Teach Me Patience, Mother

There are personalities whose lives never cease to give. They are like flowing rivers of wisdom, never stagnating, never still, and most importantly, always present and ready to shower your pain with love and warmth.

**

Mother,

I take refuge in the many folds of your love quietly residing in my heart.

I whisper your name,

Lost,

battled,

struggling to navigate in these seamingly shoreless oceans.

I am drowing, Mother,

I cannot breath,

There is no light,

And yet I whisper your name,

For I do not know other than yours,

A name carrying more resilience,

In both meaning and essence.

Mother,

Whenever alone,

and strugling against myself,

I have taken your pain,

as a symbol of hope,

For your pain has always thaught me,

That my strugle is sweet in the mirror of your life,

That my pain is honey in the garden of your devotion,

That my loneliness is a blessing, in the kingdom of your love.

**

Ya Zahra, words were written on your life. Poems were recited on your fate. Your name itself is enough Oh Mother, to bring peace to my heart and to tear it into pieces at the same time.

Amongst the many verses I have heard in your name, Mother, there is one line that has always brought my existence to a sudden end. I whisper this line and I drown, in your love, in your pain:

امشب پرستوی علی از آشیان پر می کشد
داغ فراق فاطمه آخر علی را می کشد

Tonight, the swallow bird of Ali (a.s) has flown away from its nest

The separation with Fatima, has finally taken Ali (‘s life)

They call you ‘Lady without a shrine’. But I swear by your name, you have a shrine in my heart.

None but You

 

Ya Mahdi,

There is none in the progeny of Adam except you, that my eyes have looked for with such intensity. My soul shivers at the thought of meeting you, for if ever we do, Ya Imam, how will my unfaithful eyes gaze towards the very love they have betrayed? Ya Mawla, If it wasn’t for your mercy, I would have no hope of ever seeing you, but I know for a fact that your generosity, by far, exceeds my heedlessness, just like your perfection has always been greater than the imperfection of my soul.

I have looked for you in the depth of my heart and in the infinity of skies. I kept waiting for a sign of yours behind every cloud, at the corner of every turn my life took since we met. By God, there is no wish in my heart that is dearer to me than to put my head in your hands and to join the kingdom of your servitude.

Ya Imam, there are countless reasons why I seek you, and each one of them is mentionned in the beautiful supplication of Nudbah. But if I had to add just one Ya Mawla, I would say that my eyes cry and weep for you for I am an orphan in your absence, and every orphan longs to meet the Ali of its time. I seek you for you are the son of Fatima and only through you can I ever witness the purity of my Lady. I seek you ya Mawla for whenever I read from the peak of Eloquence, I look for the source of its light, and that light leads me towards you. Whenever my soul has longed to witness the presence of Ali, My eyes have looked for You and for the oceans of your love.

I have tied myself to the Quran in this blessed month of Ramadhan, hoping that it would soothe my longing for you. But everytime I open it, the book of God whispers to me, that  it is itself waiting to be delivered by the one soul that will embody its wisdom and give a voice to its truth.

‘There is none but you Ya Mawla, none but you oh Quran al Natiq’

The Story of Little Zahra and The Book of Destiny

big_thumb_aa7bacb9be9daa1937a71dd71cdb08fa

One the night of a long day
A girl named Zahra
Was reading stories of angels
From one of her favorite books
Which her mother had bought
When she was still very little

Zahra was waiting
For her father to come
And to count her stories
Of travellers of the sky

As she kept waiting for her
Father to come, she heard
A little noise from
The window of her room

When she stood up and lifted
The curtain, she saw
An angel waiting in the cold
And asking to come in

She opened the window
And let the angel in
And while the tired angel
Finaly got in the room
He thanked little Zahra
For her kindness and love

Little Zahra was curious
To know who this angel was
And why he had come
To her room on this night

‘Peace be upon you Oh angel,
My name is Zahra and I am
Waiting for my father to come
And to tell me a story’

‘Can you tell me who you are,
And why you came to visit me ?’

‘Peace be upon you little Zahra’
replied the angel with a smile

‘My name is Al Qadr
And I came here today
To tell you a little more
About the story of my name’

‘I am angel from the sky
That visits every child
On the night of their first fast
During the month of Ramadhan’

‘And since today was the first time
You fasted all day long
Allah has sent me to visit you
To hand you a gift
Which you will keep forever and ever’

And from behind his back,
The angel handed Zahra
A book which had on it written:
‘The story of little Zahra
written by herself’

The girl stared at the book,
And decided to open it
And when she realized its pages
Were all empty and blank
She looked at the angel and said :

‘This book is empty, Dear angel
It has nothing written on it
Nor does it have any drawing
How can this book be a story
if it is empty of words?’

