The insistent tide lifts and drowns
Me higher and lower into unknown suffering
I feel the gravity longing for food
As if starved for all of eternity

Heaved and pushed and pulled and scratched
I flail in the wind like a piece of soaked paper

Wretched, lost, alone, and searching
For some clarity in the tensioned fog

I know not what comes after this war
Ease? Danger? Love? Regret?

But what I need above all else
is the serenity that accompanies the legendary hearts of brave women and men who undertake mountainous burdens to uplift and survive. The drive they have is deprived of weakness, meekness and gloom. Soon, I will, soon, I’ll kill, the pain and gain all that was lost. For once, again, the first time, and always, I will be clawing at the surface of the concrete around me, to dig myself out of the cave I am captured in.

And then
I will stop my clawing, and I will rest with the wind, and await its settlement on soft sands that brush against my skin. I will wait for time to bring me my answer, and make me, once again, an unstoppable dancer.


Dear Earth,

You have taught me that you will give me nothing, no matter how much I siphon from your oceans.

You have taught me that love can be removed from a heart like I can remove a weed from the ground.

You have taught me that despite my preparation, I have no control over the tides of calamity.

You have taught me that as much as I can do to counter injustice, the roots of truth can always be soiled.

You have taught me that betrayal is more real than your greenery.

You have taught me that the love of those who are closest to me is as certain as political stability.

You have taught me that living a life disconnected from my Lord is like searching for water in a famined dessert.

You have taught me so much, but I know I have much more to grow.

With Love,
Made From You



Gather my diamonds
And build me a mountain
High enough to kiss the sun
And let its brilliance rain



Some people are living a lie.
Some people are living a truth.
It's really hard to tell
The difference and who is who.

Some smile in your face
While their soul is shattering inside
Some have an expression solemn
But are accustomed to a heart that flies.

Some put up a front
To appear to be in control.
Some cry their eyes out
Trying to grasp what has been torn.

The underlying theme of being human
Should never adjust to your emotional state.
No matter how insecure, weak or hurt
You should always move and elevate.


I Took Off My Hijab

By adding more layers. A knit hat and scarf around my neck to be exact.

I didn't understand what was happening at first. People started talking to me more. Women would speak to me like I knew them since forever. Men looked at me like I was actually approachable. And I was made to feel like I was actually from this planet.

Maybe I was finally fitting in? Maybe I was no longer self conscious about my unique dress code and a face lacking makeup?

But then it became fishy. The Muslim taxi drivers who would almost always say "Assalamu Alaikum," ask me where I'm from or if I'm single, or not allow me to pay for the fare became cold and dry. I would simply give the address, and the only dialog thereafter was at time of payment. It was puzzling.

I started to reevaluate my character. Have I become unfriendly? Arrogant? But other people had become even nicer. I couldn't figure it out.

Until I started passing by hijabis on my walk to work who wouldn't acknowledge my existence. Here is the unspoken code: one stares until the other notices and then they exchange Salams. But it's as if I was just another passer by, with no significance to the wrap around my head.

The wrap around my head. Then it hit me. My knit hat and winter scarf covered my hijab (the head scarf part) entirely and all that was visible were my eyes behind my wannabe hipster glasses while my skinny jeans tucked themselves into my boots. They didn't even *know* I was Muslim.

I found this realization absolutely hilarious. And entertaining. I started paying more attention to the difference in the way people treated me. It was fun feeling like everyone around me believed I belonged in their culture by default, and not as part of the begrudgingly adopted diversity piece of the pie. It was a good feeling. I secretly started looking forward to venturing out into the cold to further explore what it meant to be "normal."

I became even more confident walking in my city. My city. All the stares were not racially related anymore. I was addressed as "lady" and "little lady," something I had never heard before. Men would hold doors for me. Women would crack jokes with me. I became respectable, lovable, and accepted.

But did that mean that *with* hijab I am not as respectable? I am not as lovable? I cannot be accepted? I immediately began to despise the inequality, and it dawned on me that I acted like someone who was bullied for years, and finally was accepted by the mean girls, having been alluded that the mean girls became nice to everyone. I was duped. When in fact nothing had changed, and I had simply crossed over to another world for one season.

The power of this experience lies in the fact that it was not an intentional experiment. It happened simply because of the Chiberian weather which required me to cover as much of by body with warm pieces of cloth. Apparently, the type of cloth you place or wrap around your head defines how you will be treated.

I never questioned that I was being given less respect and love, or that I was not as accepted. I always thought that the type of treatment I was exposed to was just how the world was. I didn't know people could be nicer.

Thank you winter. Thank you subzero temperatures.

I pray one day, and soon, that people will be familiar enough with all other cultures and beliefs that they are not afraid or have reservations, and that the thing that stands out to them is not the wrap around my head, but the smile on my face.



It's like God guided me to find him. And when I found him, he left me broken hearted.

