Lightheaded

Did you ever see the world
upside down?
You tilt your head backwards
and stretch it back, back, back
until your neck feels like it will snap
any moment
and that’s when you notice
the view.
The view
makes you
gasp
everything looks surreal and wrong
like a morning dream
where you know you are dreaming
yet believe everything you see.
Why does the sky look so different
when it’s below every
thing else
why do you feel like floating
in space
why does the air feel
so dense
why are your thoughts making
no sense
why does your head feel
so light
and dizzy
and light
and so damn dizzy
like nothing
is real – except
this moment – and you
don’t care – and you
are giddy – and you
don’t care.

You get your head back up
and feel even lighter and dizzier
like you’ve escaped space
and entered ultra-space
where time is warped to infinity
you feel like
you’ll fall
any moment
and your thoughts
have lost all sense.
All the blood is rushing down, down, down
from your head
like there’s a river inside you
and you don’t care
where it takes you
you’re ready to crash
you’re so damn ready
to crash
into whatever sea
is waiting.

That
is how you make me feel.

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Tragedy

What a waste it would be
To fall in love
And not write pages
Upon pages
Of poetry
To have a muse
But fill no museums
With art
To not have your sleeves turn red
From your bleeding heart.

That would be more tragic
Than to never fall in love at all.

But here I am
Staring at a blank page
And wondering where all the words have gone.

I escaped a black hole but it left me angry

You once told me
no one understood
your sadness
the way I did
while we were talking about
dark matter
and the paradox of infinity
and later I was thinking how
your soul holds enough darkness
to hold back all the
gravity in the universe.

While you explained your theory
that everyone showed only
a false projection of their personality
and no one got to know
our real selves
I remember thinking
you were too broken
and someday you’d need
a therapist
and I remember wondering
how would you ever find someone
who would get your puns
and laugh at every lame joke
the way I did
and you said
connecting with a human
is the rarest thing
in life
and maybe I shouldn’t
take it so lightly
and I laughed it off
because I had a whole list of
connections I’d made.
But later I realized
it wasn’t the same
later I realized
maybe I’ll never
connect to anyone
the way we did.

 

Every time I pass by
some place we’d been to –
the rail-side slum
near my house
that we had surveyed,
or the enormous office complex
where we had judged
corporate slaves
and argued with each other
over pretentious coffee
and lunch meetings,
or the empty streets
near your house
where we had walked on a cold night,
or the creepy place
full of scrap metal
in some corner
of our university –
every time I pass these
I tell myself
I’m not drowning
I tell myself
I’ve learned to swim
I tell myself
this nostalgia
will go away soon
it will turn to dust
and drop off my skin
like rain
I tell myself
I carry my own umbrella now
and I remind myself
sharing an umbrella
only left us both wet.

Two months ago
I took my brother
to the arcade gaming zone
where you and I
had laughed like maniacs
and I wondered
why I kept blanking out
every few minutes
why the games felt
so shitty this time
why I couldn’t brush off
the sound of your laughter
from the folds of my sleeves
and the anger
ate me up
the anger
burned my bones
the anger
drove me insane
but I wasn’t sure
who I was angry at.

At you –
for making me open up to you
although I never wanted to,
for calling me at 2 AM’s
and asking me to cure your insecurities,
for telling me
my voice was like
dry leaves in Autumn,
for telling me
I felt like home,
for leaving scratches on my soul
and tainting it for the person
who deserved to find it spotless,
for saying I was the only one
who understood you
and not noticing
I never said it back.

Or at myself –
for not leaving
the first chance I got,
for noticing the way
you ran your hand through your hair
when you were nervous,
for drinking in
every single word you ever said
like a caffeine addict
finding her morning latte,
for seeing your bloodshot eyes
under a midnight sky
and not getting scared,
for laughing at your jokes
even when they weren’t funny,
for enabling your addiction
of making people sympathize
with you and using them
as your emotional trash bin,
for seeing how the darkness inside you
sucked up my sunshine
like a black hole
and still not leaving you soon enough,
for leaving a suitcase full of
pieces of my soul
at your house
despite knowing that I
was never going to stay.

 

One day I hope
the anger will die down
and perhaps I
will forgive
both of us
but tonight
the anger
burns like hell.

Le Untitled Fiction – Part #2

As you get closer to the man, you see him disassembling the tent with quick motions. His back is towards you, and he still seems to have no idea that there is anyone in the vicinity. Just when you are about ten feet from him, he suddenly turns around. You freeze. A flash of panic passes over his expression, but he quickly recovers, and his dark eyes narrow into an enquiring gesture. He drops the edge of the tent from his hand and starts walking towards you with long, slow strides. For the first time you notice how tall he is: a little above six feet, give or take.

When he has crossed the distance between him and you, you still haven’t moved a bit. He clears his throat.

