everyone except us

Posted on March 12, 2018

Hugo writes, “Curiosity is a form of gluttony. To see is to devour.”

Few exist the cannibals of the flesh, but many the cannibals of the soul. Many, who spend their evenings by the fireside, slavering over the slabs of a fellow man’s spirit, the blood of a fellow man’s struggle dripping from their lips. Many, for whom the call – “Will any of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother?” (49:12) is drowned out by the gnawing of their teeth – persistent, searching ever more and more, consuming with frenzy the appetite of who dids and what dids; eyes wild, mouth gaping, ingesting, feasting, destroying.

What is it in us that is so drawn to the destruction of another human being? What is it, that makes us gather as if in mobs around the guillotine, ready to point! shout! condemn! the man we have dragged to his knees on the stage? Is it, perhaps, the hope that the louder our voice and angrier our snarl, the more hidden our own slips and errors will become? That the more unforgiving our face, the less likely anyone will discover the chink in our own armor – the ugliness which creeps, the darkness that sneaks, the monsters who sleep in the depth of our souls?

How merciless we are – we who sniff out the misdeeds of others solely to uncover and expose them; to drag them from their beds and display them naked in the streets; to show the world with pride, and a ‘praise be to God!’ the impenetrable depth of our purity.

How foolish we are – we who do not know that when we have had our way, when the tears have wracked and broken our victim’s body; when all the fight has left his skin and the crowds disperse; when this creature of God’s remains in the loneliness of the street with no one but the moon to hear the fractures of his sighs; when he reaches down to grasp a handful of dust, and with a pang cries out— ah! this, is what I am! — in that moment, the fallen man becomes more beloved to God than the man who stands on the pedestal: the worshipper made of marble who looks at his figure and thinks: Ah, This Is What I Am.

What a carnival, that we, imperfect creatures, should try each other on the scale of perfection – when God, the Most Perfect, the Most Majestic, the Most Wise, tries us on His scale: with power and with might declaring His wrath; but with such sweetness declaring greater, always greater, His mercy.

Oh Lord! It is good that man was not made to be god – for with what a weighty hand would we punish our fellow creation.

We, who do not forgive each other our lapses. We, who shrink from an outstretched hand, a brother caught in the grasp of struggle, trying to extricate himself from its roots. We, who turn away in disdain, afraid the dust on his hands might dirty the hems of our robes. We, who fix our stares on the flaws of others, thinking ourselves immune to their sins. We, who have never been offered the Pharaoh’s kingdom, yet think we would have turned it away; who have never heard the siren’s song, yet think we would have saved our ships from crashing on rocky shores.

We, who think so highly of ourselves, and so little of God, that we think: this world is a test for everyone except us, pride will fall every king except us, Satan’s deceit will trick every worshipper except us, the fire’s flames will touch everyone, except us.

***

My dear self, for too long has the spyglass of your heart been focused on others, yet never have you turned it inward to the stormy seas of your own soul. Leave this charade – this thing of play whose theatre rests on the chests of your fellow man. When the curtain rises and the dialogue shifts to the conversation, the actions, the secrets of your brother – cry out as if their words were knives, stabbing into your very heart. Clasp your hands over your ears and flee!

Run, like one whose head is caught on fire. Let them jeer. Let them mock. Let them call you the madman, the one who, by one word was made insane.

Let them. For there is another world to come. And a greater Judge who waits. And a court whose jury no man will escape . . . where no tongue will remain silent except that it will shudder and tremble, revealing all that it used to do.

***

“Two men entered a mosque – one, a devoted worshipper, and the other a sinner. When they left the mosque, the worshipper had become a sinner, and the sinner had become sincere. This is because the worshipper entered the mosque while he felt proud of his acts of worship, and his thoughts were preoccupied with that. However, the sinner was thinking remorsefully about his sins, and so he sought forgiveness from Allah from what he had done.” -Imam al-Baqir (a)

burn the dead wood

Posted on March 8, 2018

One of the most important lessons I have learned in the past few years is this: do not make yourself small for anyone else. Whether it is with friends, family, or in a romantic relationship – anyone who asks you to fold yourself into a smaller version of you so that they feel more comfortable, is not someone who has your best interests in mind. Anyone who asks you to sacrifice pieces of yourself, your principles, or your values, is not someone who hopes for your success. Do not minimize your desire for growth to keep someone who feels threatened by that growth a part of your life.

Each soul is made for greatness. Each human is linked at his or her core to the Infinite. The task given: to rediscover that core. To come upon the divine. To live the lessons. To try to be the best at everything you do.

The time given: one life.

One.

In your personal quest, you must always remain humble. You must never consider yourself to be better than anyone else. But at the same time, you must always remember that you are not less than anyone else either.

Unfortunately, there are many people who have either given up on their own growth or feel stuck where they are – and because they don’t know how to or don’t want to move forward, they don’t want anyone else to either. May God guide all of us and inspire each of us to break free of this kind of cycle, and help each and every one of us (especially those of us who are struggling) to do and be better.

It is important to help others see the light in themselves, but in the process, you must not forget to foster your own inner light – by pushing your limits, elevating your thoughts, challenging yourself, exploring every cavern of your being, your talent, and your ability – until you set your life ablaze in brilliant flames and watch as the dead wood burns away… and emerges from the ashes the phoenix your life has been waiting for you to become.

gone writing

Posted on November 9, 2017

“Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands? Because it is up to you. There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. you were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.

Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality? […] Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? […] Why are we reading, if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage and the hope of meaningfulness, and press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?