The angel smiled at Zahra
And said to her in a soft voice:

‘This book is not an ordinary book
Little Zahra, for it represents
Your life and destiny
It is not a book that you will read my dear,
Rather it is a book that you will write yourself!’

The angel continued
Its talk and said:

‘Each one of us has one, 
And with ours smiles and 
Tears, we write on it
Every day and night’

Little Zahra stood up
And took a pen from her desk
And with a gentle stroke
Started writing on it:

‘Yeki book yeki nabood,
Gheyr az khoda kassi nabood’
‘Some were and some were not
God was there, when others were not’

But to her surprise
The pen did not write,
And the page remained blank

Zahra stood up again
And on an old drawing of hers
Tried to use the pen again

The pen was working fine,
As she drew a star
on this old piece of paper
And with much confusion
She shared her concern
With her new angelic friend:

‘Dear angel, this book is
somehow strange in nature.
My pen writes on old paper
But it doesnt on this book.

If I am the writer of this
Book of destiny,
Why does my pen stop
Whenever I try
to write on its page?’

The angel smiled at Zahra
And told her the secret
that made this book special:

‘This book is indeed
One that must be written.
And it is also true
That it is only yours 
And that You are
Its only writer.’

‘But the secret of this book
Is that you do not need a pen
To write on itself. The ink which
Will darken the color of its pages
Are nothing else than your actions
And thoughts alone and always’

Little zahra was confused
And did not understand what
The angel meant:

‘Do you mean dear angel
that my actions are the words and
The story of this book ?

Do you mean that
my behaviour alone will color 
the pages of my own destiny ?

‘You are right my little friend,
your actions are what will fill
this book with words.
And what you decide to do
Will shape the story of your life’

‘I have another question’
said little Zahra anxiously

‘Every book  to survive
Needs to be opened and read
Will there be anyone
who will read this book
Besides me?’

‘Yes’, said the angel

Just like your babajan reads
Stories to you at night, Allah gathers
All angels in the skies and reads to us
The stories of your lives’

And amongst all the books
Of destinies that exist
Allah only choses a few
To be read and remembered

‘And which are the books
which Allah choses to read
To angels in the skies ?’

The angel looked at Zahra
And said ‘ The books
Which tell stories
Of kindness and Love’

Little Zahra’s eyes

Got enlightened and asked:

‘Does that mean dear angel
That if I remain kind
My story will be read
By God to angels and stars?

The angel smiled at Zahra
And while looking at her
Shining eyes replied :

‘Yes my dear Zahra,
This is a promise from God:
Whenever the inhabitants of earth
are kind and remember Him
Allah himself gathers us 
And tells us to look 
At at the light of their faces’

‘But dear Angel,
I dont really know
How to be kind and loving’

‘What if I think I am doing
Something kind, but in fact
It is not something good’
Said Zahra waiting
for an answer
from the angel

‘How do I know what is
The best way to be kind
So that Allah reads
My story ever and ever’

The angel looked at Zahra
And from behind his wings
He handed her two lights
That together shined brighter
Than the moon at night

He opened Zahras hands
And gifted her these lanters

Zahra took each one of them
And felt an instant kindness
That took over her heart
And as she smiled to the angel

She asked her new friend
The name of these lights

‘These are two lights that God
Has sent on earth for you to understand
How to be kind like He wants,
How to know Him like He is.

One of them is the Quran
And the other is the Ahlul beyt
They will not separate
Till the very day 
When all books will
Be opened and read

We angel keep these lights
In our wings, for they make us
Fly, higher and higher.
But you should keep them
Alive In your eyes, so that they 
Enlighten every dark
Alleys of your life.

And If you follow these lanterns,
On every path you walk
You will shine on this earth
And we will see you from above

And God will gather us
To read your book of destiny
To other angels and stars.

And with these last words
The angel bowed down
In reverance and farewell
And disaperead in the skies
Until he became
As tiny as a star

When Little Zahra
Went back to her bed
Her father finally came
To count her stories
from her favorite book

And as he came closer
He realized that Little Zahra
Had long but gone asleep
with a book in her hand

He soon recognised
The book in her hand
For it ressembled the book
An angel had given him
On the night of his
First ramadhan fast

Zahra’s father stayed all night
Besides her daughter’s bed
Remembering his lord
with a smile on his face

For he had realized
while looking at her daughter
That shes was nothing else
But the most beautiful page
Of his own book of destiny.

تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ ‘
‘سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّى مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ 

‘The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. 
Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.’
The Noble Quran (97:4,5)

Fasting in a jungle of concrete: Experiencing ramadhan in the west.

