In Night, Rise Like Candles

by Aqeela Naqvi


 

The night is dark and you stand under a weeping moon. The face of grief is so harrowing, even the stars avert their faces. The wind begins to whistle hollow songs, and you feel the hair on your neck rise. You are alone, and you are afraid. Your breath grows shallow and your eyes frantically search for an escape from this darkness…when suddenly, in the distance, you see a glimmer of light. Your knees shake but you begin to run, your feet kicking up dust as your pace quickens. Your heart is pounding but something inside you knows – if you can reach that light, if only you can reach that light…

You get closer and suddenly the sands around you begin to twirl; there is a burning in your eyes but you continue to run, continue to stretch out your arm…if only you can grasp it! The dust clears for a moment and there! you see it and grab the end of a fiercely burning candle. As soon as you take hold, the night begins to screech in your ears, the wind whips violently around your face; you brace yourself, expecting to cringe, but to your surprise, the fear is gone. Your hold grows more firm on the candle and you feel its light seeping through your fingertips, its warmth calming the quivering of your heart; despite the darkness, despite the shadows, despite the depth of night, you find that you are no longer afraid…

Because the candle that glimmers in that pitch-black night wears the name of Hussain. And the light that seeps from its veins to yours fills you with the knowledge that even when it seems like all is lost, even when it seems like the world is overflowing with darkness—there is a force that exists that is able to rise above, is able to bring back the light…and that force, is you.

You have stood in an empty desert and shaken with fear, finding it hard to believe that you might be important, might possess a unique talent, might be needed. But in that darkness, you saw the bright figure of Hussain and, when you held his hand, your own hands realized their potential to change the world; when you saw the noble prints of his footsteps, your feet realized the heights to which they could carry you; when you saw the light of his candle, you understood the meaning of sacrifice, legacy, immortality—and understood that the truest heroes have never been made of the stuff of angels; they have always been flesh and blood;
 
they have always been YOU.

***

The night is dark and I stand under a weeping moon,
The wind begins to whistle a hollow song, an empty croon,
 
The face of grief is so harrowing even the stars avert their faces.
I am alone, but not afraid, I no longer fear the empty spaces.
 
My back was once bent, but now I stand tall my head towards the sky
Because darkness and evil became small and weak when I heard this cry:
 
“Is there anyone left to help me?” asks Hussain under a bloody sun
I hear in his voice the plea of all voiceless and towards them I run
 
Hearing his grief, I forget my own, and the fear slowly slips away
God give me strength, light up my soul, help me keep darkness at bay
 
The legacy of the heroes of Karbala cannot be erased by time’s swift hand
They are there for those who awaken their souls, who want to take a stand
 
They are the candle that flickers, a refuge for one lost in the darkest night
For those who say I am here, I want to be free, I want to walk in the light
 
When to this light I grab hold, agents of darkness screech on a desert plain
Because they know they can’t touch the one who names his hero as Hussain
 
Whenever I feel-  my lonely voice cannot kindle change that will last
Whenever I feel downhearted, I remember blazing heroes of the past
 
Who showed me that fewness of number has never determined defeat
Who sang—against thousands, the song of 72—a sound so utterly sweet
 
Whenever I feel like giving up, start to believe darkness will outweigh light
I remember victory will always side with those who stand for what is right
 
I remember the call still echoing for help, and the spark strikes in me anew
And so remembering Hussain, I rise, will you rise with me, too?
 
We have heard the snarl of injustice, heard the oppressed’s broken cries
But we have the legacy of Hussain, so with the banner of Justice, we rise

***

We have seen rising on desert plains, a most beautiful rising
so like the heroes of Karbala, we rise
 
We have seen the choice of thirst over drinking from tyrants
so like warriors thirsty for justice, we rise
 
We have seen young children laugh in the face of hardship
so like the youth of fearlessness, we rise
 
We have seen a man who lost all, still bow down to the One
so like gold tested by fire, we rise
 
We have seen the lion’s sister roar after the death of her brother
so like the unbreakable women, we rise
 
We have seen the eagle’s flight, breaking free of grim shackles
so like eagles, for freedom we rise
 
We have seen the candle’s light, its flicker in the darkness
so like candles for truth, we rise
 
A rose’s scent has risen,
the fragrance of the martyr
so like blossoming roses, we rise
 
A rose’s scent has risen,
the fragrance of the martyr
and so, like Hussain, we rise.

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