“Err… I don’t mean to be rude or anything but, what are you doing here?” he says in a flat voice.

“I could ask the same to you,” you surprise yourself with your calm tone. You feel your thumping heart gradually slowing down. There is something about him that makes you feel relaxed and safe. Instead of wanting to run in the opposite direction, you look straight at his eyes. He speaks again.

“Okay stranger, let me rephrase my question. How did you end up in the middle of this place out of nowhere? I know for a fact that you don’t live around here because if you did, I would have run into you at least a hundred times by now.”

“So you live here?”

“Near here, yes.”

“Alone?”

“Am I the only person in this place capable of answering a question?” He does a dramatic eye roll that immediately makes you think, if he knows when to do an eye roll then he must have had contact with human society for at least some part of his life, which means I’m not dealing with a Tarzan case. Phew. Which then makes you think, oh well he was just speaking with me in English, I think that is enough proof that he wasn’t raised by monkeys and bears. By this point you realize that you have been staring blankly at him for several seconds while having a conversation with yourself, and you still haven’t answered him.

“You’re right, I don’t live here. I mean, what kind of a person lives in the middle of a forest? No offense to you. The thing is, umm, I don’t actually know how I ended up here. Yes, I know, super weird. And creepy. And not believable at all. But that’s all I’ve got.”

He stares at you as if you just spoke a bunch of gibberish that makes no sense.

“No, seriously. I don’t know how I came here. I think I lost my memory or something. Maybe I knocked my head against something?” You laugh out and realize that the man isn’t finding this the least bit funny.

“Do you have a concussion? Can you feel any pain?” he asks with a calm seriousness.

You instinctively reach out and touch your head. You realize that you haven’t felt any pain in your head from the moment you found yourself in this place, neither have you found any signs of an injury. The man seems to read that from your expression.

He gives a slow nod, as if coming to a conclusion.

“Is there anyone with you?” he asks softly, although he looks like he knows the answer.

“No, just me.”

“Okay. Come with me.”

He goes back towards the tent, which is lying in a mess, and starts to gather it up. He asks you to hold the corners and with your help folds it up and then rolls it into a neat, small pile. He reaches out and grabs a backpack that he had taken out from inside the tent before he had started disassembling it l, and ties the tent with the bag. You have a thousand questions running through your head but decide to hold them in for a little longer.

He straps the backpack onto his shoulders and starts walking towards the direction from which you had come.

“Um, wait, where are we going?”

“Hunting.”

“Hunting?”

“Yes, that’s what I believe I just said.”

He is walking a few feet in front of you with confident steps that can only come from someone who has passed through this path many times before. You force yourself to keep your questions at bay. After all, this man could possibly have killed me by now, but he hasn’t. So he must be trustworthy, right? Unless he is going to the den of his fellow smugglers, or murderers, or pirates. Well, not pirates. Unless this is an island. You look around in sudden panic and after some observation decide that these trees aren’t….island-ish enough.

A scratching noise breaks your train of thought and you find the man sharpening a short, wooden arrow and putting it in a pocket-like pouch on the side of his backpack, where at least a dozen more arrows lie. He then takes out a small bow-like thing that looks like it was carved by someone who had a major grudge against conventional bows and had decided to invent a style of their own. You wonder what other weapons of mass destruction he is hiding in that innocent looking backpack. As if on cue, he brings out a street-gang style pocket-knife. He turns back and hands it to you.
“Just in case,” he says as if that is enough explanation, and starts walking again.

You feel the coolness of the metal against your hand. There is some rust along the edges. It looks several years old.

“So…what are we going to hunt?”

“Red Deer.”

“Oh. Okay.”

A few seconds pass before you speak again.

“Why Red Deer?”

“My wife felt like eating it.”

“Your what?” you almost stop in your tracks.

“Wife,” he chuckles. There is a slight amusement in his voice, as if he isn’t used to saying it.

You try to connect the dots – all the information you know about this strange person so far, and form somewhat of a story inside your head. You decide to test your theory out.

“So let me guess. You and your wife came to this place – in the middle of this forest – to spend a vacation. For going through some self discovery or that kind of crap. You live in a posh apartment somewhere in Sydney, or New York City, or whatever, and decided to spend the summer out in the wild. Like that guy Alexander Tramp. In that movie, you know? That’s what’s going on here. Am I right?”

“They made a movie out of it? Wow, what a miss. I read the book a long time ago. Always imagined how awesome it would be if someone made a movie about Alex Supertramp.”

“So I’m right? You’re on a vacation?”

He is silent for a few seconds.

“No. We’re not in a vacation.”

He says it almost…sadly. Or perhaps you just imagine it. You spot a few Red Deer in the distance among the trees.

“Then what are you doing here?”

