Sól

 

Do you see this green stem?

How can they reason that the water from the soil travels up,

If they can’t believe that we too, will one day ascend?

 

And do they not know that the rain that comes down

brings with it, the whisperings of the dead?

Acid rain to warn us of repeating our ancestral mistakes.

 

Do you see how the sheep does not fear the pious farmer

as he brings forth his sharpened tool?

The sheep knows well what is to come,

& even when the flock runs, and the sheep has its chance to escape, it stays.

For the prayers recited before its slain will stretch themselves into a string of words on judgment day.

&  even the sheep know what route is best to follow.

What is death ordained by the pious farmer, but a life simply tracing its destiny with the ink of honor?

***

Look at me. No, not with your eyes.

Don’t you recognize me from a past life?

Nothing of our circumstance is convenient.

But if a river didn’t flow steady, I wouldn’t drink.

& if the ocean always drew closer to the sun in her waves,

the people on boats would grieve.

 

Born of different garments but of the same cloth.

Colors of your wisdom are in harmony with the patterns of my complexity,

laying themselves on the ground for those who will walk after our time.

What greater thing to share in common,

than the thread that sews our carpet?

& like the one in my mother’s living room,

It possesses the beauty that invokes dreams of sand and bottles of incense perfume,

for the soldier who touches it in Burma,

& the maid who sweeps over it in Khartoum.

 

When tea with sugar is offered to you, remember me.

You are bound to no one, so live freely, but you’re a person of their word,

and it is you who proclaimed that

 the sun doesn’t shift from its axis.

So until you recite otherwise, I will trust it–

anticipating the day when the sun meets the ocean in the decreed sunset.

 

Self-Care is Revolutionary

I woke up this morning having dreamt of all the things I needed to get done this weekend. All the things that would overflow my planner, all the things that wouldn’t be checked off—premature failures. I felt a cold coming too, everyone around me is sick and this week is not the one honey.

I woke up tired before the day had even begun. But I am currently refreshed and revitalized as I write this in the bookstore on 16th street.

I’m a member of a Diversity and Inclusion Council mostly comprised of professors and university administrators. We meet on Thursdays and discuss grant proposals, faculty awards, and how to tackle the right-wing extreme conservative club brewing on campus. It’s important stuff.

Anyhow, I mention all that to say that aside from myself, there’s another black sister on the council. Her unapologetic authenticity motivates me to be visible in circles of academia and leadership without having to shapeshift into a different kind of woman, an easier to deal with type of woman, a straighten your hair & don’t wear braids for the interview, make sure you talk like them kind of woman. God no. Anyhow, for the record, I straighten my hair when I want to because I choose to do so for myself. It is one thing to be conscious of people that may be ignorant and prejudice about your natural features, but it is another (& fatal to thy identity) to care about the response of the misinformed and change yourself to cater to the undeserving.

I’m striving to not let the fear of an external response steer my intrinsic motivations and best-intents. I’m working to refine my intellect and character so that there is no room to discuss the physical aspects when the inner workings of myself overflow in their offerings.

This sister on the council reached out to me Thursday (my favorite day of the week btw) to let me know of an event she was putting together for black women. I had never been to nor considered going to anything like it before. When I see events of this sort, there’s a little voice in my head that whispers, “Why just black women, what about all women of color? What about all women in general? Doesn’t this exclude other sisters by including only a subset?” Usually, that voice gets the best of me. Usually, I do feel guilty for primarily thinking of the struggles of those that look like me. BUT WHY? Of course, I have a heart for humanity at large, but I shouldn’t be scrutinized for seeking the company of those who can understand my venting without the bridge of cultural difference. It shouldn’t be wrong for me to seek circles in which I am understood without having to speak.

So I went to her event. Best decision ever.
There were about 10 of us in the room. We started off with mindful meditation with a view of the city as Jill Scott, Badu, Maxwell and many more sung to get us in the mood & guide us through. We burned incense and stretched our bodies out to occupy the space to our heart’s content. In doing so, our hearts became full.

