Something for my Beautiful Souls*

*Beautiful souls is what my group of best friends and I call ourselves. This slightly fun and light piece was originally written for the Global Ummatic Festival 2017 but due to certain reasons, I couldn’t perform. No two of us are of the same ethnicity and background, so you can imagine why I wanted this read at GUF. 3ala kulli haaal.. My plan was to still debut it as a performance, but I was hit with a realization today that I should publish it before it gets old and forgotten :p 


The Prophet said souls are like conscripted soldiers.

Those whom they recognise they’ll get along with

and those they don’t, they won’t.

And I think I’ve found my conscripted soldiers.

I call them Beautiful Souls.


After 4 years together I reckon

We are all made of the same essence

Even if we are of different colours

Different shades of the same sand

The very sand Adam was made from

Fashioned by the same Godly hands

Hands of The master architect,

Allah. Allahu akbar.


I grew up not knowing where to call home

For home was a different city every year

Some say home is where you celebrate eid

But what if you pack eid in a suitcase

And Eid is a plane ticket to a place 4000 miles away?

Some say home is a birthplace

And your homeland

But what if that means nothing beyond a red special booklet

With the ugliest picture of you in the front page?

Some say home is a person

What if the person chooses to walk out the door

Even before you get the chance to say salam…?


From Algeria to Kashmir to Kenya and Holland.

From Syria to India to China, Korea and France.


I belong here, and I belong nowhere

I am a child of the world,

Born with red and blue rivers beneath my skin

And a bunch of hair tamable only by

a powerful brush of a mother’s hands

Just like you I eat 3-5 times a day

Not including snacks in between meals

I sit down and enjoy tea

Whether it’s teh tarik, teh peng, red tea, green tea, black tea, white tea, shai, shai bilhaleeb, shai ma3a na3na3, chai, noon chai, masala chai, tak ada masalah I love all kinds.

As Kaveh Akbar said in the opening lines of his poem

Yeki Bood Yeki Nabood,

“everyday someone finds what they need in someone else”.

And everyday I find mine in each and every one of them.


Meriem taught me what it would be like to have two of me.

I am just as much a mirror to her as she is with me

Suaad taught me to treat others with kindness

no matter the BS you get in return

Murakeen taught me that knowledge of your own identity

empowers you even if your identity oppresses you

(She makes me feel I should at least know the important dates to do with mine!)

Shairah taught me to give a 101 excuses for a person’s misbehaviour

And to hold my tongue at the mention of a name

of a person not present.

Emi pushes me to find my niche in life and harness it-

and though I’m still trying to discover it, I know what’s NOT it- not gym.

Heba taught me the beauty in resilience

and how to soar despite the weight pulling down my legs.

Asma taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin,

and that a thing is much sweeter when paid by your own sweat and blood.

Rafa taught me what a good companionship is like

Yusra taught me that power exudes even through a face veil

Amra’s generosity is more than what is hers is also mine


I may have never stepped foot in the Forbidden city or wang ting lu,

or smelled crossaints baking on the 18em arrondisement in Paris whilst

admiring at the Eiffel Tower in the morning

or drove along Bab Sharqi in Damascus,

or listened to EXO’s Monster for the 10th time in a cafe in Hongdae,

or swam in Nahr An-Neel dreaming in the breeze of Khartoum

or sat watching the matatus roam the streets along Juja Road Estate,

or strolled with a loved one among the Swedish trees in Bokskogen Torup,

or munched on couscous in Seb3ah Share3 Mohammed 3abdou in Muradiyyeh,

danced in my colourful sari in Lal Bazaar in Hyderbad

or had tea in a boat on Dal Lake Srinagar

or picked berries in the backyard of a 16th century modern Dutch house on Mariendalsevegh 12,

But my heart has seen these places through the eyes of my beautiful souls

Though my eyes havent.

During the summer break whilst I bike through all the park connectors of Singapore

Braving the humidity and blinding greenery

-it can be blinding when you’ve spent 10 months In the brown, dusty Shari3 Sitteen of Sanaa,-

I experience these places through

The stories my beautiful souls narrate to me

Where they grew up became my home

What their tastebuds are used to become my preferred delicacy

Where their eyes are used to resting,

mine too take comfort in.


Differences do not scare me

Uniformity does.

That it almost hurts me.


I despise your refusal to bend your tongue

To speak my native tongue

On the basis that it is foreign

I despise your refusal to shake my hand

On the basis that my eyes are of a different shape and colour to yours

I despise your seeing me as a different class –or caste

Based on the lineage of my forefathers

which I had no part to play in

I invite you

Dear brother and sister

To embrace this once in a lifetime opportunity

Know your neighbour

Love your neighbour

Defend your neighbour

Be a neighbour

to a neighbour.


The Prophet said souls are like conscripted soldiers.

Those whom they recognise they’ll get along with

and those they don’t, they won’t.

I think I’ve found my conscripted soldiers. And I call them my Beautiful Souls.



The Qalb is that which qallibs

The very nature of the word tells us that it turns

on its face as it turns on its heel


It turns so much in a day,

a month, a year-

that i wonder if it ever gets dizzy

from all the turning

it does


When I am happy it flutters

When I am sad it aches

When I am nostalgic it hurts

When I am angry it pounds

like a prisoner in a cage of bones

When I am anxious it feels like it is not there

there is a void;

a hollowness

an abyss

of uncertainty

of what has gone wrong.