Processed with VSCO with b5 preset

New York, Summer 2016

Standing at the corner of one of New York’s busiest intersection right across Penn Station, I found myself contemplating the city like one ends up analyzing a complex composition in a Museum Art Gallery. It is difficult to describe in words the vibe one feels when standing still amidst a stampede of workers, especially right after working hours. But whether you’re from London, Paris, New York or any other metropolitan city that has a business district, I am sure you can relate to what I am trying to describe.

‘Saturation. That’s the word I was looking for. The continuous stimulation of the senses to the point that they cannot relay any meaningful perception to the self, a state where ‘more’ and ‘less’ feels just quite the same.’

With a rosary in hand and making my way out of this concrete mess, I found an oasis of peace in a small park right in the middle of the city. I was fortunate enough to grab a chair and a table and gather my thoughts again. I thought about how exhausting and depleting this walk had been both from a physical and spiritual standpoint and how I thought evolving around areas of extreme density could somehow affect one’s quest of spirituality and balance. If God was to be perceived by our senses, implored with our tongue, sought through our eyes and experienced in tranquility, I wondered if it was even possible to find such a God when the soul was suffocating amidst such an effusion of sounds, lights, motion, conversations, people, colors and emotions.

And because this conundrum wasn’t really a question of ‘if’ such a God could be found but rather ‘how’ such a God manifested in this urban chaos, this led me to formulate the main question around which this essay is articulated: How can one find peace in the absence of peace? How can one find the Unity of Allah in a world seemingly devoid of any harmony? And consequently, given the nature of the month coming of Ramadhan coming ahead of us, how could one welcome the month of Allah, fasting in a jungle of concrete?

Ramadhan and the spiritual geometry

As a child living in Europe, I met a lot of people who would travel during Ramadhan. Most of them would either go back to their home countries in areas vastly populated by Muslims, or they would visit Holy places for Ziarat or Umrah. In both cases, the idea was to ‘experience’ Ramadan and its spirituality, an experience that somehow seemed either impossible or highly difficult when staying in the west.

If one was to visit any metropolitan area of a largely populated city in Northern America or Europe, anyone would argue that this assumption might have been, on the surface level, an accurate one. After all, how could one experience God, and fast properly in a environment devoid of any spirituality per se. How could one experience Ramadhan when when fasting alone at work or amongst friends at university? How could one fast and stay focused on Allah when everything around one’s surrounding, be it people eating in restaurants, ‘not so mahram’ billboards, constant advertisement driving one towards materialism? And pushing the rhetoric a bit further, how could one ever reach any kind of Zohd (islamic asceticism), living in a city which is defined by the absence of it.

Part of the answer to this question comes from a better understanding of our purpose of life and perhaps, from a better understanding of the attributes that surround Allah’s unicity. From a theological perspective, the unicity of Allah implies that he is one and indivisible. And because His existence is not bound to time and space, Allah is everywhere. He is as much present in the Kabah, as He is on wall street. And this realization brings us back to one of our original question : How can one experience God in an environment which is devoid of Him?

If we follow our argumentation, we soon realize that the question we’re asking is a contradiction in itself. There is no environment that is devoid of God. If we’ve established the fact that God is everywhere, the only thing that can happen, is that we might feel that God is absent, but this feeling is a function of the self, of our own imperfection, not of Allah’s absence in any case. Therefore, one must conclude that in spiritual geometry, even if there are seemingly great distances that might separate a soul from its creator, the creator is never far from its creation. We might not perceive him in our vicinity, but even then, he is closer to us than our jugular vein. And from this perspective, there is no reason why on theoretical level, one cannot experience Allah while fasting regularly and following an urban routine we have known while living in a place in which things do not seem drive us towards towards Him.

Now that we have established the fact that Allah is present everywhere and that it in fact impossible to dissociate ourselves from him,  one must conclude that it is indeed possible to fast and attain higher realm of spirituality during Ramadhan even if one to fast in the tallest building of a financial discrtict or any other symbol of capitalism, for it would be against Allah’s Justice to create a Human being at a given time and space and not give him the opportunity to actualize its purpose of creation which is to strive towards Him and his perfection.

The question that remains unanswered though, is how? how could one fast while being fed materialism from the streets? How could one constantly think of the month of God in a society that seems to have forgotten God? How could one pray the the lord of the skies standing in Manhattan, when skies are actually what you couldn’t see?

