WARRIORS + POETS

Category: Ziyara

words, that changed everything

“when you stand in front of Imam Hussain (ع), remember:
you are standing in front of the personality who changed Hurr.

that same personality is changing you.”

—ayatullah basheer al-najafi
najaf, iraq.   july 7 2015.

kindred spirits

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it is a warm summer’s night in qom.

i sit on the floor in masjid-e-jamkaran and look up at the ceiling, admiring the beauty of the architecture, the interlacing weaving of the arabic calligraphy – composed with such precision, but in its composition, somehow still as wild and free-flowing as foam rising on waves of eastern seas.

i follow the meditated pattern of their sweeping lines, marveling at their intricacy – musing on the intricacy of the path of my life that has been unfolding: a thousand hidden alleys, a thousand secret moments, a thousand twists of twine, a maze interwoven with the stars – all, to bring me… here.

i think about how, in the span of a few weeks, the course of my entire life has been changed. the sights i have seen, the knowledge i have faced, the people – the guides, the mentors, the strangers, the friends – i have come across. as each of their faces comes to mind, i send towards heaven a prayer; pausing as i come to one, the keeper of my heart’s most weary secrets, the conversation, from the depths of nights to the mist of cloudy dawns.

this friend in particular, who isn’t here, but has gone to the harram of Sayyida Masooma (sa) to bid her final farewell – her flight leaves tonight, departing this once-strange-land, now-called-home to return to a now-strange land, once-called-home. not knowing when she’ll be back and wishing we had more time to spend together, i pray for her happiness, and suddenly, feel someone sit down beside me.

“Aqeela.”

without even turning, i recognize her voice. and it is all i can do not to laugh.

“…Khadija.”

and as we sit side by side in silence i begin to smile – wondering at the seeming coincidences in life that have never really been coincidences at all, but all part of His greater, beautiful plan. and with an exhale and a heart strengthened by the shoulder that now rests next to mine, i whisper into warm summer winds: thank you Allah, thank you, thank you for the kindred spirits of friends…

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

never leave me, Abal Fazl

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the grave of Hazrat Abbas at sunrise. july 14 2015.

– يا ابوالفضل

thank you, for believing in me. for allowing me to be near you. for lifting me when i did not deserve it. for seeing the best in me when i could not see it in myself…

like the shadow by my side, like the whisper in my ear, like the secret shade from the sun – please, by the sake of your Lord and mine, never leave me on my own again.

| writings. baynol haramain. karbala, iraq.

.

سَلاَمُ اللَّهِ وَ سَلاَمُ مَلاَئِكَتِهِ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ
وَ أَنْبِيَائِهِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ وَ عِبَادِهِ الصَّالِحِينَ
وَ جَمِيعِ الشُّهَدَاءِ وَ الصِّدِّيقِينَ
وَ الزَّاكِيَاتُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ فِيمَا تَغْتَدِي
وَ تَرُوحُ عَلَيْكَ يَا ابْنَ أَمِيرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

ascent beckons

the task of a carefree summer’s day: to watch the sunset over the city of Qom by climbing to the top of Mt. Khidhr… a task so adventure-y i didn’t think twice about it until we were halfway to the top – when (of course) i decided to do the exact opposite of what every book/movie/story/piece of advice on heights ever says to do – and that is, look down.

which is when i conveniently remembered a fact that had slipped my mind in all the excitement: my greatest fear – the frequent haunting of many a childhood nightmare – is heights. and by greatest fear i mean *the* greatest fear… as in, the second i looked back, my knees gave in and i closed my eyes, immediately dizzy, heart racing, grasping hold of the rough mountain face for support.

as the world moved to slow motion around me, i tried not to think of the fact that i was now an equal distance to the top of the mountain as i was from the bottom. equal distances to travel on a twisting dirt mountain path which – would ya believe it – came with no railings or safety supports… a path to be traversed only by the security of steady feet and even steadier faith.

equal distances. so – the decision. which way? forward or back? ascent or descent?

eyes closed, caught in this maelstrom of thoughts, i focused on calming my breath, attempting to quell a strange feeling that this decision was somehow determining a crossroads in my life…

and then suddenly, a voice of a companion walking alongside us cut through the fog: “there are a thousand ways to die, but only one death to have. do not be afraid.”

 . . . watching the gentle sun set from the height of ancient mountains had never been so beautiful.

“you cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. so why bother in the first place? just this: what is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. one climbs, one sees. one descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. there is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. when one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”

when i know that you know

is there any heartache for which i can lay out my heart that you do not already know, my Lord? is there any grief for which i can weep that you do not already know, my Lord? is there any separation wrought wound for which i can cry out in pain that you do not already know, my Lord?

(so then, how can any of these remain, when i know that you know, O Lord?)

—whispered lessons from the dust of Najaf

the clock is chiming

the clock is chiming, marking the hour of separation and i am caught in a slow moving apart, a heavy gaze, a drinking in with the thirst of a dying man the angles of your face, the wrinkles of your eyes, holding your cloth, breathing in the remnants of scent of the only person i have ever loved.

the clock is chiming, marking the hour of separation and i am backing away, each footstep the crushing weight of mountains. “with each of my first steps, i was closer, now closer, now the closest to you in this world that i had ever been… and with my final ones, i am now farther, farther, farther from you than i wish to ever be…”

the clock is chiming, marking the hour of separation and i am walking out of the doors that enclose your grave, walking down the marble halls, looking back, until i can no longer see you anymore, and all i have left to hear in this once-more darkening world is the thudding of my heart as i turn away, the grief wracking my body as i bend over and something inside me crumbles.

the clock is chiming and my seconds with you are fading like sand slipping between my fingers. the clock is chiming and i am standing face to face with stormy seas begging, please, once more, look back at me…

the clock is chiming  and no matter how much i am reaching for your hand beneath the night sky, each of its haunting strikes is carrying me further into the blackening tide. i am reaching i am grasping for one more moment with you but my grip is loosening and the sand is streaming and the waves are pulling and the moon is weeping… and all the while, the clock is chiming, a specter, bloody in the sky.

“peace be upon you my master… i ask Allah, who destined my departure from you that He dismisses my agonies through you; who destined separation from your place, that He does not decide this time of my return to you as the last; who made me cry for you with my two eyes…who saw me at your place and guided me to greet you and visit you that He present me at your pond and grant me your companionship in Paradise…”