WARRIORS + POETS

Category: Poetry

nothing but beauty

ya Zaynab, the time has come to bid Hussain farewell
horrors to pass the rising of a bloody moon foretells

ya Zaynab, how shall i say what’s to come tomorrow?
creeping to the desert’s shores are crimson waves of sorrow

ya Zaynab, with what words can i say
what heartbreak is yet to happen on Ashura’s tragic day

ya Zaynab, with the rising of Ashura’s sun
to come to the aid of your Hussain there will be left no one

ya Zaynab, when he gives to you his final call
make sure that you kiss his neck, for here the sword will fall

ya Zaynab, to the battlefield he is to go
and will shower down upon him rain of merciless arrows

ya Zaynab, facing thousands he’ll stand as one
yet all will scatter from the sword of Ali’s fearless son

ya Zaynab, your Imam will still be standing tall
“O God! It is You I trust in grief…” will still remain his call

ya Zaynab, seeing light the darkness will be scared
more archers will be signaled and more swordsmen prepared

ya Zaynab, then wounds on wounds will kiss his skin,
and when they do the enemy will start to circle in…

ya Zaynab, from his horse he’ll be shot down
and snarling wolves snapping their jaws your lion will surround

ya Zaynab, and when he falls to his knees
the heavens will hear wailing of an anguished sister’s screams

ya Zaynab, will choke with grief your tears!
as the chest of your Hussain is ripped and torn apart with spears

ya Zaynab, a man will skulk forward steadily
in his eyes you’ll see the sunken gaze of forgotten humanity

ya Zaynab, above Hussain will be raised a sword
but in his eyes you’ll see the calm of one conversing with his Lord

ya Zaynab, his head from his body will be severed
and the brother you held close to you will in his blood be covered

ya Zaynab, you will see the blood-red tears
of Imam Sajjad when his father’s head is raised upon a spear

ya Zaynab, this world for you will turn to ash
when your brother, your Imam, when your Hussain breathes his last

ya Zaynab, yet Hussain will leave you with this mission
to remain strong and carry on the message of his revolution

so ya Zaynab,

even when your tents they come to burn
even when you are imprisoned by those who truth’s call have spurned

ya Zaynab, even when they tie your hands
even when they drag you as captives across miles of lonely land

ya Zaynab, even when the tyrant brings you in his hall
your spine will not be broken, like your brother you’ll stand tall

ya Zaynab, you will not have with you a sword
but each tyrant’s throne will shatter by the grandeur of your words

ya Zaynab, in fear before you they will stand
when you pronounce the Prophet’s blood is dripping from their hands

ya Zaynab, for all who listen you’ll attest
the truth of who these tyrants are, of who has devoured your flesh

ya Zaynab, to them you will proclaim
their strongest efforts will not erase the splendor of your names

ya Zaynab, in fear they’ll shout: your brother died!
with sweaty palms cry out: Hussain is no longer alive!

but ya Zaynab, you’ll call towards the sky
do not name as dead those in God’s way slain – no, they are alive (2:154)

ya Zaynab, with your brother’s head they will then taunt
with this, in fright, their assumed victory in Karbala they’ll flaunt

but ya Zaynab, you will still look them in the eye
and declare with the firmest gaze the victory of the Most High

and ya Zaynab, all will tremble, in your voice they’ll hear Ali:
as you call with pride that Karbala was nothing but beauty

as you declare

that Karbala

was nothing
but
beauty

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

they’re challenged by the pureness of his soul
such innocence that history will know:
if can’t be justified this infant’s murder
then neither can the murder of his father

to murder Ali Asghar in his arms
is to declare discarding any qualms
terror of all the acts ‘til now been done
the wrong of the final act still yet to come

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

little lights

bury your heart only in those places,
trust your soul only with those few,
the blood of your blood who lead the path to finding the truest you

how many are our journeys,
how many are the storms we’ve known,
how i’m grateful for these little lights always there to guide me home

what they have done to your ‘Ali

it has long been a wish of mine
a wish that my eyes may see
may see what lays beneath the sky
the sky of Madina’s pure city

Madina, of you i have dreamed
dreamed of your tranquil purity
of that soul resting in your sands
his grave, RasoolAllah, Allah’s Nabi

in the depths of night i lay awake
to my eyes comes a whispered dream
the fragrance of sun, the scent of rain
the coolness of the moonlight’s gleam

with aching hands i grasp at stars
my feet walk weightless over seas
i see a green dome rising from afar
i stand, your grave in front of me

how many words i wish to say!
how many wishes of heart to free!
but comes to mind just a single phrase
just one thought brings me to my knees

no other words are worth these words
no other discourse my tongue will speak
except: RasoolAllah, see what they’ve done…
what they have done to your Ali

did you not say Ali is to me as was Haroon,
except there will be no Prophet after me?
was it not that Allah and you and the one
who gives in prayer are our Wali?

