(Here’s some links to mine from a few years ago in case u want to read more traditional journals.)
Searching for Rahmaa
Ramadan 2006 – 1427
Under the shadows of the trees
For so long,
I don’t even realize I’m
On the Mosque office floor.
Copy machines, faxes, pencils
Equipment older than I am,
Fill the room.
I only see
And the dark.
I hear a stream gurgling near.
Race after it,
Through thickets and growth,
Thorns and wilderness,
Roots and menacing growth.
Branches scratch my face,
And the tiniest rivulets of blood
Mark my cheeks,
I can’t find it.
I can’t see it.
I sometimes think I hear it,
But then I never do.
I start to run,
And am on my knees again.
In the dark
In the office
In the little Mosque
On the hill.
This Ramadan has been a unique one, full of points of high elation and lows of despair. (A Mu’min never despairs so obviously I’m not there yet.) I can only remember it in flashes so I’ll make the scene and play out the movie for you:
I am sitting on the floor, in a Manhattan apartment eating Halal Chinese sesame chicken surrounded by friends. As we pass the little boxes around and eat with plastic forks, we laugh and talk and reminisce and share memories of Ramadans past. It feels SO good to be with old friends again.
I am sitting in a courtroom in the back. The gallery is full of reporters. The judge enters and then everyone stands. The jury files in and sits where they have over the last three days of deliberations. Two men sit on the right with their lawyers and on the left a host of FBI agents and prosecutors.
I am standing at the back of a pizza shop in the inner city. A sister holds on to me and weeps. It is day three of deliberations. She came here twenty years ago as a masters in sociology from Bangladesh and worked with her husband in this store for the last 10 years. Since he was arrested she has been working 12 hour days here to support her 6 children herself. The baby sleeps soundly in her carriage by the drinks cooler and two of the kids sit in a booth watching cartoons on the TV installed in the corner. The shop is extremely hot from the heat of the stoves and oven. I had thought to just stop by for a few minutes before going to iftar. ‘No no sister, let me give you some things’, she said and then rushed to the back and was frying up samosas and putting a drink in a bag over my protests. I took the bag and thanked her and said my salams and gave her a hug. But then she held on to me. And started to cry. How can I possibly console this woman. What can I say that is any different from what she is feeling. My mind blanks. I can’t think. Finally, ‘Sister – you’re strong. You have to be strong for your kids’.
I am standing in prayer on the little Mosque on the hill and the Imam recites the verse that always sends chills down my spine:
And The Hour draws near.
All around me the scene changes. I am standing on a plain. The green rugs fade to brown rocky ground. The white walls turn to desert rocks and sand stretching into the distance. The sisters praying next to me disappear and instead all around me there are people. People with wild eyes, full of fear. They are running, searching, in despair, in regret. Drunk, but not drunk. There is chaos, devastation. The blood red sun is upon the horizon, as if touching the earth. The heat waves roll out and hit me, knocking me to the ground. My hands burn on the hot ground and my throat chokes, full of dirt.
I know this day, I know this place. It is the Day of Judgement.
I stand up and slowly all around people silently come out of nowhere. Crowds of people with faces pale with fear. We are waiting. The air is full of expectation, suspense, fear and hope. Someone reads from a list on a scroll. My name is called.
The Imam recites “Allahu Akbar” and my vision fades.
‘Did you hear the news?’ ‘What news?’ ‘The verdict came in’ ‘What!’ Let me borrow your cell phone and I am at the back of the mosque calling my mother and she tells me the news. ‘Guilty. It’s all over they’re finished. Twenty years, more.’ I am numb. ‘Guilty?’ ‘Guilty of what?’ Taraweeh starts and I join. I can’t hear the recitation. I can’t think. ‘My God what will happen to them. No one cares about those wives and children. No one cares.’
I am praying Taraweeh in the 96th street Mosque in New York City. We enter late and take off our shoes and walk all the way down the hall to the other side of women. After we stow our shoes we stand up behind the women and join the prayer. The sounds of the city fade to the background inside. The circle of lights reach down to create a halo over our heads. The Imam recites Surah Fatiha and the echo of the ameen in unison carries up to the beautiful dome. It reminds me so much of memories of the echoes in the Haram of Makkah and I wonder why I ever feel despair when Allah gives me these beautiful gifts.
