The Right to Love and Be Loved

One of the things that I admire is the right to love and to be loved. I don’t care who you are, where you come from and where you’ve been, we all want to love and be loved. It is this right to love that compels us to enter into friendships and relationships. It is this right that compels us to forgive those that have created hurt in our lives to move on in loving another person again. It is this right that makes us risk everything to love even after the pain of losing a friend or lover. This choice is one of strength. Yes, if you’ve ever decided to love and be loved after the past drama of a friendship or relationship then just know that you are truly on your way. Fear is created by us. We create fear and we allow it to stop us from doing the things that we want in life.

In seeking to love again, we have to make the choice to love. We decide for ourselves what we want. We decide on who we want to engage with in a relationship, how far it goes, where it ends, what we want, what we dislike and what we need. We hold this much power within our grasp. In reading some lectures by Anais Nin, I remember when she stated that she creates the relationships that she enters into. This startled me. I didn’t really understand this until I reread this. As individuals, we hold friendships with people and relationships. We determine when enough is enough. We determine how far we want to take things. We determine if we will strive in a relationship of love or a relationship of misery. This is how we create the friendships/relationships that we enter into. It doesn’t create itself. The reality is that we can either be active or passive participants in the relationships we choose to engage in. So, in saying all of this, we decide on the right to love and to be loved.

The right to love and to be loved is a choice. We can sulk around in our past and think about all of the the things that could’ve change, but this will not help the present. The present-moment is where we are at. This is where we are. We are not yesterday, five years ago, twenty years ago, or even five minutes ago. We are here. We are in the present moment. In “How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life” by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, it is said that ” under no circumstances should you lose hope. Hopelessness is a real cause of failure. Remember, you can overcome any problem. Be calm, even when the external environment is confused or complicated; it will have little effect if your mind is at peace. On the other hand, if your mind gives way to anger, then even when the world is peaceful and comfortable, peace of mind will elude you”. So, the pain and misfortunes that we have dealt with in the past should remain in the past. We shouldn’t become hopeless in the face of the present moment. We can truly move pass the pain of yesterday or even a few minutes ago. We shouldn’t allow this pain to keep us from functioning. We can and should still love and seek love. This is magnificent. We are able to do this. Not only are we able to do this, but we should demand this of ourselves.

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” – Anais Nin

April 2013: Learning to Celebrate Life in the Face of Death

I feel obligated to talk about a woman that had changed my life forever in April 2013. It brings me to tears in talking about my dear friend, Esther. Esther, a sixty-years old woman with grown-children, a pocketful of memories and a smile that would make you jealous was dying to cancer. She was a warrior, a fighter, and my friend.

However, Esther was leaving me on a daily-basis. Not only was she leaving me, but I saw the fragility of life. I would usually go to school, get off work, head home to fix Esther something and drive to the hospice-center. I didn’t care for one of her nurses, but I wasn’t going for that nurse. I was going to see Esther. So, I would go and sometimes just sit listening to her. It became apparent a little later that Esther was losing all sense of time, hallucinated about past memories and would frequently complain about being in pain. I had a habit of nodding my head to Esther’s persistence that she was at home and that I needed to go to the kitchen to get some food. Or she would tell me about her neighbor, Johnny, and “his empire” next door to her home. Sometimes, she would tell me to watch out for the cat in the room. I would tell her early-on in these hallucinations that the people, animals, and places that she was seeing weren’t real. However, I stopped. I would just start nodding my head and going along with the hallucinations. It was painful to see how a sickness could strip away a person’s faculties. I would frequently leave the hospital with tears in my eyes and a heart heavy with thoughts.

Those nights in visiting her caused me to think about life a lot more. It allowed me to see how we are all full of life, imagination, hope, and memories. Nonetheless, we are all moments away from death. So, we have to celebrate the life in all of us. I made the mistake of seeing death instead of life in Esther. I had stopped going because I was afraid of facing death. I was afraid of coming from work one night and being told that Esther was gone. I didn’t want to face an empty bed without Esther. I wasn’t prepared for it. I wasn’t equipped to handle such news. I knew that death was near, but I didn’t want death to snatch away a friend I had only known for a little time. However, I would’ve continued in my visits because I knew there was life in Esther. Life should be celebrated. I know now that every second of our present is good enough to be celebrated.