He takes an arrow, holds the bow straight, and checks the strength of the bowstring with his fingers. He slows down his steps and looks around with alert eyes.

“That, my friend, is a long, long story. Don’t worry, you’ll hear it some time. Let’s catch our deer first.”

After at least half an hour of waiting and several missed opportunities, he shoots an arrow that hits a red deer right in the neck. He runs towards it as it falls sideways. You follow behind with trembling legs. This is the first time that you’ve watched a hunt outside of National Geographic Channel.

He holds the deer down and runs his hand along the back of it’s head several times, which, strangely enough, calms it down and puts it into a sort of daze. He then takes the pocket knife from you and places it at it’s throat. He silently mutters something and then slashes it’s throat in a quick swipe. You jerk backwards in shock, and stare aghast at the blood pooling under the deer’s head. Within a few minutes, all it’s movements stop.

He looks at you as if suddenly remembering that you are here too.

“Don’t worry, that is the least painful death possible. It died quick.”

Your are too disoriented to help out with the cleaning. You sit at a distance and wait as he partially skins the deer and prepares to carry it back. When he is done, he hangs the deer around his shoulders above his backpack, and starts walking back.

Once again you start walking behind him.

“Will there be any more hunting?” you ask warily.

“Not today. Not in a while, actually. This little fella will last for some time.”

“And where are we going now?”

“Home.”

Let’s Not Give This A Title Yet – A Fiction – Part #1

Sometimes I write to escape. Sometimes I escape to write. Tonight, I have escaped to write about escaping, in order to escape. Let me warn you, this is not about reality. It’s not about all the awful things that go on right at the edge of the bubble that I live in. To be honest, I’ve given up on writing about reality, at least for time being.
Tonight, I’ll write about a different place.

Let me set the scene for you.

The first thing you hear is the sound of water. The soft, gurgling sound of a stream, or a small river perhaps. Then you hear the rustling of leaves. You look up. It’s green; very green. You are surrounded by trees. The leaves are a deep, calming shade of green, and they’re blocking most of the sunlight. A few yards ahead there is a clearing: a circular patch of land where warm rays have made their way in, filtered through the canopy of the surrounding trees. As you focus your view, you notice that at the edge of this clearing is a tent. Surrounding it are thorny branches and twigs, scattered on the ground. Whoever is inside, has taken precautions against unwanted animals….or humans.

The tent is a dirty, deep biege color. You remember this color from somewhere. Once you had gone with your mother to a shop looking for a fabric for your new sofa. You were going through the catalog of leather samples, and you’d gotten stuck on this exact color. That’s the one you’d ended up choosing. Wait…when had that happened? You try to track your own thoughts. A sofa…that must be in your living room right now. What does your living room look like? An image flashes in your head. Your house. How did you end up here? Your head starts aching from the sudden effort.

You give up and look ahead again. The trees are still quite full of leaves. So it’s not winter or autumn. Unless these are evergreen trees. But there are barely any evergreen trees in the area you live in. Okay, let’s try to stop overanalyzing everything. The scene before you is as still as a picture, almost as if someone took a snap and projected it on a 3D screen in front of you. You just stand there and stare in awe. Then the tent’s flap moves.

One side of the tent is zipped open by someone inside. A hand comes out, holds the edge, and opens it outwards. A head pops out. A man. Locks of tangled, black hair tanned to a brownish shade by exposure to the sun. He slowly gets out of the tent, stretches his entire body, and then laughs at the sound of his bones crackling. It seems as if he has absolutely no care in the world; as if the flow of time does not bother him at all.

You wait for him to look at you. Then you realize that you are quite far from the tent and the clearing, probably hidden by trees. The man is wearing cargo pants that come down a little below his knees, a few knotted strings around his wrist, and nothing else. His face has hard edges and a stubble that looks several days old, and his skin is tanned to a deep shade of brown that reminds you of hazelnuts. He looks about thirty, although you can’t say for sure from this distance. You look around and see nothing else that gives any signs of humans living in this place. No cooking fire, no water containers, no leftover animal skin or bones, no metal or plastic objects lying around. You’ve watched enough survival themed TV shows to realize that this man most definitely does not live here, neither does anyone else. He has probably just camped for a night or two, or was spending the night on his way to somewhere else.

You wait for someone else to emerge from the tent; it looks like a two-person tent. The man brings out a water bottle – or something that looks like a bottle – from inside the tent and washes his mouth with the water. He gurgles and then spits the water in a very high arch, watching it like some kind of art that he has mastered. He then spends an unnecessarily long time untangling his hair with his fingers. He gathers his hair and they form a tiny ponytail at the back of his head, and just when he is about to tie it up, he realizes that he has nothing to tie it with. He looks around for a few seconds, as if looking for a hairband, and then gives up, letting out a low laughter as he lets go of his hair. This is the second time that he has laughed to himself, and the ease with which he does it gives you the feeling that he is quite used to living in solitude. It has been over five minutes since he came out from the tent and no one else has appeared. So you finally decide to approach.