We journaled. We envisioned ourselves on a beach, walking to the pier and seeing a wooden bench. There was someone on that bench, someone familiar. The person was ourselves. Not in physical resemblance, but it was us in our essence. In meditation, we all spent time with our individual essence’s, asking whatever questions were necessary for self-liberation, answering back at ourselves. It was powerful. For the answers are already within us. confronting our innermost selves requires time, requires that we slow down, that we breath. We don’t often prioritize that in our seemingly busy lives. Self-care is revolutionary, it is necessary.

We then went downstairs into a different room and seated ourselves in a circle. We spoke of what we wanted. A sister spoke of needing strength as she persists in her fight with breast cancer. Another sister spoke of being held, how she seeks a space in which she can unapologetically be held, be still, and be heavy.

Heaviness. Too often I hear the emphasis of the desire to be light after meditation. The longing for being elevated and one with air. But wow. To just be heavy? It got me thinking. To find a space or person to hold you and your heaviness. Your overthinking, your energy, your inclination to resist. To find that container to let you be fluid and void of the need to resist… because when they move with you in their acceptance of you, there is no longer anything to even resist. You’re peacefully able to just be. We all deserve that.

A Secretive Presence or A Safe Space

 

Growing up, my mama was like a worn brush—upon first glance, she seemed contained, but when drawing closer, one could see that the worn bristles of her existence were frayed in different directions. She was physically there, but her spirit was elsewhere, not there for me to shelter myself under. This was all I knew, and I never expected more from her.

When I grew older, I began to notice that mama seemed happiest around people like the cashier at the marketplace, or around my past teachers at school conferences—these distant people never worked for her smile. What gave them dominion? I sensed that it was those outside her home who possessed the ability to remove her from her personal worries…the trauma and suppressed infliction that she was reminded of in the eyes of her children—the extensions of her.

As a young girl, our relationship had been tiring. She and I are of polar personalities & both with a fiery need to debate and defend our stances. We argue quite often, but we love the same.  As I’ve grown to experience more in life, the advice of friends my age only could scratch the surface of my voids. I needed the words of a woman who has seen and lived a life to help me guide my own. I began to confide in my mother.

My mother can listen. While she does not share much of her past, she is a space of no judgment. It is almost as though because she doesn’t speak much of herself that she holds a greater capacity to rest my worries in the creases of her palms– giving them warmth as she closes her hand to keep what I share a secret from my father, from her sister, from everyone. If there is gossip to run through vines, her daughter’s name will never be among it. She is my keeper and validates my truth.

I’ve spent prior years resenting my mother’s reservation, for my love language is in the exchange of intimate stories, & I only wanted to know her more than anyone else did. But in gaining the emotional intelligence to see her unspoken love for me, I learned to love her better.

I don’t mean for this to be any sort of lesson, but really tho, try to think of a loved one that you simply can’t understand or reach depth with. Rather than battling with this shortcoming in your relationship, try to love them from a different angle, it will transform how you communicate with them, and in turn, shift the way they interact with you. Manifest the change within and witness the transcending power to change those you connect with.

Sometimes, love is to see someone for who they mean to be, & not for how they seemingly seem.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

Eschatology | Sufism | Black Panther

I spoke with a kind sister earlier this morning. About travels and love. About the afterlife.

She told me that Ancient Kemet (Egyptian for the land of the blacks) were concerned with the preparation of the afterlife. On her journey, she had noticed and asked about broken stones near the pyramids. She was told that the people of that African civilization did not build their houses strong because they were meant to stay behind and perish along with their bodies. It was the pyramids they built strong because that is where their being, their soul, would be preserved in the next life.

I told her that I am confused by people that have no sense of the afterlife. For if I were to not believe in the next realm, I would live each day with a dim purpose and anchor of sorrow keeping me in bed. This life is not meant to serve our expectations or calm our soul. While there are many beautiful moments on this earth, the blessings are in doses, and the reality of this life was not designed to sustain the mortal.

The concept of an afterlife is cross-cultural. It is religious and it is spiritual. In any believer’s mind, the awareness of an afterlife makes struggles endurable and the blessing feel like glimpses of the greater reward. Knowledge of the afterlife allows one to detach. Ali Ibn Abi Talib said “Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.”

*( Side note, the study of the afterlife is called eschatology, and eschatology also happens to be the first word I’ve said that my dad did not previously know. He reads a lot so he was quite shook that I was teaching him a new word lol. I think we were eating breakfast and it must have been a Saturday morning or something)*

My deity is not anthropomorphic. My religious guidelines are not facilitated by another human. This journey towards truth is from an innate hunger. It is out of longing for a better understanding of myself through an understanding of my creator.

