You told me not to tell her that I loved you
That I loved you in color
Loved you like a morning’s sunrise cracking open free into full bloom
Not to let her know that my name is stained across your lips with forever written in permanent ink
Like our love-story/engraved in the broken/most intimate parts of our souls
That you/that I
Found God in the prayers of our pain
That we’re both two wounded hearts breaking free
That I became hands open wide catching your tears
Planting my all, the seed of my love into your broken soul
That you kept me up late in conversations
Under the night’s skies with the moon and stars as witnesses/witnessing us catching flame to the igniting of this intimacy
That we made great love in the bedsheets of our most intimate thoughts
I never thought I would hate you for the memories you left burning as the centerpiece of my soul
Leaving remnants of our yesterdays within the closet of my heart
Leaving clever lies and empty promises rotting at the gate of my heart
Making me believe your words as truth like divine scripture
To only find your love as truthful as the promises you never kept
And you told me to come back, that you loved me
My love, did you forget?
Did you forget that you left bruises in my heart?
The taste of betrayal upon my lips
Shattered pieces of love across my soul
Distress written in the notebook of my thoughts
And I’ve always said I’ll never allow a man to lay his hands on me
And I guess I was right
Because your hands never found their way/their home on my body
Just the lies that you left in my heart with the rotten love you kept behind
I never knew abuse until I found you
Finding you heart-broken/shattered pieces scattered/broken in all of the wrong places
But you, you left me fractured and tortured in the prison you left of me
With my hands being a burial-ground of the hell you left for me
I unraveled my soul for a man that was less than a king for his queen
So, tell her
Tell her I was everything you never deserved
I was everything you couldn’t be
And that a real Southern boy with Southern hospitality wouldn’t call the morning after with another woman’s name still heavy on his lips, mistaking her for me
And that your game ain’t that tight because I heard the hesitation bleeding through the phone
As if she was in the next room over
Unfolding herself from the mess you made of her
And I’m sure you’re lustfully in love with her
Coming easy in her ears to come quickly in between her thighs to simply leave her
But unlike the others,
I will love me whole and never in parts
Split-opened-exposed for a man who just needs a quick fix
And that I will sinfully love me whole
“I saw a broken man struggling to stand up whole as his soul was seeking to shackle him down to the shame of his sins; his lips began to part parting proofs precisely word by word telling me with his eyes closed shut, seeking out the Divine within every gem that dripped from his lips that ‘Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem, Qul huwal laahu ahad, Allah hus-samad, Lam yalid wa lam yoolad, Wa lam yakul-lahu kufuwan ahad’ was indeed the sound proof. And I began to ponder, crack up my heart and told him to keep firm for what he just said was all he ever needed. His eyes dropped bombs internally, dripping, bleeding, eyes overflowing with tears, a man in his twenties fighting, dancing upon egg shells, trying to stand upright as his sins kept him withdrawing from al-siratul mustaqeem. He exposed a heart in mourning for his tomorrows, struggling to mend his yesterdays and todays for a life of tomorrow that will lend his whole spirit to the Most Divine. His voice quaked and the streets began to talk to me. His eyes met mines shooting me countless times with truth. I jumped into his eyes, raced within his insides and found myself looking out to see myself looking back in. We were standing on the same side of the counter, trying to seek His mercy for we were sinners just trying to get right. Hoping to have our book of deeds handed to us in our right-hands. Our hands were left empty of nothing but our lives to give. Our hearts to offer up as sacrifice for this was all he had…this was all I had. This was all we had. I never thought this stranger that stood in front of me would unfold and write out my eulogy for I was dying. For I was dying a death that would shed my former-self. I wondered how it would be on that Day because at that moment he was standing bare in front of me. Unraveling/unveiling the secrets that lies within our lives. We are sometimes running/walking/racing/passing our lives away finding ourselves carrying countless things weighing us down to find ourselves being POW’s, prisoners of war because we’ve been caputred too many times by ourselves seeking guidance in wrong things and people. I saw him beating/knocking/setting flame to the door of His Lord, for he was