Of Childhood Memories and The Soul That Rests in Peace

Processed with VSCO with x1 preset

Warm Zaatar, espresso, and the wooden bench

There is something about memories of our childhood that transcends the realm of common understanding. While adulthood is often defined by a newly aquired sense of emotional stability, a state where an individual always needs greater ‘things’ to get excited, one wonders how can innocent memories suddenly soften our hearts and fill it with a lost sense of satisfaction.  After all, one might ask himself how can the sight of a simple Zaatar, a fresh baguette, a jar of Nutella or a wooden bench bring about such a fulfilling sense of tranquility?

So why is it, that opening the door to these memories never fails to sooth the heart and comfort the soul? Are objects that remind us of our youth the actual carriers of the pleasure we experience when encountering them? Is it the fact that they awaken in us, given memories of specific people that makes our soul at ease with its own existence? Or do they just act as triggers enabling us to consciously acces a greater reality of what our past used to be?

Even though there seems to exist a fundamental relationship between the ‘souvenir’ that was able to trigger the remembrance of the memory that is associated with it, there is a much deeper truth that regulates the pleasure we feel when traveling in the past.

When you think about it, these objects, smells, languages, landscapes or souvenirs do not only remind us of their respective counterparts experienced when we were younger. They more importantly remember us of the state of being we were in when we did experience them in the first place. In order words, we cherish memories of the past not only for what they are made of but also because they remind us of the innocen sweetness  that used to define our lives.

They make us consciously experience the innate sense of serenity that always hovered over our childhood. Most of us were unaware of this faculty we had, to be able to believe, to dream and to live life the way it should be : like an eagle’s  flight over mountainous valley , with no strings attached. And often, it is only when we entered the greyish realm of adulthood, that we realized it actually took a great deal of courage for us to believe the way we did as kids, that we could actually fly and that dreams were meant to be experienced in colors.

Therefore, the pleasure experienced when living memories of the past is perhaps more tied to remembering our innocence more than remembering smells and objects per se. These memories bring us back to a time when we used to live in the present, with a greater sense of certainty, where past and future were abstract concepts which had no significant impact in our emotional and mental state. When you think about it, these memories are perhaps dear to us, because they remind us of a time when our souls were just content enough to experience God the way He should be.

يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ارْجِعِي إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَرْضِيَّةً

To the righteous it will be said “oh reassured soul, return to your Lord well pleased, and pleasing to Him”

‘Nafs Al Mutmaina’ or the soul which is rests in peace or in certainty is often refered in Islamic spirituality as the ultimate state where that soul that has successfully completed the Greater Struggle enters the abode of victory and triumph that is the world of tranquillity and peace (Allameh Tabatabei).

Only one who has succesfully reached such a state can actually describe consciously, what it actually means to be free. And although I can only imagine how such a state must be like, I often end up imagining it in my mind as a life spent experiecning the lightness of becoming a child again, while still keeping the intellectual ability to think and analyze   an environment as an adult.

Tawakul, Fana and Soul Conversation

IMG_20160526_224739

Listen to the sweetness of Nabi Yusuf’s loneliness while praising the Almighty in the depth of the well. Look at the smoothness of Nabi Ibrahim’s arm as it came down when he chose the love of God over the love of his son. Experience Nabi Yunus’ whispers echoing in the depth of oceans. Gaze at Nabi Nuh’s shining eyes when remembering his Lord in the middle of the storm.

Love the way we have known it is not enough my dear soul, for Allah fully reveals himself only to those who put their trust in him. Tell me, was Nabi Nuh saved because of his reliance on his physical ability to navigate through stormy weathers?  Far from it! Nabi Nuh was saved by Allah because he had ‘tawakkul’ on the promise his Lord had made to him. Allah saved him because unlike others, he relied on the creator of the storm more than he relied on the laws of nature regulating the storm itself.

Remember that It is because Nabi Nuh had the capacity to have tawakkul while navigatng through his internal storms, that Allah made him conquer them in the external realm. So if you ever find yourself lost, my deal soul, in the hollow of your own depth, wandering aimlessly on an endless night, do not rely on the sole vision of your eyes to guide you towards His light. Remember that some deserts are only crossed when relying on the sight of your heart and the sincerity of your trust.

So love your Lord dearly my friend, love him sincerely. Drown yourself in this ocean of mercy, for in this ocean of love, drowning only will bring you back to life.

Painting : ‘Là où vivent les corps sauvages’ by Amanpreet Badhwar

Seeking God in The Extraordinary

IMG_20160523_120239

With each passing day, when you stare at memories accumulated on the blackboard of your existence, you realize that most if not all moments worth writing were simple in nature.

