Sunday, December 29, 2013

Grief does not cease when it should, or when it is expected to. It doesn't bow to your will. It hides and disguises itself as contentment, as stress, as hunger. It lets you sleep for a moment or two. It lets you understand that life has gone on and will continue to go on. It lets you do all of these things, and for that you are grateful.

But it returns, and that is okay. It is okay, I tell myself, to have grief, to live with pain. It is okay that making myself a cup of tea hurts because I remember how Amr like three spoons of sugar in a cup. It is okay that I place my head and cheek where he used to sit and wait, just wait to see if something different will happen, or if the couch will absorb some of this love that is going to burst from my chest.

It's fine for things to make perfect sense in one moment, and then feel chaotic and aimless the next.

I remind myself that I am only human, not angel from light, not devil from fire. Just human from the earth. The earth shakes as does my heart, it flips and is flooded and is snowed and rained upon. It is beautiful and frightening. It is never just one thing.

I am never just one thing.

Monday, December 09, 2013

To you who disbelieved at the moment you pointed and shot her baba...

Every time Ruqaya looks at a man on TV or in a book and points to him, saying "baba?" - may God strike in your heart the same pain as my heart is stricken with for my baby.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I dreamt I was swimming in the ocean with you, it was nighttime and the water and sky were dark, black. There was a light shining from above - I could see the shadows of fish and strange creatures lurking below the surface. But I wasn't afraid. We swam until we reached the shore of an island and entered the home that was there. Waking up from this dream was difficult. I wanted to hold on with everything I had, I wanted it to be real, I wanted to feel safe again instead of feeling like I'm floating in dangerous waters with no anchor.

Above all, my greatest fear is to forget. To go on as though my life wasn't touched by unselfish love. I fear waking up and looking Ruqaya and saying to myself my daughter is beautiful, instead of saying our daughter.

I fear I will go back to wanting everything right in this world and not caring about the next, or not carrying out something of significance. I fear that you will have died fighting against injustice, and I will die in my bed, contributing little to the world. I fear being ashamed on the day that people's faces will be dark and shamed. And looking at you from afar to see you under the shade of God's throne. I fear that all the pain of this world will not bring me closer to you, and closer to You.

I spend most of my days in fear now, fear that I am not doing enough, being enough, caring enough. I wish that my fear would be alleviated and that I could be free.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Running between Graves

Yesterday I was driving my mother somewhere and when I got to the car I realized that I forgot to bring my wallet with my driver's license and insurance. So I left her in the car and ran back through the building so that she wouldn't be late. As I was running, I suddenly remembered the last time I ran so fast was the day of my husband's janazah, 7 weeks ago.

For anyone who doesn't know, I'm referring to the fact that thugs were running after us (they specifically wanted to hurt the family of the "sheikh") right after my husband was buried, in the graveyard.

All the thoughts that were going through my head at the time came back to me just then. I remember that I didn't really know what was going on, I was just running forward, hearing really loud bangs and screams behind me. I can't remember the last time I was in a graveyard, and it seemed so odd to be running there, of all places. There was an old woman in front of me who was also running with much difficulty, I passed between many graves of people I didn't know. I squeezed through small openings between them and hurried through paths that were dry and dusty. I didn't see who it was, but someone hurled a stone at me and I was hit on my cheek. I still have a small scar there.

I was separated from everyone I knew, and I escaped out of the graveyard into a side street. Someone I didn't know told me to run and just hide in the entrance of any building, but I didn't hide. I just kept running on that side street without looking back. I remember almost not caring whether I lived or died at that point. I only asked Allah in my heart to let me go on for the sake of my daughter, and He did.

I eventually ran into my cousin and brother-in-law who came out of the same entrance, they helped me home.

It's strange to think about it now, it almost seems like it's some scene from a movie instead of something that actually happened.

Although I didn't get a chance to visit my husband's grave that day, I went a week later, and saw where he had been buried. There was a stark contrast between the chaos of his burial and the day I went to him. It was calm and quiet that day. And I stood at his grave and said salaam to him, and I wondered so many things, like how it was that he got to escape from the prison of this world, and how if he were alive and saw how badly his friends and family were being treated, his heart would've been broken. When I think about him now, I know that he escaped from something that the rest of us have to live with, and I say Alhamdulillah for his sake, and I believe that God was truly merciful towards him in that he did not have to experience the grief of the Egypt that he left behind.

At the end I pray that he is in a better place, and that he is at peace. I pray to be reunited with him again in the next life.

