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!
“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.
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 sha Allah. The minor pilgrimage to the holy land of Makkah. A journey my heart can hardly wait for anymore. And this poem is about that.
by Ruqaiyah Davids
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.
A close-up of the Ka’bah, taken from the ground, looking up. (Picture is not my own.)
The Ka’bah from afar, with hundreds – very possibly thousands – of people performing their religious rituals around it. (Picture is not my own.)
Jabal an-Nur, The Mountain of Light. The mountain where the Cave of Hira is found. (Picture is not my own.)
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 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.
Shaytaan is sneaky. He is the bad guy in this story; he also goes by Satan, Devil, The Biggest Loser… whatever floats your boat. He is cunning and sly, and oh so smart. We almost never see him coming, and then before we know it he is just there next to us. And before we can turn our backs to him we’ve done or said something stupid that we wish we hadn’t. Yes, he is smart. And he is very good at his job. So we have to be smarter. And we have to be better. But we cannot do it alone; we need ammo. We need to pack in the hardware and put on our battle faces, because this is a war. We are fighting for our lives. We are fighting for Jannah (paradise). And the best weapon we have–okay, this is going to sound so corny and cliché–is du’a (prayer). It’s true. The only way we can win is by asking for help, by making du’a. And the only One powerful enough to help us against as grave an enemy as that scary dude is Allah, The Most Powerful, Most High. We have to seek Him, seek His refuge during this war if we are to have any hope of making it to Jannah. Otherwise, without Him, and without du’a, we are just lost. Like a leaf blowing in the wind.
I am certain that there have been times that Shaytaan has come to each of us, to whisper to us, and we could almost hear those whispers. We could feel that whatever it was that we were about to say was not something we should say, that someone was almost forcing us to say it, think it, do it. I wrote the following poem quite some time ago, and I think it is one that we can all relate to.
I Seek Refuge
I seek refuge in You, O Allah
The cursed one.
Protect me, my Rabb,
From his soft, sweet whispers.
When he says to me:
”I miss you”
“I need you”
Just with these words,
He tempts me to reverse
All the good that has been done.
Let his evil spirit be cursed.
And from my mind,
Let him disperse.
Protect me from the sweet fantasies
That he arouses in my mind-
Fantasies of false happiness.
Protect me from the dreams that he
Makes me believe
Can be mine.
Protect me, O Protector of all,
From the false hopes that Shaytaan helps me build so tall
Only to let them come crashing down
And to the cold, harsh ground of reality
Do I fall
And only then do I realise
That these hopes are ever-fleeting
Nothing more than a brief meeting
With this world that we are tested in
To which Shaytaan has front seating.
I seek refuge in You, O Allah,
The rejected one.
Protect my tongue from speaking
Words which he conjures,
Make my ears deaf
to his sweet, evil whispers
Blind my eyes and mind
to his magnificent, misleading fantasies.
Protect me from the beauty
In which he cloaks himself
From the overpowering scent
In which he douses himself
From the eloquent words
With which he represents himself.
Help me, O Lord,
Stop him from coming nearer.
O Most High,
Only You can help me
Pass him by.
O Most Magnificent,
O Most Merciful,
Comfort me when
He causes me to be fearful.
I seek refuge in You, O Allah,
The evil one.