You force yourself to push aside all the nervousness and fear that has gathered inside your chest, and push yourself forward.

(to be continued)
(or not)
(if not, please complete it inside your head)

Disclaimer 1: Okay as you might have noticed, I’ve used a 2nd person narrative. WHO DOES THAT? Yes that’s right, shady fanfiction writers who try to incorporate the reader as a character in their story. But I always liked the idea so I decided to try it out here. It will be pretty hard to continue, because the “you” i.e the reader is totally ambiguous – I can’t even assume a gender or age urghh – so I’ll have to shape the story to fit a person of any age, sex, and background. HAHA. Can you smell the fun already?

Disclaimer 2: BUT that won’t be a problem because, as you’ve guessed already, there’s a 99.9999% chance I won’t continue this for much long. Giving up is my best friend ❤ BUT don’t place bets yet, I actually kinda sorta do have a vague idea of where this is going (*shocked gasps*), unlike all the other times I started writing a fiction.

P.S. Someone once visited my blog and told me that he really likes the fact that I totally talk to myself here. That’s the point of the internet, right? Having conversations with yourself? I mean one of the sole reasons I even post anything here is so that when I’m a 60 year old loser, I can read my own thoughts from 40 years ago and feel less like a loser :v (And now she is talking to herself about talking to herself, whoa.) Okay, Ciao.

Revolution

I don’t remember in which grade
I learned the word “revolution”
But I remember
That once it entered my lungs
It never left my veins.

I read about Joan of Arc
In my Children’s Illustrated History book
And for nights I dreamed of horses
And enemy lines
And burning stakes.

I read that Alexander was 19
When he looked at the Macedonian throne
With determination blazing in his eyes.
I was the same age when I realized
That the biggest territory to conquer
And the hardest state to revolutionize
Is a human heart.

And I knew I would become the army
You never saw coming.

Perhaps I won’t be the Renaissance
That takes 3 centuries and
Thousands of pages
To slowly alter your mind.
Perhaps I’m the 3-day raid that burns
Your Senate houses and villages
And sets fire to all the corners
Of your soul.

I’ll be the Arab Spring
That breaks decades of dictatorship
Your tyrant mind has over your heart.

I’ll be the October Revolution
Letting my Bolshevik army tramp over your capitalistic desires
Until I paint all of your skin red with my utopian social justice.

I’ll be the violent mob of peasants
Burning the houses of British impostors
Who told me to plant blue seeds in my soil meant for green.

I’ll be the French Revolution
That promises you liberty and rights and social reform
But only after drowning you in a bloodbath.

I’ll be every book
That you burned in the name of your self-made gods
And yet couldn’t purge from memories.

I’ll be the city of Jerusalem
Being ravished by Crusaders night after night
Only to be reborn the next morning.

I’ll be Khalid ibn Walid’s army
Wreaking havoc among the mightiest forces you can gather
Till every corner of you thrives under my new civilization.

I’ll be Socrates with Hemlock in my hands
Waiting for the death of my body
And the birth of your mind.

I’ll be the children of Israel
Running through the middle of the Red Sea
And watching the waves crash down on the psychopathic autocrat in you.

If you want me to
I will keep going down the timeline
And unravel every piece of history you have in you
Till every bit of your existence
Is scarred by me.

But forget all of history
And civilization

I’ll be the very first spark of fire
You lighted by mistake
While shivering in a cold, dark world.

I’ll be the first spear you threw
The first word you spoke
The first rule you broke.

What I mean to say is
Once you crash into me
I’ll revolutionalize
Every inch of you.
Once you find me
I’ll ruin you
Forever.
I’ll be
What warms you
And I’ll be
What burns you
To ashes.

What I mean to say is
I’ll be the Big Bang
That God caused for breaking
The silence
Of your universe.

Empty Glass

Some nights you can feel
all the oceans
and mountains
and hot burning stars
inside your head
surging and
quaking and
pulsing to
break free and explode
and fall onto the pages
of an unwritten book
or into the nearly empty glass
of life
by your bedside
that’s tired of holding
a void for so long.

Some nights
you wake up.

Accidental Art

The abstract art
formed by fallen hair
on white shining tiles.

The dragons and castles
made of white clouds
in afternoon skies.

The dancing figures
made of water blobs
on a green bathroom floor.

All the accidental art
in every corner of the universe
waiting in ambush
to take my breath away.

And yet all I can think about
are a pair of black, black eyes
devoid of color
yet full of all the shades
that ever existed.

What is it about the Quran?

