A letter for her (X) – Loh-e-Quran

Thank you for keeping your promise, *Nani Jaan.

It was a peaceful night. After a long, long time, I woke up feeling happy. I heard your voice comforting me again. I held your hand, just like I used to. Do you know what the best part was? I felt you protecting me. I felt you protecting me from everything I’ve ever been scared of. I guess that explains the peace in the air dancing around me as I woke up to the sunrise, awed by its beauty!

I’ve been thinking about the Loh-e-Quran, the Al-Huruf-ul-Muqattta ‘at.
Everybody reads it knowing that nobody knows what they mean.
It’s like waiting for the monsoon rain and hoping it irrigates the thirsty fields but knowing it could also destroy it …
It’s like living through the trauma of regret and cursing yourself till many moons later, the fog clears up and you are able to see very clearly that you have been Guided, that it was all His hidden wisdom and His unconditional Love, waiting to reveal itself. It reminds me of how Surah Kahf narrates the story of Moses and the man who was given knowledge from His own. Moses – like us – knew not the wisdom and love behind the defected boat, the dead boy, the broken wall. All until his journey with the wise man came to an end and there remained no secrets. And that’s how we read them at the beginning of some chapters from the Quran – hurrying over them to get to the next chapter and then the next one, not pausing at any of the **‘ruku’ to breathe in the Love, the Mercy, the Promises, the Guidance, not pausing to marvel over the miracle of words and feelings in our dusty hands, not wondering if this huge, huge universe really is just a tiny atom powering another, much larger universe. That’s how we rush ahead, failing to understand, failing to fall in Love with the One. And all of this is the Loh-e-Quran – this mysterious wisdom behind those moments of our lives we waste crying over, those ghastly moments that we fight ourselves for, those agonising moments we refuse to forgive ourselves for. Who are we to forgive ourselves and others when all of this – our unsaid goodbye, the heartless words of heartless people, the untaken decisions, the paralysis of my time – are already a part of His allegory?

They say God loves us more than seventy mothers, and a mother’s love is the noblest of all mortal loves. When I was a child – a little, talkative, mischievous girl – and I’d fall down and graze my knee, ***Ammi would rush towards me and hide me in her arms and kiss away the ‘boo-boo’, and bandage it, and make the pain go away, and then hold my hand to make sure I stay safe. God – our God – held my hand on Earth the day He held yours to take you away. He kept me safe from the pain of watching Azrael take away the life from within you, from each of your limb, one by one. He kept me safe from the pain of holding my own breath as you exhaled for one last time. He kept me safe from giving up learning how to heal human bodies and human hearts. He knew that if it weren’t for our unsaid goodbye, I, too would have made my last journey with you and He did not permit that because He wants me to do something on this Earth, a ‘something’ that I’m slowly beginning to see. He knew that the pain of those nightmares was enough to show me what others needed eyes for because I’m a little too me. And so I felt His hug – the love of a mother’s multiplied by infinity – bursting through me the day you visited me in my dream and everything began to make sense to my heart as it touched the gentleness of Tawakkal, of this unconditional faith in the power of His magic. The mind already knew it, but the soul had to feel it all on its own, all alone. And I was alone, away from all humans. And I felt His hug as the cacophony of my nights stopped and there was no more shaking and no more sobbing and no more struggling breaths. Yes, the horrors of that day are hiding between the cracks in my heart, but they are also covered by the force of His love. And it reminds me of what you’d recite with me – “And which of the favours of your Lord will you Deny?”

So that’s Loh-e-Quran, Nani Jaan. The fight with the past for the love of the future. And as my tongue recites these, in awe of what it might mean, I know that the Revelation when I join you will be beautiful. It will be very beautiful and I’ll feel His love filling in every bit of my soul again.

Thank you. Thank you for not leaving me. You’re the only one who stayed.

Love you!

Your best friend.

*maternal grandmother
**a paragraph of the Holy Quran
***mother

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the angels, too, are flying at the speed of five centimetre per second?

 

There’s something about prayer – dua – that baffles me. It’s like wondering whether the angels, too, are flying at the speed of five centimetres per second, till you suddenly try to guess where their compass is – towards you or away from you.

