Woman in the Mirror

Blurry eyed, she trudges to the bathroom,
tip-toeing carefully over her husband’s books.

She squirts the Neutrogena face wash in between
her two fingers and rubs her face in a circular motion.

Reaching for her toothbrush,
Left side – 30 seconds. Right side – 30 seconds. Rinse and repeat.

She glances in the mirror. Not some innocent glance like
when she finds the baby hairs covering her face to tweeze.

But she stared. Her reflection glared back at her.
She studies her eyebrows. They had thinned over the years.

Her hair-line moved up a few inches and her
forehead fit all five of her fingers.

She slides her hand between her legs, and can feel the absence
of the thigh gap she had been so pleased of.

Standing hip facing the mirror, her protruding stomach bulges openly.
She swiftly slips off her satin pajamas, and into her crisp navy pant suit.

Duty calls, she chimes to herself. Too bad,
this age thing will have to wait its turn.

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Baba, my city is safe

They call you a terrorist,

but the way you make flying
shrapnel disappear from the sky –
you make me wonder,
if you are a magician?
Nobody else can stop this world from
crumbling onto me.

Even if there is stillness for a few days,
where the plane engines are silent, and the
morning Adhan can be heard –
Allah Hu Akbar Allah Hu Akbar, Ash Hadu An La Ilaha IllAllah. It –
is a celebration.

We have the freedom to recover.
We tend to our villages
and kiss the palms of our friends.

The days there are no loud noises,
the heaviness in my feet lifts, and
I get a chance to play outside without fear. Yousef and I see
who can run the farthest without falling into a hole.

You’re like my Baba. Can I call you Baba?
You were my shelter when
I didn’t have one. My home when I still don’t have one.
I don’t have a home.
My real Baba died yesterday.

Something hit him.
He thought It was a quiet day. I tried
to bury him. I couldn’t really do it on my own.

You bring quiet days by
holding guns. You
are not a magician. If you ever go away, give me a gun too. Maybe,
I can help make the quiet happen more often. Our people will be less scared if
I have one. Baba,

You are My Freedom Fighter.

He Didn’t Come Home from the War

(series of haikus)

Part 1: When They Told Me.

Night jasmine sprouts wildly.
Green men gift dead lilies. Moon
light erases my sorrow.

From far, Adam and Eve’s
heaven, a swallow sits on
my window sill, silent.

The rising shrill of
trees whipped against our empty
home. The white walls weep.

Part 2: When I Told Them.

The pasta drowns in
hot water, and we cuddle
deep under the sea.

Geese cross the whist road,
headed for the far village.
A random star follows.

Tiny buds finding green,
while a fallen leaf dries. Winter
cool is not gentle.

Papa’s Pizza

He nods,
tucks away their backpacks, hands them orange lollipops,
and continues to knead dough.

The young girls are immersed in crayon drawings,
sidewalk chalk,
and giggling. The mellow-glow of street lights
replaces the dimming sun.

A man with brown brows that connect somewhere in the middle
orders the special. The women who come in Tuesdays
put on a play with the girls. Teenage boys clap along,
chains dangling against their chests.

At last, a woman in hospital scrubs,
carrying an armload of textbooks
rushes in and their small arms
seize hold of her legs.
A wave good-bye at the pizza-man,
they stroll home.

Morning birds are chirping and the sky gives birth to the sun again. Papa sleepwalks home and just catches Mum in the lobby for their daily two-minute talk.

faith, inclusivity, ramadhan

As part of the youth program, I had the pleasure of speaking to my community at Masumeen Islamic Centre during the month of Ramadhan. 

Firstly, to Masumeen Islamic Centre – you are doing an incredible job. This Ramadhan program is nothing short of phenomenal and it is extremely well organized. You are able to successfully join many of our brothers and sisters during Ramadhan to celebrate the graciousness of God, Layl a tul Qadr, and the birth of Imam Hassan (AS), while we also together mourn the deaths of Bibi Khadija (AS) and Imam Ali (AS).  Without such an important part of our community, such a central place to unite with our brothers and sisters – I truly do not know where we would be.

The efforts of the board, staff, and volunteers do not go unnoticed. I admire the hard work and I especially admire the commitment everyone has to this community. Day in and day out, keeping the centre clean, accessible, and welcoming is challenging. Congratulations on everything you have accomplished to this date, I am honoured to be part of community that provides such incredible services to us…not just during Ramadhan but year round with Friday prayers and Thursday programs (which I was personally recently touched by when people whom I did not know personally recited Surah Fatiha and prayed for my grandmother after her passing away).