Someone once asked me how I still believe that the Quran is divine considering all the modern cosmological and scientific theories. While answering this I started thinking, when had I exactly started whole-heartedly believing that this Book is divine and not man-made? And what exactly had convinced me of its divinity?

I was taught to recite the Quran as a child, but in my family, like most Muslim-born families, no one really talked about how or *why* this book is undoubtedly extra-worldly. It’s just “our Book”, that’s it. No questions asked, no answers told.

But I don’t remember having a “blind” faith in it either, at least not after a certain age. So something must have convinced me, there must have been some knowledge that nailed it for me, made me realize the magnitude of it. I know the rough time when that happened: I was around 14-15, I got to know more about Islam and history and the Quran and intelligent design and what not… But exactly *what* was it that did it – I keep failing to remember.
.
.
.
Maybe it was the palindromes in surah Muddatthir and Surah Yasin.

Maybe the event in history where the Romans were unexpectedly defeated by Persia in 615 AD in a land far away, and immediately verses were revealed in the Quran [Surah Rum] about their defeat, much quicker than the news could have humanly reached our Prophet ( ) in Arabia. And the next verses prophecised their next victory along with its timing (which came true).

Maybe the numerical miracles – 25% land and 75% water, 50% fear and 50% hope, 50% day and 50% night, 50% male and 50% female, and so on.

Maybe the unique, epic way this book has been passed on for generations, orally instead of by writing – yet not letting a single letter be changed.

Or maybe how its language is the only language that stayed the same through so many centuries, while languages from even 2 centuries ago – like Victorian English – have gone through such major change that laymen don’t even understand these languages anymore, and people have to spend years studying a single drama or poem.

The use of metaphors, hyperbole, rhyme, sarcasm, imagery, scene-setting, and other literary devices.

How the story of prophet Yusuf and his 11 brothers can be divided into exactly 12 parts, and how it symmetrically builds up a tragedy in the first half, and then relieves it in the second half.

Geographic facts like mountains having underground parts rooting them (like pegs), which have only been discovered later.

The mention of the sun and stars moving in orbits, despite being revealed at a time when people didn’t even believe the *earth* to be moving.

The medical accuracy in the stages of development of the embryo.

The expansion of the universe.

All life starting from water.

Ants having a language.

Iron having come from outer space.

Pharaoh’s body being preserved.

The poetic beauty.

The human rights.

Animal rights.

Plant rights.

And on and on.

But it wasn’t any of these. It just wasn’t. Knowing about all of these kept adding to my faith, made my conviction stronger, but where did it all root back?

I’ll never know. I could have known all of these and more and still disbelieved. So many people do. So there is only one legit answer. One that we read so often in the Quran itself, one we hear so often – at least once each Friday in jumuah khutba – yet ignore:

“Whomever Allah guides, no one can misguide. And whomever Allah misguides, no one can guide.”

Sketching A Soul

Have you ever noticed
That the biggest adventure in life
Is gradually getting to know a person?

It’s like doing an elaborate sketch
Like those tutorials, or your kindergarten drawing books.
First you draw a bunch of shapes –
A circle here and a rectangle there,
A few lines on the sides.
Then inside those you draw more complex shapes
Polygons
Soft edges
Rounded corners.
Now you have an outline
You start building on it.
Now you add details
You add and add
And just when you thought it was enough
You add some more.
.
.
.
You know their name
Age, height, color
Their bachelors major
Their second language.
There you have the shapes:
A circle for the head
A trapezium for the body
Rectangles for the limbs.
Isolated, disproportioned.

You read their 3 am thoughts in vague facebook statuses.
The edges start softening.

A short conversation about where they bought that book from.
The arms are taking shape.

A philosophical comment on something seemingly deep that you said.
Jawlines appear.

You see some art they created.
Shoulder blades and pectorals and fingertips emerge.

You hear their voice reciting words of God
Or humming a nostalgic tune.
Biceps get shaded, knuckles are highlighted.

A few months in, you know their taste in books
What videos they watch on youtube
What philosophies they hate
What they say when they’re excited
How they look when they’re nervous
How often they smile
Why they smile
How they smile.

The details are rushing in
Like rain.
A dam has broken and you’re drowning.
Your pencils get shorter and your eraser is wearing out
From drawing and erasing
Sharpening and softening
Shading and highlighting
Too much.

Every conversation
Adds dimensions you didn’t know existed.
From 1D lines to a 2D sketch it’s suddenly a 3D sculpture
And before you know it
It has popped out of your sketchbook and started walking through air
But no it doesn’t stop there
You see layers after layers of
A Homo sapien
Turning into a human
Turning into a person
Turning into a soul.
Physicists might be talking about a 4th or a 5th or even a 10th dimension
But you know there are over a hundred dimensions
Because you’ve seen them all
In this sketch.
.
.
.
If you’ve never noticed this journey
Despite going on it so many times in your life
If you haven’t felt the poetic beauty of
A human becoming a person
I hate to say this but
You’ve missed out on the biggest surprise
That God has left for you.

