Category: Poetry

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,


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,


and some days,
i let you.

but some days…

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,

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,


in the autumn wind

Hurr, who chose to be free

light is breaking its way through gentle night
with the reddened tones of a blood sunrise
through the tents of Hussain on Ashura
a morning breeze in deep sorrow sighs

those who have just spent the night in prayer
prepare now to face the battle call
bidding farewell to the ones that they love
their words, La ila ha illallah

on the other side of the desert plain
an enemy is preparing now for war
amongst them is seated a man named Hurr
a different battle waging at his core

what is this he is hearing around him?
what is this he has heard the soldiers say?
who is this they are planning to kill –
planning now the murder of al-Hussain?

as if Hurr has summoned him with his thoughts
Hussain on the horizon makes this call:
Is there none to defend the Ahlulbayt,
none who would help us in the name of Allah?

suddenly, Hurr’s body begins to shake,
it was he who brought Hussain to this land
the Commander halting the path to Kufa
instead turning them toward these sands

it was Hurr who brought them to Karbala
O Hurr, what horror is it that you’ve done?
when Hussain arrived he had touched the sands
as if already knowing what was to come

Hussain’s call is like the quake of the earth
dividing the world clean into two sides
before him is the drop of jagged cliffs
behind him, the beauty of al-Hussain’s eyes

before him is the terror of crashing waves
fires angrily before his eyes brew
yet behind him lies the ship of Hussain
the promise to carry him safely through

there is a truth he had not seen before
but now he cannot shake it from his mind
it is up to him to make a choice:
sweet pain of sight, or comfort staying blind?

will he ignore the call of al-Hussain,
choosing instead to fight on the enemy’s side?
knowing that this side’s army is much larger
knowing on this side, he will not yet die?

or will Hurr cross to the side of the truth
his life’s course changed in a single breath
even though Hussain’s ranks are much smaller
even though he would be choosing certain death?

what he was not able to see for years
is now a truth that pierces him with light
a life lived in mountain’s shadows is not life
after having seen from atop their heights

the victory of this world that is Yazeed’s
is short as the space between night and dawn
but true victory belongs to al-Hussain
in God’s pleasure, living forever, on and on

Hurr cries out to the sky, I stand between
Heaven and Hell, and Hell I have spurned
by God, I will choose nothing but Heaven
even if I’m cut to pieces or if I am burned

Hurr mounts his horse and rides out to Hussain
hands on his head like a prisoner newly set free
with each step, his heart is pleading this call
my master Hussain, somehow forgive me…

when he reaches Hussain it is as if
Hussain’s been waiting for him all this while
when Hurr had not yet known what he could be
Hussain showed him with a single smile

when Hurr had thought that all that was written
was desire and darkness in his fate
Hussain showed him how to seek out his light
by choosing to walk with the Ahlulbayt

Hussain says, I forgive you, may God accept
Hurr’s life is changed with a single repent,
and around him begins to fill the air
the sweetest aroma of heaven’s scent

Hurr would gladly get down from his horse
to kiss the burning plains of Karbala
but he is eager to defend the Imam of his time
his life for the life of Aba Abdillah

the next time he will dismount from this horse
it will be only to take his final breath
when once he had feared death’s seeking of him
now with faith and courage, he seeks out death

Hurr looks bravely across the battlefield
the vision of an eagle in his gaze
arrows begin to fall, strong like the rain,
he meets them strengthened with God’s praise

his sword reaches out to meet them with force
striking with the fury of a thousand men
the fight of one who no longer fears death
meeting God, not an if, but now, a when

soldiers he had stood with moments before
he meets like a rising tide amidst the fray
from whom he now differs like day from night
for upon seeing truth, he did not look away

when his body becomes covered in wounds
he falls upon the ground and this he cries
peace be upon you my master Hussain,
my last farewell to you beneath these skies…