[…] At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your fists, your back, your brain, and then – and only then – it is handed to you. […] One line of a poem, the poet said – only one line, but thank God for that one line – drops from the ceiling. […] One line of a sonnet falls from the ceiling, and you tap in the others around it with a jeweler’s hammer. Nobody whispers it in your ear. It is like something you memorized once and forgot. Now it comes back and rips away your breath. You find and finger a phrase at a time; you lay it down as if with tongs, restraining your strength, and wait suspended and fierce until the next one finds you: yes, this; and yes, praise be, then this.

[…] One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ‘Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.'”

—Annie Dillard

o eyes, shed your tears

Posted on September 22, 2017

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
the bodies on the ground
run upon by horses hooves—
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
will not be quenched a thirst
the neck of Hussain’s pure infant—
an arrow reaches first
 
O eyes shed your tears
to Furat Abbas goes
Hussain sets out along his side—
Hussain returns alone
 
O eyes shed your tears
weep and recall Hussain!
how they surrounded him with swords—
how he fell upon 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
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

Posted on September 21, 2017

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 returns now, 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
 
then know that 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

your Ali

Posted on June 16, 2017

it’s long been a wish of mine
a wish that my eyes may see
standing underneath the sky
of Madina’s pure city
 
of your city I have dreamed
of your tranquil purity
that soul resting in your sands
RasoolAllah, Allah’s Nabi
 
in night-depths I lay awake
to my eyes whispers a dream
the sun’s fragrance in the rain
coolness of the moonlight’s gleam
 
aching hands grasping at stars
I walk weightless over seas
green dome, rising from afar,
your grave stands in front of me
 
how many words I wish to say!
wishes of my heart to free!
comes only a single phrase
one thought brings me to my knees
 
no words worthy, like these words
no other words my tongue will speak
except: RasoolAllah, see what they’ve done…
what they have done to your Ali
 
did you not say: Ali is as was Haroon,
except there’s no Prophet after me?
was it not: Allah and you and he
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: for whoever I am Mawla,
his Mawla is none other than Ali ?
 
did not come this order from Allah?
was not his Wilayah God’s decree?
to declare this revealed by your Lord
or render your mission incomplete?
 
were not said the words of Thaqalayn?
were not two things each attached to each?
“Ahlulbayt and the Quran”
is not the Quran then with Ali?
 
in each moment of your life
public or in secrecy
was not one shoulder next to yours?
none but the shoulder of Ali?
 
when they pelted you with stones
when bled your feet on Ta’if’s streets
when murder plotted while you slept
was not your shield only Ali?
 
at the moment of your death
when all turned their backs to leave
who remained then by your side?
who gave your ghusl but Ali?
 
your soul had scarcely left this world
when were oppressed your family
enemies creeping like wolves
gath’ring in animosity
 
a game of leadership’s been made
though no prophet chosen by man had been
though never was absent a guide to God
mankind never left without this link
 
this link, the mirror of your soul
your branch and his – a single tree
to this bark a jagged axe
comes for the blood of your Ali
 
come and see RasoolAllah!
how he wanders through the streets
grief emptied in desert sands
secrets none can now set free
 
come and see RasoolAllah!
the blood from these eyes that streams
as they hear their Imam’s voice
the last call of Salooni…
 
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 the spreading blood
how it flows upon his cheeks
how a voice from heaven calls
in Kufa, struck has been Ali!
 
come and see the face you kissed
the one cradled in infancy
how in his veins a poison pours,
turns pale the face of your Ali…
 
come and see, your Zaynab wails!
come and see, your Hassnain weep!
come and see, 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 RasoolAllah,
see what they’ve done to your Ali…

“carry on”

Posted on December 22, 2016

It’s easy to fight when everything’s right,
and you’re mad with the thrill and the glory;
it’s easy to cheer when victory’s near,
and wallow in fields that are gory.
it’s a different song when everything’s wrong,
when you’re feeling infernally mortal;
when it’s ten against one, and hope there is none,
buck up, little soldier, and chortle:
 
Carry on! Carry on!
There isn’t much punch in your blow.
You’re glaring and staring and hitting out blind;
you’re muddy and bloody, but never you mind.
Carry on! Carry on!
You haven’t the ghost of a show.
It’s looking like death, but while you’ve a breath,
Carry on, my son! Carry on!
 
And so in the strife of the battle of life
it’s easy to fight when you’re winning;
it’s easy to slave, and starve and be brave,
when the dawn of success is beginning.
But the man who can meet despair and defeat
with a cheer, there’s the man of God’s choosing;
the man who can fight to Heaven’s own height
is the man who can fight when he’s losing.
 
Carry on! Carry on!
Things never were looming so black.
But show that you haven’t a cowardly streak,
and though you’re unlucky you never are weak.
Carry on! Carry on!
Brace up for another attack.
It’s looking like hell, but – you never can tell:
Carry on, old man! Carry on!
 
There are some who drift out in the deserts of doubt,
and some who in brutishness wallow;
there are others, I know, who in piety go
because of a Heaven to follow.
But to labour with zest, and to give of your best,
for the sweetness and joy of the giving;
to help folks along with a hand and a song;
why, there’s the real sunshine of living.
 
Carry on! Carry on!
Fight the good fight and true;
believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer;
there’s big work to do, and that’s why you are here.
Carry on! Carry on!
Let the world be the better for you;
and at last when you die, let this be your cry:
Carry on, my soul! Carry on!
 
-Robert William Service