Until He Returns

-By Qanit Takmeel

The call has been made
and I wait for our leader to stand.
It’s early morning
and we’ll never understand.

How long the siege shall last.
How long we’ll remain cooped up
in the annuls of this haven.
My heart has begun to stir up

emotional prayers. For the time
is ripe. The Liar and the unjust
have for long been torturing us…
It’s a test of our faith. He surely must

have a thorough plan. The white
tower is in front of me…
How beautiful shall be his face.
I imagine what my eyes shall see

As I walk to greet him,
That brightness in his face,
Better than anything else I’ve seen before.
His charm and his grace.

And then as I greet him,
He’d anoint and inform me of my
rank… And as I stand beside him to kiss
the earth. My soul shall fly.

“Come to victory”, the caller cries…
There’s rapture in my heart and eyes.

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Fighting for our gifts

- By Maleeha Babar

When did people become numbers and bodies become commodities?

When I look through my newsfeed, I see lists of deaths. Articles upon articles pile up my newsfeed, filling it with intoxicating death: spiritual death, emotional death, physical death and intellectual death.

Rape is a cliché.

But it’s not.

Until we recognize our humanity, however, it will be.

Everywhere I go, I see our humanity denigrated to parts and pieces, to objects and commodities, to numbers and statistics. And yet no one says a word. We’ll like and share and like and share pictures upon pictures of people being violated, slaughtered, used and abused, yet we won’t stop to think:

How are we a part of this?
How are we engaging in this?

And these are difficult questions, for which I don’t have all the answers.

But I think that only when we start to recognize our humanity, will we be able to understand the implications of it all. It’s a hard road. It’s a road that requires caring. And working. And changing. And trying your best to give it what you have. And being here. And being present. And being ready. And opening our hearts (sometimes to the hardest of challenges). But it’s so much more effective, I have found, than to act as if this life is not truly a gift; is not truly an amanah for all of us. It’s not an easy road to care, to do things that other people won’t do. But I have found time and time again, that it’s so worth it. It’s worth it to get out of our comfort zones, to look for answers, to be bothered by things enough to act on them, and to care.

An example of how numb we’ve become with the topic of rape is how often it occurs right in front of us. Rape and sexual violation, oppression and abuse are not things that occur in far¬-off lands and strange countries. They occur, here and now. In our country, in our city, in our homes and in our Muslim communities. Although we know how often sexual assault occurs, we’ve become numb to what it means. We’ve become numb to how violating it feels to have your body used as a source of pleasure for somebody else. We stare at people like they’re pieces of meat, ready to pounce on them at any given moment. We grope people in clubs, cat call them in the streets, and make jokes about their “assets”. Either we’ll be the perpetrators or the bystanders, but we’ll always consider it “normal”.

It’s understandable how much we’ve become numb to things. But it’s not how we’ll ever make a difference.

Our humanity is something that helps us understand. It gives us the ability to say, “I know you.” “I recognize you,” and “I will be here for you.”

And I think that’s a gift worth fighting for.

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Dolor

By Zulkar Khan

Several summers ago, a neighboring family friend had a hemorrhagic stroke while late in her pregnancy. Her son was a close friend of mine. I vividly remember one late afternoon, when after dropping off some food at their house, I saw my buddy lying on the sofa. He just stared blankly at the wall; his eyes had run out of tears by then. I had no clue what he was enduring. I just avoided him until school started.

A few years later, tragedy struck closer. My dad was hospitalized for jaundice and during one of my hospital visits, the diagnostic team rolled into the room. A physician asked if I was eighteen yet, and when I replied in the affirmative (“barely”), he solemnly told us that my father had an untreatable form of cancer.

My first instinct was to share the diagnosis with my close friends. They would listen for a few minutes, curious to hear about any new symptoms my dad was exhibiting, and then get bored. Eventually, I shut up. I was convinced that no one could relate to me. Unsurprisingly, internalizing and not dealing with misfortune caused much heartache down the road.