Because every new person is a mountain to climb
And by the time you climb a mountain
You are not the same person anymore.

So please don’t tell me about how much you want to travel the world
If you have never traveled through
A person.

My Favorite Sounds

“What’s your favorite sound in the world?” you ask.

On Fridays, it’s the sound inside the masjid
When everyone’s clothes rustle in sync
As their faces touch the ground
In awe of their Creator.
It’s less of a sound and more of a feeling
That slowly fades into the euphoria
Of finding the purpose of life again.

On most other days
It’s the crunching of dead leaves
Or the rattling of keyboard keys
The roar of a fresh breeze
A very very loud sneeze
The ‘ting’ of a text message
The rustling when I turn a page
The splash of a waterfall
The clamor in a shopping mall
Thunder right before the rain
The rhythmic chugging of a train
The revving of sport cars
The silence of a million stars.

But at nights
It’s the imaginary laughter
Of an imaginary person
Drowning the rest of the world away
Turning into a blanket
To wrap me in its cocoon
So that all the cold I’m afraid of never finds its way.

 

Escaping The Castle

This was originally written in 2016 for the 2nd edition of Fajr Lifestyle Magazine. It’s the only time I wrote a short story of proper length and Islamic content. So I’ve been reeeally wanting to post it in my blog, but lost the softcopy 😥  Finally after a lot of searching I found it Alhamdulillah!! So here it goes (before I lose it again haha).

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.
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September, 2014.

“It’s 3 am, Fahim. If I can’t wake up in time for class tomorrow, I won’t talk to you for the next two days. I’m not even joking.”
“Okay, okay, calm down. You make even death threats seem insignificant. And anyway, I know you can’t survive two whole days without talking to me.”
“Now hang up!”
“Bye!”

Farah fought off a smile as she glanced at a picture of her and Fahim adorning her phone’s home screen. It was one of the hundreds of selfies they had, and was taken in one of their favorite cafes a month ago. It has been almost a week since their last date and she was trying her best not to make her restlessness too evident. She reluctantly put down her phone, its heat generated from 2 hours of converting emotions into digital signals almost burning her hand. As she prepared to fall asleep, something in the back of her mind put an abrupt halt to her state of euphoria. She remembered something she had heard the other day when a friend of hers had taken her to a sisters’ gathering.

It was a “Halaqa”, as her friend told her – a gathering where some sisters would talk about Islamic matters. She had felt too ashamed to say no to her friend’s request to accompany her there. As she entered the house where it was taking place, she had been engulfed by a mixture of intimidation and embarrassment on seeing so many women wearing hijabs, abayas (burqas) and even niqabs, in contrast to her own not-so-Islamic clothing. They had all been amazingly friendly, and to her own surprise, her initial feeling of intimidation had turned to admiration and awe by the time she had left.

Somewhere amidst all the positive thoughts and reminders that had enveloped her throughout the brief hour there, one thing had hit her hard as a bullet. It was the way the speaker had mentioned having relationships, as if it was one of the worst things to do. “Whenever a man is alone with a woman, Shaytan is the third one with them.” The words kept ringing in the back of her head. She remembered the numerous times she had hung out with Fahim, laughed like a fanatic at his lame jokes and chattered on about stupid little things over the sound of over-enthusiastic diners in fast food joints. All of these seemed to be purely happy moments; surely, Shaytan hadn’t been with them all those times…she shook her head in denial.

She’d heard her friend say many times that being in a relationship before marriage was Haram, but she had never quite let that sink in. She had never considered that this Haram was the same Haram that described drinking, gambling and even murder.

“But everyone does it,” Farah mumbled to herself as she sunk into the depths of sleep.

***

January, 2015.

Farah folded up her newly bought cotton crepe scarf and put it in the wardrobe, shutting the door with all the energy she could muster. The bang of the wardrobe door wasn’t loud enough to drown out the cries of frustration inside her head. She wasn’t sure what was agitating her more – her mother’s words of dissuasion at her decision to wear the hijab, or her recent argument with Fahim about discontinuing their relationship.

She picked up her phone with rekindled determination and began to dial his number. She stopped right before pressing call and made a quick du’a: “Allah, please don’t let his words make me weak. I can’t do this without Your help. I don’t want to compromise this time, Allah. Please help me through this!”

As the line rang, each ring coming in sharp as a blade to her anxious eardrums, she kept murmuring du’as, begging Allah to keep her strong.

“Hello, Miss I-have-changed-now. How may I help you?” Fahim’s sarcastic tone made her want to hang up immediately. She took a deep breath. And another.