In a way, I believe this quote explains how it feels to think about my dear, Esther:
“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.”
― John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

The ironic part of all of it, I never kept going to know if Esther is still alive. I didn’t know how to stay. I didn’t know how to deal with this pain. I had to run. I had to flee. I couldn’t handle it, so I raced from Esther. Now, I know I owe her the life in her. I’m going to honor the life in the hallucinations she had. I’m going to honor the memories she told me about in those nightly visits. I’m going to honor the days we were together. She is my friend. She never left. Her life is a part of mine’s as I am a part of her’s. I will remember her even if she never remembers my name or my face. I will keep her tucked away in my heart.

In memory, in love, in life of Esther

The Abuelos (Grandparents) I Never Knew

Assalamu Alaykom (Peace be upon you),

One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with is knowing that I never really knew my abuelos(grandparents). When I was younger, I could remember my friends and other students talking about their grandparents and the great food that their grandmother would prepare for family dinners. However, I never had a close relationship with my grandparents growing up. I was very young when they had died, excluding my grandfather on my mother’s side of the family. So, whenever I listen to this poem by Mayda del Valle, I sit quietly, listening to the many questions that she has for her abuela (grandmother). And by listening to this piece, I always think about the questions I have for my grandparents, but unfortunately, I would never be able to get those answers.

When I was much younger, I could remember being dropped off at my grandmother’s home on the paternal-side of my family. Years later, she had died from breast-cancer. Sadly, I could remember my great-great grandmother dying as my father, brother, and I was on the way to see her coming from McDonald’s to pick her up some french-fries. She loved McDonald’s french-fries. So, as we were excited to go and visit her, we found ourselves mourning her death. At the facility she was at, we were greeted with the announcement of her death. It was extremely sad and even upsetting to my father. I was never close to her, but something about her death moved me to tears. I felt hurt. And I didn’t know why or even how come, but I was hurt. Tears flowed from my eyes without hesitation.

It was at that very moment that I realized how fragile life is. We are only given one life. This life only happens once. So, I listen to this poem to think about the life that my grandparents had lived before my time. I wonder so much about the traditions they were raised with, and the things they were taught growing up. I never had that conversation with any of my grandparents. I can’t even recall eating a good home-made prepared dish by any of my grandparents. In many ways, I mourn their death and their non-existence in my life. It hurts a lot to know that they never knew me and I never knew them. We are and were just strangers.

As I travel through life, I have come to realize that things happen. And the only thing you can do is to just accept that things happen. I accepted a long time ago that I would never have a story to tell about my grandparents. I wouldn’t. I would never be able to sit down with my own children and tell them about their grandparents. And as much as it hurts, I just pray that I am able to be in the lives of my grand-children. The truth hurts and it shouldn’t, but it does. I love deeply my grandparents. I love them as if I knew them. I love them as if I had sat across from them being scolded for something trivial. I feel attached to them, even though they are gone. There is something about them, their untold stories, their untold experiences that excites me. There is something about their untold legacy that makes me long to know them. There is something quite beautiful about them because they hold knowledge that I don’t know and may never know. However, I know that they are worthy of my love and my admiration because they are a part of me.

A Letter to my Children: Words I Want You To Know Before My Death

Dear son(s) and daughter(s),

I am writing this letter to you with all of my heart and conviction. I ask the Lord to guide me in my words for this letter is not meant for me, but for you. I’ve never written a letter like this until now and I want to let you know the truth. I want you to hear the truth before someone else tells you. I want to expose my own flaws so you can learn from me. I want you to question everything that I am telling you because I want you to educate yourself and never take anyone’s word as truth. It wasn’t until now that I’ve realized how important it is to think for yourself and to obliterate all boundaries. Never restrict yourself even if others tell you to do so. You will never know your full potential until you begin questioning boundaries and why they were put there in the first place.

First, I want to tell you that I love you and you are beauty. Not only are you beautiful but you are smart. You are more than your physical appearance and this world will make you think that you’re only what you are outwardly, but that is a lie. You are personality, words unspoken, stories untold and a life ready to be lived in search of truth. I want you to know that no person can tell you that you are ugly because you’ve been created by the Most Perfect and anything created by the Most Perfect is beautiful. There is no mistake in your creation. There is nothing wrong with your hair, your complexion, your name, or anything in which they may define you outwardly. Never define your existence by superficial factors.

