Brave Girl, Chapter One

author’s note: this poem has elements of magic (entirely attributed to evil in the poem) that serve as metaphors in the story. What those metaphors are…is entirely up to you to interpret. But this story is meant to outline the journey from abuse, heartbreak, and trials to understanding and redemption.

Brave Girl,

She walked a path for miles

a path of brick and stone

tree limbs bending downwards

green leaves overgrown

Along the path she met a Lad

His eyes were cloudy grey

His hair was red and brown,

Yet glinted golden in the day

They linked arms and began to walk,

new love bubbling from their easy talk,

Easier and easier they began to be,

Walking over mountains and valleys,

and along the pale shores of the sea.

Within his eyes Girl saw her life,

And he promised with words that he would stay

So with fingers entwined like wanton vines,

They cast their doubts away.

One day on Girl’s hand,

Lad placed a glass band

that sparkled with his love

And with eyes wet and smiles wide,

The promised Groom and promised Bride

Both thanked God above.

But as years flit by, as dragonflies do,

the Girl began to doubt,

For as much as he was there with her

She began to feel without,

Girl felt love like burning fire

but began to fear her young Lad’s ire.

He said with words he loved her much,

And would never leave her side,

But often swatted away her touch,

And became defensive of his pride.

The path became no longer smooth,

It jutted rock and stone,

And though their discomfort she tried to soothe

Lad’s confidence was thrown.

He stumbled over root and stone,

Due to attention little paid,

When stifled by vines overgrown,

Refused the young Girl’s aid,

At last, for fear, there came a day,

When Lad’s color began to abate

His eyes and hair, his skin so fair,

Met the mirthless bite of fate.

For Lad lost hope,

and could not cope

with Girl or path no more,

And through the trees, he spied a space

And left through it like a door.

Girl cried tears bittersweet

For she knew she could not follow,

And though in her chest, her heart still beat

She knew within was hollow.

Girl felt a cold, thin vice,

upon her cold, thin hand

And looked upon with grief

At Lad’s still-sparkling band.

Girl continued on the rocky trail,

But often sat to weep,

Whispering his name brought no avail,

and memory’s wounds were deep.

But her grief was woven

with a stronger thread than she,

One night it drew an evil coven,

Of curious witches three.

Cackling, they asked her,

“What hath befallen thee?”

Girl jumped and walked much faster

So frightened now was she,

“We know the burden of your heart!”

Called the three magicians,

“Fear us not, let us help you,

For we are but mere physicians.”

But Girl kept her stride

And said “I have no money, nor trust for witches.”

And the witches, cackling, gleefully replied

“We offer only aid and have no use for riches.”

Girl then stopped and turned to face the Three,

For her heart was but pain and anguish,

And an end she could not see.

“What aid you offer, O stalking witches?

And what your price, then, if not riches?”

The witches laughed with victorious glee,

And at our Girl did smile,

“We wish to end your suffering,

And bring back your Lad a while.”

“Lad?” Girl cried, “How can you know?

Lad, who hath hurt me so?”

“My dear sweet Girl, your tale we know,

It hath been spun, so long ago.

It is an age-old tale, timeless and grand,

Our price, sweet Girl, is your sparkling band.”

Girl thought she felt a warning in her heart

Though Lad was no longer there with her,

With the band she should not part,

“Your band, my dear, is what we seek,

If it is Lad that you desire,

For the path does not favor the weak,

And companion-less made dire.”

Girl felt a pull inside her soul,

And Lad came to her mind,

His smile that had made her whole,

A love impossible to find.

“A question, witches, if ask I may,

before I give my band away?”

The witches looked at the sparkling ring

with hunger in their eyes,

“My dear, sweet girl, ask anything,

Anything that rests your mind.”

“What use have you of this sparkling treasure?

It is but mere memory,

It has no value beyond its measure,

For its meaning is known only to me.”

“Worry not of these things!

It is that which we require.

Forget your sentiments of that ring!

