Posts from the “Ziyara” Category

what the night holds

Posted on March 15, 2020

It is the early hours of night. Dark clouds drift wearily across the horizon. The moon, wrested from her slumber, casts a forlorn glance across her shoulder before settling her face to the east. I sit in the darkness of a silent house, the glow of my screen reflecting pale shadows against my hands. I cannot sleep. Somewhere amidst the symphony of the night, a painful chord has struck against my chest. A certain name has been spoken, a hallowed grief has risen, and a buried memory has jolted me awake. Long has it been since I have allowed myself to think upon this memory. Long has it been, since I have immersed myself in its waters: arms splayed outward, the weight of my…

becoming human

Posted on September 30, 2019

There is a special bottle I keep, tucked away in the corner of a hidden drawer: Use in Case of Emergency. A deep shade of pink, three-quarters full, sparkling with a liquid more precious to me than most of my possessions — not for the contents themselves, but for where they take me. Four years ago, on a summer night still with desert heat, a dear friend set off on a quest into a bustling market. Searching through alleyways, combing through side-shops, until she came across — there, what she had been looking for. Heart in hand, she returned, and gifted me a bottle of perfume, the same scent as that which is used in the sanctuary of Imam Hussain. In that moment, I…

kindred spirits

Posted on December 20, 2016

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…

from every mountain top

Posted on October 25, 2016

To think – of our names, on your tongue…when the sins that weigh on our backs, the shadows that whisper in our hearts, make us unworthy of even speaking yours. Of ever claiming you as ours. But to think, when we whisper, “Mawla Hussain, we are here,” standing next to your body… to think, that you respond? Knowing every curve of every letter of our names? The heart stops. It still baffles my mind that to this lost traveler, so far gone from the path, wandering in a thickening fog, you still extended your hand. You still invited to stand by your side. How can I ever thank you for saving me? How can I ever thank my Lord for attaching my heart to you – allowing…

ascent beckons

Posted on August 25, 2016

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…

whispered lessons from the dust of Najaf

Posted on August 24, 2016

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?)

the clock is chiming

Posted on July 17, 2016

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 one dying 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…

the dust of the king

Posted on June 26, 2016

21 ramadhan 1436 | najaf, iraq it is shortly after Fajr prayers, the early morning of the day you were killed. i am standing, leaning against blue tiles in an archway of your haram, head resting against cool marble, tears falling like drops of burning oil upon my skin. glancing across the courtyard, it is impossible to see the crimson tide of carpets beneath the sea of lovers dressed in black – one person inseparable from the other as they move in unison, the steady ripple of inky waves in the blackness of a desert night. ‘haydar… haydar…’ the rhythm of hands echoes to the words of an Arab lamentation. like the steady beat of drums, each hand falls upon the chest – like the strike…

the tenderness of your name

Posted on June 24, 2016

“why is it that words like these seem dull and cold? is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?” Asadullah. Haydar. Ali.   what i am most grateful to my parents for – after Allah the Most Merciful, and Muhammad the mercy to mankind, for teaching me the name: Ali ibn Abi Talib. for mixing wilayat with my flesh and blood. i remember being embraced by the warm winds of Najaf, this prayer for them leaping from my chest – thank you, for being my first teachers of this love. thank you, because without wilayat – without the gate of Ali – how would  i have reached the city of Muhammad? without the city of Muhammad, how would i…


Posted on April 18, 2016

alone, a traveler in a strange land, I found myself standing before you. like a small child, lost and confused I fell at your feet, stumbling upon the weight of my tears. the labyrinth of sorrows suffocated, twisting unbearable knots in my chest. I was bewildered, not knowing which way to turn. and then, I felt the tenderness of your hand. your reaching embrace, pulling me into your arms, the soothing whisper, I am with you now, Allah (swt) is watching, everything is going to be alright. with the touch of a mother you turned my chin upwards, my eyes to meet yours – and oh, such beauty, your face the moonlight, your eyes the stars… Sayyida Masooma! on a night like this, how difficult it is to be so…


Posted on April 10, 2016



“before i met you, i was wishing to meet you.
and after meeting you, i was wishing to never be separated from you.
and after being separated from you, i lost the desire to wish forever.”

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَ آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ

journey to the stars

Posted on December 28, 2015

This past summer, I was honored with the blessing of being able to travel to the holy lands of Iraq and Iran to visit the resting places of the descendants of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), a visitation that is often referred to as “ziyara,” or “ziyarat.” “The word ‘Ziyarat’ is derived from the word “zawr” which means to deflect or draw away from something. A lie is called ‘zur’ because it deflects from the path of truth. The ‘za’ir’ [individual undertaking the ziyarat] is known to be so, because he deflects from other than “the one he intends to visit.”[…] And it is said that the reason why Ziyarat is referred to as visiting the saintly human beings, is…

sweet, sweet Samarra

Posted on November 22, 2015

the feeling, of walking through your door and into your loving arms. (the agonizing pain, of leaving, not knowing when i might see you again.) i cannot attempt to put it into words. will not attempt. because the words for that feeling do not exist. there are no words for the ocean to describe how it feels, finally reaching the shore. Grandfather – you saved me, in ways i never thought i could be saved. when i first met you, there was so much i thought i knew of love. a chest heavy with grief, and eyes weighted by tears, i thought i knew what it meant to possess heart that longed for another. to live with a mind always occupied with the thoughts of another’s name. but…

would that i were with you

Posted on November 1, 2015

there is a certain emptiness of the heart that is only filled by standing at the gate to your harram, ya Ali. would that i were of the lucky ones who are standing there now – stepping forward with heavy, yearning steps; hands on their aching, restless hearts; heads lowered in salute to you; eyes transfixed on one point: the door that leads to you. would that i was not where i am, but rather thousands of miles across desert and sea. entering your vicinity, feeling the warm winds of Najaf whip gently across my skin. would that i were holding firm to the door to your courtyard, kissing its solid wood, trailing my fingers across each wall (for to lovers, even walls and…

leaving you,

Posted on August 10, 2015

the time has come for me to part from the sands that whisper your names. the lands where your beautiful bodies lay. the dust whose sweet fragrance winds its way through my dreams. the time has come, but my feet have forgotten how to leave. and my tongue has forgotten how to speak. when I came toward you, I ran. when I saw you, songs of love came flowing from my mouth. but now? now, though time demands that my feet move away from you, they remain still. and though the clock’s chimes dictate words of farewell, only silence rests on my tongue. I take a step away from your grave but my feet are pulled forward again. I begin to whisper, ‘I must…

to see the ones i love

Posted on July 1, 2015

“Wouldn’t you want to see the ones you love?” As I sit in my room packing my suitcase and checking things off scrambled lists, this question, articulated at many a dinner-table discussion by my dad, echoes through my brain. I will soon be leaving InshaAllah (God-willing) to visit for the first time the holy lands in Iraq and Iran where, among others, Prophets Adam and Noah, and the descendants of Prophet Muhammad are buried — not only some of the most respected figures in Islam, but also the greatest revolutionaries — social, moral, political, intellectual, spiritual, and otherwise – to have left their marks on human history. When great spirits live, there is a certain energy that draws others to them like a magnet.…