In the Shape of Tears

Sometimes we shed tears because words fail us – and people too. Because we fail ourselves. Because we are too much inside that our inside explodes – in the shape of tears. We go through multiple stages. The second we feel the emotion getting way inside us; then how it starts growing bigger and bigger; then something happens, in the form of a sharp pin, that pricks it. And boom. The balloon, our hearts, explodes.

In the shape of tears.

The waves of rough days cover our bodies and souls, and drag us to a place unknown, a place where things are foggy and the vision is unclear. Our eyes are wide open that dust starts hurting our pupils. We try to seal our eyelids. We close them, because they were too open. Too much got inside, like our hearts. Being able to identify the objects is a blessing not a lot of people have. Being able to decide what your heart accepts and what it should refuse is a blessing very few people have. Some say it is a skill, or the result of too much pain. Some people are just unlucky. Everything goes inside their eyes – and hearts.

So in the shape of tears, such hearts explode.

Most of the time, there is no one to blame, not even the genes. It just happens. Sometimes, life just happens. There are days when life seems tough, but it is not tough. It just seems tough. Sometimes, it is tough. Today, it is not tough; but we hope if our hearts were so. If they were tough. Not so fragile and weak (or is it week? I always miss this word. I’ll go for weak, as my heart feels it shows weakness).

In the shape of tears, we break apart.

Crying is a sign of strength. The bigger the explosion, the deeper and louder the cries are, which clearly indicates how much inside was buried. Crying is a sign of strength because it tells so much about that person. It tells how hard they try. It is alright that they fail. They tried. It shows how deep they get to things. How blended they are. How involved.

People usually cry over gone things, or things they know for sure will go. People cry because they are helpless. Because they are incapable of holding on to what their internal wants. They cry because they are lost or because they lost something. They cry because their emotions were set on – and that, alone, shows greatness: they felt (a luxury not a lot have).

We explode in the shape of tears, because water is weak. And water is fragile. And water is transparent. But water can hold ships made of steel.

We explode in the shape of tears because, like water, we keep going despite the great depth of the hurt within, and despite the darkness inside.

To You

Sometimes in the journey of searching for ourselves, we get lost – even more. Emotions are a very hard-to-understand and hard-to-explain state of heart and mind. We go around remembering the past and how everything used to be like, and seeking a future we have no idea how it will be. Sometimes we just want to sit back and forget that time moves and forget that time is getting somewhere, forget that we are moving forward. Those memories that keep us imprisoned in what was once and keep us on the verge of never embracing our new selves. We see those we once had as friends and we see how life drags them away and we are always – always left behind alone. And we meet new people and we make new relations. And again, time; they move along – always left behind alone.

On the ride of self-discovery we meet certain people who make it feel like our last left-behind was our real last. We touch something in the air that makes us feel like we belong, like life has a meaning. Have you ever been to the sea? Of course you have. Have you ever listened to people’s whispers and stories that are passed from a wave to another. The secrets! The breaths and the wounds. The sea is not just a big pond of water; it represents stories and poems that will never be forgotten to the sand, nor to the waves.

I am not a sea; I am not a breeze; I am not a wave. I may be a secret, a breath, a whisper. I leave thinking that I will not be remembered. That I will not be worthy of the talk of the waves. However, as we look for ourselves, we find others. Others who have been to the sea and have been a secret, a breath, a whisper. The stars at night share our stories, narrate what they see to each other. They try to live on the hope of those stories realizing how significant they are. And they sleep in the morning – the stars sleep in the morning – and so do the stories.

Finding a soul that hovers within the boundaries of a body freely and warmly is a rare thing. Keeping that soul is a rarer thing. And on the ride of self-discovery, we find the one soul that could keep us in place – and we find ourselves left behind (not alone) – with memories. Sweet memories that are screaming for a replay. A reunion. 

A soul and another hovering within the boundaries of two bodies freely and warmly sharing lonesome – and Love. 

Why I wish to be a Niqabi

With devoted looks come the need for greater inner devotion

As a child who was born and raised in a family that fully believes in Allah and His commandments, I grew up to be internally healthy and sound. As we grow older, things in life happen that bring us closer to Allah. For those unfortunate, those things drift them away from Him. My father’s martyrdom when I was 1.5 years old made me realize at a young age that there exists a God and that He is One. I remember how I always counted on Him and turned to Him, considering the fact that I was fatherless and brotherless.