And we will bring you the one whom you desire!”

So with care she slipped the band away,

Off her cold, thin hand,

She gripped it, shining, in her palms a moment,

then gave away her band.

But the wind blew then,

a cold, strong, gust

That blew the band to the rocky ground,

and shattered it to dust.

Horrified and terrified, Girl began to retreat,

But the witches gathered around her,

And with vines  tied her hands and feet

“I cannot explain this! Let me go!”

Cried the Girl, fighting against the biting vines,

“I cannot explain it! I do not know!”

But the witches cared not for Girl’s cries and pleas,

they tightened the bonds and pinned her body

to the trunk of a leafless tree.

“Liar! Traitor! Deceptive thing!

We want the band, or you’ll dearly pay!

Repair that sparkling, shining ring,

Or we’ll cut your Lad’s head away!”

“It was a gift of mere glass,

No value had it, but sentiment!

I cannot repair the shattered thing,

You must accept its detriment!”

The witches gathered to consider this fact,

The band was gone, shattered to dust,

But the girl was whole and young and brave,

To claim her youth, kill her they must!

The witches, seething, drew a long knife,

Crooked and forked, and dripping dark red,

“If you wish to save Lad, you’ll pay with your life!

“Either pay with your blood, or we take his head.”

Girl trembled in fear against the tree,

And shutting her eyes she tried to see,

One last, precious memory…

End of Chapter One.

Nesha Usmani

2013

Ghazal of Ice

Despair is a cancer, a malignant drop of coldest ice,

 You shake your head, and so I know, you don’t know this kind of ice.

it lies in the loss of what you knew

and, reaching, grows like vines of ice

In my dream, your eyes were closed, and yet,

your gaze pierced my heart; turned my blood to ice.

You were impossible, magical! No- a blessing,

and yet your loss is the slowest burn, like flesh that sits too long on ice.

I wrote you and wrote you, painted my past with my tears,

And you were beauty and mercy; your eyes the bluest, purest spheres of ice.

I could give and give in eternity layered thick with love,

To freeze time, and give to you; I wish I had that kind of ice

To thank you, to repay and love you,

for warming my heart (By the Grace of Allah) , for melting the blackest kind of ice,

But I feel you distant, or are you asleep?

I knocked on your door, when the path was frozen, covered in ice.

I saw the fire through the window of your house,

The woods wearing winter, the tree branches slick with ice

I see you still, the reluctant figure, turned towards the door,

But I can’t be sure, the window freezes under vines of ice.

They look familiar, those translucent vines,

What I can never give – reflected in ice.

But the door is still warm and I knock again,

But Allah is the only refuge from this kind of ice.

Nesha Usmani

September 28, 2013

Hand Gripping Sand

the pleasures of dunya

are sparkling white sand.

Soft and glittering

warm beneath your tired feet.

But watch as you gather handfuls,

squeezing your fingers against your palms,

gripping and grasping,

watch it spill from the very spaces

you thought would hold it in,

watch it catch the breeze and fly from you,

like it couldn’t get away fast enough.

Watch each soft, glittering, warm speck disappear

into the billions that look just like it.

And so you learn to be content with walking, sitting, playing, laying on it,

but never taking it with you,

Because you realize that when you want to go Home,

you’ll need to brush it off of you, anyway.

Nesha Usmani

Cairo is Dying

is life worth the carnage in the street?

the corner where the children played

drips with blood, black with gore.

Broken glass and broken hearts

This is not the country of your father,

that kills its men and women and babies.

this is not the language of your mother,

that screams in rage, in hate, in oppression,

Here, they target your religion.

Your politics. These brothers you may have

served or salaam-ed?

You can no longer call them your own.

The ones on the rooftops,

in the street,

in the crowd,

the ones sending you to your grave,

peering through their crosshairs.

Nesha Usmani

Stars

Night does not come,

There is no star that radiates

darkness.

The window to the universe

is simply left open by a departing sun.

But the soft pink tips of night

do seem like an approaching guest.

