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 #MYRising features.

Key Ballah

Key Ballah

I remember thinking of you in a way that good Muslim girls should never think of good Muslim boys.

Your mouth. I don’t think that I have ever kissed a man with lips so soft and so gentle. The corners of your mouth were almost submissive beneath the commanding way that I have had to teach myself to kiss men like you, men who make my stomach ache. It was almost as if your lips understood that I needed to feel powerful beneath your weight. You allowed me to be whatever or whoever I said I was, that was what was so beautiful about you, that in the infinite ways you could judge me or shame me out of my skin (in the way that Muslim Men often do), you chose not to, and you only ever asked that I extend you the same courtesy.

I know that people will read this and have a lot to say. They’ll probably start off by blaming my father, for allowing his daughter to fear God so little, that she would shamelessly write about kissing a boy beneath the stars one night, or sitting on his bed, or in his lap or talking on the phone with him all night until Fajr. I’m sure there will be people who read this and say; “Doesn’t this girl know that the fires of hell are so hot, that they will burn those lips right off of her face and then what will she write about?”

But the truth is, people will always have a lot to say, and I will always have a lot to write about, so they can speak, as long as I can write.

Allah has impeccable timing. I remember the first time we met, the loops of your curls, made my hands burn with the desire to touch them. You sat across from me in a loud university campus cafeteria with your honey eyes and your Dentyne smile. Tempting me. I wondered if they taught boys like you how to melt women like me in Somalia, or was that something that you learned on your own, or from your father.

Luckily, I wasn’t still lost when we met, I was just in the beginning stages of finding, although had we met a week prior, I might have been led astray farther than I was then by the coercion of your words, the buried silk of your tongue. It is peculiar that in a school like ours, where I could have met you in any place that there is light, that I only came to know you after my back had grown the strength that it needed to withstand the beauty of one man, That is Allah’s perfect timing.

My grandmother says that charming men are gifts from the devil, and when I think back to the day that we met, I often think that my gift from shaitan came gift wrapped in the most perfect brown skin, that my test from Allah wore the name of His prophet and the mouth of his mother.

With you everything was easy. We were effortless. You knew my boundaries, and though you’ve ventured near them and even peered over them, you knew when we had reached the borders of my ability to have a guiltless sleep. Despite the ease and the butterflies, you have always existed for me within the space of a guilty pleasure, and I always seemed to dress myself in the innate shame that comes with it.

In Islam, giving up something for the sake of Allah is rewarded in this life and the next. That has been my stronghold in letting you go. Hoping that one day I will look upon the face of my Lord and He will say, “I know it was rough, but well done and welcome.”

The night that I decided that I would dedicate myself to performing salaah regularly and on time, you called and asked if we could meet up to go to the beach. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, staring at my prayer rug and thinking that there was only one hour left until Maghrib. If I left then, I would miss it.

When I told you that we should wait, you said that we would stop somewhere along the way, that you would pray with me. And so I left my house without wudu, so excited at the thought of praying somewhere behind you, that the idea of praying with you overshadowed the fact that it was time spent with my Lord. In the end, we didn’t end up praying at all that night. Instead, I got home sometime the next morning with sand in my hair and guilt on my chest, heavy from breaking a promise to God, only moments after I had made it.

We had many nights like that. In life, sometimes there are men who can call you in the middle of the night, out of the blue and make you forget every promise you’ve ever made to yourself. It took me three months to realize this. It wasn’t until my bed was so full of broken promises and I could no longer sleep that I finally decided that I had to let you go.

After weeks of back and forth, of five-page text messages and 3 am “I miss you” phone calls, we managed to sever it at its spine, but still you lingered inside of me, in places I couldn’t find to scrape out, and every so often your memory would take a stroll through the landscape of my body and whisper (like shaitans often do), directly into the valves of my heart. It was impossible to let you go.

They say that even a woman’s voice can cause a man fitnah. What do they say then to women when we are overwhelmed by fingertips and retinas and shoulder blades and jawlines, where is the ease for us when sleeping becomes impossible beneath the weight of a memory?

I asked in sujood during every rakaah for Allah to remove you from me, and when your absence began to rip me apart, I begged Him to do it gently.

It has been a few months since I last saw you. Breathing doesn’t feel like knives anymore, I am in one piece and I have finally been able to navigate the lesson in all of this: When something is right, there is no guilt, there is no weight of sleeplessness or shame.

Love is not meant to lead you away from God, but to lead you to Him. Young Muslim women do not need to be ashamed of the fire within them; the need to be loved is not something to run from. It is something to cherish and understand.

We are too often told not to feel, not to be emotional, not to be women. Embrace yourself with both hands, allow yourself to speak your truths and remember that in this life and the next, God rewards your sacrifice.

Read more from Key on our site, here.

Key Ballah is a Muslim, half Metis, half West Indian, Woman, Daughter, Sister, Friend. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She is a Writer, Hip Hop enthusiast and student at York University. Key takes a specific interest in anti racist and anti oppressive feminism, as well as refugee/immigrant rights and transition. She believes that everything she is and ever will be is a culmination of herstories,histories and lived experience. She believes poetry is a literary form of water and breathes it well. Visit her website, follower in on Twitter and Instagram, and email her keyballah[at]gmaildotcom.

7 Comments on “Sacrifice”

  1. Matt says:

    This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Be blessed!

    @sahg33kdad ~ twitter

  2. Beautifully written. Sad too. Life should not be so hard. It’s too darned short.

  3. Yasmin says:

    This is beautiful Key, thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Shukri says:

    Thank you sister for expressing yourself in such a relatable way.

  5. What a gorgeous piece of writing! I love how raw and honest thing is – unflinchingly unapologetic for your very real experience.

  6. Alan Howard says:

    This piece was beautiful! But it also hurt me deeply. Your descriptions brought back memories of my wife and our relationship in the years before the cancer slowly took her from me. Neither men nor women should apologize for feeling passion or for loving – it is a natural human reaction to intimacy. Having loved and lost on more then one occasion, I can relate directly to this “tearing” after the relationship is over. Maybe it wasn’t for you, maybe you were never supposed to be with that person – but that does not mean that you do not feel the loss or that the memory of them does not linger on long afterwards.