Unmosqued

Photo credit: Les Talusan, lestalusanphoto.com

Photo credit: Les Talusan, lestalusanphoto.com

Poetry as dhikr.

- Warsan Shire

This past Ramadan I threw myself head over heels into poetry.

I struggled this Ramadan, with my health, with my temper, with my solitude. But the one thing that kept me grounded as I moved forward with the month was words. Writing isn’t just a form of expression – writing is how I process my spirituality, it is how I calm my chaotic thoughts, it is my way of connecting not just with other people, but with myself.

I challenged myself to writing a poem a day during Ramadan, and invited friends to join me. I created a secret online group where the only rules were that you had to introduce yourself and you had to create something daily, though sharing wasn’t compulsory. Though most people identified as Muslim, it wasn’t mandatory. Within a couple of days my group of five had turned into fifty, as friends invited friends and the connections spread. I was amazed. What had been intended as a small project for a few friends had turned into an online community space of Ramadan connection and poetic love.

When Ramadan began, the poems flowed easily, simply. They were short pieces about hunger or cravings. But as the assault on Gaza began in the first week of Ramadan, the poems began to take a turn. They became emotive and intense. People who had been hesitant to share poems out of shyness began sharing poems because they couldn’t keep silent when atrocities in the world were happening. How can you stay silent when kids are dying?
 
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A prayer is a lonely call

Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month! Today’s feature is our first short story.

Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah MontageComing of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MuslimYouthRising features.InstagramCapture_85d812f9-c92a-4829-9ac2-c2b37e7ae141_jpg[1]

I used to write poetry. Don’t worry, I am better now.

During those days of angst, my life consisted of Tumblr posts, Instagram, little pastel graphics I’d make that were nothing really (but got quite a few likes), quirky romance movies with oddball characters, and guilty pictures of actors on my iPod touch that I begged my parents to buy for me. And of course, poetry. My secret was Pablo Neruda:

I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,

in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

Ah, how my heart flutters. Of course, when I read my own poetry now, it is not a pleasant experience for my heart, or my ego. But back then, poetry was my one weapon against the world. And the world, looming large, was my mom.

 

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Sex & the Ummah

Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month! Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah MontageComing of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MuslimYouthRising features.

Nashwa

I.

T E N

I’m about ten-years-old, and have an unwavering love for books. I devour the Harry Potter series, The Magic Treehouse, and tons of chapter books. We can’t afford them and can’t justify purchasing them, so my mom drives my sister and me to the public library every week, where I get to use a computer and roam the bookshelves for hours.

Once I’ve read all the books for my age group, I become adventurous. I wander through the aisles and find a book out of place. It intrigues me. When I open it, there it is a magnified black-and-white image of sperm that was taken under a microscope. I shut the book immediately. Now I have the image of swimming sperm seared into my memory.

I slump back to my mother. I feel guilty, but unsure of why I feel guilty. I confess to her that I opened a scientific book and it had a photo of sperm. My mom does not flinch, but neither does she seem to know how to handle it. We walk out, my basket empty of books, my shoulders burdened with guilt, my heart heavy. I felt awkward but cannot find the source of my discomfort.

This is my sex education, for now.

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Food & Consciousness

Food, Love & Memories is a bimonthly column devoted to the evocative connections between the heart, food & soul. We invite you to share your story+recipe for future columns. More details here.

FLM

From gelato at Giolitti, kimchi at Sanchon, to kebop at Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu, my vacation plans would inevitably start and end with at least half a dozen must-have comestibles. I am an amateur food aficionado; I write about food, take pictures of food, talk about food, and dream about food. Until recently, driving 80 miles from my apartment in Silicon Valley to Napa for an extra-large pistachio macaron at Bouchon seemed perfectly reasonable.

My tendency towards “foodieness” made sense, after all, I was raised by my parents to value food. In fact, my mother went to great lengths to teach me that wasting food, even a single grain of rice, was unacceptable. Both of my parents’ families had lost everything when the Burmese government seized the properties, investments, and businesses of “foreign” investors in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Their lives were turned upside down, and food, amongst other things, became a scarce resource. Their stories stuck with me and, as I got older, I made a conscious effort to avoid wasteful habits.

Over the last few years, this basic level of consciousness has evolved further. As I watched innocent civilians robbed of their families, homes, and food in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Burma, Sudan, and, most recently Palestine, my high-brow foodie preferences increasingly seemed obnoxious.

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How He Made Me Fall In Love With Him

Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month! Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah MontageComing of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MuslimYouthRising features.saajida-1

When I was in high school, my English teacher encouraged us to look at literary works with a critical eye. She told us to dissect works of literature in order to grasp their true meaning. Every detail contributed to a broader idea, we were taught. The curtains in the main character’s bedroom were not a dark shade of purple for no reason. Everything was strategically placed for a greater purpose, a message to the readers. After using this technique for most of my high school career, I began analyzing the events and milestones of my life in the same way.

It was September 2nd, 2002. I constantly fixed my shirt due to the heat that day. It was a green T-shirt with the word REBEL bedazzled on the front. I wore that shirt with pride, especially considering how few fashionable options there were for plus-sized ten-year-old girls like myself at the time, and the fact that it was on clearance at JC Penny, I felt pretty darn awesome.

I also remember that it was extremely humid in the classroom, but not nearly as bad as the hot weather they made us wait in outside on the blacktop of the playground. This didn’t bother me much because this would be my last year in elementary school. Next year, I thought to myself with a smug smile, I would be in sixth grade and would get my own locker, not this metal desk with a flimsy, laminated nametag on it.

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My First Superhero

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“What are you watching?

This question from my father, as innocent as it seems, makes me lovingly cringe.

“It’s a show Dad.”

“Is it a movie?” he’ll say, sitting next to me on the sofa and squinting at the TV. More internal cringing.

“No Dad, it’s a show.”

“What’s it called?”

Here’s where things get tricky, because A) some of the more nerdy shows I watch have weird names and B) my dad, as a rule, will always mishear the title. I can mumble or enunciate, it doesn’t matter. I call this Dad’s Third Law of Hilarious Misinterpretation.

“Doctor What?” he’ll ask quizzically.

Or,

“Firebug? Fire kya?”

Or,

“Battle Galacticus?”

There is a lot of affectionate eye-rolling and gritted teeth and repeating myself until he gets it right. Once the title is established, he’ll try watching for a few minutes. He asks questions, tries to follow along. But inevitably, after a max of 8 minutes (sometimes 10 if there are commercials), he’ll shake his head and say “this is weird. You watch weird shows,” before retreating behind his newspaper. I call this Dad’s Second Law of Attention Span.

God bless him, he does try.

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We grieve for our men

Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month! Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah MontageComing of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MuslimYouthRising features.

ZBY

We Muslim women, we grieve for our men, we mourn them while they still live.

We grieve for the father who held us close in our infancy, in our toddlerhood, who twirled us around and called us his princess… and then who faded away as we grew gangly and got acne and began to slam doors behind which we sobbed, grieving the loss of a father who still lived.

We mourn for the father who comes home from work, face drawn and pinched, shoulders bowed from the weight of being called ‘terrorist’ by co-workers, eyes burning from being pulled over by cops for ‘looking like Usama’, wrists raw and chafed from Homeland Security dragging him away in handcuffs to be ‘interviewed’ at their airport, making him miss his flight to visit his dying mother.
 
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