Dear Ruqaiyah, this moment you’re in right now, this is the moment to do something. To start something. Stop waiting for tomorrow, next week, or next month. Start now.
Dear Ruqaiyah, happiness is here. Right here, where you are now. It’s not a destination you need to reach ‘someday’. It’s not some place you need to travel to, or arrive at. You simply have to be here, now; you simply need to breathe in, breathe out, and remember your Lord. Here, now. Be happy.
Dear Ruqaiyah, it’s been done before, it’s been said before, all the stories have already been written before. But don’t let that stop you. Do it, say it, write it. Find new ways, or do it the good ol’ fashion way. Just do something. Because if we stop, what is the point anymore?
Dear Ruqaiyah, we are all good and bad and beautiful and ugly and everything in between. Each one of us. At any given moment, we can be our best selves or our worst selves. See it all, and embrace it. Don’t judge it. But always try to be your best self.
Dear Ruqaiyah, keep on trying. Keep on fighting, loving, searching, hurting. Keep on feeling, keep on laughing. Keep on messing up. But be sure you keep on learning from it and growing. Keep on.
Dear Ruqaiyah, find your people. Find the people who will take the time to know you, those who will pay attention. Remember to pay attention to them too. Find the people who will pray for you even when you don’t ask them to or when you don’t see them for a while. Pray for them too (and for everyone else, but more for them — because, well, they’re your people). Find the people who will understand your laughter, those who will join in. Find the people who will listen closely. Be that person too.
Some people have said it’s a scary time to be Muslim right now, for obvious reasons. And I don’t know about that so much, but I do think it is a scary time to be human. It’s a scary time to drive on the road or stop at a traffic light; it’s scary to be in your house, even with burglar bars; it’s scary to walk into a corner shop or even in the mall; it’s scary to even watch the news.
The world is a scary place.
Yesterday, I watched a video of a young boy, 13 years old, being thrown around and kicked and stripped naked by prison guards in a prison in Australia. It crushed me. It angered and infuriated and enraged me. I couldn’t do anything to fix it. Today I saw a video of a small, tiny baby, not more than a couple weeks old, being wildly swooshed around in a bucket of water, held by the arms. Crying painfully. And I cried. Painfully. Real tears. I was writhing in my seat and couldn’t stand the aching that video caused me. It aches now recalling it. I was screaming silently at my screen while I watched. And I was angry that I even saw it at all — what good did sharing the video do? Does it stop the abuse? We don’t even see the identities of the women, so what can be done?? Why did you share it if nothing can be done about it?! I didn’t need to see it!
All I wanted to do was grab the baby away from that woman, and hold him/her in my arms soothingly. But of course I couldn’t. Again, I couldn’t do anything to fix it.
Perhaps I am a weakling for reacting this way. Perhaps someone else might not have been as pained by those scenes and would laugh at my reaction. I can actually think of at least one person who would laugh at my reaction and think I’m a silly girl. Perhaps I am a silly girl. (I know many more people who would agree with that statement. Even I do.) But I never want to be a silly girl who is okay with children being treated badly. I never want to be a silly girl who feels relieved because “at least it’s not my child”. My goodness, when is it ever okay for any child to scream and cry because of the violence and cruelty of an adult?
I feel deeply pained right now because of all the violence and bad stuff going on everywhere. And I truly, deeply hate to add to it. I hate that this post is so sad and dark. But when it hurts I write. And I cry. I just don’t always share it with everyone on my blog. But this I felt like sharing. Because it’s a pain I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling.
I wrote this earlier, after the crying subsided. It doesn’t have a title yet. It’s just words that spewed forth that I really hope makes some sense.
Words That Spewed Forth That I Really Hope Makes Some Sense
by Ruqaiyah Davids
The world is a cruel and scary place.
I don’t know where to escape.
How do I get away from all this hate?
It doesn’t seem to abate.
But I know it’s not too late.
And I don’t mean to sound fake and to further saturate this debate
With candy floss and rainbows after every time the rain flows.
These words are not meant to gloss over all that is wrong with this place and the human race.
Violence and hatred have become commonplace.
It’s quite a disgrace.
But I do believe that we only need to educate –
One another and ourselves.
Then we can alienate those who seek to create
All these people who have become irate,
Causing them to deviate,
Fighting for what they think is right.
And those who only propagate hate.
And those who only separate.
And those who leave children, betrayed
By the very people who should be a source of shade.
This world has worked hard to make me jaded;
Tired and weary –
This world is scary.
Many days I can’t stand the evil of it all.
But I am an optimist.
Try as the world might, it hasn’t given my spirit fright.
But, still, I don’t look at the world through rose-coloured glasses.
I’ve sat through enough of the world’s classes
Of chaos, mayhem, and fear.
My eyes are clear;
I see the evil that is here.
But these darn hues of pink and red won’t leave me alone.
My spirit is prone to the light in this world
Which it has over and over been shown.
But my optimism can sometimes feel like my prison
As my soul feels that sickeningly familiar rhythm
Of a child’s cry,
While people die,
And a nation occupies.
My optimism can be a prison of pain and heartbreak.
