Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Seawind #1

From beneath the eaves
Of transient waves
I peer into the ageless sky
To hear the young winds sigh;

O you of sorrow,
The sea broke all bones in its body
Only to prostrate before the mountains,
Who cowers, frozen at its peak
For fear of vainglory.

Yet you parade
Blackened clouds in your wake
Its thundering rage
Before you weep
Your blue masquerade.

The wind speaks;
Sad poet, you pen lies
I carry only the sea’s turbulence
I sigh, only your sighs
I borne only your soul’s musk
            I am the husk, of your eloquence.

You do not speak my speak
My howling replies, cold
Upon your unlistening ears
I am but a messenger.

The Poet laments;
How do I
Hear the young winds’ woes
Beneath the wild seas’ throes
If your mountainous silence fills me?

O solemn one o mine,
I have tamed the winds to bear me
upon its back
I have quelled my soul to bear you
upon its seam
I offer you my grandest gesture;
            My wildflower words
            by woe-betide winds.

8th January 2014

It feels a little like defeat, I've to admit. To be here. 
I won't give up just yet though. Just the first one, I hope.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Cave (a scene)


At a beach. A halcyon morning of blue skies and voluminous white clouds. A group of young women clad in headscarves sat talking on an old bamboo mat. A red plastic plate was being passed around. All pleasantly smiling and doe-eyed. Satiated by the hearty discourse they just had; for this was a weekly meeting for religious discourse –USRAH. It was the first Monday of their summer break.
Stray bare legged joggers dotted the beach. One girl having separated herself from her peers after their discussion, sat on a bench on the strand. The occasional bicycle whiz past behind her back on the bike path. Seagulls perched on the shiny railings along the strand.
One of the young women on the mat craned her neck and sees her friend in the distance. She stood and made for the strand. Her black veil and matching headscarf billowed around her in the light sea breeze.

SYAIR: (Places her hand on the side of her neck, holding her headscarf in place) The others say we’ll go over the lines after dhuhr.

NADON: Okay (Glances up from her book, smiles briefly)

SYAIR: (Cheerfully) I’m so excited that we’re doing Attar’s poems for the play. (Cocks head slightly) You haven’t eaten have you? They’re having sandwiches. Let’s?

NADON: (Not looking up) In–a minute.

SYAIR: (She waits for a moment then looks down and lets out a small laugh. Exasperated.)

NADON: (Abruptly) Why don’t you sit with me? (Dog-ears her page and closes the book)

SYAIR: (Appraises NADON, then complies)

NADON: I dreamt about a cave last night–––

SYAIR: (About to meet NADON’s eyes but NADON looks away, at the horizon)

NADON: (Faraway look in her eyes but very lucidly) A red cave–there was soft red dirt on the ground–and red dust on the walls. (Lifts her left hand as if running it over said walls but stops immediately). And a small fire in a shallow pit–at the back of the cave. The fire cast dancing shadows on the walls on either side of me. I sat facing the fire and the mouth of the cave–––

SYAIR: (Regards NADON with curious eyes. Her veil hangs passively, emotionless.)

NADON: Perfectly framed by it was the Moon. Full, pearl-white, brilliant. Like a mother watching over me–but not quite like a mother, more concerned than a mother. A strange overflowing of benevolence…–Anyway, I knew it was safe in the cave–but there was fear–coming from myself. Then I stared at my hands. (Opens a palm and glances at it briefly.) At the red lines on my palms. 

SYAIR: (Raptly watches NADON’s face. Is piqued but says nothing as a good listener does.)

NADON: I didn’t understand it but it got to me. It got into my head so that I could think of little else. (Says this steadily, her brows creased).

SYAIR: (Suddenly feels sad for her own ordinarinesswhich she almost never does because she was pious and felt it was a rather ungrateful sort of feeling. In this occasion though, she felt that her simple soul could not comfort NADON’s pathos. A less perceptive listener would have by now well-meaningly dismiss the dream as an insignificance and insinuate that to let it pass is best. But SYAIR was anything but prosaic. And she believes in individualitythat predispositions requires attention. So she responds as her heart dictates)
         Do you remember the story of the Sleepers of the Cave?