 These moments are often so benign and seemingly empty of any meaning that you don’t even live them fully when they actually occur. You greet them like one replies to salutations from a stranger on the street, not letting those experiences penetrate the core of your being. More often than not, it is only when the stranger has long but walked by, that you stop and smile. And when you look back, to decipher the silhouette of the face you just ignored, its reality has already faded and it is now alive only through a roughly painted picture on the canvas of your past experiences.

How unfortunate is it that we live moments through their memories more than we do when do they actually occur. How can we live words written more than we live words when writing them. How can one live a life living each moments only when they are all but gone?

Sometimes, I feel like we have defined our existence in measures that do not suit its reality. It’s as if we were all but waiting for a miracle to take place, for an extraordinary story to happen to us. And in the longing of this prophecy we have self written and read, we ignore the present, thinking about a brighter future, only to realize that there was something extraordinary, in the ‘ordinary’ we just ignored. Life itself is a miracle. You walking on the earth is nothing but extraordinary. Every breath of yours is a gentle stroke of God on the book of your life. And If you listen carefully to the promise God has made with your soul, in each seemingly ordinary moment that passes by, you will realize that He has hidden enough wisdom for you to write a lifetime about it.

The quest to Allah may be unlimited, but your time on earth surely isn’t. So cherish every moments of your life my friend. Do not look for God only where you think he is for He is the most present where you expect him the least. Right in those tiny, little, insignificant moments you have been ignoring all your life, in between every breath you took for granted, remember him sincerely and the breeze of mercy will surprise your existence. Call upon him and He will answer. This is the only truth one always needs to remember, in the meantime, in between time.

The Story of Little Mahdi and the Tree

full_tree_under_moon_by_blablover5-d4u0kts.png.jpg

On the night of a full moon
A child with shining eyes
Was walking up the hill
Leading to the street of Iman

While whispering stories
Of lights that once shined
Of kindness and smiles
He uttered few words
That had travelled for years
Across lands and seas

‘Yeki Bood Yeki Nabood
Gheyr Az Khoda, Kasi Nabood’

As the child was passing by
An old tree heard his footsteps
And woke up from his sleep
And smiled at the boy.

The three bowed down in reverence
And waived at this innocent soul
Whose curious eyes kept looking
At the trees swaying beard

‘Peace be upon you little one’
Said the tree to his new friend
‘I am sure such a blessed child,
Must have a blessed name’

The boy was shy but smiled
To the stranger he had just met
And although he did know the tree
He remembered his mother’s words
Not to leave salutations of peace
To ever remain unanswered
So he stopped next the tree and said:

‘Peace be upon you too, Mr tree,
My blessed name is Mahdi
It is written the way it sounds,
With an M like Mother.
My name is just like me,
It is from a distant land,
None of my friends know its meaning
Nor the story behind it’

The aged tree smiled and with
Its branch took the child closer
And while offering him
One of its ripest berries to eat
He asked the boy to count him
The story of his name

The boy sat on the top
Of the tree’s curving lap
And with the name of God
Started to share with the tree
The long story of his name:

‘Yeki Bood, Yeki Na bood,
Gheyr Az Khoda, Kassi Nabood’
‘Some were, and Some were not.
God was there, when others were not’

And when the moon and the sun
Both were still resting
In the cradle of creation
Allah created ‘Nur’
And the light upon light
And from its finest rays
God molded five stars
And named them Muhammad and Ali
Fatimah, Hassan, and Hussain the last one

The boy continued the story
And said that ‘each light gave birth
To a new light, so that the world
Would always have two suns
One shining in the skies
And one walking on the earth’

The boy started counting
Looking at his fingers
And said to himself
While looking in the skies

The brightest of all stars
Is resting in Madina
And so is his daughter
The queen of all lights,
Along four of her sons,
All buried in Baqi.

The Prince of the believers
Is shining in Najaf
Whereas the king of the hearts
Rests in peace in Karbala

Two of Zahra’s sons, together
Have bloomed in the city of Kadhmain.
While two others are standing
Facing the winter of Samarah

Another one of her progeny
Came as a stranger in Tus
Until he became, the King of Khorassan

The boy continued and said
‘Al Mahdi is the name of
The last and the fourteenth
Of the Godly created lights
That is still shining on the earth
As other have all returned
To the light, which gave, them birth

When the child was done counting
The journey of his name,
A journey of lights
The tree remained silent
And looked at the child
While combing his beard
With a branch of wisdom

He then asked the boy a question
About the story of his name:

‘If Mahdi is the name,
Of a star that enlightens
The earth and its people
Shouldn’t the light of this star
Be known by every heart
That has also witnessed
The majesty of the sun,
And the peace of the Moon?

The boy started thinking
And did not know what to answer

If the Mahdi was the name
Of the walking sun on earth
Why was it so, that only few eyes
Were looking for his light?