Each time the world shows me its colour of evil my heart quakes.
I have a difficult time believing it’s real.
My optimism builds up a defence.
It tells me all the murder, ignorance, blood, hate, child abuse is just a pretence.
A pretence for what?
I don’t know.
But the core of me needs to believe it’s just a show.
Even though I know.
See, I call myself an optimistic-realist.
I read the news and know that the truth is always skewed.
But my optimism keeps the depression subdued.
It keeps the tears from flowing so much
That I lose touch with all the goodness God has given.
There is so much good,
There is so much love,
There is so much kindness.
The darkness here cannot lead to my blindness.
I am compelled to believe that He Sees.
I cannot deny that with hardship comes ease.
But what acts are these?!
Stripping small boys in a prison naked?
Turning a whole nation of people into the most hated?
Why are we not more devastated?
Starvation and malnutrition are circulated!
And then we are placated
While we become vegetated
Through the media, fashion, films, games…
Don’t be fooled – it is all calculated.
“I’m making up for a month of fasting,” she said, humorously.
The day of Eid arrived, signifying the end of a month of daytime fasting. Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims who spend it (primarily) by abstaining from food and drink from sunrise until sunset (among other nitty gritties). But from sunset until sunrise, all (halal) food is allowed. So when people are stunned at the ‘no eating for a WHOLE MONTH?!’ thing, I’m kind of confused. Like, huh? You missed the part in the memo about ‘from sunrise until sunset’? It’s not thirty (or twenty-nine, depending on the moon) straight days of no eating.
(SIDE NOTE: That link for ‘Ramadan’ provides a nice exploration into what Ramadan is, if you are unfamiliar with it, though it still has that from-the-outside-looking-in feel to it, with some minor inaccuracies. But a fair read nonetheless.)
And that brings me here. The narrative that started this.
So Eid soon arrived. And Muslim women (yep, no men at work here) the world over began the sacred ritual of preparing feasts for their families to eat. Eid, after all, quite literally means ‘feast’.
The feasting is great. I love the feast. I love my mom’s pie (which in recent years, with mom getting older, have instead become a collaborative effort between my sister and me — she does the filling, I do the pastry and the baking bit). I love home-baked bread. I love soutvleis. I love my momma’s fruit cake. I love puddings.
But I don’t love the frivolous idea that one needs to eat all that good stuff to ‘make up’ for the month-long fast that preceded Eid day.
Eid is not about making up for any lack of eating. Eid is not about celebrating the end of not being able to eat, like: ‘Shoo, hallelujah, that’s finally over! Let’s celebrate and eat until we can’t breathe.’
Everything that you eat on Eid day could have been eaten on any day night during Ramadan. You weren’t deprived. Rather, you were gifted. We were gifted. We were gifted with opportunities for redemption. A multitude of opportunities. We were gifted with opportunities for forgiveness, with showers of Mercy, with visions of love and kindness, with inspirations of generosity and compassion. We were gifted by having food taken away from us so that we took focus off our bodies and tummies and paid attention to our hearts, our souls, and our minds. We were gifted with closeness to our God, with time in His company and that of His angels.
I don’t mean to berate the person who said that line about ‘making up for a month of fasting’; this post is not intended to preach. The purpose for this post is that her flippant statement saddened me. And because it was to an audience of non-Muslims who would consequently also have the wrong idea of what fasting and Eid is all about. This post is because I was reminded of a time when I, too, didn’t quite grasp the gift of Ramadan. It was merely something to get through. That is a sad place to be in. It is lonely there. In that place, we don’t get to have conversations with Allah. In that place, our hearts don’t have the opportunity to feast on the love and the mercy that surrounds us. We don’t get to read His Love Letter to us (i.e. the Quran) and be moved by it. In that place of ritualised ‘starvation’ we don’t get to truly celebrate Eid for all that it is.
Far more than a grand feast, Eid is supposed to be a day of celebration of all the energy we exerted in worship. And a celebration of the hope we have in the Mercy of Allah, our hope that He will accept our worship and attempts to know Him and Love Him better. It’s also a celebration of togetherness and family. A celebration of love and goodness.
All that is so much more than the food we get to eat.
So no, on Eid day we do not eat to make up for a month of fasting. Just like on my birthday I do not eat cake to make up for a year of not having had birthday cake. The cake is merely a symbol of the celebration of life — hopefully one that will show love, goodness, success. (Or if you do not celebrate birthdays with birthday cakes because, like my sister, you’re not into the self-servingness of it all, and the lack of any basis in religious practice, then please feel free to insert your own appropriate analogy here. 😁)
How do you celebrate Eid in your neck of the woods? What does Eid mean to you?
Yes, I know it’s very late. Very, very late. And it’s not even April anymore. But well, it’s here anyway. Read it or leave it.
(I know you’ll read it.)
So NaPoWriMo originates in the U.S, and the ‘national’ part of the term refers to the nation of America. But even so, there are many, many poets and participants in the challenge who are not from America. Because it’s not only Americans who love poetry. And I am one of those ‘foreigners’ who gate-crashed the party. So the lovely people over at NaPoWriMo decided to honour us by asking everyone to write a poem which contains at least five words of a different language. I chose Arabic. It’s the closest I’ve come to speaking a foreign language–though, truly, it’s not foreign to me. It’s the language of my people, of my Book, of my land, and of my Lord.