NADON: Yes, of course. It comes from Surah Al-Kahf (The Cave), a Makkan surah revealed to Rasulullah s.a.w. during a period of prosecution–as a comforting message of hope for the Muslims. A group of young men sought refuge in a cave to save themselves from execution because they practiced their faith during the rule of an unjust ruler, in a society that rejected them. God made them sleep for 300 years but they do not realize it. When they awaken, a new society that embraced their faith, and a pious ruler had replaced–––

SYAIR: (Quickly) Yes, that’s it. And The Allegory of the Cave?

NADON: Plato’s? (Surprised)

SYAIR: Oh–you underestimate me so!

NADON: (Throws an apologetic glance, continues) –––prisoners in a cave whose reality are shadows and echoes, not knowing they are illusions. When one of them is released, he sees the real objects that projects the shadows, then leaves the cave. Having seen true forms rather than just shadows he returns to the cave to liberate the others. His eyes which had adjusted to the brighter outside world needed to readjust to the dark. So the prisoners scorns him for not being able to perceive the shadows as well as them, think him stupid and would even kill him given the chance.

SYAIR: (Props her elbow on the back of the bench, her white hand grazes her chin then rests her knuckles on her cheek over her veil. A rather languorous pose.) In the former, the cave is a refuge–the latter, a prison. But your cave, which is it?

NADON: (After a pause) Both. It’s a refuge because I feel safe in it but also a prison because there was fear still.

SYAIR: (Tentatively) Suppose the ‘prison’ aspect of your cave–this fear you speak of–isn’t the cave at all because it comes from within?

NADON: (Another pause) Around my very heart?

SYAIR: (Says no more. She was not about to delve further believes that usually dreams are impressions of concerns never concrete messages that warrant nitpicking.)

NADON: (Turns the book on her lap over so the front faces up, AL-GHAZALI. KIMIYA-E SAADAT. THE ALCHEMY OF HAPPINESS.) You know, Ghazali wrote that the heart has a window that opens to the world of Spirits. That when we sleep, this window opens while our five senses close. And when it opens, we get impressions of the ghaib, the unseen world. So, our hearts becomes a mirror that reflects what’s in our luh mahfuz, the Tablet of Fate. But our dreams, they are fettered by worldly thoughts, which dulls this mirror, so the impressions –dreams (Gestures vaguely with a hand) – we get are not clear.

SYAIR: (Nods slowly. Thinking.) I agree with that notion. After all, there’s the solat istikharah. Guidance that comes in the form of dreams.
NADON: (Softly) So, I believe this dream I had is of that kind. It feels…different.
SYAIR: (Looks at NADON’s book) If I’m no mistaken, Ghazali also said that it is foolish to dismiss the existence of something one has not yet experienced one’s self. So, perhaps it is.
NADON: (Quirks an eyebrow) You’ve finally read this. (Lifts the book a little).
 SYAIR: (Earnestly) I have. I owe you an apology for taking so long.
NADON: (Throws a smile, resumes looking at the horizon. Notices that as a great white cloud slowly sails with the wind; the moon, pale in the daylight, is distinctly visible against the backdrop of blue. How welcoming this familiar face seemed to her.)
(Slowly begins) Rasulullah once said that there is an organ in the body, if it is good, the whole body will be good, and if it is bad the whole body will become bad. It is the heart.
(Glances at her palms then clasps her hands together, voice hardens) Do you know what the word dunya means? The lower. The lowly realm. Yet still, the nafs disregards this knowledge. It yearns, it burns. It pines for this world. It possesses the mind, so it becomes an obsession that consumes the heart. There is only one thing in the heart that can burn and that is the soul. Where there is fire, there is smoke. As the heart blackens, what of the immaterial soul? (voice softens) It suffers the fire… (pauses) Living in fear of the world and its people rather than fearing the consequence of living such a life––the insanity of it all. The pitfall of simply knowing without understanding––or worse, not knowing enough––ignorance. Most don’t even realize of this fear in their hearts. They suffer every day because of it but all they feel and see is the chasm. A void of unfeeling helplessness. As the hadith goes, the heart is where there should be imaan and taqwa. Instead, there is nothing…(Sighs)
SYAIR: (Deep concern written all over her eyes. Is aware that deep-seated turmoil had precipitated her friend’s outburst. One she is not privy to. She understood that a thoughtless word now will only irritate. So she kept her silence.)
NADON: (Lets the silence drag a little before finally ripping her gaze from the distance and meets SYAIR’s eyes) I am shameless when with you. Your veil hides any judgments a face always betrays. And your eyes… (rakes SYAIR’s eyes with her own, searching) ––speaks only love.
A shriek followed by a chorus of laughter from the young women on the mat pierced SYAIR and NADON’s gravitas. A seagull had swooped down to steal a plateful of sandwiches with its beak. It landed a few feet from the mat and immediately, a flurry of a dozen other seagulls came to scrimmage for the scrap.
NADON: (Looks on at the happy faces of the laughing women in the background of the frenzied seagulls. Recites lines from ATTAR’s CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS )
The heron whimpered next: ‘My misery
Prefers the empty shoreline of the sea.
There no one hears my desolate, thin cry –
I wait in sorrow there, there mourn and sigh.
My love is for the ocean, but since I –
A bird – must be excluded from the deep,
I haunt the solitary shore and weep.
My beak is dry – not one drop can I drink –
But if the level of the sea should sink
By one drop, jealous rage would seize my heart.
This love suffices me; how can I start
A journey like the one that you suggest?
I cannot join you in this arduous quest.
The Simorgh’s glory could not comfort me;
My love is fixed entirely on the sea.’
SYAIR: (Continues the poem ––)
The hoopoe answered him: ‘You do not know
The nature of this sea you love: below
Its surface lingers sharks; tempests appear,
Then sudden calms – its course is never clear,
But turbid, varying, in constant stress;
Its water’s taste is salty bitterness.
How many noble ships has it destroyed,
Their crews sucked under in the whirlpool’s void:
The diver plunges and in fear of death
Must struggle to conserve his scanty breath;
The failure is cast up, a broken straw.
Who trusts the sea? Lawlessness is her law;
You will be drowned if you cannot decide
To turn away from her inconstant tide.
She seethes with love herself – that turbulence
Of tumbling waves, that yearning violence,
Are for her lord, and since she cannot rest,
What peace could you discover in her breast?
She lives for Him – yet you are satisfied
To hear His invitation and to hide.