seeking nothing, no one but the Divine. He was an unfolding book outlining the ruthlessness of the meaningless world that weaves its way in our lives, seeking to only search and destroy our hearts. Every word that flowed from his lips became like scripture, making my soul rush to forgiveness, for he and I both knew that this battle between life and death was real. And we sat upon the edge of our souls and jumped to our annihilation in order to seek He above the heavens for our hearts were yearning for better tomorrows. I closed my eyes to see with clear vision that this stranger was a messenger from the Most Divine for he had just searched the deep-depths of my soul and ripped out the disease that lied deep within, placing upon it its black shroud to deliver it back to it’s hell for I was done. I was witnessing Divine intervention at play and this strange man was showing me hidden treasures. Ripping me apart word-by-word, telling me ‘Bismi Allahi alrrahmanialrraheemi, Inna aAAtaynaka alkawthara, Fasalli lirabbika wainhar, Inna shani-aka huwa al-abtaru” and that the battle to survive is very much real. And that our lives are only for He that gives and take life. And that this life is our sacrifice. For this world will try to snatch away our hearts/this deen for that which is devilish and hellish…” -Excerpt from “The Subway Man Recited Scriptures from His Sinful Lips”
This morning I found myself hungry for a sandwich from Subway, so I went to get one. One of the local Subways that I sometimes visit is really interesting. Many of the employees enjoy asking me questions about Islam or telling me how they are amazed at the traffic-jam that surrounds a local-mosque on Fridays. However, one of the employees is Muslim and would always recite to me Qur’anic texts. He always tell me that he has another surah(chapter) of the Qur’an to recite to me in Arabic, so I would listen as he would make my sandwich. As he recited, I would always follow him in the chapters he recited…if I knew them. However, today was different. He recited his surahs and he gave me real-talk about life. It’s always times like this that makes me think and reflect about humanity. We are all trying to make sense out of the world around us. And as Muslims, we are always trying to evaluate ourselves spiritually. In listening to the words that he had told me this morning, I found inspiration to just get together a collection of poetry that deals with the issues that we were talking about. There’s always this fight against our souls and to fight to gain the pleasure of the Divine. It was really ironic because he was telling me about his struggle to stay afloat in Islam while trying to deal with the struggles of worldly life. In talking about his struggles, he was indeed helping me with my own personal struggles. So, I wanted to write about that experience by the passage that I quoted above.
The truth is that you’ll never know what you’ll find in the world and when you find yourself stumbling upon truth then never let it go. Also, it’s important to never restrict yourself in where you think truth should or could come from. You can find truth in the most unexpected places. This strange man that I would see once or twice a month came as a form of Divine intervention. That may sound strange to some people, but it’s the truth. We can truly reflect each other and when this happens…it’s scary but sometimes necessary.
And at the end of the day, we should not be caught up in trying to quickly judge someone off of appearances because appearances can be deceiving. Just simply listen to someone’s words and let it penetrate, if possible. You’ll never know where you’ll get a wake-up call, but when you get it…wake up.
A question I am thinking about is this: “What does it mean to be you?”
Let’s think about that for a second. People think about this. Some people may not care, but its a big question. Who are you? What makes you the person you are? What does it mean to be the person that you are? If you’re from there are you expected to be like that? If you’re from here are you expected to be like this? If you’ve done that then are you expected to go through that? What does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean to be a mother when you never had a mother there to teach or guide you? What does it mean to be a father? What does it mean to be a father when your father was everything except for a father? What does it mean to be a Muslim? Does it mean you fit into a stereotypical role that one think they should play in order to be accepted within their communities? What does it mean to be a Muslim man/a Muslim woman? Does it mean you drop your culture/your language in order to pick up something else? What does it mean to be a woman/a man? What does it mean to be with another person in a marriage? Does it mean must be exactly alike?