I’m going to be very real. My five daily prayers have been quite hard for me as of lately. For those who don’t know, Muslims pray five times a day because each prayer is an opportunity to gain repentance and mercy. We are born sinners, go ask J. Cole. It is not about being perfect, it is about constant reflection throughout the day. “The five daily prayers provide expiation for whatever occurs in the time between them. Imagine a person has work and there are five rivers between their house and their workplace. They would go to the workplace and work as much as Allah willed, becoming dirty. Then, whenever they came to a river, they would bathe, what would remain of their dirt? It is like this with prayer; whenever one commits a sin, they supplicate and seek forgiveness, so they are forgiven for whatever has preceded it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The daily prayers are not time-consuming. Definitely, do your research if you’re intrigued by its etiquettes. But back to my point, I have been missing some and slacking and it’s really not OK with my standard of self.  In response to this struggle, I’m trying to explore the meaning of the words I recite and the love that surpasses the fear I have of the one I pray to, God. I am trying to be more fearless about praying in between bookshelves in the library and not giving a care for any passerby who notices my forehead in prostration on the red winter coat I lay on the floor in front of me (your girl is not putting her face near that gross dank college library floor, oh no honey lol).

I’ve been attracted to Sufism, in its essence. Not the cultural adaptations that have been made to it. Not the men who spin in circles and beat drums, not the singing in prayers. None of that. Respect to that, but that’s not the Sufism I am referring to here. The way of a Sufi is the way of the companions. It is a way of detaching from the material and worshipping out of love. It is a way of discipline and a way of beauty. There is a distinction between the Sālik, one who observes Sufism, and Hizb-un Halak, one who belongs to a sect that will perish. I am not one for sects that deviate from the word of God. I don’t believe in manmade divisions. However, when I speak of the Sufism, my close ones confuse if for a sect of Islam, or for an entirely different practice. No, the way I see it is the way scholars I trust teach it. Sufism is a science within Islam, a lens in which to see Islam through. It emphasizes on learning through experience, learning through the personal connection in prayers late at night. Truly, the Sufism I’m talking about is not distinct from Islam, it is just an element of it. The only reason I bring up the term Sufism is that I am starting to identify with the ideology of learning through dhikr itself.

The theologian Imam Al Ghazali, born 1058 in Iran, used the metaphor of honey to highlight the authenticity of experiences and good company.  “If somebody asks you what honey tastes like, the best way to help him understand is to give him a spoon of honey. You can describe it as being sweet and not like sugar or fruit, but that it is distinct. The best way to ‘taste’ an experience, is to be in the company of its people.”

On another note, I saw Black Panther some hours ago. First off, beautiful film. It was incredibly inclusive of how strength and intelligence were portrayed. The chief general was a woman, and so too were the king’s warriors. Representation is so critical, not just for the young children who are nets to the contents of mass media, but to the 20-year-old women like myself. I loved princess Shuri. With her incredible intelligence and forward thinking, she practically built the civilization as it stood. Not to mention that Nakia’s desire to serve others is a reminder that we must always take what we have in our left hand, pour some into our right hand, and share it. Love Love Love. Spoiler alert, but my favorite LOL line was something like “Say one more word and I’m going to feed you to my children *the character laughs* joking I’m vegetarian” I literally LOOOOOled.  If you’ve seen it, lol you know which scene that was from. If you haven’t, go to the theater and support. The film took the “savage” image painted of the African people, wrapped it in a glass bottle, and shoved it down the oppressor’s throat. Every character had class and dignity. The historical reflection was integral and not sugar-coated. I can appreciate a good script, but I can love an honest film. Wakanda ❤

If I’m going to somehow create some common thread between my comments on Sufism and my takeaways from the Black Panther, it is this: I want to love through experiences and remember what connects a people before I think of what divides them.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

A Song to be Sung

There are different languages in love and the ways in which we give and like to receive such a thing depends on if we like to listen or sing

Stories are songs, and every day my Aabo came home from work I would run to his feet to be seated front row at his memory lane symphony

I was nine

He told me if ever saw a lion, he’d wish for a gun to shoot it because he remembers the nights he slept in fear, makeshift tents in the countryside, he remembers when the lion took her life, screams of his habaryaro’s death cry.