I’ll be leaving for ‘umrah soon, in shaa Allah. The minor pilgrimage to the holy land of Makkah (note: ‘Makkah‘, not ‘Mecca’). A journey my heart can hardly wait for anymore. And this poem is about that.
It’s almost time to go
To a land my heart already knows. Ahlan wa sahlan! I will stand on the Mountain of Light
And see the rising of the sun. Sabah al-khayr! Wa sabah an-nur! Joy upon joy!
Light upon light!
My heart will rejoice at the sight
Of the Ka’bah, Standing tall and strong.
It’s been there all along.
And I will prostrate
With my head and my heart
And pray for a new start.
Ahlan wa Sahlan: This is a common Arabic phrase used to welcome someone, however, its literal translation is not just ‘welcome’ or ‘hello’, as it is widely used. For a better understanding of the meaning of the term, go here. Or here, for a much more in-depth look at the term, its origin, and some very interesting and enlightening information on its implications.
Sabah al-khayr: Good morning.
Sabah an-nur: A reply to ‘sabah al-khayr‘, literally meaning ‘morning of light’.
Ka’bah: A sacred building in Islam; the direction to which all Muslims, all around the world, face while praying. For more reading on this, go here.
The distant sound of your treachery
Rudely shakes me out of my reverie.
My life is in jeopardy.
The story told
Is a fable old.
You’ve lost me again in your conspiracy.
I am lost in the abyss
Of your lies and your myths.
Ignorance indeed seems like bliss.
The pen is mightier than the sword
And the lies you write have me floored.
And for the record,
This ending has already been told.
Mightier than the sword
Is the Promise of my Lord.
The truth is a whisper
While your lies roar.
But hold on,
No, we won’t retaliate.
We won’t duplicate
All your lies and hate.
We’ll only try to educate,
Your inaccurate and distorted
Version of this story.
And we’ll restore our glory—
No, not by the sword,
But by the Pen of our Lord.
The One who created the earth
The One who gave me birth
You fashioned the trees
You sprout out beauty from seeds
The One who paints the sky
Leaving notes of love for us, so high
A glorious ball of fire
Leaves me with an insatiable desire
Knowledge of who
The One who lights up the night sky
And lights up my life
I want to challenge the liars
Who say that this is all science
Do they ever stop to enquire
If there is something higher?
If this all happened with a bang, then why here?
On any other planet, I would not be a survivor
You tell stories of love
From the ground to above
It’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard of
You colour the oceans
Cause them to erupt with explosions
Your Beauty fills me with all sorts of emotions
And anyone who ponders
Will have no choice but to surrender
Oh my gosh! I can’t believe I’ve made it this far! I’m so proud of myself! 😀 However, I do realise that I didn’t quite post ‘a poem a day’. Rather, I often posted 3, 4, or maybe 5 poems a day, while skipping 3, 4, or 5 days prior to that… oopsie. It’s all good though, because the challenge is to have 30 poems in 30 days, however you choose to go about getting there. So yeah, still good. Thumbs up for me. And thumbs up to you who are reading, especially to those who’ve read every poem I’ve posted so far.
Today’s prompt is to re-write Frank O’Hara’s poem Lines for the Fortune Cookies. This is one which, initially, I didn’t feel comfortable with since I don’t believe in fortune cookies, and added to that, I think they’re dumb. However, clever me, I decided that I could still write lines about random people’s fortunes while not going against my sanity by doing something so insane as to pretend to predict the future. All I had to do was be clever enough with my words. And well, I’m good with words.
You will meet many different people in your life.
You may someday become a wife.
It will rain in winter. You may get wet.
Your life has changed since the invention of the internet.
No, you shouldn’t have that last slice of cake.
You will be lucky enough to find a man who doesn’t mind that you don’t bake. (Okay, that one’s exclusively for me. A not-so-silent prayer more than a fortune.)
Hunger will find you.
There are blessings in rising before the sun.
Yes, God is only One.
The mountains have a lesson to teach you.
Turns out you actually like chilli, who knew?
Everyone puts their shoes on one foot at a time.
Use your days well when you’re in your prime.
You’ll find the most peace when you put your head on the ground.
You were once lost and now you’re found.
Why are you looking for your fortune inside this cookie?
Put your trust in your Lord, fully.
The prompt for Day 13 was to take a walk and to make (mental) notes on what we see on our walk, and incorporate these notes into our poem. I took a drive rather than a walk–but I walked when I got there, so I suppose it still counts. I’ve included some pictures of what the scene looked like, and these are what this poem is based on.
Footprints in the Sand
Mountains block out the sun.
The light is beyond my grasp.
These mountains have me undone,
But the day has only just begun.
Heart feels peace.
But this is only a momentary lease.
An endless sea.
Here we stand, we three.
Footprints in the sand,
My heart in my hand.
I’m still struggling to understand.