Is a second there a hundred years here? So does the earth move around the sun at the same speed as us circumambulating around the Ka’aba? Is the universe deep enough to hide all the chords of loss? Is it darker than our fears? Are our souls the wings that angels don’t have?

Why do you and I – ruled by these thoughts and feelings that are dazzling little clusters in the clouds of our lives – put our throbbing foreheads to the ground and choke out our helplessness, our long wish-lists, and complain of starry nights lit up by our soledad when He is closer to us than our jugular veins? He speaks to me – and to you, too – in Surah Rum, “Did they not reflect in their own selves?” So He wants us to meet ourselves before we meet Him; the seconds before happiness, again. Over and over again.

Ais ishq di jhangi wich mor bulenda
Sanu qibla ton Ka’aba sohna yaar disenda
Saanu ghayal karke phir khabar na laaiyaan
Tere ishq nachaiyaan kar key thaiyaa thaiyaa

A peacock calls in the grove of passion
It’s Qibla, It’s Kaaba where lives my love
You asked not once after you stabbed
Your love has made me dance like mad.

– Bulleh Shah

Five centimetres per second is very slow. The hearts are all tired here. Its been too long.

 

 

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Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/gum__naam/

 

 

“He causes two bodies of water to flow and meet together, but between them is a barrier that they cannot surmount”

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Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/gum__naam/

Look at this picture carefully. Do you see how the different shades from the colour palate are kinetic with the serenity that the minarets of the mosque seem to be exuding? Do you feel it?

The colours are hazing into each other – like love and hate, joy and grief, pain and relief; all these different emotions that have baffled the children of Adam and Eve ever since our God said, ‘Kun Faya Kun’ – and you can hear the sweet sound of the *azaan in the background, so lovingly asking you to come home. To come home.

It rather reminds you of how He, “… causes two bodies of water to flow and meet together, but between them is a barrier that they cannot surmount” (Quran 55:19-20). The two seas that meet, but, do not mix at the Gulf of Alaska.

That’s us. All of us.

We’re a little confused, us humans. But we know we want happiness. Do we, though, know where our happiness lies? Or with whom?

Sin meets repentance, but, they do not unite. Repentance meets forgiveness, and they embrace. You can breathe but not live.

Sometimes, we find ourselves dangling in between love and hate, longing and fear for all of what we think our mortal souls desire. We beg Him for guidance, and yet, our visions are perturbed by the immortal path that we’re shown. Our intelligence so easily mocks us. And our hearts so easily deceive us.

It could be a long, long journey, they tell the faithful.

We’re all travellers here, aren’t we? I await the day when my memory will become a memory.

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*Azaan: Muslim call to prayer

yellow butterflies

And whether you are a rebellious twelve-year-old or an ambitious twenty-four or a tired forty-two – or even a bored eighty – there’s just one simple pleasure in life: having something to look forward to. Anticipation, as they say.

A new funky backpack. That new glitzy ring from the local marketplace. Peaceful surrender to ‘Fragrance of Guava – Conversations with Gabriel Garçia Marquez’ in the comforting company of some good ol’ ginger ale. Friendly banter with your cousins just to see grandma smile as you race with her to finish her mango shake. The stable vitals of a very sick loved one. New teacups and intricate henna patterns on soft palms. The early morning call to prayer that jingles gently in the background as you talk to the meyna. Old friends, new letters, yellow butterflies. Even the scary uncertainty that slowly, turbulently eases into a patient wait for the exciting surprise promised by “Verily, with every difficulty there is relief”. (Quran. 94:5)

These are all little grains in the sand that the blue of the sea prostrates on; my little galaxies in the mystery of the thought of infinite, the seconds before happiness, the spring before the favourite season. So this is also what happiness looks like.
I wonder what took me so long…

Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/sabsescape/

The hazy sun

Have you heard of the hazy sun? It’s when your eyes are bathing in tears of words not spoken, regrets not lived, unforgiven selves, hearts bursting with the first taste of Divine love.

So what does it really look like?