Secondly, never stop seeking truth. Always run towards truth. Never allow anyone to tell you that truth is simple to obtain because it is not. Truth is not readily available to those that aren’t willing to hunt for it. You may never find it in your textbooks at school or in your local library, but you must search for it until your soul finds contentment. I remember listening to a lecture a year ago and found something interestingly true. As people, our hearts will never be content when there is chaos residing within it. Our hearts can’t accept falsehood because this is opposite of truth. So, when you find truth your heart will be most content. It wasn’t until I read about Malcolm X that I learned that as people we can be in search of truth over the period of an entire lifetime. We may have to undergo several transformations until we become content with ourselves. So, never stop striving for truth and once you get it…hang onto it, inshaALLAH.

Thirdly, never stop educating yourself about the world. You will find yourself being stopped from seeking the knowledge of the world by narrow-minded people, but never listen to them. Always remember that an educated mind is free. Knowledge is power. You are your own person that is filled will potential. When you seek knowledge…give it to others. Never keep hidden what you learn for what you learned can free another person’s mind too. Never believe that education is something you should take for granted because there’s been those before you and now that have died to get educated. Also, be critical of the knowledge you learn. I want you to deconstruct, break-down, analyze, and think critically about the content of that in which you digest.

Fourth, I want you to remember that we are all sisters and brothers in humanity. Never forget that. We were created to know one another, not to despise each other. We are all working together and striving to keep ourselves above water. So, make your existence on this Earth worthwhile. Serve others and do it well. Do everything with ihsan. Do everything with excellence and to the best of your abilities. Never turn a blind-eye to the ills of the world for this perpetuates the cycle of social-ills that are present. You must enjoin the good and forbid the evil. Never stand around and accept bad. Always aim to make the world a better place.

Fifth, I want you to love. I want you to love with all of your heart. I want to aid in helping the world by instilling love in yourself, others and those that will come after you. Love is the key to this world. In loving someone, you must respect them. So, love and don’t regret doing so.

Sixth, I want you to keep your head up and never stop aiming for greatness. You are powerful. You are unstoppable. You are individuals of greatness. I know how hard it is to see the world and its inadequacies, but you have to keep going no matter what. We just have to do this. We can’t give up even when the world pushes us to our knees. You have to get up and keep going. This world can’t contain the power that lies within your mind and your will.

Seventh, I want you to be you. It’s a whole world out there. So, go out there and shine. Never negotiate yourself in order to please others. There’s beauty in you. There’s this thing called mass-media and it will steer you into being this and that. However, you are you. So, constantly evaluate yourself and your goals. Do you.

Eighth, I just want you to know that I love you and I am proud of you. I know you have big things in mind, so go out there and do them. Never believe you can’t achieve your dreams because you can. I am trying to achieve my dreams too, so just know that you can do so as well. We may not achieve our dreams in a year or two years, but we can achieve them. So, never stop aiming for achieving your dreams. However, if you don’t achieve your dreams or all of them I am still proud of you. I will always find you as a success. I will always keep my heart open for you.

Lastly, I am writing this letter not just for you, but for me. I want you to know that life is hard and confusing at times. Sometimes you may encounter difficulties and hardship, but you can’t allow that to stop you in your goals and dreams. All you can do is just keep going and have self-confidence. I’m writing this at 21-years old, so just know that I’m still trying to discover myself in the midst of this thing called life.

And to you my future children, I want you to know that every word in this letter is meant for you from the bottom of my heart. If I happen to not be alive to give or read this letter to you, I just want you to know that your mom loved you and only wanted the best for you in this life. And may the Creator give you strength and tawfiq (success). Ameen.

Love,
Your mom

Upon the release of Amir Sulaiman’s “The Opening” (2013) I had to download it onto my
computer to put on repeat. Every since I’ve discovered spoken-word I’ve enjoyed
listening to Amir Sulaiman’s poetry. I had first saw Amir Sulaiman perform
“She’d Prefer A Broken Neck…” for Russel Simmon’s Def Jam Poetry. After
listening to his poetry online, I knew I had to keep myself updated on any new
poems from him. Sulaiman’s poetic-style is raw, spiritual, real, and truthful. I
personally believe that Sulaiman could carry a whole night of poetry alone
without anyone introducing him or closing the show. If I ever had the chance to
see Sulaiman live I would most definitely purchase a ticket. Sulaiman’s poetry
is very much in your face and without apologies. It penetrates you straight in
the heart. It makes you think about many issues within the world around you.

