WARRIORS + POETS

Category: Poetry

the smallest acts

there have been times an infant this has shown
that age does not define how much you know
the wisdom that we look for in the skies
is oft found in the youngest child’s cries

there have been times without having to speak
servants of God managed the greatest deeds
unrecognized by servants of this world
young soldiers in the service of their Lord

such tyrants history had come to see
the likes of which before there’d never been
yet, by this Pharaoh’s reign would come to end—
a infant’s basket down the river bend

such miracles which had not yet been done
Maryam, untouched, had given birth—a son
protect his mother, Isa had been able
words spoken by one resting in his cradle

such darkness had been spread in Karbala
when called a question out Aba Abdillah
an answer given by his infant son
showed clearly who the battle truly won

when tender Ali Asghar raised his arms
eager to save the life of his Imam
it demonstrated no matter your age
we all have our own separate part to play

when his tongue was run over thirsty lips
soldiers of greed found that their choice was this:
repent and turn back from the way they’d come,
or seal their fate with Asghar’s martyrdom

perhaps some men start shuffling their feet
perhaps this truth they slowly start to see
what excuse do they have to truly give
for not letting an infant child live?

what is it, in the gasping of his breath?
what is it, resting on his father’s chest?
that causes seasoned soldiers to grow scared
as if a dark abyss before them stares

without words Ali Asghar sends a message
the only weapon that you need is courage
the smallest acts will always aid the fight
to overcome the darkness with the light

the cries of Ali Asghar reach their ears
the piercing of a soldier’s driving spears
tears making plain the message of Islam
cannot be made separate from the Imam

with tears he strikes such fear into their souls
with tears demanding each of them to know:
his tears are tears that smother flaming fires
his tears are tears that topple grand empires

all murdered but Hussain still stands unbeaten!
before them, Ali Asghar undefeated!
…and so an archer raises up his bow
the coward’s old response to the hero

Hurmala aims towards a small body
and strikes the small neck of the young Ali
goes limp an infant in his father’s arms
blood-red rivers pooling in his palms

and yet, the patience of Hussain remains
in tears towards the sky such words he says
how easy hardships that on me befall
when witnessed in the presence of Allah…

using his sword Hussain then digs a grave
in which this tiny body is to lay
how can the heart hold back its wailing screams
thinking of how small this grave must be…

wails sounding from a mother’s empty arms
for centuries this grief will now live on
until that moment comes on Judgement Day
when every tyrant’s sentence is proclaimed

when angels will scream, wa Museebata!
as brought forth are tyrants of Karbala
an infant’s justice will be realized
appearing with this question in his eyes:

speak of your sins, explain before Allah!
is on your hands, blood of RasoolAllah!
speak as your hearts with terror are now filled—
for what sin with such cruelty was i killed?

sweeter than honey

the meeting of swords, the clashing of souls
brought by dawn after silence of night
thousands who fight for darkness to prevail—
less than one hundred warriors of the light

the tenth of Muharram on Karbala’s sands
a battle this morning has bloodily raged
a few hours the length of centuries seems
a grief by which young children are aged

from the first arrow released by the enemy
Imam Hussain’s companions for him have bled
while there is strength remaining in their bones
not a drop of the Prophet’s blood will be shed

men continue to leave, bodies continue to return
as a bloody scene in a weeping desert unfurls
until finally none of these brave souls remains
each companion valiantly departs from this world

yet still, Yazeed’s army continues to advance
Imam Hussain’s family now must enter the fray
brothers and nephews and sons never to return
on burning sands their bodies now lay

of Karbala’s youth there is a brave soul
who has come now to ask his Uncle a question
to take up his sword and to enter the battle
he has come to seek his Imam’s permission

how can Hussain look upon this young face
and let him go knowing the enemy’s plans
that they will not rest until piercing his skin
until his blood flows like rivers in the sands

he refuses but his nephew Qasim is insistent
he kisses his uncle’s hands with this request
to allow him to defend the message of Islam
until then the blood in his veins will not rest

his requests are delivered with such earnest
that Imam Hussain can deny him no longer
he kisses his face and allows him to leave
his face so much like the face of his brother

in youth, wealth or beauty or power or fame
anything we dream of our horizon may hold
our bones are now strong and our blood is fresh
thoughts of death come when we’re frail and old

in youth, our shoulders are unburdened
we cannot be expected to represent our faith
thoughts of this world are right here and now
thoughts of the hereafter can surely wait

when it comes to religion, we still have time
when we’re older we’ll learn more of Islam
when we’re older will come the light of our faith
when we’re older will we understand our Qur’an

right now all that matters is being young
all is enjoyment from each dusk to dawn
is that how it is? is this age and youth?
or have we understood living all wrong?

when we see Karbala, we see there are youth
many who are not quite much older than us
there is Qasim and there is Muhammad and Aun
who at such an age put in Allah their trust

youth who come to the aid of their Imam
with no thought to the length of their years
ready to stand for the purity of their beliefs
even if it means facing the enemy’s spears

they could have been worried about the enemy
not just what they’d say, but to them what they’d do
they could have cried out we are yet only youth!
and the army stands as many while we are so few!