He speaks with his hands and I fear for the lion that doesn’t know my Aabo

He’s a man that can make water from sand, allowing a desert to flow from nothing by command, not in the way God Almighty does, but with his God-given gift for entertaining, orchestrating language into a choir or choreographing his stories to dance into paintings of my motherland

For a man to have five daughters and no sons is no accident, he is the chosen one

He once told me he used to smoke as a child, he was seven when his father who served for the British in WWII died, so selling them was his way to get by, he had to provide.

He would tell me time and time again of his coming to America story, and if you asked me to tell it, I’d tell you I rather not because each time my Aabo tells it, I’m reminded of a detail I almost forgot

He says, I was 15 and trapped in the boarding school my mother had sent me too. Education is freedom, but with the lack of resources, those teachers didn’t know more than whom they were teaching. So I bought seeds with the few shillings I had and planted them on the outskirts of the building & if the vines grew I would pack my bags and go, but if they didn’t In this destitute place I would stay, and the conditions were against my odds because in Somaliland it hardly rained

But if the beloved prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,  did not study language and yet could suddenly read, teach and recite the holy words that even the scholars and masters of poetry could not recreate, then I needed to have faith. And by the will of God, my plants grew and covered the walls of the school

Oh my daughter, In my journey, I was alone through the nights, alone in the desert but not alone in life

It was as though death became my neighbor several times, but not fulfilling the unlived dreams of my father would be a war crime, and the laugh of my mother needed a home. She once told me that as a baby she put me on the camel and walked alongside, but the camel started running, yet miraculously, while I was still sleeping, I slid down the shawl my mother had tied to the camel as though it was a rope, I was unharmed, death was friendly, and I became my mother’s miracle child.

Stories like this would leave me with so many questions. How could you have been asleep, you really slid down that easy, you didn’t even cry, well Subhanallah by Allah’s mercy Abbo you really are a miracle child

Home is in the discoloration of my father’s teeth, in the mole on his left cheek, and I like to say that to say that mine, although much smaller, is part of is, I took his nose too and his principle for how you must always pour in a cup too full of love when you cook food. Home is in the way he smiles and how he has the name of every enemy or friend I’ve had since pre-school memorized. Home is in the warmth of his voice and only through him can my multi-hyphenated identity rejoice

It is him that makes me look to the opportunity and not inequality

I ask Allah for sons because I want them to be like my Aabo, the chosen one

peace and blessings,

Karima Osman

 

Miscommunication

You gave me a seed and I took it and gaurded it.

You later asked me where the tree was and I told you I never planted it.

 

You were offended that I preferred the idea of a tree and it’s shade rather than the physical being itself.

You did not see the parallel between how I acted and what I was intending.

 

& I wish you could see how I only wanted to guard the seed,

I wish you knew my language of love and what safeguarding means.

Sorry I do not do things in the way you seek

 

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

The Goat & ᎒ & The Ball of Yarn

 

Although your thumb is not green,

you still love the plant for whatever the circumstances bring.

Dead or alive

You saw the crop for what it could provide.

Whether browning at its leaves or blossoming in the spring,

You did your best to give it what it needs…but your thumb is not green

***

᎒”Típico, where are you, my friend?” Said the goat

***

The blue tin door was left open. The shop owner Burhaan left for Asr, the afternoon prayer. Believers in the town would leave their shops to congregate for worship at the masjid. In their hearts, they knew that God would guard their shops and that praying on time would bring them a better business. The city thieves themselves couldn’t hold the guilt that came with roaming a marketplace that had only the wind as a witness. The seeming emptiness made God’s presence evermore prominent, and so the thieves rested under trees or collected sand in their hands to dump into tin cans. Such pastimes allowed them to be momentarily neutral with the angels who record deeds.

Burhaan was an old man with only one son in Yemen. He knew not of his son’s health or if he had children of his own, but he knew his son was alive. When the war broke out 26 years ago, Burhaan could only afford one ticket to Yemen. He arranged for an old friend who lived in Yemen to watch over his young son so that he could work more in order to afford his own ticket.

