Remona Aly
Wednesday 05 January 2022 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2

From confused compasses to a new direction

Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2, Zoe Ball Breakfast Show

From confused compasses to a new direction


If there’s one thing I’ve installed and uninstalled on my phone even more times than a dating app, it’s the app for a compass. And due to some inexplicable tech mystery, it never seems to point the way I need it to, which is towards the Kaaba in Mecca, believed by Muslims to be the first house built to worship one God.

I’ve had to depend on a digital compass as I’m always on the go, so I’ve prayed my five daily prayers in the unlikeliest of places, whether it’s contorting my spiritual moves into a constricted fitting room in a high street clothes shop, or trying to connect with Allah in a restaurant pantry with wine bottles stacked on one side and a string of sausages on the other. All the while, whatever way my confused compass wrongly tells me to face, I have to figure out the right direction.

Moving with unsure steps into 2022 after years of diversions, I’ve learned that life is not always linear.

Watching other people follow a timeline of their ideal career, house, marriage and sprogs, has made me feel I’m losing my way, as milestones are removed one by one from the journey I had imagined for myself.

I agree with American Muslim author, Yasmin Mogahed saying, “Sometimes the gifts of God aren’t wrapped as we expect”. Instead of moving out to live a new adventure, I’m still in the same quiet village I grew up in, but it has given me an anchor in my own troubled waters. I haven’t had the 2.4 kids, but I have had the chance to fall deeper in love with my nieces and nephew.

And so I carry myself and my heart on a path that hasn’t gone the way I wanted, but one that I and destiny have worked with together.

The words of Rumi, the medieval Muslim scholar and Sufi poet, seem so poignant to me now. He said, “Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot. Seek the path that demands your whole being.”

I’ll untie myself from the knot of regret over a life not meant for me, and move forward not broken, but with a fullness of heart and soul. Forget the darn compass app, it’s time to set my own direction.