our way through fire

by Aqeela Naqvi

“I am the progeny of Ibrahim;
I’ll find my way through fire.”
-Rumi

millennia ago, when the world was a younger place
in the heavens a human being was created from clay
a being of sinew and flesh and stardust and bone
a being that would in time call this Earth its home.

the Lord said, ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth.’
the angels replied, ‘what is the reason for this birth?
will you place there one who would only shed blood?
make mischief and pollute clear rivers with mud?
who would fight hard and lie and from others steal?
who would cry out and cheat and innocents kill?
who you will make but who’ll forget You to praise
while we celebrate and glorify your Holy Names?’

all of the angel’s concerns, God already knew
of the hatred that in hearts of flesh can brew
but unlike angels, he knew with an All-Knowing Sight
there may be darkness in man – but there is also light
that some might choose hate, but others would choose love
some would sink below animals, others would rise above
and those who rose would live such lives that would show
the truth of God’s reply: ‘I know that which you don’t know.’

that which he knew, and that which he taught to man
the knowledge of the stars, secrets of sea and land
such knowledge that angels bowed down in awe
but one being refused, arrogance was his flaw
a being created from fire, and such pride in this flame
said, ‘Fire’s greater than mud, I will not bow to clay.’

in his pride fire could not see the beauty of dust
the magic that whispers in the hands of the just
so for thousands of years as man’s story would show
fire would try to defeat those who turned flesh into gold
attacking from left and from right, from front and behind
whispering in hearts and playing tricks in the mind
but through fire flesh walked, emerging twice as strong
Hatred could not touch the singers of Love’s perfect song

Ibrahim sat in its depths, by oppressors he was judged
but he whispered to the Lord – fire became cool to the touch
sifting through falsehood to see truth, a legacy that inspires
the Friend of God Ibrahim finds his way through the fire

Musa escaped to the sea, tyrants gained on him ground,
but skies spoke and seas parted, and fire was drowned
Dawood faced Goliath, a youth versing a great foe
and when his stone struck him down, fire cried out in woe
Maryam with strength bore a savior under the palm trees
and what Isa would accomplish, fire could not foresee
heroes and heroines of flesh, a great legacy that inspires:
the progeny of Ibrahim will find its way through the fire

then came the greatest clay, fire trembled in awe —
darkness vanquished by the light of Muhammad al Mustafa
Fatima’s eloquent words struck down arrogant men
Ali’s voice roared for justice, a lion time and again
Hassan’s intellect put the greatest thinkers to shame
and fire found itself defeated by the flesh of Hussain
so in anger it responded, setting desert tents aflame
but Zaynab rose like the tide and erased was its name

a household, a community, a nation that inspires –
the progeny of Ibrahim finds its way through the fire

this is flesh. this is power. this is the magic of bone.
what fire did not understand, but what God did know
that when fire wraps itself around pulsing hearts
hearts turn to stone and from them light departs
but when fire’s hatred is fought with the water of love
there is lightness not dark and flesh rises above

remember this flesh, look inside yourself and know
you are meant to choose love, not the hardness of stone
when today turns towards you, the face of harrowing grief
when today is parched and looks to drink waters of relief
when today stands at a crossroads with blood on its palms
will you direct it to destruction, or tell it to lay down its arms?
will you allow your heart to be flesh, to see scars as strength
or will you see scars as weakness, and choose stone instead?

when you look back I hope you will have chosen to be flesh
and when stone cut your skin, I hope this you will have said:

I am the progeny of Ibrahim, I do not fear the fire
such is the status of flesh, my inheritance inspires
I am flesh, flesh that runs on great lion’s bones
flesh whose blood spills and topples tyrant’s thrones
I am flesh, that fells Goliath’s with the strength of the soul
flesh that speaks against injustice even if standing alone
I am flesh and I choose not war, not the hardness of steel
I choose the ‘more arduous battle,’ peace, where we heal
I am flesh and if there is anything at all hard in me found
it is strength gripping hands of those pushed to the ground

I am flesh, and though not an expert in foreign affairs
I know enough to question the words reaching my ears
I may not have a certain education or a fancy degree
but I know one innocent death is one death too many

so this, our proclamation: to choose flesh over stone
to live life in the knowledge of ‘what God then did know’
that though this flesh is but dust, a molder’s mere clay
strength exists in its bones to keep darkness at bay

that though wolves will come howling in the dead of the night
and seas will billow around, giants will enter the fight
and coffins will be struck with arrows, and doors will be burned
and trash will be thrown and the message will be spurned

though you may watch as they gather more kindling to light
while your hands are in chains and stars weep in the night
you will not fear, for you will know can touch you no flame
cannot be burnt the legacy of dust from which you came

for you are descendants. inheritors. legacies of flesh that inspire;
you are the progeny of Ibrahim. you’ll find your way through the fire.