At first, I simply thought I didn’t matter.
Not necessarily because my voice, being so soft,
was ignored or spoken over whenever it struggled to breach my lips,
but because the world turned its back on me when I stood for my people.
And my people were the oppressed,
the ones put on trial for crimes never committed
because of their skin, colored different shades of chocolate;
and my people were women
juggling careers and families and still accomplishing their dreams
in the face of adversities that would have struck fear in the hearts of men;
and my people were those dying by the numbers,
unheeded by the ones who had promised to care.
Since my worries seemed trivial compared to the latest fashion trends and gossip,
I quietly came to my own conclusion that I didn’t really matter in this world.
But strangely enough, I was wrong.
I mattered when a woman stole glances at my veiled mother, then approached her,
and my mother hastily braced herself for a spewing of hatred,
but she received the polite inquiry instead,
“Are you Muslim?”
“Are you Muslim? Because I have such respect for the honor Islam gives to women.”
I mattered, and my mother mattered as she thanked the woman lovingly,
chest bursting from happiness, mind reeling in a precious jewel of a story to tell her children,
to lift their spirits wallowing in the darkness of disappointment.
I was cast aside the night our disappointment started,
when I, a woman, witnessed a man who boasted of molesting get elected,
when I, a Muslim, witnessed a man who threatened to shackle me get elected,
not necessarily for those things, but because little things like that didn’t matter.
My identity as a Muslim woman was nothing because money talks, and boy, did his scream.
I felt of little importance when the statistics of innocents dying in the hands of their oppressors,
became only numbers, without faces and souls,
when the world became numb to reality and chose to turn the other way,
deaf to the cries of orphans; insensitive to the tears of mothers, the helplessness of fathers.
My distress eased a little when countries welcomed refugees,
their inhabitants greeting them with open arms.
When they joined forces in protests
and pressured peace for the world’s innocents.
When, even if they couldn’t help, lifted their hands in prayer, pleading rest for the weary.
I mattered again when a lady thought of me at my usual post outside the library,
when she went out of her way to greet me with a salam,
her kind voice tinted with a proud American accent.
Peace be upon you,
an unspoken gesture of welcome that fed hope to my hungry soul.
And upon you, my lady, and upon this country of yours for which I wish the best,
and upon my people, the oppressed of the world, be peace.
I was belittled again that day before Thanksgiving,
when I walked into a government office of the city I grew up in,
unable to shake away the sense of foreboding, still not used to the staring,
reminding myself to keep a sparkle in my eyes,
compassion in my voice, in an attempt to show them my normality.
My humanity was nonexistent when that woman sat back in her plastic chair
as if it was a mighty throne, only looking down to curse angrily in my face,
telling me to go back to my country to a home I’d never had,
claiming “We’re at war with you,”
yelling, “Don’t bomb us, don’t bomb us,”
emboldened by the indifference of the silent policeman seated behind the desk,
as if I weren’t human under my veil, but a monster of something else.
Yet, I was almost glad it had happened when I saw the way
my white friend rage as I narrated the incident,
angry beyond measure,
because though we weren’t connected through religion,
we were both human, and when would that ever be enough?
She cried tears of hurt over my pain,
soothing my anxiety, reassuring me,
that to her, I was someone beloved.
2016 was the year I learned the definition of an anachronism;
someone who doesn’t mold into the shape of their own time period,
a traveler indefinitely stuck in the wrong century.
I realized something – after reading its definition.
I realized I didn’t belong.
I was mistaken in my diagnosis.
I wasn’t ‘doesn’t matter’ – ‘nothing’.
I was ‘anachronism’- ‘doesn’t belong’.
Perhaps I forgot,
when deeply immersed in the alternating moods of content and misery,
overlooked a word of advice my Prophet had left for me,
to live in in this world a wayfarer
until I happened along my home
I’m an anachronism of sorts.
And I belong
in the future,
the Hereafter my Lord has promised me.
An anachronism is usually associated with something old or antique. In this poem I used it in a different way, calling myself an anachronism not because I belong in the past, but because I belong in the future; the Hereafter.
The inspiration for this piece came from contemplations on life. The way I see it, Muslims have always been in hardship, from the time of our Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) until today. The prophet and his companions faced persecution when they began their mission of spreading Islam. This persecution lessened after they migrated to Madinah and conquered Makkah, but they were tested in other ways. After that, there were trials that happened during the rule of the four Khalifahs. Muslims suffered in Palestine in the hands of Crusaders before Salahuddin Ayyubi conquered it, by the hands of the Mongols before they became Muslims, in the World Wars, Bosnia in the 1990’s, and today in Syria, Sudan, Kashmir, Palestine, Yemen, Burma and so many other places. The point is, this is definitely not the first time we’re facing hardship. When Allah loves a person, He tests them, and today the Muslim Ummah is being tested, as it has been for centuries.
When people say xenophobic things, ignore human rights, or threaten us, it shouldn’t faze us, because we have trust in Allah. This world is only a test. It is temporary, a house of disappointment, an insignificant wing of a mosquito, the fragile web of a spider. This world isn’t our home; we’re only travelers who will one day leave to our final destination, to our real home. And our real home depends on the choices we make and how we deal with our trials.
This slam poem was meant to give comfort and solace to Muslims, to remind us that we are not alone in these times of trials. We have Allah with us. All the deficiencies we have in this world will be fulfilled in the Hereafter. Allah will hold the oppressors accountable for their deeds.