested, and so, I let my faith crumble. On top of it all, so many other aspects in my life began to fall apart, and that only pushed me further away from God. I felt like everything in the world was standing against me, like I couldn’t breathe, because all this stuff was all happening at the same time. I kept thinking to myself “I’m not a bad person, so why is it all these bad things keep happening to me?” I blanked the truth that I had it so much better than a lot of people in the world. That I was paying a very small price in life than what others might be.

Over the past 7 months, I spiralled into a frenzy and began acting out. Everything seemed to overwhelm me and I couldn’t seem to stand a single person in my life. I couldn’t carry for myself, which is a feeling I am not used to. I resented myself and would eat at myself for reaching out to friends or family members, because it made me feel weak, and made me feel like I was incapable. So, I began to keep my family and friends at arms length, and everything in my life became half-hearted in meaning to me. The only thing that remained consistent in my life, was writing, my blog. I began opening myself up to things I didn’t really ever see myself indulging in. I didn’t realise that I was using my new habits to escape rather than what I saw as just “having a bit of fun”. Now, don’t get me wrong, they were fun, they just weren’t me… not decisions I would consciously make in a normal period of time in my life. I tend to make very impulsive decisions when I am feeling lost or dazed, and if I didn’t have select people around me who kept my truth alive by giving it to me straight and being patient with me throughout everything I was feeling, I would have ended up now with a whole lot of regret at mistakes made.

I didn’t just avoid prayer completely, I was very vocal about it. Now, any Muslim/Arab can tell you why that might be an issue in an Arab household. I’ve never been a “problematic” child, I never caused trouble growing up, and I live for obeying rules. So, when my mom would ask me if I had prayed, the response I would give her was enough to scare her and to make her see how seriously far from faith I was. I would blankly tell her “no, I haven’t prayed. I’m not going to. I refuse to stand and recite a couple of prayers I don’t feel. I don’t feel anything when I pray, so I’m not going to do it.” She understood I wasn’t being rebellious for the hell of it, but rather that I was genuinely beginning to question everything around me. Because of how strained our relationship had become, she didn’t do anything about it. Actually, over the last few months, I saw something I never saw in my mom before – a lack of hope, and belief… in me. Not in my talents, or in my work, but in me, as a person. I relapsed to a very dark place, and I was dealing with suicidal thoughts and tendencies that I hadn’t felt this strongly in years.

So, how did I go from that to where I am now? Honestly, I don’t know.

I was once told that everything happens for a reason. I can’t understand why everything had to happen the way it did, I don’t have the answer for it all, but what I do know, is that I did need to lose myself to find myself again. And as pathetic as it is, but hearing the one person I still cared for tell me that I shouldn’t be angry at God or life, was the only thing that seemed to break the wall around my heart that had been blocking faith out for so long. It’s crazy where you can find trust. If you believe in someone, you believe in what they tell you. Trust and belief in someone is what makes them a safety to you. And for some fucked up reason, I seem to find my safety in the least trustworthy of places. I tend to believe in the wrong people. It says a lot about a person, the way they use the trust you give them. It doesn’t matter if they misuse it a hundred times, it matters that when you need it most, you find that your trust in that person was in place. That they pull through. The moment when I needed it most, it was. They did. But I realised that I needed to put my trust in places it would last, like my faith in God, rather than to try make a home out of people who can’t stay, no matter how safe they might feel to me.

It didn’t happen right away. I still had a few angry days left in me. Even now, I still feel bursts of anger, and real fire rage within me. I still hurt. But for the first time in so long, the light in my life seems to be overpowering the dark. It was a Thursday, when I came home after a really long day, and I just got an inkling to pray Isha before bed. Not even a full intention to pray. I didn’t make wudu or anything. I still don’t even know why I decided to pray. All I knew was that it was the first time in 7 months I had even considered it, and I felt like I should follow through on that tiny little feeling within me. Because it was coming from me. It wasn’t coming from my mom telling me to pray, not a friend, but from within my own soul.

So I prayed, and by my second rak3a I could feel the tears well up in my eyes. This intense feeling was building up inside me. I felt nervous, and shaky. And the next thing I knew I was on the floor, my head in my hands, my knees up to my chest. I was shaking, rocking back and forth, and my face was flooded with tears. I was trying to talk, but no words were coming out. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed of myself, that I couldn’t even lift my head. I couldn’t face God – literally. I knew God could hear the thoughts in my head, “I’m so sorry” was repeatedly wracking my brain. All these thoughts were flooding my head, and not a single word exiting my lips. I can’t really explain the emotion that washed over me while I was praying. I remember talking to my best-friend Seif, and trying to explain like I just felt like there was a weight on my chest, getting in the way of my relationship with faith. Like it was something sitting heavy on my chest, blocking out God. When I was praying, it’s like I could feel my chest burning. Like the weight on my chest was literally being burned away.

I spent the guts of an hour on my prayer mat. I just talked to God, openly and with complete honesty. I told him about the things I couldn’t tell others. I tried to describe the absolute pain my heart has been feeling. I asked for guidance, and for the want to forget, the want to let go and to actually want better for myself. I picked up my Quran, which had no joke accumulated a whole load of dust because of how long I hadn’t read from it. I don’t think it matters much what I did or said as much as it mattered that for the first time in a long time, I meant it. I took the time in bed to really think about what prayer and God mean to me. I was afraid that it would be a once off, that I would wake up and not pray the next day. But, I did. I prayed all 5 prayers. And the next day. And the day after that.

There’s a hadith, one of my favourites ever, where God says: “Take one step towards me, and I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, and I will run towards you.” I feel like that’s exactly what happened with me. I was excited and happy to go pray, it became the 5 times a day I got a time out from everything around me. I tried to really think about the prayers I was reciting, picking my favourite ones from my childhood. After morning prayer, I ask God for a productive day and I read one prayer from the Quran. After my last prayer of the day, I thank God for everything in my day, ask for an even better one tomorrow, and make some dua and talk to God for a while about whatever is on my mind. It’s become like therapy to me.

What changed is that for the first time in my life, I took prayer into my own hands. I asked myself what it meant to me, rather than what religion or my family or peers said it had to mean. I looked to the aspects of my faith that I love most, and I reminded myself of the views I have always personally held of my religion and of God. That it is more important to love God and faith than to fear them, and that worship that is driven out of a fear is never going to amount to your own will and want to be close to God – because you love Him, because you believe and love your faith, not fear it.

I now come and go from prayer, miss one or two, here and there. But I am the most on track with it than I have ever been in all my life. Despite that, it is the most humbling feeling to know that every time I pray, I am doing it out of my own will and want, that I recognise that I need God, because truly, He does not need us. Above all, recognising through my prayer and conversations with God, just how much it is that I love God and my faith, and that He is the true meaning of unconditional love, mercy and compassion.