The old man had his plans, but so did his maker, the one above.

With the morning birds outsung by gunshots, the turmoil of war turned Burhaan’s handknit sweaters into a forgotten luxury. Before the instability, his sweaters were for the people—priced for the shoe shiner but fit for a king. But the war did not know between the humble cobbler or the indebted banker. It destroyed all that was material—leaving only the condition of the heart and fate of the soul untouched.

Before his son left for Yemen, Burhaan spoke with God.

“Ya Allah, watch over my sweet Moses. If I cannot hear from him or see him soon, let me know of his circumstance through the omens. If my business goes bad may it only mean that he is prosperous? If I fall weak, may it be that he is strong? Allah, you have gifted my son the knowledge of your earth. By your mercy, no one could care for the flowers and crops as my boy Moses could. I, on the other hand, could not sustain a flower for more than a week. The gift is not in me my lord.”

Burhaan took a deep breath and pressed one bead of his tasbih (prayer beads) firmly with his thumb. He stared at his thumb and felt a chill.

He then continued, “Oh Allah, if suddenly I am able to care for plants with his green thumb, then let that be a sign of his death. Please, oh the most merciful, do not ever give me a green thumb.”

Each week, Burhaan would buy a new flower pot, and each week, the plant would die. He’d celebrate the loss with ginger shaax (tea) and a visit to Hawa’s shop to buy more yarn for making sweaters. The sustenance of his business relied on the death of flowers, and therefore the livelihood of his only son.

***

The goat watched for Burhaan from the corner of the shop. She knew his face well, but to him, she was just an Eid al-Adha sacrifice.

When Burhaan left his shop for prayer, he always propped the blue tin door open with a large stone. He surely was a believer—too trustworthy that God would forbid the entrance of a thief. But did he forget about the goats? Surely, he was ignorant.

The goat entered through the blue tin door and gave a loud call.

᎒ “Típico, my friend! I saw so much today and want to share! Come out let’s chat.”

From the third shelf on the five-shelf bookcase, the yellow ball of yarn rolled from behind the stash of wool blankets so it could see and be seen.

“Why do you always call me Típico, it’s very annoying you know. Burhaan doesn’t even give me a name and he is my owner.”

᎒ “Don’t be silly Típico, you have no owner, you belong to yourself. When that old man sews you into a sweater and sells you to a customer, even then, you will still belong to yourself. You may look very different and may have different companions, but you are always your own.”

The ball of yarn began to laugh—rolling from side to side as balls of yarn do. The ball of yarn could not take a poetic goat seriously, especially not this one. This goat would say the other goats were too limited in their thinking and so she preferred to distance herself from them. And how was a ball of yarn any less limited? Either way, the ball of yarn enjoyed her unannounced visits.

᎒ “I see you find me amusing little Típico”

“Stop, why do you call me that, what does it even mean?”

᎒ “Ah if you must know, one day as I was walking along the Boosaso coastline, some men on a boat preparing to begin their voyage said the word Típico. I, of course, could not understand, and so I asked another goat from Kismayo, who was more familiar with the boatmen, and he told me it’s how the Portuguese say typical. And then I thought of you because you’re sort of bland and boring, even if you’re bright yellow, you’re still not that much fun. But I sort of like it. There’s a predictability to you. I can count on you to be stuck wherever I saw you last.”

“Well that’s not very nice, but I’m not offended. In my opinion, you move around too much and don’t know your place in life.”

᎒ “You would move around too Tipico if you knew how nice it felt to live without planning.” The goat gave a wink.

“To live without planning? What exactly do you mean?

᎒ “Look Tipico, the only reason you stay where Burhaan puts you is that you abide by the expectation that he should find you where he left you. Do you not think for yourself?

“Well, I never really gave thought to the thought of thinking for myself.”

᎒ “Oh Tipico, Just imagine the potential. Unlike my limitations with four legs, as a ball of yarn, you can span longer distances at once, if you only you’d learn to unwind on your own accord. Look little one, your life would be at your dictation if you learned to challenge the culture.”

“The culture?”

᎒ “Yes, Tipico, the culture! The construct, the guidelines. You ever question it?”

“Well no, not really.”