NADON: (Self-mockingly) I am Attar’s Heron. Disillusioned by the world’s wretched routine, I mourn meaningless sorrows in solitude, not moving myself to untether my soul from empty pathos, disregarding the real nature of its longing –For God’s mercy.

SYAIR: (Evenly) In that case, I am your Hoopoe. Here to journey with you, down the straight path of faith and good action, towards His mercy.

NADON: (Smiles wanly) You certainly have been. (Now gazes fixedly at the pale moon, secretly drawing comfort from its lofty presence). Did Attar not know? ––That the tide follows the moon. The sea gravitates towards its bright face, tracing its footsteps in the heavens.

SYAIR: (Follows NADON’s gaze. Finding her words incomprehensible)

NADON: (Whispers) Rasulullah.

SYAIR: (Eyes widen, glances at NADON then recites Al-ANBIYA’ 21:107)
‘And we have not sent you, [O Muhammad] except as a mercy to the worlds.’ 

NADON: (Quietly) Yes. The moon in my dreams.

SYAIR: (Teasing) I believe, we may have just escaped our cave of ignorance in regards to your dream, don’t you think? Quite thoroughly tafsir-ed.

NADON: (Playfully) Well, aren’t you the philosopher descending into my dark cave to liberate me from my shadowy dreams?

SYAIR: (Relieved. With smiling eyes) The Aristotle to your Plato.

NADON: (Suddenly serious) No, you’re Al-Kahf’s sleepers of the cave. (Lightly touches the bottom of SYAIR’s veil, hanging slightly below her shoulders) You’re the ‘good company’ the surah teaches us to have. You’re they who practice their faith despite society. Your words today is my cave of mercy.

SYAIR: (Struck) Jazakallah khayr. You are the same in my esteem.

NADON: (Gratefully) Wa iyyaki. I should hope to be so.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's so easy to get bogged down with the heavier things in life and forget to make ordinary moments beautiful by simply letting them 'carry away'. By not making that little extra effort to be kind to yourself, your loved ones and strangers. Kindness is happiness.

Never forget the rewards of being grateful. By enjoying life, and being happy, it is gratitude. And gratitude is ibadah.

May Allah SWT reward us all for enjoying His blessings in this life with His gardens in the next.