And now I know the worthlessness of this world. We sell our souls to achieve status in this life, but we are all already walking through a graveyard, towards the spot we will be buried in, we just don't know it yet.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Dua of the Oppressed

My mother called me when I was still in Egypt, a few days after my husband was killed. She was very worried about me - she thought that the Egyptian police would find me because I was speaking out against what they and the military scum did to my husband. She thought they would find me and then who knows what they'd do. My response to her was "what can they do to me, omee, that they haven't already done? What else can they take from me? If they kill me, that would be a mercy."

And that's what I feel now, what else can any person do or say against me that is worse than murdering the person I loved most in this world? I'm not scared of speaking my mind and telling the world that the Egyptian military killed my husband in cold blood. I'm not scared because when they took him from me, I felt I had nothing more to lose. Nothing more to fear.

I actually feel sorry for the people in Egypt who are doing and supporting the killing, perhaps it's an odd emotion to pity someone who has oppressed you. But in those first days after finding out what happened to my husband, I reached deep into a place in my heart that I didn't even know was there. A place that was reserved for this moment...I made the kind of duaa against them that they should fear every waking moment, because in that moment I was oppressed - they had unlawfully taken something that didn't belong to them, they had spilled a Muslim's blood. Our prophet (pbuh) said: "Fear the supplication of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allah."

To that soldier who aimed at my husband and pressed the trigger as though he was playing a video game, I asked God to make his every waking moment full of despair, torture, and the kind of pain that he made me feel. And I asked God to punish him eternally in hell - him and all those above him who gave the orders to kill unarmed protesters with no mercy or warning.

And every mother, father, spouse or child who lost someone they loved dearly, I know in my heart that they made the same duaa as I did. And because of that, I feel sorry for people who think they are above the control of God. Because there is no barrier between what we asked and Allah. And Allah is Al-Mujeeb, He is the One Who Responds to the caller when he calls upon Him.

Ya Allah, answer my duaa and leave none of them on this earth except that he or she is tortured just as they have made my heart and those of thousands upon thousands of families tortured. Ya Allah bring them to their knees, and let them feel the despair that they brought upon themselves.

There is truly no one to fear in this world above Allah.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Let the dust settle at your feet, don't remove sand particles from your shoes because that's the sand from the graveyard. It lines the insides of your soles. Let the sadness settle in, let it find the parts of your heart it hasn't yet touched simply because there was no time. Let it invade, let it be as though you never felt happiness before. But then let it go.

Let your husband's perfume sit on the shelf in your closet so that your daughter can know how he smelled. Let his slippers lie in front of the bathroom so you can make wudu with them. Read from his pocket-sized Qur'an. Look through his wallet and remember the times he got his driver's license and library card. Wear his wedding band and smile at the thought of you both picking it out together.

See the gold coloured half-moon in the sky, believe it is made gold for him.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Asmaa, would you mourn a bird who is released from its cage and now roams freely in the heavens?

Sunday, July 28, 2013


I have a lot of anger seething inside of me, anger that I have to subdue because I don't want to wreck my relationships with important people in my life, anger that I have to quell because I have a child that needs me to be happy and take care of her well, anger that if tested would likely spill over the edges and burn whatever it touches.

I've been in Egypt for the past two months, I've seen the president get forcibly removed from his position, detained, and likely imprisoned for a long time (if not worse). I've seen photos and videos of people getting shot between their eyes and through their hearts for not being okay with a military coup, for daring to protest against the "great" Egyptian military's decisions. Women were killed, babies were killed.

Far worse than this (and from where my anger truly stems) is not the indifference of Egyptians to what is happening...rather, the sense of pride they have that their military is ridding Egypt of "terrorists" and those who wish to "destroy our country." It makes me physically ill thinking that respectful, educated people don't give a damn that their own people are being massacred in cold blood. The media, naturally, is to blame for this blindness that people seem to be suffering from. Since a member of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected as president, they have been spending every waking moment demonizing him and his party, blaming them for every possible thing wrong with the country (past, present, and even future). Many Egyptians who I considered (past tense) to be intelligent and respectful people are under the impression that the media can say and do no wrong, and that the military should go ahead and just kill anyone protesting against them (when asked "what about women, what about children?" they reply "it's their fault that they are there").

I can't even begin to understand where these people's hearts have gone, I suppose they've gone with their minds into some black hole in the universe. Who knows if they'll ever come back from this.

I'm angry that every time my (bearded) husband leaves the house, I wonder whether he'll come back to me alive or if he'll be the victim of the crippling anti-religious fervor holding the country. I wonder if we'll ever escape the dirty looks we get when walking together. I wonder if Egypt will ever be the same again, or if it will now be worse for a religious person to live here than any given non-Muslim country. Honestly, current Egypt makes me miss the political apathy in Canada.

I just don't know how long the anger can stay here before I burst at the seams.