The best parts about who I am were because of my mother, who spared no efforts to raising me and my sisters the best way possible. I am the youngest of my two sisters. When they wore hijab for the first time, they were around 13 or 14, I was back then 8 or 9. I remember how jealous I felt to see them wearing their hijab to school while I would go without one. I remember thinking how awesome they looked in those white scarfs. My mother, alhamduliah – God bless her, allowed me to wear one to school too. Our neighbors told her that I was too young, but she insisted that she would not stop me from doing it since that was a good, virtuous seed to plant in a child.

According to my mom, I used to wear the white scarf to school and go home with it off and entirely blackish. Apparently, I used to play around more than I should that it would get really dirty. “You used to feel hot and take it off and go home without it, but wear it the next day. You were very young. I did not want to say no to you. I wanted you to find your way on your own. I wanted you to love it on your own and embrace it entirely when your right time comes”. I remember, partially, about those days. When I was in the seventh grade, I wore it and that time was forever – until this day, at least and in shaa Allah until I die.

Taking your identity and who you are a step forward is never easy. Sometimes we need to fall few times until we are entirely able to make it to the other side. I have been considering wearing a niqab for around 3-4 years (I know, that long?) The thing about niqab that is different from hijab is that with hijab I had my chance as a child, not obliged yet to wear one, to try it on and off multiple times. To create a bond with it. To love it and to be its friend. To hold on to it so tight. Now, however, once I wear the niqab, there is no going back. My relationship with niqab has to be established before actual bonding with it. 3 to 4 years of thinking are not long when you are making such a huge step in your life. With devoted looks come the need for greater inner devotion. 

Why the niqab?

I don’t feel that my hijab is enough any more. I feel like there is so much inside me I want to upgrade; and for that to happen, I need to upgrade my outside as well. While so many misled people think hijabs and niqabs constrain us from who we are, the truth is that they actually help us explore ourselves within this black universe that surrounds us every time we get out of the door. Hijabs and niqabs do not limit us; they open doors for us – wide open. I want to be better and I know, from the very bottom of my heart, that making such step forward will push me to knowing more about myself and Allah.

I look around and see how many niqabis there are out there and feel so jealous. I wish I could be one of them. I want to be one of them. I do not know about their souls; however, for a person to make such decision and go for it. For someone to get up, buy a niqab, and do it, it must have taken them so much thinking and deeper believing. I have recently followed a page on facebook that is called “Wear it and don’t be afraid”; I have been following their posts and I have felt that they are messages for me.

Why am I not a niqabi yet?

I already love it so much. I really do. I believe it is the right next step for me. However, I need to make sure that I am ready. The niqab is ready for me. I am just still few seconds on the floor. All I need is some little time so I can get up. Jump. And reach that level of bonding. Plus, as some believe that the niqab is a bonus and that it is not an obligation, it is going to be hard to convince the inner circle that surrounds me on a daily basis that the niqab is the right choice and the best choice for me.

I hope that my family supports me as they did when I first chose to wear the hijab. I hope they agree to let me explore this new world the way I want. I hope I am allowed to do what my heart has been clinging on to for so long. If there are some girls who make niqab sound like a bad thing, I would like to be the girl who wears niqab the way it should be worn. 

I hope I become a niqabi, a true niqabi – one day in shaa Allah. Amen.

The Future Already Here #2 Phoenix

Teasing Ahmed Al Shurafa, CEO of Phoenix, his friends keep changing the pronunciation of the word ‘Phoenix’ making it an O, as in phone, instead of an E. This might sound like a trivial thing to people in general; however, to Ahmed, Phoenix is more than just a name for his company. It is part of his dream, who he is, and everything he has dreamed of.

“The legend of Phoenix has always inspired me. Have you ever seen a Phoenix rising from the ash of its predecessor? Not in real life of course” he chuckled, paused then said, It’s beautiful – breathtaking. It’s like sitting by the window during autumn watching nature around you dying, and waking up two seasons later finding everything around you has bloomed,” he said as his eyes twinkled.