“We need to talk,” Farah muttered out as she cringed at the shakiness of her own voice.

“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last three years, Farah? Look, this better not be about your what-we’re-doing-is-wrong theory again. I’ve had enough of that.”

“I’ve told you I can’t do this anymore. You know quite well that there is only one option left for us, but you never even let me bring it up!”

“Break up and live in distress? Let’s see how long you survive.”

“No, get married.”

There was silence on the other side.

“I’m only twenty-three. Stop making impossible suggestions, Farah. I don’t even get why you’re taking this so seriously. I didn’t say anything when you started wearing hijab. I let you give me uncomfortable lectures on why I should pray five times every day. Damn, I even woke up for fajr last week because you told me to. Why do you have to turn it from hard to impossible? Don’t you see how much I’ve done or you?” His voice was getting edgy from anger.

“It’s not about me! Don’t you have the slightest aspiration to please Allah, to go to Jannah? If you can do so many things for just a girl, why can’t you do them for your Lord? It’s much more important to please Allah, why don’t you get that Fahim?” Her eyes were already burning.

“Calm down, Farah. You’re taking your religion too seriously. Ask anyone around you, they’ll agree. I’m a Muslim too, you don’t see me getting so hyped up over it.”

“Exactly, Fahim. You’re a Muslim too! You’re supposed to take it more seriously than anything else!”

The burning sensation was crawling down her cheek now. He muttered out an incomprehensible reply and hung up.

The next week Farah tried again. And then again. Getting married right then was something Fahim would do anything to avoid. She realized that in just four months, they had become occupants of two completely different worlds. His was a world where one followed only what pleases oneself, not bothering about consequences. Hers was one where nothing was more important than the commands of Allah SWT; where the definition of happiness was not confined to making oneself happy in this life; where life had a much bigger purpose. As soon as she realized how thick the border between the two worlds was, she chose to let go.

***

March, 2015.

It’s been two months since Farah left the haram relationship that had once been the chief source of happiness for her. It was one of the most difficult times in her life – with every other phone call reminding her of all the long hours she had wasted in carefree conversations; and every other chat notification acting as a pingback to all the unrestrained chats she had partaken in. The guilt and remorse merged in with the sudden emptiness was making every day seem more excruciating than the one before. She began to skip the halaqas, and found it increasingly hard to focus in Salah. Her instance of withdrawal extended to her studies and interactions as well, much to her dismay.  She felt caught up in a constant loop of frustration and indolence. Beneath the depths of lethargy and depression, she could almost feel the spiritual void get larger every day. Until, on one fortuitous day, her friend casually told her to read Surah Qaf.

Farah decided to implement that little bit of advice right away, not yet knowing how big an impact it would leave in her life. As she settled in a window seat in the local bus on her way home that day, she opened the Quran app on her phone and began to read the translation of the 50th Surah of the Quran. It had been days since she had read the Quran mindfully. As she read, she felt the world around her fade away into oblivion as the words hit her like a parade of nails.

[50:16] And indeed We have created man, and We know what his ownself whispers to him. And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.

[50:17] (Remember!) that the two receivers (recording angels) receive, one sitting on the right and one on the left.

She read on, past the spine-chilling ayahs about the reality of Hellfire and through the heart-warming ayahs of Paradise, coming to a halt at the 34th ayah.

[50:34] Enter it in peace. This is the Day of Eternity.

She whispered it out to herself, then repeated it again and again, letting it sink in, letting it absorb all the haunting memories, letting it evacuate the darkness she held too dear. Enter it in peace. This is the day of Eternity.

By the time she got home and stood for the next Salah, she had memorized the ayah, along with a few more ayahs before and after it. It was the first time she recited Ayahs from a Surah outside the last Juz or surah Fatiha in Salah. It was also the first time in months that she made through an entire Salah without being distracted by a disturbing memory or trivial noise. She found herself making du’a to Allah in every sajdah to make it easy for her to memorize the Quran.

In the next few weeks, she memorized Surah Qaf in its entirety. The joy of the feat made her more ecstatic than an addict high on drugs. It became almost like an addiction for her to repeat a few ayahs, glance over their translation and then recite them in each subsequent Salah. When she told her friend about her new practice and the rush of excitement and satisfaction it was giving her, her friend advised her to check out the Tafsir of what she was reading once in a while. That was another life-changing advice for Farah. The in-depth analyses of surahs that she read in Tafsir Ibn Katheer or heard in online podcasts left her mesmerized for hours, sometimes even days. She felt more connected to Allah than she had ever imagined feeling.

She found herself involuntarily getting closer to her friend, discussing anything and everything from an Islamic viewpoint whenever they got time. It was as if the Quran had created a resilient chain-link between their souls. As she subconsciously rose from the depths of depression, she kept learning new things and making new friends for the sake of Allah in the Halaqas and sisters’ groups on social networks.