I come home after Taraweeh around midnight and my mother says: “I’ve arranged everything! We’re going.” I asked,”Going where?” “We’re going to Syria next week!”
I am driving an old desi grandmother to taraweeh as a favor. Her grand-daughter sits in the back. I try to think up some polite conversation. After five minutes, she cuts in, “Can I ask you something?”. Her English is pretty good for a desi grandmother I thought. “Sure, Auntie”. “Why don’t you get married? Don’t you like marriage?”, she asked like it was a choice. “Don’t you want someone to take care of you?” I don’t need anyone to take care of me. I’ve been taking care of myself for a number of years, I thought. This wasn’t the first auntie to ask this Ramadan and probably not the last. I sighed and my heart filled with frustration as I struggled to find an answer. “Of course I want to get married”. “Well, I got all my four children married early, at twenty, and look my two daughters have 6 grand children and my other son has one child and the other one has two and one coming”, she said proudly, looking at me accusingly. “Oh that’s nice”
I am sitting on a chair in a hospital room. My friend sits on the bed. She looks much better than she did yesterday. We’re both on our laptops. ‘Check this out this place has wireless!’ ‘We should come here more often, free food, you can sleep all the time and we get free internet’. We both laugh and type away furiously and I drink her ginger ale for iftar.
It is pouring rain, sheets and sheets of rain, haze and mist. I am driving with the girls and my mom, heading to JFK. Everyone in the car concentrates on the road and the crazy weather holds us enthralled. My hands grip the wheel and show white at the knuckles as I stare at the road in front of me and try to pass 18 wheeler trucks going 85. Why, when I prayed it wouldn’t rain today, is the entire northeast is covered with a deluge of rain from the remnants of a hurricane that traveled its way up the East coast. The whole day has been fraught by stress and tension. I don’t want to drive like this for 3 hours. My thoughts turn to my problems. Why are my duas never answered? Tension, headache and stress press down upon me. Why, please ya Allah let nothing happen, let us make it there safely. Please let it ease up just a little.
I am sitting in someone’s living room eating apple cobbler made from scratch. It is 3 am. We are still high from the amazing taraweeh and dua of that evening. We’ve been talking about Muslims and wealth and moonsighting and class systems and education and the future and good memories. Our discussion goes where it always does, to marriage and we spend another hour laughing and talking.
We pass exit 19. The rain has turned to a soft shower and then to drops. The road clears. Suddenly we see the trees, the bright oranges, reds and greens that is the northeast in Autumn. Everything is clean and sparkling. The sun peeks out from some clouds and soon the clouds disappear and there is only sun and beauty all around us. SubhanAllah. A verse comes to me from the night before, When they are in despair they call upon Allah, but when He gives them they forget Him. I won’t forget, I resolve. Alhamdulillah.
The Imam recites Surah Ikhlas in the last rakah of witr on the last night of Ramadan. He pauses, as if he realizes this is the last thing he will recite of Taraweeh. Then when we come back up from Rukou, begins the dua to be read at the completion of the Quran and continues for 40 minutes asking Allah for the most beautiful things. To cleanse our hearts, to make the Quran the spring of our hearts, to bless our parents and the Muslims, to leave no enmity in our hearts, to accept our fasting and prayers and deeds, to make our return to Him a beautiful one, to forgive our sins and to make the happiest day of our lives the day we meet Allah. He recites the dua I requested him to make that he’s done for 9 out of the last 10 days. (I think he just forgot that one day) He recites it twice and my heart breaks even more. All the women are crying and repeating ameen, ameen. Then we are in sujood. And finally he says the taslim and I don’t want to leave the prayer. When I say the salams to exit the prayer, I know I’m saying salam to Ramadan and feel the grief that we all do when we realize we won’t be seeing this rahmaa for another year.
Sometimes in order to help He makes us cry.
Happy the eye that sheds tears for His sake.
Fortunate the heart that burns for His sake.
Laughter always follows tears.
Blessed are those who understand.
Life blossoms wherever water flows.
Where tears are shed divine mercy is shown.