Most of us have no clue how to seriously engage those undergoing distress and grief. This phenomenon of not relating with those suffering runs contrary to the counseling nature of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). We find that the Prophet directly engaged and went to great lengths to comfort all sorts of people – from a boy whose pet parrot died to a man whose son passed away. Reading through the biographies of the Prophet, we learn that the Prophet buried fourteen of his own children. He was someone who bore tremendous emotional pain and God enabled him to be history’s foremost empathizer.

If someone close to you has been afflicted with hardships, this is an immense opportunity for you to follow in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) by exercising the most humane of faculties: a listening ear and an empathetic heart. Don’t be the reason why your friend closets all the difficulties in his/her life.

The most uplifting and wholesome individuals are the same ones who faced brutal hardships in their lives. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross once said, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

The Islamic tradition doesn’t avoid addressing grief. Nowhere in the Qur’an do we find banal words like, “If calamity strikes, brighten up! Don’t worry everything will be fine.” Rather, the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) allows for hearts to grieve, for tears to drop, while the tongue remains patient and doesn’t rebel. It is apt to close with the words of God, recorded in the Qur’an for eternity:

“O Believers, find help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.”

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Nothing but Clay

-By Sumrah Iqbal

“A barrier is formed within my mind,
The serenity of peace I cannot find.
Doubts come together, brick by brick.
A wall is formed – my heart is sick.
Slowly caution slips away.
Slowly I forget I am but clay.

A void is formed,
Its silence so deep.
I begin to shiver – for I cannot weep.

But the moment I step outside that door,
Suddenly the tears I cannot control.
The sight that greets, me humbles me,
The beauty of nature, of Allah, I can see.

The force of the wind chips away at the wall,
The bricks begin to crumble,
And they begin to fall.
Nature’s music allows me to hear,
And the sun allows my sight to clear.

Suddenly my heart takes a breathe,
And my faith is no longer at threat.
A connection is opened – a pathway of peace.

And with I smile I can’t help but say –
Surely, I am nothing but clay.

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Finding a Way Back

-By Maleeha Babar

When we are young, there’s an enthusiasm for life, a zest that paints all of our actions. Exploring the world, finding out all the beauty it contains is an adventure that we look forward to every day. We possess curiosity and creativity, vigor and joy. We look forward to talking to other children, sharing with them and connecting. There’s life within us. When we make a mistake, it’s serious. When we do something good, it matters. When someone hurts us, it actually hurts. At the deepest level, we understand the miracle that life is. Yet, as we grow older, that very same spirit begins to wane as we enter the “real world”. We are subtly told that the lifeless homes we see, the race for money, the broken relationships and purposeless ostentation is “reality”. It’s as if what we experienced as children was a past life, something to be discarded and never looked back on.

Although it’s the very core of who we are. The spirit that we are born with as children, the longing for love, compassion, understanding, growth, exploration, and truth is what’s real.

And that reality never changes. It’s that we become blind to it.

Allah (SWT) says:

“So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not the eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts within the breasts.” (22:46)

But there’s still a part of as adults, a consciousness within our hearts, that longs to be heard. It’s an inner voice that tells us what’s right, that screams for us to listen, that was clear as a child but through each hurt, suppression and invalidation, turned into a whisper that drowns away in doubt. It is the voice of truth. I’d like to think it’s our fitrah (for Muslims), or call it our intuition, but it’s not there for a futile purpose. It has a purpose. When we know we’re going down the wrong path in life, making decisions that probably aren’t ours, but some person told us life is “this way” and although it’s contrary to what we believe, and our sadness, grief, unhappiness, and discontentment all points towards that fact, too, why don’t we listen? Because that voice has been discontinued way too many times. Or maybe we’re scared. But when you don’t listen to your truths (hopefully based on sound judgment and understanding), it really hurts.

Suppressing that voice leads to nowhere. And although we might think that avoiding that nagging thought in our heads will go away with distracting ourselves with countless gadgets, busy-ness, and extra work loads, or even pursuits such as marriage (been there, done that), it won’t. Because we’re not on this world to “be busy” or “keep doing thoughtlessly” and just “achieving,” we’re truly not here to do that.

And if we don’t look, contemplate and follow what we have come to discover as truth, it will continuously nag at us.

Unless we choose to merely exist.

And I think our life is way too important to just exist.

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