Hussain kneels beside the body of Hurr,
who had been with him for less than a day –
but who was a true companion of his soul
in his sacrifice, this lesson would stay:

at the start of Hurr’s day, he was just a man
but at the end, he was martyred, a friend of God
life’s candle can quiver with the person you’ve been
…or it can blaze with the person you truly are

at some point in our lives we will all stand
in the place Hurr stood on that fateful day
will we choose to give into the darkness?
or will we choose to keep it at bay?

will we choose to raise above our heads men
as the gods we worship through our desires
or will we choose to bow our heads before
the One God worthy of calling Higher

when the snarl of man tells us that we’re weak
will we feel his words – arrows in the heart?
or will faith in Allah free us from all pain
even if they come to tear our flesh apart?

Hussain says, you are indeed free, O Hurr
as the name your mother upon you has blessed
like the eagle that chose to soar past its cage
free in this world, and free in the next

the skies lower their heads in deep regard
as the soul of Hurr, the free, leaves Karbala
his success: a soul journeying from Hussain…
to the welcoming arms of al-Mustafa

it is as if the grounds of Karbala shake
as they call out to mankind with this voice
O you who seek God, know the journey to Him
is traversed in the span of a single choice

Imam Hussain gently wipes away blood
from the slopes of Hurr’s glimmering face
with just one choice, a man like Hadhrat Hurr
became worthy of this beautiful grace

and in this moment it seems as if
Hussain wishes for the centuries to see
if we wish to walk amongst his ranks
amongst them we must simply choose to be

perhaps our bodies could not be there
perhaps we could not stand there on that day
but Hussain’s army was not just one of flesh
it was of spirits, weaving through the fray

when it comes to Hussain, time falls away
the centuries shrink themselves down in awe
if in each day we choose to live like Ashura
if in each land, we choose to see Karbala

if we stand on the plains of our life
and see the branching of a noble tree

the purest roots of the Prophet of God
the guardians of religion, the deepest sea

if comes before us, the Imam of our time,
eagles in cages, and before us, the key

asking if we’ll choose to fight the war to
conquer the self, or if we will choose to flee,

if in the desert of our souls, we’ll choose to defend
Hussain, wounded, falling to his knees,

in that moment, we must choose to be brave, like Hurr,

brave enough to choose to be free.


“You are Hurr – the free one – as your mother named you;
you are free in this world as well as in the next world.”
-Imam Hussain (a)-

please accept my salaams, now, and forever,
O Hurr, Free man amongst the free.

one day, Palestine will be free

mountains may move from their position
but you should not move from yours

mountains may move from their position
but you should not move from yours

mountains may move from their position
but you should not move from yours
not losing the firmness of your conviction
caught in the ash and smoke of war

do you not feel it moving through you?
do you not see it in your spirit’s sight?
do you not hear the millions crying,
their screams piercing through the night?

where is the fury of your blood?
where is the fire in your soul?
where is the lightning in your heart?
where is the thunder in your words?

how does your heart stay inside your chest
when black lives are taken with impunity
when sweet children’s eyes are closed forever
and the jury sets their killers free

when our thinkers are taken prisoner
our Sheikh Salmans and Zakzakys
when the House of Saud lays out executions
for any who speak truth to their tyranny

when our Malcolms and Muhammad Alis
are watered down from their revolutions
we profile picture them yet also any politician
whose pretty words distract from ugly resolutions

politicians whose circling drones
teach our children to pray for cloudy days
because their only protection is throwing stones
in the face of tanks and the missile’s blaze

when genocides that once screamed,
now whisper unpunished in delight
when wiped out are indigenous nations
when Shi’as are murdered in broad daylight

Ali ibn Abi Talib said that if you hear
such things: men imprisoned, women raped
if a Muslim hears such news and dies of grief
by God, he cannot be blamed

so when today turns toward you
with the face of harrowing grief
when today is parched and looks
to drink pure waters of relief

when today stands at a crossroads
with blood heavy 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 its struggling scars as strength
or will you see its scars as weakness
and choose hearts of stone instead?