Phoenix is a company that is interested in making Virtual Reality applications. The most recent of which is the making of Al Aqsa Mosque. For Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip, this sacred place is not an area easily visited. Palestinians are not allowed to go pray there until they are really old – old enough to die at any second. “I have always wanted to go there. To Jerusalem. To pray in the Aqsa mosque. As children, we heard stories about that holy place from where the prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him ascended. We heard stories about how since its occupation many young men and women fought for its protection. We heard stories about the Dome of the Rock. About the details of the walls,” Ahmed said explaining why he chose to create Al Aqsa Mosque in 3D.

“Such stories remain part of our memories wherever we go and no matter how old we become. I have seen pictures of that place, I have spoken to people from there – and it always made me want to go there even more. If I cannot be there physically, I’ll make the place come for me instead. I started working on a 3D version of the Mosque; I had to talk to so many people who went there and I had to watch so many videos about the place so that it would be as real as possible,” words rushed out of Ahmed’s mouth as he passionately displayed his application.

Ahmed knew how difficult such work is, but he was driven by his emotions and determination. His absolute trust in the love he has for the Mosque. A creative, intelligent, young man saw the doors around him locked, so he created his own world inside. “Al Aqsa Mosque is just the beginning. I believe that this technology can help save the educational system! Why tell students about the Second World War when we can make them an application that could take them there! Why bore the students with abstract thoughts about geography when we can let them explore the world on their own! Ever wondered how your heart looks like when you meet someone you love? Ever wondered how babies grow inside their mothers’ wombs? All of this can be achieved through Virtual Reality applications. Go wherever you want. Whenever you want. You don’t even need a seat belt,” he added.

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Ahmed’s tone was filled with love and life. He spoke about the obstacles that hindered his work, and how with the support of his family and the ones he loves he was able to overcome everything. “There is only one thing I wish I could do: add the scent of an early Fajr (morning prayer) while wandering around the Mosque from my house. That would make it perfect,” Ahmed gently smiled, “I only hope that one day I will be a true Phoenix,he continued.

What Ahmed does not know is that he has already rose from the ash of generations past and this time he is going last, for he has proven himself worthy of being remembered as the person who made the dream of a million people, i.e. visiting Al Aqsa Mosque, come true.

What once seemed impossible, Ahmed the Phoenix, has made real – in 3D. 

https://www.facebook.com/Ahmed.A.Alshurafa

 

The Story of the Ifk

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The Story of the Ifk

by Yasir Qadhi

The seerah is abound with numerous incidents from which we can extract benefits which can be implemented in our daily lives. The story of the ifk is one such incident which is overflowing with lessons.

One of the most traumatic periods in the life of Prophet Muhammad sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam centered around his family affairs. It was an attack, a slander invented by the hypocrites, against Aisha radi Allahu anha, the most beloved of his wives, and one of his closest companions.

This incident is one which carries immense benefit, and it has the effect of softening our hearts to the extent that we can even feel the pain and anguish which the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, Aisha…

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The Night that Never Happened & Always Repeats Itself

At some point, we will look around us and, unfortunately, within us and feel very blurry about everything. It is not doubt, it is never doubt. It’s something deeper and worse. It’s the hollowness we have been so afraid of. The bogyman under the bed. The shadow that hunts us when the lights are off. The fragments whose edges are too sharp that they keep pricking our chests and the internal side of the flesh.

Life is not difficult. It’s pretty simple, which is why we are all just so miserable. We are miserable because we know how easy it is and how hard we make it seem. Every single day is a fight. It’s a fight against sadness, a fight against other humans – who love, just love making our days pretty horrible, a fight against hardships, and, worst of all, a fight against ourselves.

Usually we sit around hoping for a beam of light, something that would shake us into a world of – hope. We drag our bodies at a late hour to sit by the window, any window as long as it’s in a spot far from others. And we sit there. We look up. We look up. And hold the iron bars that are protecting us from falling. And break down in tears and break down in so much pain and break down in so much helplessness. And our hands surround the iron bars. They suffocate the iron bars. We cling so hard to the iron bars and scream silently to the only One listening. We let it all out. All what we have been hiding from the world. We just let it out. And He hears us. And after the tears. And the sobs. And the racing heartbeats. And the coughs. And the looking for napkins. After all of that. We look up. And we see how big the sky is. How small the stars are. How shiny the moon is. And we inhale so much fresh air. And our eyes, now swollen, start to close slowly, and we blink couple of times. And we end it with a begging ‘please’ and a strong ‘Amen’.

