Women

Conversations during Lockdown: Munira ben E.

July 14, 2020
Munira_C.D.L.

In conversation with Munira ben E.
Artwork Fatema A. (@cosmicweavers) 

Separator.

Fatema:

Where are you right now, is that home for you?

 

Munira:

I’m in London hamna. I was born here and I grew up here. I’ve never really lived anywhere else. I was in Coventry for university for like three years, but that’s in the UK.

 

Fatema:

What did you study at university?

 

Munira Ezzi:

English and creative writing.

 

Fatema:

Are you working right now in that field?

 

Munira Ezzi:

I’ve always been editing and proofreading, but it’s more established now. I’m hoping to go into publishing, which is why I’m so happy that I’m part of Mighzal. It’s just so perfect.

I was freelancing up until now and just a few months ago I began my own business.

 

Fatema:

How do you advertise and find clients?

 

Munira Ezzi:

Well at the moment, it’s mainly been through friends and family and through word of mouth. With this whole quarantine, I haven’t really gotten a chance to advertise it outside. I would have been giving out leaflets, going to places because I know a lot of places are looking to hire those kinds of roles.

 

Fatema:

Is there anything specific that you’re working towards or that really excites you to think that it might be your life maybe five or ten years from now?

 

Munira Ezzi:

Definitely just publishing, like having my own publishing house kind of thing, where people come and submit manuscripts and you look through them, edit them, publish them. That’s truly what I’ve wanted to do.

 

Fatema:

Are you living with your parents?

 

Munira:

Yeah. Yeah. I’m with my parents, I’m single, so… (laughs)

 

Fatema:

Depending on who you are quarantined with, it could be a very, very different experience, you know?

 

Munira:

Yeah. No, it’s true. I’m with my parents and three brothers right now.

 

Fatema:

So that’s six of you in the house?

 

Munira:

Yeah. Six.

Fatema:

What’s that like?

 

Munira Ezzi:

The thing is like in London, the houses aren’t very big. So we’re kind of squashed in a small space for like a long period of time and it’s going to be harder now because Shehrullah is coming up. Shehrullah for us is going to masjid most of the time. So Fajr, Zohr, Maghrib, Behori. We’re always in masjid and it’s going to be so different to be at home the whole time. It’s little things you wouldn’t even imagine and once they’re gone it’s like “I can’t wait till I get that back!”

 

Fatema:

I think it puts things into perspective too. Definitely acknowledge the issues and how we’re struggling and how we’re coping. But at the same time, I think it’s so important to remember how privileged we are in so many little ways. What’s it been like for you and the rest of your family?

 

Munira Ezzi: 

Yeah, exactly. The dynamics of the house have changed completely, since people are working from home now. People are working in the kitchen, or in the living room. All these spaces occupied now where usually you would come down to just chill, but now you can’t because there’s someone working here. I was freelancing anyway, so I’ve always been working from home. So it’s not made much of a difference to me. But now everyone’s at home. Essentially, the whole household is just jobless. Obviously you have to sustain yourself. Groceries, all that kind of stuff. If you’ve not got a job, then how are you going to do that?

 

Fatema:

How are you coping? Have you made some positive changes to your life?

 

Munira:

I’m part of Talebaat, of Daeratul Aqeeq – it’s a global initiative. Busaheba has formed this initiative for women. In every jamaat, there will be women running day to day duties of all the sansthao, and Daeratul Aqeeq is the lead for that. It’s amazing because now all the bairao are involved and are given roles, according to what they’re good at, what they’re passionate about.

Our bensaab had the idea to run online classes for all the ladies since mostly a lot of people are home now, or are busy with their children and they don’t get the time to do anything else. Every day at 4 there’s a class going on. Someone from our community does a class. We have had loads of people attending, it’s amazing. It’s really cool. Everyone can do this in their own jamaat. We get a hundred, 200 people in every session. It’s just so nice. It just brings everyone together and people really appreciate it. A lot of the older women live alone. These sessions give them that opportunity to connect. I have mostly been involved in that. And that keeps me going.

 

Fatema:

What is something you’re going to take with you once this is over?

 

Munira:

The most important thing I’ve realised is that it is so important to unite. With your community, your people. It’s so easy to fall into that trap of I have nothing to do, so I’m  not going to do anything. Reaching out to people is the key thing right now. If we didn’t have zoom, and these meetings, it would be so easy for people to just lose contact with each other.

 

Fatema:

Your piece for #hermitheroes talks about being grounded in faith and it was so impactful. I personally loved it so much. That’s the first thing that I wanted to reconnect with when this happened. In the beginning, it was still very abstract. I was like, oh yay. Like all this free time and no classes. And oh, I’m going to have so much time to paint now. I think it was a lot of people’s first reaction to it. As the days and weeks started passing and when people really felt the blow of what this really meant, I thought this could be the perfect time to take a hard look at where I’m lacking in life. And for me, it had been religion. Yaqeen is one thing, but amal is another, equally important part. I was horrified at how easily I would let myself off the hook for not waking up for Fajr. I resolved to try and sort out these very basic foundational things.

 

Munira:

Yeah. It’s interesting. You say that because even for someone who’s been doing this for a long time, this whole period has had a different atmosphere than normal. The reason why I wrote that piece was I thought like, “Hey, I am kind of hoping that other people can benefit from this. If there’s anything that I can share, it’s the strength in my own faith.” You know how you hear Maula say in most waazo ke “Apno tosho tayar kare che.” This period, especially the fact that these live relays are happening every day it’s just beyond our imagination. The whole world is doing majlis at the same time. It feels like to me, Maula is preparing it for us.

 

Fatema:

I have spoken to so many people about this- how every person has such different struggles to try and reconcile facets of their identity. You are a mumina, of course, but then you are all these other things and you’re playing all these other roles. It’s so easy  for our generation, because we work in this climate of being busy and hustling all the time. Despite the kind of environment I was raised in, I would be shocked at myself. And I kept telling myself that I was trying my best and that it would suffice for now.

But now I’m realising that no, those are just excuses I fed myself to not feel guilty about missing out on the things that really mattered. Like I would have  a month go by before I opened up my Quran, which is crazy. And so I would think, okay, but there’s Ramadan, there is Ashara, there are these periods that I’m a really good mumin in. And I do everything the best I can. But I realise I can be that person all year around. It’s just a mental shift to realise how important this is. Despite being told namaz kitlu important che, otherwise your other amals don’t get looked at. For some reason, it was still kind of abstract and I couldn’t fully absorb it. Now that I am starting to make that effort to build the foundation and starting to realise that- it’s so little. It’s so little compared to everything else I do in the day, how I choose to spend my time, what I could do without. The time that my faith asks of me is so little.

 

Munira Ezzi:

We can do everything in an hour. That’s all it takes. This quarantine, if anything, has really shown you can combine the two, it can work simultaneously in sync. Isn’t that amazing?

 

Fatema: 

Yeah. I think I think it goes back to that idea of being fully in control of your time and then realising that, you know, really like school or work should only pick up at least this amount of time. Our Namaz is still such a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of that. To not be able to make that effort to either find a place to go pray namaz and to not carry a masallo with you, to not be willing to go and do wuzu, is just a failure on our part. That’s a failure on my part. It’s embarrassing considering the lengths we go to for other things, we really want in Duniya. That comes effortlessly to us.

 

Munira Ezzi:

Yeah, this is crazy. But the thing is, I think a lot of it really does come down to niyat as well. Niyat and Tawfeeq. This time has given everyone some sense of Tawfeeq. People have started to realise and appreciate and be grateful about things that they haven’t been about before. This has made people reflect.


 

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