they could have been nervous of standing out
not to a few people, but an army of thousands
not just a group who would jeer at them with words
but those who’d ready their swords to surround them

but to these youth, none of this was a thought
for being young did not stop them from knowing
the divine purpose for which they had been created
where they came from and where they were going

they would sacrifice each and every desire
not at life’s edges where death’s kept at bay
rather living each moment only for their Lord
when death’s call still seems far away

Hazrat Qasim enters the battle with such valor
the cub no less than his father, the lion, Hassan
a young boy striking fear into soldier’s hearts
showing them how the battle of the soul is won

eager to defend Islam and his Imam Hussain
he does not hesitate in setting off on the plains
the enemy hopes to strike fear in his heart—
forgetting which bloodline runs through his veins

these is the son of Hamza and Haydar!
the son of Abu Talib and Hassan al-Mujtaba!
his is a lineage more radiant than the stars
this is the grandson of Muhammad al-Mustafa!

yet the cruelty of the charge, the cutting of his bones
the army surrounds him – imagine the scene
men racing forward on horses, and his spilling blood
amidst snarling wolves, a young child’s screams…

a soldier coming forward and striking his head
and Hazrat Qasim falling down on the plains
with wounds kissing his skin, this final farewell
“O dear Uncle, come to my aid!”

like a wild falcon, Hussain enters the battle
the enemy from his force scatters and flees
he cradles this young child’s head to his chest
as Qasim’s soul from this world slowly leaves

“By Allah! It is difficult for your Uncle
that he could not come to your aid…”
as he holds him in his arms, these tender words
the master of Martyrs to a young boy says…

in death, Hazrat Qasim’s face holds a smile
and in it the night’s memory comes to mind
an image of a young face in a tent full of men
who knew with dawn, all present would die

of the boy who realized his youth may be at stake
who tomorrow, may life for death have to barter
yet with passion in his voice he had asked his Imam
“Uncle, am I, too, included in the list of martyrs?”

Imam Hussain had responded, “O my dear son!
How do you consider death (in the way of Allah)?”
and Hazrat Qasim had smiled such a sweet smile
and in his answer, this shining lesson history saw

that the human’s true price is greater than this world
that the only thing worth it is eternity

that no oppressor or tyrant can shackle your soul
when God Himself has created you free

that to enter the fray with your honor and die on your feet
is better than living life on your knees

for such death dying for truth
can only be as he said:

for Qasim, such death,
sweeter than honey

o eyes, shed your tears

O eyes shed your tears
Muharram’s moon has turned
in these days Hussain’s blood is spilled—
the tents of Zaynab burned

O eyes shed your tears
the caravan arrives
soon will the sands redden with blood—
the children’s gasping cries

O eyes shed your tears
a battle now will rage
a noble band of few will rise—
warriors of every age

O eyes shed your tears
the bodies on the ground
trampled by the hooves of horses—
broken, in pieces found

O eyes shed your tears
the son and father part
the Prophet’s face enters the fray—
yet spears still pierce his heart

O eyes shed your tears
to Furat Abbas goes
Hussain rushes to his side—
Hussain returns alone

O eyes shed your tears
will not be quenched a thirst
the neck of Hussain’s pure infant—
an arrow reaches first

O eyes shed your tears
Hussain will call this cry
“Is there no one to help us?”—
will ring throughout the sky

O eyes shed your tears
join Hussain’s ranks and know
you could not be there in body—
you can still be in soul

O eyes shed your tears
more than just in sorrow
but in reflection and new growth—
to better our tomorrows

O eyes shed your tears
these tears must us revive
they lead to perfecting our souls—
they bring dead hearts alive

O eyes shed your tears
weep and recall Hussain!
how they surrounded him with swords—
how he fell on those plains…

O eyes shed your tears
Hussain killed in Karbala!
from the skies heard, O soul at peace—
return now to Allah…

O eyes shed your tears
the heart begins to shake
a young daughter’s heart-wrenching wails
the head raised on the stake

O eyes shed your tears
the ringing of her cries
searching the desert for his chest
for where his body lies

O eyes shed your tears
don’t let this month’s moon pass
without your heartstrings torn apart
in Hussain’s love steadfast

O eyes shed your tears
cry wa Muhammada!
in these days, join his caravan—
Hussain and Karbala…

the secret

the world still craves to know the secret spoken by Hussain
that changed the heart of one such as Zuhayr the son of Qayn

what was it that was spoken in the silence of that tent
that changed a wary man into a man wholly content?

when just moments ago, Zuhayr had in this act persisted
where Hussain lay his camp, Zuhayr would lay his at a distance

two caravans had found their paths by destiny were crossed
yet one hid from the other steering clear at any cost

til finally the noble son, the heir of Thaqalayn
dispatched a message for Zuhayr, the simple son of Qayn

with one who had avoided him, Hussain now wished to speak
with one whose hesitance til now both caravans had seen

the news arrived and all around him motionless became
would he accept the invitation sent him by Hussain?

such an invitation, still the will of Zuhayr faltered
until were spoken such words by which destinies are altered

