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 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 sanctuary 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

Posted on November 8, 2016

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”
which is better, one or two
one or two
one or two
one or two—
one or—
 
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

from every mountain top

Posted on October 25, 2016

“He (Imam Hussain) sees those who come to his shrine and he knows them by their names, their father’s names and their ranks in the eyes of Allah, the Glorious, better than you know your own children.”
-Imam Sadiq (a)-

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 me to attach myself to Him through you?

Mawla, I am so unworthy of loving you… but you, are so worthy of being loved.

***

Ya Allah,

allow me to be consumed by the love of your truest servants,
utterly and completely.
so that nothing remains of me myself and I,
and all that remains is You, Your pleasure, and Your beloveds.

 

Make no speech of mine speech, nor action of mine action,
unless it is climbing, from every mountain top to sing,

‘I am in love with the one You loved and the one who loved You –
I am in love with the one named Hussain…’

the aftermath

Posted on October 13, 2016

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 –

still far too soon

Posted on October 12, 2016

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.

your love, from the streets, openly

Posted on October 6, 2016

For Shi’as in too many parts of the world, any type of public gathering is a risk. Whether in mourning or in happiness, the constant threat of murder is employed in an effort to silence the remembrance of Prophet Muhammad and his family.

In an effort to erase the most beautiful piece of human history.

Tactics of terror are put in place in the hopes that those who know and love these individuals will not only shy away from spreading stories of their message or speaking about their legacy… but will also hesitate, even when naming their children – knowing that a name that would reveal the depth of their love and affinity for the Prophet’s family might one day result in the stopping of a bus, a random ID check, and – for the namesakes of the Ahlulbayt – death before a firing squad.

Manipulation and fear are utilized in the desperate hope that others might be kept from learning about the true representatives of the Divine on earth, mirrors of the Source of all perfection, figures who remind humanity of its unfathomable, yet strategically kept dormant, potential.

Men and women: so kind, so gentle, so gracious in their regard for the sick, the needy, the widows, the orphans – and so bold, so daring, so courageous in their stands taken against tyrants and oppressors; so firm in their faith in One God and so unshakeable in their convictions in His message… that Muslim or not, religious or not, none who truly came to know them could help but to wonder at them.

Such that in their lifetimes and after their deaths, there did not exist a single friend who did not love them, nor a single enemy who did not, at the very least, respect them.

How hard have the gravediggers of history toiled for these names to be forgotten? How long have the artisans of this grand façade plotted their schemes so the masses might remain distracted? Might be kept from realizing exactly what greatness they have the capacity to be?

But as the centuries stand witness: has it ever been that torture, imprisonment, poison, beheadings, bombings, the very cutting of the tongues – was ever enough to prevent these lovers from continuing to sing out their praise?

 

Has it ever been that killing us was ever enough?

 

Has it ever been, that filling the streets with our blood was ever enough?

 

for from the lapping rivers of red,
did they not continue to hear,
crying out this refrain:

 

none but Muhammad, none but Ali,
none but Fatima, Hassan, Hussain…

 

oh my beloved,
beloved,
ahlulbayt

 

cowards,
would have us 
only admit to
your love
secretly—

 

warriors,
we will
shout it
from the streets
openly.

this hijāb

Posted on September 24, 2016

Maryam. Aasiyah. Khadija. Fatima. Zaynab.

This is your legacy.

They will try to make you forget this.

Do not forget this.

The purity of Islam has been preserved through this line of intellectual leaders. Social reformers. Spiritual masters.

Woman warriors – and their shield, this Hijāb.

They will try to make you forget this.

Do not forget this.

To the world, it may seem like just a cloth. And this is what those seeking to weaken its power would have you believe. But to the guardians of its secrets, the preservers of its message, the ones who have uncovered its knowledge… it is starlight. it is magic. it is the taste of flight.

This Hijāb is revolution incarnate.

It is not a mere thing, to be neatly packaged and photographed, consumerized, fetishized, pluralized, interpretized, glamorized, objectified, accessorized. It is not yours to sell to the highest bidder.

This Hijāb is the great and terrible beauty of ancient seas.

It does not bow to your modernity. It does not answer to your notions of progress. It does not change its tune to the whims of puppeteers.

This Hijāb, is the wild majesty of the water’s crashing roar. And should you be foolish enough to attempt to tame its vastness to serve your smallness,

it will swallow you whole.