I was outside my office building debating whether to take a cab or the train. The train was a risk but the cab would surely get me there in time. I needed to catch the 5:40 train going to Joliet. And I was in a slight panic because I had set the goal that I was going to host FNL, although if I couldn't someone else would take my place.

I decided on the cab. And had I not, I would have never met him. Had I taken the train, he would have been another passerby.

I arrived at the station 10 minutes early, and I needed the restroom. Another debate. I decided I still couldn't risk missing the train. So I walked toward the train, and as I approached the second car, I slowed down for absolutely no reason. I usually walk as if a murderer is chasing me at all times, even when I'm way ahead of schedule.

That's when I heard it, the thump, and I saw him fall to the ground from my peripheral vision. A tall, muscular, clean, good-looking old man on the ground, one foot away from the train that just departed, with one of his crutches spewed across the floor and the other on the tracks below, taunting its owner. Me and three others rushed towards him, missing the train became an afterthought, and FNL became an echo. He wasn't  moving. His face was lifeless, but he was alive. He had thankfully only fallen on the ground, with no injuries from the train's passing. He spit a dark brown liquid from his mouth.  He let his head fall back, as if giving up for a moment. An old lady and an old man tried to help him up. I asked the lady to move aside so I can take her place, then the fourth person said he would help. The man was barely responsive. I asked if he needed help. I asked him if he was bleeding. He said no. The second man who helped him up said he saw him fall before, and that we needed to call an ambulance. He even sounded irritated that this guy wasn't responsive enough to affirm he needed an ambulance. The second man hovered a little while then walked away as the man had both crutches and was wobbling away with the old lady on his side. The first man left to call for help.

I couldn't possibly assume she would stick with him till he found help, so I stood there, unaware what to do, but to keep an eye on him, make sure he didn't topple over again. My train was waiting, and I still had time to board. I didn't check my watch, time was irrelevant.

All that mattered was this man. This man who had no one with him. How did he end up like this? Someone so seemingly privileged, so seemingly healthy, ending up falling twice, with mystery brown liquid coming out of his mouth, with crutches,a backpack and no one to look after him? Would we have helped him had he been a homeless man? Why do we react upon seeing the fall, but not when we only see the handicap that follows?

The old lady walked with him until a Metra train conductor came and said "Sir, do you need some help?" And without hearing a response he said "Follow me. He rushed ahead of him. The old lady left, and the man was left to fend for himself in this walk of treachery that could bring his demise. I jolted to walk with him. I wanted so badly to hug him. To cradle his soul. To ease whatever numbness he felt, whatever pain he felt. I wanted to rid him of his confusion, to replace it with light. I walked with him silently. The first time I asked him if he needed help he said no, and that was in front of lots of people. This time he asked, "Will you help me?" My heart sunk. "Do you need help?" and when he responded is when I wanted to breakdown and cry. He said, with the innocence and helplessness of a lost child, "I think so."

Maybe I should have just said, yes of course I'll help you. But I wanted him to speak, to say something. I asked him again if he was bleeding, he said " I don't know" and my heart officially shattered. This whole time he was wobbling and trying to maintain balance as he tried to increase his speed in walking to catch up to the conductor, racing to salvation. "Did that man tell you to follow him?" He said yeah. So we continued to walk to the waiting room. I opened the door for him. The train conductor had brought a medic of some sort who was being awfully kind."You alright buddy?" The man stayed silent. Come to think of it, I should have asked him if he wanted me to stay with him. I knew they were taking care of him though.

I explained to the medic that someone had seen him fall twice, and that something brown was coming out of his mouth. He said "Thanks sweetie," and I was on my way. With a heavy heart. And a broken one.

I wish there was more I could have done. Beloved to me, a complete stranger, because of his helplessness and his inability to recognize what he needed. SubhanAllah how we take our consciousness for granted. We sin consciously. This man couldn't even take care of himself, couldn't lift himself up, and here we are lifting ourselves up, using our legs with perfect balance, to go places your mother wouldn't approve of, to do things the Prophet pbuh would weep over.

I can't understand the human, nor do I think I ever want to. Thank God for the blessing of ignorance. I pray that I be among those who take advantage of five before five. That I apply the brain which is entirely an undeserved blessing to only do that which is good. May He protect me from loss of function, loss of consciousness, and most I importantly, loss of faith.



Fluid Journey

I am usually thirsty when I am in my room at home. I had been planning to get some sort of water dispenser to fill up and keep in my room, along with an empty cup to fill 'er up whenever the thirst pinches my throat. Just like good 'ol Amman. Two years later, I finally found a wonderful clear and sleek dispenser for six dollars, and purchased it with excitement that my fajr dry throat will now be quenched.