On his new album, “The Opening”, Sulaiman offers listeners with an uprising of words set aflame. The whole album is a favorite of mines, but there are certain tracks on the album that leaves me pressing repeat. One of the tracks I have enjoyed from day one is “Come To The Hills” feature Drea Nur. Actually, this is the last track to the album and it leaves you
questioning many things. It definitely stirs up a sense of uneasiness in your
soul. Sulaiman brings up Emmit Till and his death along with the emasculation of
great Black men in history. He compared and contrasted the realities of the past
with the realities of today. Sulaiman discussed the harsh-realities facing
Blacks and the mentalities of current Blacks in American-society. There is
definitely alot of testerone on this track. In listening to this track, I think
about the present music that many Black-artists produce in American-society and
I weep. Alot of the present mainstream music produced within rap and hip-hop is
demeaning, materialistic, and unrealistic. There is a removal of reality being
presented in alot of mainstream music. In listening to Sulaiman’s spoken-word
piece, I think about the Black female-presence and how it interacts with the
Black-male. The majority of the track centers around the emasculation of the
Black-male and the history of the past. Not only does the track center around
the emasculation of the Black-male, but Sulaiman looks at the climate of current
politics for Black-males in America. The track leaves the listener questioning
the current generation’s response to its past history along with generations to
follow. Of course, this is interpretive and just from my own analysis.

As you peruse your way through the album, you may find yourself sitting within your thoughts. It’s okay. There’s nothing to worry about…for right now. Sulaiman created an award’s praiseworthy album in my book. Every single track on the album discusses heart-wrenching truths and realities that many people shy away from. I will definitely say that the album is political and revolutionary.

So, what are the main topics throughout the album? I would have to list off a few topics:
*The place for race and its relevance in American-society
* What is masculinity
* Is the artist the same as his/her art?
* The role of death in our lives
* Faith
* Love
* Pain
* Identity
and more.

There’s alot to take away from the album and there’s more to be analyzed, but this is just a brief analysis on one of the tracks that I’ve enjoyed personally. The album will provoke many questions and will stir-up some unruly conversations in social-gatherings about many of the topics I listed above. The album is definitely an opening to something bigger than just words on Sulaiman’s notepad.

Here’s the link to the full-album: https://amirsulaiman.bandcamp.com/album/the-opening

If anyone is interested in discussing the album, let me know! It’s worth having dialogue about in the near future.

Children Are The World's Visual Sign of Hunger

According to the 2013 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics

“Children are the most visible victims of undernutrition. Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year. Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year–five million deaths. Undernutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which undernutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%) (Black 2003, Bryce 2005). Malnutrition can also be caused by diseases, such as the diseases that cause diarrhea, by reducing the body’s ability to convert food into usable nutrients.

According to the most recent estimate that Hunger Notes could find, malnutrition, as measured by stunting, affects 32.5 percent of children in developing countries–one of three (de Onis 2000). Geographically, more than 70 percent of malnourished children live in Asia, 26 percent in Africa and 4 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. In many cases, their plight began even before birth with a malnourished mother. Under-nutrition among pregnant women in developing countries leads to 1 out of 6 infants born with low birth weight. This is not only a risk factor for neonatal deaths, but also causes learning disabilities, mental, retardation, poor health, blindness and premature death.”