When the tree realized
That the child was silent
He brought the boy closer
And whispered in his ears

‘From his existence we benefit,
Like radiant sun,shining behind a cloud’

The boy remained silent
And suddenly smiled
Realizing the truth
Behind the story of his name

And while he embraced the tree
Thanking him for his answer
The boy became curious
And asked a question in return

‘I thank you Mr. tree,
I thank you dearly,
But I have a question,
That remains unanswered:

I don’t understand how
You know about my name
Much more Than I do,
That you know about Al Mahdi
Much more than I do?

The tree hugged the boy
Even more and said

‘Remember that Al Mahdi
Is a blessing for All,
For the progeny of Adam
As much as the progeny of djinn

He is a Blessing for trees,
and flowers alike
He is a blessing for
Every creation on earth

From the tiniest stone buried
In the palm of your hand

To the most majestic mountains
Neighboring the skies

And if you listen carefully
To the songs of the birds
While they unfurl their wings

To the sound of raindrops
Gently caressing the earth

To the whispers of roses
When sensing the coming spring

To the cracking of branches
When conversing with the wind

You will hear that each one of them
Has one name in their heart
The name, which you carried
From the day you were born

For tonight is the night
That splits Shaban in half
The night when in a distant land
The last of its kind was born’

The boy remembered the lesson
And bid farewell to the tree
Both parted with peace and blessing
On the light upon light
And their best reflections on earth

And while he was walking up the hill
Leading to the city of love
The boy stopped one last time
And said, looking at the tree

‘I have told you my name
But forgotten to ask yours.
How shall I call you from now?
Tell me your blessed name?

The tree smiled at the boy
And whispered in the wind
The name he had been
Concealing all along

The boy never forgot
The name of his new friend
And as the moon was shinning
Brighter and brighter in the sky
Little Mahdi had just met,
A tree called ‘Intezar’*

*Intezar means The Waiting

The Last Farewell: From Husayn to Zainab

05a5acf768ec2d5b89cb762a6d523560.jpg

*This is a creative piece written eulogizing the final good bye between Imam al-Husayn (as) and his sister, Sayyida Zainab (as). This is not based on traditions in history.

At last, a steady wind was carrying a distinct chill whistling through the ranks of an army who had gathered in circle surrounding the remaining pieces of a man who had died in solitude. This tender breeze had come as if to appease the earth of the bloodshed it had witnessed, to calm down agitated waves of a crying river, and to bring solace to a lady standing outside her tent, holding onto her black veil, not certain of when the time would come when she would have to part, with the piece of cloth she was born with.
Lady Zainab was contemplating the battleground.  The gentle airstream was brushing her eyelids letting her know that a storm was slowly going to take over the plains of Nainawa. Amidst the flying grains of sand hovering over her sight, she kept looking at the chest of her beloved brother desperately waiting for it to move, for it to breathe, even if for a last time. She wanted to witness the last moments of her brother’s existence, as if aware of the hardships that would befall on her as soon as the beheaders of Husayn would realize that the bodies of all men of Banu Hashim were now either deeply buried under the ground, or their pieces scattered all over the battlefield.

“Indeed, Allah is with those who are patient”

Lady Zainab lifted her rosary and kept reciting the same verse again and again. After a while she heard the footsteps of a child approaching her. She turned back and saw the face of Sakina. At first she couldn’t recognize her. Sakina had grown weak. Thirst had exhausted the face of al-Husayn’s daughter. The absence of her father had taken away the once shining brightness of her playful eyes. She came closer to her aunt and when Lady Zainab tried to caress her, Sakina remained still and handed her a letter.

“Ya Ama Zainab, Baba left this letter for you to my brother Sajjad,” she said.

Lady Zainab took the letter. She immediately recognized the writing of her beloved Husayn. As she was trying to open the sealed letter from which could smell the fragrance of her brother, she heard the breath of Sakina, which had grown faster. She gazed upon her niece and realized that her niece’s crying eyes were staring at the letter she was holding.

“What is it my beloved Sakina; don’t you know that your tears come down as arrows on my heart? Oh you who were the peace of my brother’s nights.”

Lady Sakina did not move. She couldn’t bear her life anymore. Everyone reminded her of her father. A father she knew she would not see again. A pain she couldn’t share with her brothers, for they had all but left her alone.

“Ya Ama, can I ask you a question?’ she said with a trembling voice, her eyes facing the very ground beneath which her father was now resting.

“Of course Sakina, ask my beloved. Ask Oh light of my eyes.”