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Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/lemonandscotch/

It’s this huge space body that looks like a small orange ball standing fiercely against the blue and white of the sky, peeking at you from amongst the trees or from behind the clouds, trying to shy you away, almost daring you to look at it straight in the eye and question it’s purpose of existence so that it can snap back at you with a “Why are you here?” It’s at that exact moment of eternity that all those wicked moments of your life corner you – like you’re in the boxing ring and your opponent has punched you right in the nose – and every mistake that you’ve ever made, every piece of yourself that you’ve lost in the circus of  pretentiousness, every minute that you’ve wasted mocking others, every thought you’ve invested in planning your own loss, slaps you right across your face. It’s more like letting loose a hungry lion from its cage. What happens when you’re slapped? It hurts. So you hurt. Except that it’s not your cheek that cries out to the pain-receptors, it’s your heart. And then the tear glands do their magic and your eyes become misty and beautiful – they become misty and the sun becomes hazy and you can not see the light at the end of the tunnel; they become beautiful because that’s what grief does,  and because black and white are royal and because sometimes, you just need to let your heart breathe. And then out of nowhere, you receive the hug from God that reminds you that you exist – that on this day, of this month, of this year, you have mattered to the Lord of those who think they are lords. As you recognise that realisation coming at you, your eyes become even mistier and even more beautiful. And the sun becomes even hazier. It’s a gorgeous sight, though, and a feeling to be treasured forever. Because “Among His Signs are the Night and the Day, and the Sun and the Moon”.  (41:37 – Surah Fussilat) The night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Really, why do we need them?

Allah k banday

 

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Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/ax2mir/

Sufi music has a very distinct sound to it, a different ‘samaa’, the kind that seems to beckon you to something you seem unaware of. Like a magnet pulling you towards the realisation of something great, something life-changing, something so beautiful that you are scared of how – and how much – it can change you. What if my entire life was a lie? What will I do then? What – if any – will my ‘before and after’ be like?

Kailash Kher’s ‘Allah k banday‘ does a little something like that.

“Toota toota ek parinda aise toota
Ke phir jud naa paaya
Loota loota kisne usko aise loota
Ke phir ud naa paaya”.

(Broken, a bird was broken such that
It could never fix itself
Stolen, stolen who stole it
Such that it could never fly again!)

Birds fly towards a destination felt only by the heart, the bottom of the heart; that old forgotten house standing at the end of the lane, romanticised by young men and women struggling to live, but breathing easily. Doesn’t that remind you of Attar’s ‘Conference of the Birds’?

“Kho ke aapne par hi to usne tha ud naa sikha
Gham ko aapne saath mein ley le dard bhi tere kaam aayega”.

(After having lost its wings, it had learnt to fly
Take the grief with you, this grief will be helpful)

There’s something incredibly beautiful about grief and pain. “Verily, with every difficulty there is relief!” (Quran. 94:5) Because waiting for the warmth of summers after the harsh, frost-biting winters, is the easiest way to wait for His Love and the most difficult way to survive. Because that’s what you do, you don’t live, you survive.

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Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/shehrozkhan_/

“Tukde tuke ho gaya tha har sapna jab woh toota
Bhikre tukdon mein Allah ki marzi ka manzar paayega”.

(Every dream was shattered when you fell
In broken pieces, you will find God’s will!)

Broken dreams cover the earth under your feet like pieces of glass spread out to make your soles bleed. You look down, hunting for your reflection. You see destiny smile at you, gently, lovingly, confidently. Walk carefully, okay?

“Allah ke bande hasde allah ke bande
Allah ke bande hasde jo bhi ho kal phir aayega”.

(God’s man, smile. God’s man!
Gods man, smile.
Whatever happens, tomorrow will come again.)

Do you smile with your heart? Feel it laughing? Feel the weight of Love dancing around in your blood, pumping itself through each of your cells, blowing into it another soulful love? Maybe you will now that the marriage of your will and God’s will has been celebrated.

I read about the power of prayers and duas, the magic of sincerity, the mysticism of faith. And I wonder if my will became His, or His Will became mine?