᎒ “Then you don’t have a love for it. A citizen to a place or belief system is not loyal if they are not critical. You can’t contribute to an environment unless you question why things are as they are. Question matters like why you stay on that shelf rather than on the floor where you can comfortably travel.”

The ball of yarn stared at the goat and fell silent. Challenge the culture? Disloyal if not critical? These were new prophecies and the ball of yarn needed to think tirelessly in order to extrapolate meaning from such propositions.

᎒ “What is wrong Tipico, goat got your tongue?” The goat made herself laugh.

The ball of yarn was dumbfounded. “No, I uh, I just.. I, I want to come down from this shelf. But how?”

The goat’s eyes twinkled in bemusement at how ready the ball of yarn was ready to risk his ingrained culture, his unquestioned normalcy of being shelf-bound. She initially thought it would take more convincing, but this was easy.

᎒ “With my help, of course, nothing anyone does is achieved alone!”

The goat left and returned with a pillow from Burhaan’s couch—placing it at the foot of the bookcase.

᎒ “Jump Tipico!”

Without hesitation, Tipico rolled off and landed on the soft pillow. He had already jumped in his mind before his body saw to it. He thought his freedom into existence.

With the ball of yarn on the Turkish embroidery pillow, the goat started dancing and gave Tipico a congratulatory kiss.

᎒ “Look at you! You’re like a king on your cushioned throne! You’re not so typical anymore my friend, but we won’t change your name, it must serve as to remind you of where you came from.”

The ball of yarn was so happy to see the world from his newly acquired perspective. He had a new excitement to span greater distances and learn new things.

᎒ “How does it feel Tipico?”

“Like freedom!”

᎒ “Ah, this is only the beginning my friend.”

“Did I challenge the culture?”

᎒ “Unconsciously, yes, but consciously no.”

“Tell me more about culture and how I am to consciously challenge all that I’ve ever known, ” said the ball of yarn with teary eyes and a yearning for a new truth.

᎒ “Ah ok my dear Tipico, let me awaken you to the paradigm shift of your identity.

***

End of Part I.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

 

 

 

 

 

Bricks & Flowers. The Social Construct of Gender Roles Needs Reforming.

I don’t think men are trash. The companionship of a man can be a good thing. A man worth my time will offer his support and friendship. However, a man I can certainly do without is one who holds so closely to the notion that men are the head of a household for no reason other than—to put it bluntly—they think their dick makes them so entitled. It’s laughable. I don’t blame them all for this sick sense of entitlement, everyone likes a bit of power.  This social construct of a society has done opposite works to men and women as if we’re complete opposites. We’re not polar opposites, we’re complementary. While I won’t disregard our differences, it’s important to recognize the intersectionality in our ambitions and skill. Furthermore, one woman varies from her sister, just as one man varies from his brother. The intersectionality between genders and the additional variances among a gender itself cannot be fit into boxes with straight edges and corners. In propagating the stereotypical, old aged roles imposed upon both genders through all sectors of our culture, we leave no room for women who decide on not having children or for the men who like to clean or cook and cry openly. I recognize the contexts in which such traditional roles were outlined, but how is a woman commonly expected to cook, clean and such if she is also working a 9-5? I’ll be bringing bread home too so I can do without this hierarchal shade. If I am maintaining the home and bringing in income, well aren’t I doing it all? If anyone, I ought to be deemed “head of household” with that logic. Anyhow, that isn’t what I’m after. I believe a woman and man should join for intimate friendship, reciprocation, and support. If any are compromised, one should reflect on the sweetness of their solitude and deem if the relationship offers more.

Loneliness can be distasteful, but at least it doesn’t infringe on your power. If anything, loneliness coats the void within you with an adhesive to hold to experiences and interactions that distract you from your fleeting despair. Loneliness forces you into introspection—eroding the blurriness between the states in which you are absentminded and woke. To be profoundly in tune with each distinct mode will keep you from being passive and thus subject to undesirable energy. Anyhow, my love for my solitude is not to say I don’t want love. Love is life. But my fleeting moments of loneliness cause me to draw upon the notion of compromise. How much compromising is too much? Is there such a love with no compromising? A part of me feels that compromise is vital, as it signifies two unique individuals reaching understanding. Compromise makes me think of the woman who has no money for a comb, and her husband who has no money to fix his broken watch. She cuts her hair to afford him a new watch and he sells his broken watch to afford her a comb. It’s a love of pure exchange. No expectations, but total reciprocity. But then… I feel as though we throw around the term ‘compromise’ as this sophisticated disguise for what in reality, is a lover having to betray their personal values. Compromise and imposed change are not the same, and I myself don’t have the wisdom to discern between the two clearly.