I placed it at the end of my dresser, at the corner. I made sure it was sealed tight. A week after I purchased it, I woke to find the faucet was turned at an acute angle, which indicated that the seal was most likely broken. I didn't check the water level. I focused on the faucet. I realized it leaked a little. I fixed it's position, and brought some tissues to clean up the water. A(n?) half hour later, I came back to my room to get some clothes from my workout drawer, which was in the same plane as the water dispenser. I noticed a darker spot on the wood. I felt it. It was wet. I looked up at the dispenser, and 80% of the water that was in it the day before was gone. It was leaking throughout the night, and I had only just noticed.

I quickly began to remove the contents of the drawer. And lo and behold, subhanAllah, I had placed all the letters I had ever received from my loved ones in that drawer. All drenched. All soaked. All dripping. Ink staining the inside of the drawer. I felt a small twinge at the potential loss, and immediately felt neglectful. It took for a whole gallon of water to spill for me to pay attention to a source of love that I had long overlooked.

Once I regained focus, I collected the letters, whimpering slightly. Yes, like a puppy. I had a very limited time to workout, as my schedule was packed for the day. But I decided without hesitation that salvaging whatever letters I can was a higher priority.

On a slight but relevant tangent, I was feeling temporarily betrayed at that time in my life, in reaction to a specific event. Reducing the amount of perceived attention and love I felt to an intolerable amount. Feeling as if all those that proclaimed they would be my companions had utterly and easily failed me. Repeatedly. I felt no human presence. God was always there, of course.

I prayed to Him. Asking Him to remove this doubt from my heart. To reinstill my sureness in His creation's goodness and ability to not be deceptive. I  prayed He return the untameable light that had always emanated from my spirit. To remind me that I had not been left for the wolves. That it was quite the contrary, that I was engulfed in a love unattainable by those who sought it, that it could only be a blessing. And I prayed that He protect me from the evil that wishes to convince me otherwise.

I carried the letters carefully to my mother's bathroom, I didn't want their fragility to win. They could have easily ripped. I placed them down, still in their envelopes, separating them from each other, one by one, side by side. They stared at me. Each one transporting me back to a time when things were different, when things were better, or harder. Times when I was on an adventure, and my family wanted to reach out to me. Or on an escapade and a distant friend wanted to remind me of our friendship. Or celebrating an achievement and someone wanted to warmly congratulate me.

I learned once that you can steam open an envelope, and reseal it after. My mom's little hairdryer started to blow away at the folds of the envelopes. And they started unraveling, allowing me a peak at the letters they had failed to protect. I was reminded of Frank Abignale, Jr., when he was drying all those false checks. As I recall he was in search of a love that would not betray him. And as I reflected, I realized I had rediscovered for myself what he was in search of. Although I would have loved to fake being a pilot.

I began to aim the dryer at the folds intentionally, to peal away the envelope. I picked up the letter slowly. After carefully searching for the space between the two thirds, I unfolded it and anxiously began to read. It spoke to a different me, an ancient one, a Leena in development. Not that I was or am done growing, but I had a longer way to go simply because it was an historical me. But the person who wrote it, my sister, loved me the same. Spoke to me the same. Cared for me the same. It was as if the love God blessed me with was in a naturally frozen state and lived in Antarctica, where it would never change. It was my goggles which fogged up every once in a while. He would always provide a way for me to clear them up.

I read the next, and it was a friend, writing to me at camp, and another one from a different friend, writing to me from across the world, long and beautiful letters, filled with specificity, indicating their care.

The letters felt like a small avalanche. Like rain after a hot day. Like shelter after a storm. Like dry land after swimming for too long. Like the comfort of your mother's arms. Embracing you like nothing else matters. Like an instantaneous answer to my prayers. What I first thought to be a loss (damaged letters), and what I first thought to be a source of inconvenience (a dripping faucet), turned out to be a microcosmic hero, and a mask that would guide me to it, respectively.

How could I forget these letters? How can I lose sight of the overwhelming love God Has blessed me with? All blurred in a moment. No matter how sharp your vision is, once your eyes well with tears, they become blurry, and no longer convey the truth of the visible world to your brain. And thus is our heart. Once tainted with a slight and momentary sadness, it is as if the memory size of our brain that stores happy moments is reduced to 1KB.

The lesson here, my friend, is that when you lose sight of human mercy, God will return it to you, but if you lose sight of your Lord's Mercy, you simply lose your sight. God restores everything He wishes to restore. It may be down a path that appears difficult, it may be that God sends you blessings guised by pain. He may decide to destroy something precious in your life, to replace it with something better. He may destroy something that you believe to be important, only to draw your attention to something that transcends it, into the heavens.

This story is not dramatic, no lives were lost, and it didn't change me from the core, but it is a moment that serves as a powerful reminder.

You can never over-estimate God. That in itself is an unfathomable concept. Everything has a limit. But here is a way to try to understand His greatness. Our understanding of what is limited is in comparison to something that is limitless. To understand that something cannot keep going is to know that there is something that does keep going, that we are contrasting the brevity of life or short-lived anything to His Omnipotence.

Yes, it does all come back to God. Always. We are to Him, and to Him we return.