did you not say it time and time again?
at Ghadeer his arm raised did they not see?
did they not hear: of whosoever I am Mawla,
his Mawla is none other than Ali…

did not come to you this order from Allah
was not Ali’s Wilayah God’s decree
to declare this as revealed by your Lord
or your mission would be rendered incomplete?

were not said the words of Thaqalayn?
were not two things each attached to each?
two things: Ahlulbayt and the Quran
is not then Quran only with Ali?

at every moment of your life
at each turn – in public or secrecy
was there not one shoulder next to yours?
was that shoulder not always Ali?

when they pelted you with stones
when bled your feet on Ta’if’s streets
when they plotted murder while you slept
was not your protector always Ali?

did you not call him flesh of your flesh?
blood of your blood was not said he?
when asked who’d stand by your side
was not the answer always Ali?

and at the moment of your death
when all had turned their backs to leave
who was that one remaining by your side?
whose hands gave your ghusl but Ali’s?

your soul had scarcely left this world
when were snatched the rights of your family
in the dead of night, creeping like wolves
teeth bared, snapping in animosity

the hands that you had once kissed
the arms you embraced so lovingly
come and see, RasoolAllah,
see what they have done to your Ali

the mirror of your soul, your true friend
your branch and his – from a single tree
they’ve taken to its bark a jagged axe
they’ve come for the blood of your Ali

they have cut to pieces your daughter’s heart
of whom you said, Fatima is part of me
her grief made unbearable for her this world
her soul rose, leaving lonely here Ali

come and see, how heavy is his chest
the weight of worlds his heart carries
hear his whispers, a lover to his Lord
in stormy seas – the patience steady of Ali

come and see RasoolAllah!
how your beloved wanders through the streets
his sorrow emptied in desert sands
secrets no soul alive can now set free

come and see RasoolAllah!
how they avoid him, come and see
how they spread lies and curse his name
how they take lightly the name of your Ali…

come and see RasoolAllah!
the blood that from your lover’s eye does weep
as it hears the voice of its Imam
the unanswered last call of Salooni..

come and see RasoolAllah!
come and see the great deceit
fallen over your Ummah’s eyes
sitting by ponds, leaving the sea…

come and see, HabibAllah!
the tatters of this heartstring’s grief
calling – followers of Mustafa!
why have you forgotten his Ali!?

it is heartwrenching O my Rasool!
this forsaking a hurt beyond belief!
a sorrow that grays each head of hair
for abandoned has been your Ali!

oh Muslims, soften your hearts
let the skies thunder as you weep
to reach the city go through the gate
renew your allegiance to Ali

come and see your lovers O Rasool
O lovers let your wails to heaven reach
make firm your pledge to your last Imam
do not forsake him as was forsaken your Ali

a game of leadership has been made
though no prophet chosen by man had been
though never was there absent a guide to God
though mankind was never left without this link

twelve leaders chosen by Allah
linked to the Quran, its living tafsir
all but the last – imprisoned, slaughtered one by one
the first murder, the murder of Ali

if Ali is second only to you
in nearness to God if it’s you, then he
then to be against him is against Islam
for where there is Islam there is Ali

if there is La saif illa dhulfiqaar!
and La fatah illah Ali!
…then why have they cut him with a sword?
why have they struck the head of your Ali?

come and see RasoolAllah!
in the early dawn of Kufa’s city
as God’s lion cries out with this roar
Fuztu bi Rabbil Kaaba! cries your Ali

come and see how spreads the blood
how it flows upon his cheeks
how a voice from heaven shrieks a call
in Kufa has been struck Ali!

come and see how the face you kissed
the child you cradled in infancy
how into his veins a poison pours
how turns pale the face of your Ali…

come and see Rasool Allah!
as if from the sky the stars unseat
as if God’s anger blackens every sky
as sets in the eve of the nineteenth…

come and see, your Zaynab wails!
come and see, your Hassnain weep!
come and see how the orphans cry,
where is our father, where is Ali?!

come and see as one who loves you
embraces your grave, her wrenching screams:

come and see O RasoolAllah,
see what they have done to your Ali…

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

s

 

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 –

.

film: the caravan of pride

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.

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