when you look back i hope
that you will have chosen to be flesh
and when stone laughed and cut your skin
i hope this you will have said:

i am the strength of flesh
that runs on the greatest lion’s bones
whose blood will spill and topple
every oppressive tyrant’s throne

i am flesh that fells Goliath
with the undefeatable strength of soul
that speaks out against injustice
even if i stand alone

i am flesh and i choose not war,
not the hardness of corporate steel
i choose the ‘more arduous battle,’
i choose peace, where we heal

i am flesh and if there is anything
at all hard in me found
it is the strength that grips the hands
of those trampled to the ground

i am flesh and though not an expert
in the intricacy of foreign affairs
i know enough to question the words,
the media agendas reaching my ears

i may not have the ivy education
or the fancy certified degree
but i know one innocent death
is already one death too many

i know if my Prophet Muhammad were alive
what would be the issue on his mind?
without a doubt the first would be
the freedom of al-Quds, the liberation of Palestine

while us Muslims stand disunited deciding
whether to pray with crossed arms or not
those who would profit from our dissension
are plotting for ways to cut them off

take each others hands!
let us be smarter than the divide and conquer
brothers in faith or equals in humanity
when we stand together, we stand stronger

it is for the oppressed that we must strive
no matter their ethnicity or their creed
against oppressors rising as one
finding our greatest power in unity

so let us raise our fists to the sky
until there is no more pain to see
until tears no longer stain our eyes
until the skies no longer bleed

in resistance we will live,
peace is our slogan and our belief
and if in resistance we should die,
our song will be left for eternity

our dream will be kept alive
until truth becomes plain for all to see
one day justice will be recognized
one day we will find peace

one day our children will not die
their blood will not spill upon the streets
one day smoke will leave the skies
the scent of fire will leave the breeze

one day our mothers will not cry
one day our sons and daughters will be free
one day the dream of our fathers realized
one day we will march in victory

one day a golden sun will rise
one day from the river to the sea
one day from olive trees, the doves will fly
one day Palestine will be free.


Ali ibn Hussain ibn Ali (ع)

thinking of the son of Hussain (ع)

how he must have looked,
to an enemy falling to its knees in awe
as they watched, riding into the fray
the face of the Prophet of God

how he must have roared,
the majesty of a lion, son of lions
a single youth to an army of thousands:
who will come to face me, the grandson of Ali!

how he must have laughed,
do you know who it is you have challenged?
you who are nameless, speak my names and know
you have dared Ali ibn Hussain ibn Ali…

moving into an ocean of wolves
pushing forward with this cry:
while I live, they will not touch you,
your son will protect you, Abi…

how must have
fallen the sky
amidst streams of blood,
struck the final blade

and a father ran to a son,
“Aba adrikni…”

Ali al-Akbar (ع).

the spear that pierces you,
these thousand years
still pierces me…

*Abi – my father
*Aba adrikni – father, find me


none for Abbas but Hussain

Imam Hussain was born on Shabaan 3rd, 4 AH.

his brother, Abbas, was born in the same month, 22 years later,
not before him, but the day after: Shabaan 4th.

Imam Hussain was brutally killed on Muharram 10th, 61 AH.

his brother, Abbas was murdered the same day,
not after him, but before: sacrificing his life to protect him.

Abbas, born after his brother.

Abbas, dying before his brother.

so there was never a moment he existed in this world when Hussain did not.

(so that this world did not exist for him if Hussain did not.)

the first face when Abbas opened his eyes?
and the last face before he closed his eyes forever…?

(for Abbas it was always one name – nothing before nor after;
his first and last whisper, one whisper… “Hussain.”)



Samarra, Iraq – 1976.

what i wouldn’t give,
my beloved Imam al-Naqi (a)

to walk toward your golden dome again
to smell the dust of your grave again

to rest my head by your side,
to speak to you of my sorrows,

to have your hand soothe my heart again.

missing you…
it hurts.
in what way can i tell you
“i love you, forever”
when even forever
is not