In dealing with these big questions on identity, it is important to figure them out. Yes, there are more questions to be asked about identity so ask them. Ask yourself. Sometimes we fall into these superficial roles of just being who we are told to be. We just do what culture tells us. We just do what others expect of us. However, who are we? Am I really me? Or am I just what I was told to be? Or am I the person I want people to think I am? Am I putting on a front? Or am I really me? Am I really the person I am choosing to be? And how do I choose to be that person? What things make me who I am? And is that okay? Or not? These questions are all dealing with you. These questions are dealing with me. These questions are dealing with all of us. We can choose who we want to be. No other person can make that choice, but you. You are the author and the composer of your own life. You are the individual pulling out the pen and marking up your own sheet of paper. You are putting the notes down to this sheet of music. You are the lyricist to that song. This is you. You are the one holding the pen to that piece of paper. So, ask yourself “Who am I?”. In asking myself this question, I thought about something my mother told me this morning.
Today, my mom was like “Lauren, I don’t think marriage is about the man doing one thing and the woman doing another. Sometimes you have to do multiple things at once” and I agreed with her. So many times I would always say how simple things were. Allah said the man is the breadwinner and so the woman should worry about the home. However, what does this statement mean? In the Islamic tradition, Hagar was left with just her son Ishmael in Mekkah fending for herself after prophet Abraham left her due to Allah’s command. So, at that moment she became a woman having to protect, provide and maintain for herself and her child. She became independent. She became every role possible because it was necessary. So, when we think about the people we are and the role(s) we are expected to put on it is important to think critically about this. We sometimes try to simplify our identities when they are constantly changing and intersecting with one another.
How does a young father in his early 20’s that hasn’t spoken to or been with his daughter for the first three years of her life deal with his own child upon seeing her for the first time? What does he say? What would be the reaction(s) of his baby-girl? How does he raise her upon his religion when the parent she spends time with is of another faith? How does he mend these realities? Is there a black-and-white answer? Should there be?
How does a mother in her early 30’s deal with the issues of identity when she has two children with a third on the way? How does she mend her broken past pains and confusion of who she is with her current situation? How does this soul-searching mother with a broken heart find her way in parenting children when the world has taken her heart and placed upon it it’s footprints of oppression and devastation?
How does a young woman in her 20’s deal with the issue of marriage and fornication when her parents are wanting her to finish school until taking that next step in her life? Does she continue to fight for her right to get married to preserve her honor and chastity? Or does she fall into her desires? Should she find a hobby?
How does a young man in his later teenage-years find purpose when he is blinded by the world and without a role-model to guide him through this journey of life? How do he mend the world of those around him with the reality of the world in which he lives? How does he find himself when his parents are struggling to survive and with a father that never taught him the roles/the rules of manhood? Does he find this manhood in music/a textbook/movies/magazines/ads on billboards?
What do an older woman in her 50’s do when her daughters encounter the same issues she is facing? How does this mother in her 50’s tell her daughters that their roles as women and wives aren’t simple and pinpointed in a manual? How does she guide her daughters as wives when she is still fighting the issues they are trying to solve themselves?
What does a man/woman do when they are stuck between their religion and their ethnic/cultural identity? Is this a problem? How do they sort through this? Is there really a problem between the two? How do they find themselves within this religious-community when they are expected to play out an identity that is not them? How do they sustain their inner-most being when those within the religious-community are fighting against them due to ignorance/racism/sexism? How do they go forth? How do they fight for their right to stay and be themselves without having to assimilate(to fit in/take on the identity of the people)? Should they risk being different and make their own mark or just fit in until there is progress?
When we look at the different problems that some of us face when it comes to identity it is important to look closely at ourselves. Why do many of us try to define definite roles to ourselves and others? When we look at the roles that we have to play as people it becomes hard and sticky. We can’t always play one role. We can’t always play two. Sometimes we have to play other’s roles. What do we do when we find ourselves playing another person’s role(s)? Is this okay? Is this problematic? Where do we begin if we are trying to figure this out?