The stars, so enticing, so rich and lush

in their seemingly infinite abundance, subhanAllah.

I wonder what they hide and what they distract from.

If Paradise is a few miles or a few dimensions above them.

If their size is a thousand times the earth or one-tenth of it.

How my heart still beats as they collide, explode, freeze and melt.

How I sink my nails into the dunya as galaxies swirl into the hungry maws of

holes in the universe.

How, no matter how severe the calamities are in the heavens,

the emptiness of the stomach feels more severe.

And all that my Lord creates, changes, and destroys

He does with the knowledge of the unseen,

which is always for the best.

But the chaos of the stars and planets combined cannot compare

to the chaos of the heart.

The sin and the greed.

The heedlessness and ignorance.

Impatience. Cruelty. Ego.

The fragility in decision making is terrifying.

And I think of the day my heart stops. And the Day all of this ends.

I hope I am not the only one who thinks like this,

like the greatest calamity is not any natural occurrence.

No. No burning star, no deadly meteor. No mysterious black void.

But the emptying of the heart in favor of the filling of hands.

The drop of an anchor in dunya; choosing this minuscule ball of water in space,

instead of waiting for something purer, unseen, un-defiled by shaitan

and the empty hearts of men.

Nesha Usmani

7/21/2013

Valley

post Fajr hours during Ramadan:
The daylight follows quickly
On the heels of sleep.
No water to lull anxious nerves
And this deprivation turns you
Towards Allah
While a part of you is ashamed
That deprivation is a more powerful
Motivation than gratitude.
You think of people who spend hours
Thanking Allah, with tears flowing.
Or begging Allah, with fear and dread in their hearts.
And you fear a polarization between the thankful and the deprived.
And you wonder if you’re the former or the latter.
If Alhamdulillah is, in your case, reserved only for gain
And Astaughfirullah shows its face only for loss
And if the valley between these mountainous supplications is a dry barren land
No blessing in between?
No well of blessed water between this Safa and Marwa?
You wonder if shukr lies hidden in the middle of constancy.
If the answer to your Dua might come easier if your repentence and remembrance were given constantly,
And not forgotten in the time where nothing spectacular nor disastrous happens,
But also given in the peace between,
Where needs are met effortlessly
And difficulties are mere pebbles on the path.
The light brightens in the room as fear and sadness still tick softly within your heart
And you think of all the Sahabah (ra) and the Rasuls (AS) and beloved Muhammad (SAW)
And their heartbreaks, desires, and goals.
And their sabr shines out.
Between the mountain of blessings and the mountain of calamity is a valley of sabr (patience).
And in the middle, perhaps, is an oasis of shukr (gratitude).
You whisper: ‘Alhamdulillah’
As fear, sadness, and hope tick softly on
As the water drips from your tired eyes.

Nesha Usmani
July 14 2013

Fasting in Ramadan; Answering the Question ‘Why?’

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Assalaamu Alaikum & Ramadan Kareem

I think every Muslim blogger at some point has a ‘why do Muslims fast’ post. So I’m just fulfilling my duty, but in a different way. I won’t go into the hows’ and the whens’ and the whats’. My question is posed to myself…why do I fast? Is it habit? After so many years of practicing Islam and taking part in Ramadan? Have I lost the reasoning or have I never noticed until now?

I’ve made so many mistakes this year, subhanAllah. So many errors and misjudgements. May Allah forgive me,  Ameen. But I have also grown closer to Islam. Alhamdulillah. There was a time in my life not very long ago that the mention of seeking Islamic knowledge would give me anxiety and a sense of severe insecurity.  One of the biggest blessings Allah has ever given me, as far as I can understand, is the ability to move beyond this problem, and connect me to my Deen emotionally and mentally, which, Alhamdulillah, is now connecting me to my Deen physically. Allahu Akbar!