“Did baba love me as much as he loved you and brother Sajjad?” she asked staring at the letter with her innocent eyes.

“Oh my beloved Sakina, he loved you more than he loved anyone else, my princess.”

“Ya ama Zainab, then why is it that he left you and brother Sajjad a letter, and didn’t write me anything?”

That question brought more pain to Zainab than the pain she felt when she saw water dripping from the pierced flask of al-Abbas. She took her niece in her arms and hugged her with the little strength that was still left in her body. It is when she tried to embrace her niece tighter that she realized she couldn’t hug her more, for Sakina had grown so weak that her ribs couldn’t behold the proximity of a sincere cuddle.

“Brother Sajjad had told me to leave you alone after giving you the letter, ya Ama,” Sakina said.

“But if Baba says anything about me, ya Ama, promise me you will make me read it,” she said looking at the face of Zainab.

“I promise Sakina, I promise I will,” Lady Zainab replied.

As Sakina was making her way back into her tent, not knowing that the only place in which she was still able to gather her thoughts in peace would soon be burnt to ashes, Lady Zainab (as) breathed deeply and opened the letter Sakina had handed her. Tears had filled her tired eyes. Tears so heavy they blurred her vision making it impossible for her to decipher her brother’s handwriting. Lady Zainab kept rubbing the last corner of her veil which wasn’t already drenched by tears shed on each and every men of her household. She kept rubbing her eyes in order to prevent her tears from falling over the last remaining words of her beloved brother. Finally, when her eyes became as thirsty as she was, she started reading the letter from her Imam.

“Peace be upon you, oh my beloved sister. Peace be upon you, who are the rightful heiress of our mother’s modesty. Peace be upon you, ya Zainab, the one whose name brought solace to the heart of our father Ali.

How fortunate must I be? As you are reading those words, my head must surely be on the spear of my enemies, but my soul must have already reached our beloved grandfather in heaven and there, I will finally be able to rest my head on the laps of our mother, Zahra (as).

Just like Baba had left a letter for us before he departed, I would like to take this opportunity, Oh Zainab, to bid my last farewell. My beloved sister, the time has come for you to look at my body one last time. If they haven’t beheaded me, then call on Sakina to kiss my face one last time. If they haven’t marched their horses on my body then call my daughter for her to lie down on my chest one last time. Like every father, my wish was for al-Sajjad to envelop me in a shroud so that I could face my Creator with dignity. But I know that those who didn’t shed a tear at the sight of my beloved Ali Asghar, will never allow my son to pray after me. Oh my beloved sister, my state is such that I do not even know if I will be buried. Ya Zainab, my state is such that I do not even know whether I will be united with every part of my being in my grave. Oh my sister, I do not know if ever my head will rest in Karbala. I swear on the Creator of this world and the hereafter that I pray for my enemies for they will taste the fire of hell because of me. But what shreds my heart to pieces Ya Zainab, is what my father had told me would happen to you, after I no longer exist.

Ya Zainab you will be made a prisoner. The very community of our grandfather who set fire the door behind which our mother was standing, will set our tents on fire, ya Zainab. Oh my beloved sister, they will forget your name, and the name of your father. Do not cry my sister for your tears will only bring peace to their hearts. Remember what our father had taught us. You must be strong, ya Zainab. You must be the flower that gives fragrance even to the hand that crushes it.

Oh my sister, they will not let you go to Madina. They will take you to Shaam where people will welcome you with stones and laughter. But you will remain steadfast my beloved sister, for you are a lion and the daughter of a lion, and no matter what they call you, no one will change your name and the name of your father. Remind everyone of who you are. Do not let them make you forget your name and the blood that rushes in your veins.

Ya Zainab, a time will come when they will call you by your name and ask for your allegiance, and the allegiance of al-Sajjad. You will be alone and you will have to face them. Oh my sister, at that time you will feel my presence in your heart. You will feel the presence of Abbas by your side. And when you do feel our presence, you will roar. Your voice will revive the eloquence of our father and each and every word of yours will befall on the face of your enemies like a piercing dhulfiqar. You will not shiver. You will rise above the rank of every living human being on earth, as you will become the voice of the Imam of your time.

Ya Zainab, if I had but one request, It would be that you do not stop commemorating and reviving the events of Ashura. Let every young man know that Ali Akbar’s voice did not shake when he gave his last call to prayer. Tell every mother holding a baby how they pierced the throat of my thirsty Ali Asghar. Describe to my followers, wherever they are, the certainty on the face of Qassim when he took his last breath. Tell every elderly man how youthful was Habib when he entered the battlefield.  When you meet Dhuljana, whisper in its ear how my enemies have marched their horses on me. And whenever you drink water, ya Zainab, remember the thirst of my beloved Abbas whose utmost loyalty did not let him quench his thirst even when he reached Furat. Allah has blessed you with the honor of being the first mourner of this tragedy. You will be the first from our lineage that will commemorate my martyrdom till my grandson al-Mahdi avenges our blood.