But today, I want to take a step back and shed light on something we as a community can all take part in. I want to begin sharing a piece by Key Ballah, a Toronto based poet, called Half Ramadan.

halframadhan.png

What we never talk about is the people struggling to keep even an ounce of faith. Coming across this poem made my heart shatter. To know about someone struggling with faith so desperately…but still never letting go is humbling. In my eyes their intention is so pure. It would be easy to let go. The people that feel like they fit neither here nor there, are a mix of two identities, and struggle to find a place home – like many of us consider Masumeen Islamic Centre to be ours.

So I guess my question is if we make room for those who do not fit the definition of our “ideal, practicing, Muslim?” Do we provide them with an open and safe platform where their views about Islam which may be different than ours are acknowledged and understood? Do we provide them with opportunities to strengthen their ties to our mosque?

For example, do we watch our tone and expression carefully enough when we ask someone to fix their hijab or continue on to do them a favour and adjust it for them. What if we just “fixed” for them the way they choose to observe hijab at this present moment and now we’ve implied that it is not acceptable by our standards.

I come from a place of deep privilege where I have grown up in an incredibly supportive Muslim household and have been given opportunities to expand my knowledge endlessly. But in this place of privilege I have come to understand that others journey of accepting Islam or periods of doubt have been far more challenging and complicated than mine.

They may not have a support system. They may have been surrounded by fierce cultural ideologies that they relate to Islam and may not know that there is a stark difference between culture and Islam. They may have been discriminated against because of their identity.

I do not know their story. I do not wish to add to their discomfort and their struggle with belonging.

I don’t think this is possible without talking to each other more – past the small talk and the “how are yous”. It’s hard to realize when somebody may be struggling with faith if we don’t give them an opportunity to become comfortable to be themselves. What I envision is not possible without changing our expectations of perfection, and at times, our illusion of closeness to one another (but always with a hint of distance).

What I’m asking is to open our hearts more and to not only embrace those who may not be where we are in our personal journey with Islam…but to make a conscious effort to accept and welcome them, as part of us, with or without any belief they may or may not have.

Our weakness is inevitable and we are so capable of committing sins. It is difficult to eliminate our biases and the way we’ve been raised. It is difficult not to judge other people. I humbly ask that we try to look past ideals of perfection and acknowledge that despite our strong community there are problems individuals or people may face though they may be a minority within us. It’s important to remember that having faith is not as simple as it may be, and that especially during Ramadan… it is an invitation to all to help mend ties and renew our faith.

Start by, truly talking to each other. Start by, acknowledging that there are problems. Start by, accepting one another.

nunna

my thoughts about my last visit to Pakistan and my grandmother. 

When I met my grandmother, Nunna, for the first time in five years, I did not know this would be the first time I’m meeting her for the last time. When I said goodbye to my grandmother, her house, a quick pit-stop on our way to the airport, I did not know that this would be my chance to truly say good bye. I didn’t know it would be our final goodbye.

On the night I arrived in Pakistan, when I walked into Nunna’s room, tears welled in my eyes quickly. The sight of her frail and weak body made me break down in tears. But I knew the quality in her life was there…through the youth of her grandchildren and the accomplishments of her children whom she made sacrifices for many many years ago. She was proud and so very much alive.

August 9, 2015:

Nunna cradled my hands so dearly. She was smiling. It broke me even more. How can she love me so much when I haven’t given her a chance to get to know me? I have fled the country leaving to live a privileged life in Canada. But I have not forgotten my roots. Although, it’s ironic. I have come to learn more and seen more pictures of Nunna’s youth since she passed away. I see her bold smile and fierce eyes and I am reminded of myself. Though Nunna has only seen me in three instances of my life – the days I can’t remember, from my birth to toddler-hood; at thirteen, teenage-hood; and lastly, at eighteen, adulthood. I know we are a kind of strangers but tied together through this unbreakable bond of motherhood. My mother’s mother. My mother. I love her and she loved me.

When it was time for me to come back home, to leave Pakistan, and come back to Canada. I was so desperate to make sure that I said good bye. That she knew I was leaving. That she knew I had come to say goodbye. That she knew who I was. I didn’t know where that desperation came from but for me now those moments are precious gifts. Her prayers and love trapped in those moments are timeless and priceless. (Who knows how many times her prayers have saved me…thank you Nunna.)

Nunna, how did you leave me so slowly but so suddenly?

What made me leave your side? Mother of my mother, Nunna, my heart is hurting. My mother is left without a mother.

Nunna, my sweet. my love. my soul. my world. my everything.

Why am I an ocean away from you…I missed your dying breath.

I am sorry about my absence. But I too, will always feel yours.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. (Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return)