If you practice Islam then you are familiar with the Dunya vs Akhira conflict. How do we find balance in getting what we want in Dunya as well as in the Afterlife? This is a crucial concept in Islam. In declaring your belief in Allah (SWT), Master of the Day of Judgement, Lord of the Worlds, and Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) as Messenger of Allah. you MUST place your entire trust in Allah and you MUST relinquish your grip on this world, and everything that distracts you from seeing your true purpose. Live in this world as a traveler or stranger! (Quote from the Prophet (PBUH) as narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar).

Does that mean we cannot achieve success in this world? Does that mean we cannot pursue our worldly dreams of become a doctor, engineer, a famous writer or artist?  Allah does not want us to be miserable and lazy in this world. In my opinion, all this means is that whatever you do, do for Allah. Whatever you pursue, make sure the cause is halal, and the intention is pure and for Allah’s sake. If Allah gives you success in this world, give back with your duty. Your zakat. Your salah. Your nafl and sunnah. Your belief and your time. And most importantly, do not make your success your home. Do not make your gifts from Allah into attachments that will take you away from Allah (because they will).

So…let’s cycle back to our original topic. How does all of this relate to the Holy month of Ramadan?  How does this relate to refraining from food, water, sexual activity, rude behavior and wasting time, as well as refraining from negativity, such as anger, impatience, and ignorance? In other words, why do we, as Muslims, do this, and not something else?

I’m not a scholar. Nor do I have extensive knowledge, but based on what I do know, a thought sort of  hit me square in the face the other day. And it wasn’t from the angle of Dunya. It was from the angle of Jannah. From what I know of Jannah, it is our true home. Our real existence that is promised to us should we succeed in our duties in this life. It is a place with no death, hunger, disease, poverty, anger, jealousy, or injustice. The things that are harmful here are not harmful there, such as wine and excess (you won’t become greedy). The things that distracted us won’t distract us there, rather they will be gifts for us made even more pleasing. such as the love, beauty, and intimacy of our spouses.

In Ramadan, we let go of the Dunya’s version of all these things (and what a poor version it is, when you look at Jannah). Allah is testing you with hunger, thirst, desire, control over your actions and emotions, how you treat your fellow Muslim, your spouses, your children. He, Allahu Akbar, is asking you what you want. Do you want this world and its food that does not satisfy? Its wealth that will lead you astray, that you cannot take with you when you die? Do you want this world, where the objects of your love, desire and affection are never guaranteed to stay, no matter how much you love them?

Or do you want JANNAH? Where our problems cease to exist. Where our greatest mercy from Allah (SWT) becomes our home.

Will you fast in a manner that counts the minutes until the next Iftar? Or will you take advantage of the hours and use them to supplicate, thank, worship, repent, and humble yourself, seeking knowledge and forgiveness from your Lord? Will you be impatient with those around you, your friends and family? Or will you love them and cherish them, and even improve your relations with them for the sake of Allah (SWT)?

Know that Allah is your Master. Only He can correct your affairs. And this is why we let go of Dunya, in the month and hours that Allah has prescribed, in a kind of annual dosage, that, Alhamdulillah, if we live to see it and use it correctly, we reap rewards innumerable,  are brought closer to Allah, and pulled further from Dunya, inshAllah.

We fast to regain sight of the blessings already given to us. We fast to remove ourselves from Dunya and to show Allah that despite our empty stomachs, our greater fear is an empty Emaan. An empty spot in Jannah where we could be, and the fiery realm where we might be. We fast to take advantage of every salah, taraweeh, and every moment  to worship, thank, repent, and supplicate to Allah. Allah, without Whom, we’d be nothing, could be nothing, and with Whom, could have everything He deems best for us. All we need to do is ask sincerely, with a heart full of Emaan. SubhanAllah!

Allahu Akbar.

If I’ve said anything wrong, please correct me, inshAllah.

And Allah knows best.

May Allah give you a Ramadan filled with ease, mercy, rewards, and opportunities to gain His infinite reward.  May Allah correct your affairs for you, and bring you closer to Him. Ameen