Often when that happens

I’m reluctant to ask

what’s wrong this time

because I am afraid of the answer


that i already know

but am too proud to admit 


my heart is a little too indecisive

yet i mostly rely on it to make decisions

they call it instinct or gut feeling

although it has nothing to do with the gut per se-

it is the heart that turns and churns

that the entire body becomes affected by its turning

the gut,

the fingers,

the pupils,

the temples,

even the feet.


my heart turns a whole 180 degrees

at the mention of a convincing word-

of please, and i beg you, and you’ll look good in this, and that and you can pray later, asr is not until an hour.

in a split second

in the time it takes to bat an eyelid

or less than that

it turns its back on You.



I am a woman

and my heart gives a little too much

they say it can be taken, stolen and broken,

but despite how much it gives, it also takes

the bullets, spear wounds and cuts

from the very people that 

have vowed to protect it


how much more can the heart take?

how much longer can it hold-

before it explodes into a million pieces

and becomes unrepairable

but until then it remains 

the toughest organ i have

in my body


Though in the back of my mind I ought to ask

ya muqallibal quloob

thabbit qalbee 3ala deenik

I bite my tongue

from uttering them

lest it changes what i want

what I desire

lest what I desire clashes

with what my Lord has in store for me


how easily do I forget

that the One that turns the Hearts

also turns the hearts of everyone else

and not just mine









if He can make me want something

He can also make that something want me too


I forget

that the one that is in charge of my life

is not me


I forget


rather than following

its whims and desires

I should be giving it what it needs-

and what it needs is 

whatever that is best for it.



Be still,

my wavering heart.

Be still while your Lord chooses for you

Be still while your Qadr unfolds under your nose

Be still even whilst you are being squeezed to your limits

Be still even whilst the sharpness of words from the child you bore pierce through you

Be still even whilst an intruder enters without an invitation and makes himself at home,

Stand your ground and defend your fortress 

Be still and waver no more

although /that/ is in your nature.


It’s like telling the river not to flow

and the sun not to shine


The Qalb is that which qallibs

The very nature of the word tells us that it turns

on its face as it turns on its heel


It turns so much in a day,

a month, a year-

that i wonder if it ever gets dizzy

from all the turning

it does


One day it is full of spots of sins

The next day I’m scrubbing it clean

One day it drives me worried-sick

and the next day it’s as peaceful as the gentle waves on the shore on a Sunday afternoon.


That is why I’m not asking it

to go against its course

I’m only asking it to turn

towards You.


[Performed at Twins of Faith 2017, Kuala Lumpur]

Raised a dreamer.

I could not fathom how
one could not have any dreams at all
not know what to improve on;
I was raised a dreamer;
raised to know that everything I did was not enough
so I-
constantly had to prove myself

over and over

I always had to find ways to busy myself
so I
decided to become better.
How could anyone be so complacent so as to say
that they have already met their dreams
when there is much to do
so much left to do
and still
[I think of the mountain of laundry
I’ve put off for days-
and I tremble
and of the books I bought and left untouched-
and I quiver
and of the unread messages-
and I drown in anxiety
and of the positions I carry
I shudder at the responsibility.]
Perhaps I was raised a dreamer
even if for small things
that if I was asked about them
I’d be able to give you one
for the next 60 seconds
and one for the next 60 days.
Perhaps I was raised a dreamer
that I cannot fathom the state of being content
with all that I have achieved
and not be curious at all
as to what is left unachieved
that unrealized potential
that unsnatched credential
bugs me
like a bug
to be touched
to be realized
to materialize
to land itself
on my leaves
Forgive me
if I ever even in the least implied
that I have not much left to work on
that my work here is somehow almost done
when I am not even close
to being where You want me to be.
I fear stagnancy
more than pregnancy
My fears are that of complacency,
walking aimlessly
using up all this space spaciously
and brazenly declaring
that I am a living, breathing
living for free
out of the cradle.
Maybe I’m the only one without a clue
And they’ve got things figured out -who knew
I could be the one needing my own advice;
It’s me before you,
I tell you.
Forgive me my Lord
if I ever lose track
of why I started
or if my vision becomes obscure
bring me back
because nothing can cure
it like Your reminding me of Your reward.
[Perhaps I was raised a dreamer so help me understand.]
Backstory: Shazaa and I gave a “talk” today for Ihya- an ASIIUM event (Putting Yourself First is what we called it) and as usual, something in the event or during the course of delivering, struck me and I had to make a mental note of it and wait till I was in the comfort of my room and PJs before I could pour it all out.. and here it is. I did so in the best way my mind and body knew how… Born out in the status box on Facebook, and made it to the blog. These are the ones I feel the most strongly about.

This isn’t one of those eloquent poems meant to be read [silently]. This is meant to be read [aloud] with sizzling passion, with a genuine curiosity to know the answers, with a trembling voice, with a fist in the air. Try it.

Disclaimer: This isn’t directed at anyone in particular. You may recognize some elements from the questions which the floor had put forth, but I learnt more than anyone else did. It struck me to look to do an introspection on myself before I was even close to being shocked at what was being admitted. I had many small epiphanies as I spoke, more than anyone did. I did it for me. I had really just… put myself first.