Ya Zainab, believing in Allah comes with a hefty price. Do not feel saddened for the greatness of man’s reward goes with the greatness of suffering, and God did not love a people but that He subjected them to suffering. Do not feel saddened, ya Zainab, for our mother Zahra had informed me that Allah would fill the hearts of millions with our love as they will keep the legacy of our tragedy alive. Do not feel saddened, Zainab, for you will be remembered. By God, our followers will come to visit your shrine wherever it is that Allah decides that you may rest. Your veil will inspire millions to walk on the footsteps of our mother. You will attain such a level of piety that our followers will name their daughter after you as much as they will name them after our mother Zahra.

My beloved sister, the time has come for me to bid my last farewell as it is my last night and I must spend time praying to Allah for I wouldn’t want to meet Him empty handed. I have learnt from our father never to stop praying, even if death was to strike in the middle of prostration. You are the queen of Banu Hashim and as much I worry for you, I know that nothing can shake the pillars of your faith. But Zainab, Sakina is a child. She might ask for water. She might cry in front of them. She is very weak. By God, she is the dearest soul to my heart. Ya Zainab, hold her tight. Ya Zainab, do not mention my name in front of her. Ya Zainab, do not mention the name of Abbas in front of her. Ya Zainab, do not drink before her. Ya Zainab, do not let her sleep on the ground. Make her sleep on your chest or on the chest of Sajjad. Ya Zainab, take off her earrings delicately before they snatch them forcefully from her. Ya Zainab, my last wish is that you protect my daughter so that I can recognize her when she meets me in the skies.

I pray to Allah that He does not make anyone experience the pain that our family went through. I will conclude this letter with the words of Allah, for there are no words dearer to me, than the words of the Almighty himself.

“O you who believe! be patient and remain steadfast, and be careful of your duty to Allah, so that you may be successful.”

Your Imam and loving brother,

Husayn ibn Ali”
Lady Zainab couldn’t bear the pain. Tears dripping from her eyes had watered the letter she was holding. But it did not matter. Words she had read were engraved in her heart and nothing in this world could make her forget the voice of her brother, which echoed and resonated in her depth long after she had finished reading them.

Lady Zainab gathered herself. A growing noise had reached her ears. The distinct sound of cracking branches amidst a blowing wind. Conscious of the fact that there was no vegetation around, Lady Zainab turned around and saw Sakina running towards her. And behind the waiving flap of Sakina’s veil, Lady Zainab saw disappearing in ashes, the tent in which her brother had last spent his night. When she took Sakina in her arms and buried her face in the intimate layers of love, she had unknowingly buried with it, her last hope of  reaching Medina and sending her salutations over the grave of her mother, Zahra.

Before your love

tumblr_ni10qt9GRd1rt94djo1_500

Shrine of Imam Ali (a.s) Najaf (Irak). Picture taken from Instagram

Ya Mawla,

I wonder if it even fair
To ask myself who I was
If ever anything I was.
Before I met you,
before I loved you.

I wonder how to call this state
When one is just a scattered possibilty,
When a human being is just
The random aggregation
Of barely pulsating dust

I wonder how to call this state
When eyes perceive nothing more
Than a twinkling candle’s light
Fading in the depths
of its existence’s vicinity

I wonder how to call a life
When air means survival
Where water is stagnant
Where love’s fragrance does not exist.

I wonder how to call this existence
When your wings are just an attire
When your cage becomes your world
When flying is a word, unfurling just a sound

I wonder how to call a vein
Whose blood does not circumbulate
Like a pen that does not spiral
Like brush that does not strike

I guess it is not fair
To say that I existed
That my tongue tasted life
Before it whisphered your name

I guess it is not fair
To call this piece of flesh a heart
Before it started beating
Before it met your gaze

And if a bird is a bird
Only when it flies
Just like a wave is alive
Only when it crashes

I guess I was only that which one is,
When one is not, whatever that is

I was Nothing.

I guess I was the space which one takes
When one is not, wherever that is

I was Empty

I guess I was the time which one spends
When one is not, whenever it is

I was Absent

This.

This is what i was,
If ever antyhing I was,
Before I met you,
Before I loved you.

End.

*Peace be upon you,
The uprooter of hidden polytheism,
The distinguished and learned,

Ali,

The Prince of the Faithful
(*Ziarat Nahya).