Farah passed each day amidst memorization of the Quran, reading Tafsir, listening to lectures, discussing what she read and how she felt with her sisters in faith, taking online short courses and attempting to become a better person. Amidst all of these, she nearly forgot about her past, relinquished all remaining agony and to her own amazement, became a more contented person than she had ever been in life. Before long, every little frustration she once had became mere jokes between her and her friends. It felt like magic; she felt like Rapunzel let free from her apparently grand castle that had locked her in for years; once she had escaped, the castle seemed infinitely insignificant compared to the open sky. She felt freer than ever before for not having to depend on a man for her happiness, or on someone’s approval for her contentment. Once she centered her life around pleasing Allah SWT, she felt every other fetter breaking away. Once she contently submitted to Allah, all her desires and whims became irrelevant.

The apparently grand castle of abandoned pleasures was nothing compared to the infinite open skies of Allah’s blessings, and the hope of a perfect happily-ever-after. She finally knew what it felt like to be free.

 

Switch

There’s a light switch
Constantly being turned on
And off
And on
Inside me.

Flick.
Too much noise in my head
Flick.
A void in my soul.
Flick.
What a colorful universe!
Flick.
Full of black holes.
Flick.
I’m laughing like a maniac
Flick.
Talk to me and you’re dead.
Flick.
Let’s go for a run
Flick.
I’ll just lie in my bed.
Flick.
Pretty shop windows!
Flick.
Grey metal gates.
Flick.
I want to go home.
Flick.
I want to escape.
Flick.
I make garlands from words.
Flick.
I tear them off.
Flick.
Butterflies in my stomach
Flick.
I don’t believe in love.

 

Hobbies

My hobbies include
Staring at the sun
Walking through glass
Playing with fire
Running into tsunamis
And placing my heart on windowsills
To savor the adrenaline rush
As I watch it fall.

Let The Darkness Guide You

[Something I found among my old notes from a long time ago]

Our Prophet (saw) faced every single affliction a human soul can emotionally take. He didn’t even get a chance to properly know his mother, let alone feel her love when growing up. He lost Khadija (ra) at the most vulnerable point of his life. Let’s not even get to all the things he faced from people. If anyone can be said to have been filled with darkness from all sides, isn’t it him? But all that pain had purpose. All that was prepared by Allah Himself.

Despite all that pain, he had a core full of light that had the potential to change everyone else’s cores. The entire world’s core. Did the darkness affect his mission? Of course. It was that darkness he faced all his life that helped him change history, change hearts, minds, countries, worlds! (The jinn were changed too, I’ll call that a different world). When we quote ahadith or follow him in order to please Allah, do we always think about his pain and sufferings? Maybe we should, but we hardly do. Because even if that was one of the most significant parts of his life, to us, that is a minor part of the whole picture.

Maybe human cores just work this way. The person himself sees/feels the surface – the darkness. Everyone else sees the core – the light. But only if the person himself unlocks the core first.

Think about all the other prophets. Every single one of them. Think about the salaaf. I personally don’t think imam Bukhari or imam Tabari etc were perfectly happy people. Most of them were surrounded by darkness too – the darkness of societal obstacles, financial hardships, emotional hardships, what not. But that didn’t stop them from writing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of pages of knowledge. Or changing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of lives, hearts. Because maybe, just maybe, Allah chooses the souls most tainted by darkness to serve Him best. How else can you explain why every Prophet faced such difficult lives and such extreme emotional trauma? Even if not, I’m sure of one thing at least: the darkness is a clue to what tremendous light lies inside. You might not care, but it’s there.

A Recurring Epiphany

Do you ever have those days
With those sudden moments
When you can feel the taste of life on your tongue and it nearly makes you cry?

A feeling so old that it takes you by surprise.

Like an epiphany
Wrapped in a déja vu
An exclusive gift
From Allah to you.

I’m sitting in a cafe
Reading a book about suicide.
There’s an almost disturbing aroma of coffee and I’m a second hand addict for the moment
They play something that sounds familiar
But it’s so low that i can’t quite make it out
And for some reason I feel nostalgic
For every moment I ever lived
Every moment I never lived
Every kind of love I felt
Every little dream I dreamt
Everything
And nothing
And everything.

I remember this book I once read
About spiders and scars
And armies and wars
And islands and stars
So much of time and existence
Wrapped up in a few hundred pages
Where each and every word once belonged
Inside a thin tube of ink
In some writer’s hand
And now it’s ended up
Inside me.

And it hits me.
This life?
All these tiny beautiful beings
And all these giant beautiful things
They exist.
It’s real.
It’s too good to be real.
But it’s real. It’s real. It’s real.

That’s how the taste of life feels on my tongue.
And every single time, it nearly makes me cry.

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