Saturday, May 04, 2013


Lately I've been thinking about how people change over the years - the people I have known for ages, some since I was a child. Logically and morally I know that when people change something about themselves (especially in the religious sense), I should not be quick to judge them or the reasoning behind those decisions. But recently I've noticed a lot of my peers (and by peers I mean females of a similar age and with similar education) starting to become more liberal about their religion (as well as other things).

And while I know that religious decisions are deeply personal, I often wonder at the trends that I've been observing amongst my peers. I've noticed that as the years progress, many of them slowly start to detach themselves from their Muslim identities. The more they venture into higher education, the greater their separation from Islam. Obviously this isn't the case for all or even most women, but it has happened enough for me to notice it as a pattern.

I can't help but feel that as your education is furthered, there is an intense pressure put on you to adopt a code of thinking that favours self-taught knowledge over traditional teachings (traditional in the broadest sense of the word). I remember while I was in university, I always had this drive to continuously prove to my classmates and professors that I was an open-minded person, not tightly bound by traditional thinking. I desperately needed people to see me as something other than just a Muslim.

When I was pursuing my masters, my attitude changed - I don't know if this was because I had grown more experienced in life, or whether it was just because I sort of stopped caring about how other people perceived me. Instead of pushing my Islam out of the classroom, I made it the topic of my research papers and my presentations. I wrote about my personal journeys and my relationship to others being defined by my relationship to God. I came to terms with the fact that in a stand off between myself, my beliefs, my essence, and the system of education I wasn't going to be the only one to change.

I consider myself to be lucky that I didn't bend to the will of a higher education that claims to be inclusive but actually mocks most, if not all traditional types of knowledge. A lot of people are getting lost in the education system, they are trying to pull out their roots and plant them someplace else, they are distancing themselves from who they once were, as though to say I'm ashamed of my past. But I can't think of anything sadder or harder on the soul than giving up what you once were to be someone who only seeks acceptance and value from other human beings.

Friday, May 03, 2013

In my nostalgic moments, I sometimes rifle through my old poetry and blog posts, and I came across something from 2010 that made me grin:

there is a secret urge
that lays beneath my skin
to bury these old skeletons
and the coffins that they’re in

I’d take my trusty shovel
and dig throughout the night
and wipe my sweaty brow
with the garments of my plight

every speck of dirt dislodged
will remind me of your dead heart
and your ugly mangled faces
I was so fortunate to depart

but alas I do fear
that my stamina is low
so my shovel shall remain hidden
underneath my vengeance’s glow

and once my chance comes yet again
oh yes, that day you’ll see
the mercy that I once gave you
will be as scarce as a December bee.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Growing up with Baby

Observing baby's different milestones reminds me of how God taught man that which he knew not (96:5). She was born as a 6 pound, and now she's learning things so quickly that it's rather shocking. She'll literally be able to do something today that she couldn't do yesterday. Like randomly reach up to touch my face in an inquisitive manner - my chin, then lips, then nose (then naturally my glasses to try and pull them off).

But the truth is, I think I may be learning even more than her. I'm learning how to be a different human being - one who doesn't have the luxury of being selfish anymore. I'm learning a lot about love and fear and parental paranoia. God is teaching us both how to be new and different every day. We are both growing up.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Life Lessons for Baby

Though she's only 3 months old, once in a while I like to talk to my baby as though she's an adult. Instead of singing her the ABCs, I just level with her about life issues that she should know about as she grows up. These exchanges usually take place as I'm changing her diaper.

Today's life lesson was about knowing yourself and being true to yourself through honesty:

"Ruqaya, you need to know that the most important thing in life (after worshiping God, of course) is knowing yourself and being true to yourself through honesty. While growing up, you need to come to understand and appreciate yourself and your emotions. Never set aside your emotions in order to please someone else. For example, if someone has upset you or hurt your feelings, you need to be honest and tell that person how their actions have affected you. Your heart is the most important organ in your body and above all, you need to protect it (baba might say it's your brain that's the most important, but between you and me, it's your heart). In order to have true, honest, loving relationships, you need to first love yourself and then your heart and mind will be ready to love someone else."

Something tells me she agrees with me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More Baby

I can hardly be surprised that I haven't posted for the last 2 months. Having a baby is an all-consuming life choice. I'm either feeding her, changing her, putting her to sleep, playing with her, or thinking about the challenges of raising a child to be a decent human being. And then there's the not sleeping at night thing which is as bad as it sounds.

I suppose the scariest thing of all is knowing that this is your life from now on, you can't change your mind and return to sender. That being said, I love her and she's precious, and seeing those first few smiles kind of makes me forget all the pain and sleepless nights.

I suppose all we can do is pray for our children to become good people, and try to post on our blogs in the short in fleeting intervals of free time we have.

And now I have to stop because my baby's hands are cold and that situation needs to be rectified.