As a woman, I’ve been considerably fortunate to not have brothers. I don’t need this “protector” when I can adopt the logic to keep myself out of undesirable situations in the first place. I don’t need a brother to go after a boy that has hypothetically done me wrong. The notion is so silly, for when a person is selective with their time and energy, fuckboys are only folklore. Kind of like the monster under the bed as a child, you’re convinced it’s a thing but it’s not a thing you’ve witnessed to tell the tale yourself. God willing, I’ve had good luck with men (people in general). The energy you put out is what will boomerang back. Anyhow, this is not to dismiss the conscious, selective women who still get hurt. For it happens. But when it does, just remember, Beyoncé’s “Me, Myself and I” is the healing shit.

Look, I am not belittling the glorious male warriors of past time. Yes, I get it, men fought in wars and were physically adapt, yes cool story bro. But what I am saying is that this bestowed “protector” role is a societal construct that has carried on into today—penetrating irrelevant contexts and giving men propriety of what women have the capacity to do themselves.

In addition to not having the big brother to spy on me when your girl was out and about in the city (lol I’m talking about poetry slams and brunch duh), I’ve been even more fortunate to have a gentle father who did his own laundry, cooked and cleaned. In my household, there are no stark roles ordained because of gender. Things are simply done because they have to be, and they are done by one who has love. There is a great joy in cooking to nourish your loved ones, and in cleaning to make your physical space an outward manifestation of the state of your internal self; however, this is under the premise that love is the sole factor. When gender contributes, such acts become menial chores, for how unfair it is to be assigned tasks at birth unwillingly?  To be truthful, I don’t even feel like I am seen as a woman at home. I’m just a soul, a person, who is respected and understood for my ambitions and dreams. I was never told I had to learn to cook for marriage, I was told I needed to learn so that I could support myself as a person. I am grateful.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I sometimes imagine certain ‘female belittling’ scenarios in my mind, and I become so perplexed by what isn’t even my direct reality. I’ll stand in the mirror and enact my comebacks to men who casually slut shame a woman for the same act they themselves carry out. These imaginative scenarios of mine get descriptive too. For instance, I picture being married, and my husband’s friends coming over. In cultural accordance, I as the woman would greet them and then fix them up something to eat as they sat conversing. They would say thank you but would not be particularly appreciative of my gesture, because it was expected.

If I have it my way, and I insist on having it my way, this is how it would go down.

His friends would enter my home, and I’d be lounging on the couch watching the documentary about the Gulabi Gang. I’d say what’s up to his friends while extending my arm out—gesturing for them to walk to me and give me a fist bump, or some platonic shit of the like. I’d hear about their life updates and make a joke to one of them that no woman will marry him until he learns to properly iron his shirt… I’d probably give him a wink too to undo a bit of the damage to his ego. Then I’d get up and tell them to make themselves comfortable on the couch—leaving the Gulabi Gang documentary on so they can get educated.

Then, my husband and I would both go into the kitchen and fix up something for his friends. Even if he wasn’t particularly useful in the kitchen, he still better be in there with me. Perception is important. The collaborative effort is a signal to his friends that I am no damn trophy wife, I am simply a partner in the kitchen with my partner.  I do not serve. Listen, I would happily serve them if it wasn’t that deep. But is that deep. Certain acts are culturally imposed and expected of a woman. And so, my husband and I would both bring the tea and food to the guests. As a team.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

Omen ᎒ Child

 

Wherever you are in this world, & for whatever your labor may be,

If at any moment you look up and see an end, go outside and look up again.

And if even a star is seen at night, move and look to where there is nothing in sight.

For when your gaze becomes lost in the endless sky,

 you will entrust that you know nothing except the fact that you know nothing,

and your compass gifted by The Most High is buried inside.