Many times people tell us to stay in our place. To not think too much about things. To simply accept our roles and leave it at that. There are no questions. We should just sit and follow through with culture/religion without thinking further. Why is this an okay answer? One thing that Allah tells people is to ponder his signs and to look around. We are told to think and to use our reasoning skills. We should look at the world we live in and think about the various identities that makes it up. In these various identities there people from different backgrounds, races, cultures, languages and lifestyles. We have to sit down and ask ourselves the bigger questions that no other person can answer for us. It is only us when we come across these questions with answers that we can only give. It’s not the responsibility of others to show us who we are. It is only us to discover us and what it means to be us. Yes, we are inspired and influenced by others, but we have to know about us. We have to be sure in who we are or else we will never be okay with just thinking we think we think we think we know who we are. We have to atleast be okay with ourselves and acknowledge that as long as we are in the world we will continue to grow as people, inshALLAH.
And I think it is important to remember something and that something is a quote from Louis Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong said “What we play is life”
His soul is burning
Entangled in the heat of the consequences that had befallen his fate
He’s been set ablazed by his own hands
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
Entangled in the heat of the consequences that had befallen their fate
Understand that your beauty is only one half of the world’s beauty
For your intelligence will forever linger in the minds of your offsprings
Keep pushing towards your mansion that lies high in the Jannah where angels lie
Where your clothes will only adorn the mind that Allah has bless you with
for never allow a man make you feel that being a woman means taking off your clothes
for Allah has given you clothing of intelligence
For a woman is more than what lies between her…shhh..dont say it
She is a queen amongst kings
The other half to the human-race
Never listen to those dogs that scream at you for they will only find a dog that will bark back
You are more than the body that Allah has given you
You are a servant of Allah
A Muslim above any other title that you can ever be given
One that submits to her Lord
In the early morning and the evening
Seeking to meet the face of her Lord
My sister never deceive yourself
You are much more than the price any man can put on you
My father died when I was eleven years old.
A man of righteousness, as my mother described him.
A man that never gave up doing what was right and always held his family at the centre of his heart.
I love my father, but I did not get to know much of him.
I can remember how he taught me to pray at the masjid and taught me about the companions of the Prophet Muhammad.
He was truly a father I wish could’ve taught me how to become a man
I loved him for how he showed me how important it was to be Muslim.
We didn’t have much as I grew up with him.
He worked long hours, but he made up with longer hours to spend with us.
It was my mom, my older sister, my dad and I.
Now, I am fifteen years old and I ask myself if I am following the way of the Prophet Muhammad.
My father told me there was not a man who was as great as the Prophet Muhammad.
Every Friday, my father would sit the whole family down and tell us about the Prophet Muhammad and tell us stories.
Now, I wish I had that, but I remember them because I wrote them down just like my dad told me.
I wrap my turban the same way my father wrapped his.
I keep my thobe above my ankles and I let my beard grow just as the Prophet Muhammad, his companions, and my father.
I tell others about the example of the Prophet Muhammad and I learn from the imam about the Prophet Muhammad and his companions now.
I will never stop doing what is right and I will always love my religion because I know it is true.
And because I am Abir Islam.
I look into his face to see fear, passion, hurt, and mystery
A story that will always be untold
A chapter of his life that will never be written on paper
That will never be hidden on a study-guide or an exam
For fear of what may become exposed.
His destination is unknown
His path is shaky
A journey to somewhere, but yet still stuck guessing and questioning
Stuck between his native land and his new home which will never bear his roots
Which will never taste like the spices he once knew to warm his soul?
Which will never feel like the desert wind that would wipe across his face?
Which will never feel like home?
He’s been uprooted and torn from his foundation
Feelings of isolation and a lack of connection between him and these new people
This new world unknown, but yet so promising.
Does he lie down at night crying or meditating on his next step?
Does he wrap his arms around his body to comfort the pain that lies deep inside?
Or does he look in the mirror to see a man that feels like a little boy needing a little self-assurance?
Or does he write on the pages of his notebook about the progress he has made thus far?
Or will the angels find him gliding his fingers against the Arabic script of the Qur’an reciting the words of His Lord?
Or will the angels find his tears comforting him as he cries out for the guidance of Ar-Rahman Ar -Rahim?
Or will he be sitting down…alone…stuck and without words?