Her crimson eyes stares at me

fighting an internal pain
that has long taken its place
upon her decrepit body
her deep dark skin 
clad itself in wounds 
from cancer,possibly
burnt skin resting upon
parts of her body
absent hair upon her crown
old age,possibly
she begin to speak
quiet and slowly
reaching closely for her bedside
noticing the noise of television
residing in some far-off place
her eyes penetrated my soul
burning within me were stories 
like hers
dreadful words of neglect and hurt
crept forth from her raspy voice
her slow stretch to retrieve her drink
the lethargic reach to confiscate another tissue
drowns me into a sea of sorrow
like a thick fog of cigarette smoke
suffocating one’s ability to breathe
her sentences become like broken pieces of a puzzle
sometimes hard to piece together
she extends her fragile hand to me
asking if I could stay just a little longer
remembering the place she used to call home
the neighbors she had next door
the husband that she had once loved
a dog that once ran through her home
her phone left upon a countertop in her kitchen
she gives me another number
one different from the day before
asking me if I saw the child in the corner
and I responded “no” in the negative
asking for me to place upon her foot her shoes
shoes that weren’t there
socks that weren’t lost in between her covers
Internally fighting what would soon become her reality
she beckons me to tell her about my family
I passed to her my camera
with the images of two people
my mom and dad
and she began talking to them
She told them her name and added
“I’m not feeling too sharp”
and I sunk further into my own reality
He is the giver and taker of life
She turned to me and told me
“Don’t be depressed because i’m not”

The Soulful Cries of Hell

His soul is burning
Hot
Entangled in the heat of the consequences that had befallen his fate
He’s been set ablazed by his own hands
Being buried
deep within the hole in which he created
A young man that found love for the adhan that lingered throughout his country
A young man that prayed devoutly in submittance to his Lord
Understanding that one’s purpose is to praise He
The one that had ordained Heaven and Hell
A young man that found contentment in his modest way of life
That kept his tongue moist of the remembrance of He
A young man that found pleasure in the simplest of things
until he found interest in a new love
A love that dragged him out of remembrance
A love that created his own hell
Confining him to an ending that would crush him over and over again
A young man that soon longed for something new
something that he found appetizing
Appetizing was the cup in which he would drink from
A young man that soon gathered his hands around women
Feasting in their delightful pleasure
Finding his heart hardened to the sound of the adhan
Becoming lost in his music Making his nights sinfully pleasing with lustful love and fine wines
A young man embedding his heart in worldy endeavors forgetting his purpose
A man that found comfort in friends that has long left His remembrance
Men that raced among themselves in wealth
Gambling their lives each day and night
Soon finding their way beneath the deep depths of the earth
Far removed from their luxuries
that blinded them from their own realities
Begging for some more time
Longing to prostrate just one last time
Singing their own songs of woe
Individually crying for the choices they had made
Screaming within their individual graves
And saddened by their own whims and desires
Their souls are burning
Hot
Entangled in the heat of the consequences that had befallen their fate

A Boy of  Unrelenting Desire

Walking busy streets
Crowded shops
Dark alleys
Finding his way among cultural expectations
Seeking answers about a religion he had routinely practiced
Starving for the truth
Thirsty for more than tribal customs
Jinn-obsessed clansmen
Hand-reading aunts
Black-magic uncles
and far-from-practicing parents
His world was confusing
Difficult to understand
Searching the faces of shop-keepers, imams, and the elders
Begging and pleading to his lord for an answer
dying to know Him and to understand why earlier Muslims would sacrifice so much for this way of life
He felt as if his world was a prison
always confronted with walls and barriers
between him and the truth
that laid out there somewhere
in a far-off place that hummed the words of dhikr
that cried ayats
that bled the soul of an Islam that lingered with love, beauty, and purpose
The taste of Ramadhan’s sweets weren’t as tempting as this need he was searching for
The Friday’s prayers were just another reinforcement of twisted cultural traditions
His heart was pumping more than blood
it pumped Islam
His heart had long left the place he called home
Quranic verses were only twisted into misconstrued interpretations for misguided acts
His country was hit severely by the jahiliya
Stories of the companions and the prophet Muhammad traveled with him for years
A brother that once told him of the things he learnt in America about Islam during his days of university
With a family that had rejected everything except for cultural traditions
As he traveled down roads leading to different places
He found a young man only a a few years older than himself
Reciting verses of the Qur’an
Saying words of remembrance
Crying
and the young teen couldn’t understand
how a man could praise his lord for he had only a shabby garment and food that would barely suffice for a day
The man felt the presence of an onlooker but did not turn around
He simply said
“Allah is sufficient for me. I am his servant. He is my master. There is no power or might except for He. Do not feel sorry for me. Do not cry for me. From Him we came and to him we return”
The young teen cried for he had finally understood this religion
this way of life that he had longed to understand
to love
to cherish
He took company with the man until his death
For the raised hand will never come back empty