Zuhayr’s wife had beheld what her husband did not see
by such women are some men made from naught to Hussaini

how strange is this Zuhayr! all praise to God alone belongs!
the Prophet’s son has summoned you and you do not respond? 

her words ignite a spark inside the depths of Zuhayr’s soul
and so he stands and to the tents of Hussain he now goes

on entering the tent he’s who his whole life he had been
yet when he leaves an altered man by history is seen

Zuhayr has returned, shining bright, contentment on his face
his wife bids him farewell as with Hussain he takes his place

the world still craves to know the secret spoken by Hussain
that changed the heart of one such as Zuhayr the son of Qayn

what was it that was spoken in the silence of that tent
that changed a wary man into a man wholly content?

what was that treasure hidden in the depths of Zuhayr’s heart
that in the eyes of his Imam set him clearly apart?

something was seen there by Hussain; Zuhayr did not yet know
a seed in need of one small push into an oak to grow

men like Hussain are not just men, they are spirits in flight
and so the hearts they call to them turn by their touch to light

those who have known him, know that when you stand before Hussain
he’ll change your heart the way he changed that of Zuhayr bin Qayn

when came the call from his Imam, Zuhayr did not know why
yet answering the call alone, his soul was purified

such is the beauty of Hussain—by darkness we’re enthralled
yet to us he extends his hand: us by our names he calls

we choose so often to be blind and from our souls to turn
yet when we come to know Hussain we learn how to return

just like Zuhayr, our caravan has traveled on so far
beside us Hussain’s makes its way, headed for Karbala

if in this moment, sorrow’s weight upon you heavy lays
consider it the gentle touch of Hussain’s changing rays

if this desire – to be his – awakens in your heart
consider that Hussain has sent your soul a special call

if you respond seeking to learn the secret Hussain knows
and if you go leaving behind all that your tent now holds

if in this moment truth like that of lightning now does strike
and if you let it alter you, not slow, but speed of light

if like Zuhayr you wish that you are killed a thousand times
so that each time to your Hussain you may offer your life

then even when arrows of life towards you become vaulted
you will stand firm, you will not shake, your faith will never falter

and all will wonder what was said in your heart’s silent tent
that changed a straying soul into a soul in truth content

the world will ask to know the secret spoken by Hussain,
that in one moment made you rise a person truly changed

the world will ask, yet like the secret of Zuhayr bin Qayn—
this secret will always be yours, for you and your Hussain

some days

some days,
i walk down the street like everyone else

bundling my coat close to my neck
waiting for the stoplight to turn
“some weather we’re having”
“isn’t that right”
“in my day, autumn was never this chilly”

some days,
i go through the motions

scribbling my name hastily across a paper
filling in bubbles, a code i can’t decipher
“as you can see in figure a”
“so this study clearly shows”
the mitochondria is the powerhouse
the mitochondria is the powerhouse
the mitochondria is the powerhouse
the powerh—
the pow—

some days,
i give in to forgetting

a whisper in my ear says,
there is enough time – just rest
my nails, chipped, ragged
there are still many years to go
splintered edges against rawed stone
you will not make it to the light
the sun so far, the edge of the well
but here, now, is the dark

go on, sleep a while.

and some days,
i listen.

until some days become some weeks
some weeks, some months
some months,

well.

was it all really real anyway?

*

some days,
i forget you

you turn your face from me
from the black heart
you hold in your hands,

disappointed

and some days,
i let you.

but some days…
somehow…
someway…

you look at me.

and suddenly,

i am

bundling my coat,
a teeming pile of tendrils
heartstrings and sinew
bloody, awful, messy
sprawled across the pavement

caught mid-motion in
a spilling across the crosswalk
paralyzed by shame
naked, exposed

writing with my own blood,
scribbling, frantic,
“i am aqeela”
“i am batool”
i am naqvi
i am naqvi
i am naq—
i am n—

*

some days,
i am weak

but some days,
you give me the strength to remember

some days,
i do not forget

i do not
patch up the brokenness
do not
numb the sweetness of the pain
shooting through my spine
falling to my knees

forgive me,

forgetting
was what i had feared most of all…

*

some days,
i walk down the street like everyone else

but some days,
i walk down the street, a bereaved lover

insides thrashed, blood trailing
hair wild, breath gasping
racing through the alleyways
screaming for you

some days,
i stand and watch the city go up in flame

fire catches my clothing
and sears, hot on my skin

but i do not set it out

some days,
i let you consume me

some days,
i burn
i remember
i am grateful
i crumble

at long last free,
nothing but dust and ash,

vanishing,

in the autumn wind

the aftermath

your face haunts my every dream…
i wake from the fragrance of your embrace
to the scent of fire and weeping—
to the wailing of flowing rivers,
rivers of flowing blood.

.

“And think not Allah to be heedless of what the unjust ones do.
He only respites them to a day
when their eyes shall be fixed open [staring up with terror].”
 – The Holy Quran, 14:42 –

still far too soon

يا ليل طوّل ساعاتك
O night, prolong your hours—

let me for some moments longer gaze upon his face;

these hours of night,
still far too soon
these thousand years,
still far too soon
these infinite ages,
still far too soon

to embrace the
broken
body
of

Hussain.