We go to sleep. In hope for a dream. A sign. And wake up feeling stupid. It’s not how it goes. It takes more than a dream. A sign. We wear our masks.

We embrace a new day, like last night never —-.

Teaching Literature: A Journey, an Adventure

When I first started as a student at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), I wanted to graduate as a school teacher who taught English as a foreign language. I wanted to water the thirsty souls and be a good example. I remember how I hated it when one of my English language teachers would use ‘is’ with you or ‘are’ with he. It was painful to the heart – and ear; literally. As time passed and as I ‘moved out’ of the Engineering department after a semester of experience, my passion took another turn, not the wrong one, though. I had never read a whole book; not even school books. However, I joined the English Literature Department and that was the beginning – the beginning of my fairy tale. 

I was really good at English; I have always been really good at English. It was Allah’s blessing, a gift I had nothing to do with. I knew that once I am in the field, I must not leave except with an excellent degree. Alhamdulilah, I graduated with an A. After four long years- and a longer semester – i, so small, did it. Let me just sum the race with one word ‘Passion’. It was passion that woke me up every morning, passion that made me read every single book multiple times, passion that made me wake up when the world is asleep, and passion that made me wish – pray so hard – I teach literature.

At 11:20 pm, one of Ramadan nights, I was called. “Would you be willing to teach a literary course this summer?” I held my breath. I held it deep so the professor on the other line of the phone would hear a rational, old and responsible teacher replying with a simple, “Yes thank you,” or , “No, I am busy, but thank you”. I politely and quietly said Yes. I hung up. I said, “YES. YES. YES. A THOUSAND TIMES YES,” quoting Jane Bennet, a Pride and Prejudice character. I was first told to wait as I will be teaching one course ‘Elizabethan Literature’ and I was then asked to teach ‘Drama’ as the other teacher refused. I had only one night to prepare – that a long with a very long translation file I was working on.

Do you know that feeling of anxiety and that of happiness that can work better than caffeine?  the one that can keep you awake for days? Well, that’s what happened to me. My first literature class. The first time I imagined that class was when I was in my second year. I was dipped in the pool of language and literature that I swallowed nothing but poetry and everything literary. My first literature class. I had already rehearsed that beginning multiple times in my imagination and several times to my couches, and beds. I always knew what I wanted to say on my first day. I always knew what I wanted to do. Help the students love literature. Help them see what I saw. Love what I loved. Be filled with passion. i, very small- alhamdulilah, did.

The first question I asked my students knowing it to be true: Why do you hate literature?

Listen up ladies! We are learning literature here. You all have to fix your issues before we begin. I cannot teach you something you hate. Love it so we can make it through the course. 

I asked the students to list the reasons why they hated literature and helped them figure out ways to move on. To let go. To start over.To Love. The results, from what I saw in their eyes as the course came to an end, were miraculous. I am more than happy to have achieved, at least, one thing: they read the whole books. They loved the characters. They hated the characters. They thought. They spoke. They sparkled. I saw; in their eyes, I saw – passion. That made me  feel so grateful, that I accomplished something in my life.

I wanted to add some spice to the courses. They were going great. But they were missing something: the spirit! That was when I decided to hold a special day for both classes. With my Elizabethan group we spent the class at the university’s Central Library, my secret garden throughout my 4 years of school. The activities we held were all greatly related to Macbeth, the play we were reading.The Drama class was on the top of one of our university’s buildings (the roof). The girls were asked to make their own characters and blend with a bigger crowd creating a whole play. It was a mesmerizing day. We all had fun. We all felt what we were studying, and in my case teaching. We had breakfast together and bonded. A whole family on a journey. A whole family on an adventure – that’s how it felt.

Teaching literature taught me a lot about myself and others. Students don’t need swords against their necks, students don’t need headaches. They need a delicate touch to pierce the walls they surround their hearts with. They need someone to show them the path. To give them, not only one hand but, hands. To be by their sides. To hold them dear. To think of them great. A teacher can only convince his students that they are worthy and smart when he himself believes, strongly, that they are. All students can be great if they had someone to back them up. If they had someone to show them the way. Students are fresh soils ready for gardening. We either plant flowers or let weed take over.

And hey!

Aren’t we all some little boats looking for our harbors? Let us, as teachers, be our students’ wind; the wind and engine that drive that boat to safety. Let us stir them to their harbors and help them discover who they are – what they can be; and they WILL be.