 

***

 

“Where are you from?” said the old man of fruit stand

 

᎒ “I am from here.” said the girl

 

“I have sold apricots from this stand each year when the sun dances, but when it turns cold they stop growing. So, I have adapted. When the fruit crops are dead I sell bread. I keep the people of this town fed, but I have never seen you.”

 

᎒ “I am from earth, so I can say I am from here, just like you and your foremothers. But your suspicion is not void, for I am also from there too, and so are you.”

 

“Where are your forefathers from?” He asked with a raised eyebrow, “That is where you belong.”

 

“What makes here different from there, aside from different colors on a flag, or military men to secure land? It is a man who tells another where he can or cannot stand. But I am a woman and If I say I have all earth to span, then I can.”

 

The old man frayed the tip of his miswak with his thumb and spit over his right shoulder, letting it land in-between him and the young girl. She didn’t move. He did not understand why she could not give a straight answer and blamed the new regime for making women even more difficult to listen to than they already had been. He decided on telling her to get lost and find food elsewhere, but then he remembered that she had not even asked for his food to begin with. It was him who had started a conversation with her.

 

“If you are from everywhere, then why are you here of all places?” He questioned

 

᎒ “If I am from everywhere then why wouldn’t I be here of all pla…”

 

“Enough! I don’t understand you, you talk too much and you’re making me want to smoke”

 

᎒ “Then why won’t you smoke?” she laughed at how the old man could bring himself to frustration

 

“My wife, she doesn’t let me kiss her anymore, and she blames the smoke for making Mubarak cough”

 

᎒ “Your grandson Mubarak.

 

“How did you know that Mubarak was my grandson! He could’ve been a nephew or the neighbor’s child.” He watched her more closely now.

 

She wanted to use this as an opportunity to fool him into thinking she could read lives and the future, he was already convinced that she knew something substantial, although it was just a guess. She may as well make a profit from it if he accepted having his future read through his palm. Of course, she did not know how, but she was a good actor and that made her a jack of all trades.

 

A funny wind passed by and it made her fear the hellfire. She remembered that the one who engaged in fortune telling would have their prayers rejected for 40 days, and it was in times of traveling or sickness that she’d observe prayer sincerely— making up for all the times she had been deluded by comfort. She was to leave for her voyage into Somaliland at dawn, and could not afford avoidable sins to diminish her chances of getting there safely. She let the idea pass and told the man the truth.

 

᎒ “Because you’re an old man and you look like the type to live in a home of three generations.”

 

“You certainly are not from here; the girls here do not tell an old man that he’s an old man.”

 

᎒ “Why do you only mention the girls, if I were a boy and called you an old man would that have made a difference?”

 

“Yes, if you were a boy I would have laughed, but you are a girl and so you can’t.”

 

᎒ “You know old man, I liked you more when you were silent and polishing your fruit.”

 

“That makes two of us.” the old man reached into his pocket for a cigarette

 

᎒ “Give me a cigarette.” She smirked

 

“Maxaad ii tidhi! (What did you say!) You’re young enough to be my granddaughter, I will not!”

 

᎒ “It’s ok, I actually have my own pack, I figured I’d ask you first in case I may be able to save one of my own, money is tight when you’re a traveler, and I guess you want to be a selfish old man.” She winked.

 

She brought out her goatskin satchel and unzipped it—taking out a cigarette. The old man stood in bewilderment at how casually she took one out. She continued to look through her satchel and pulled out what he thought would be a lighter but was instead a pair of sunglasses. She put them on and stuck the unlit cigarette in her mouth and then leaned against the tree but lost balance and fell in the sand.

 

She called to him mockingly in an exaggerated crackly voice, “Little girl, help an old man who has fallen, my back! I think the angels have come to collect my soul! Make sure my sons get 2/3 of my inheritance and my daughters only get 1/3 if this bad back kills me!” She got up and started laughing at her own performance.

 

The old man tried to stay frustrated at her but could not help but laugh a hearty laugh. He realized she knew she had no manners but didn’t care, and that was oddly refreshing. He had not laughed like that in years. Laughing with his family was short-lived when he remembered how much more fruit needed to be sold to make rent. Laughing as a boy was always interrupted by the desire to be stern so that he could be taken seriously like a man. But here, as he stood with his fruit and the young girl, he couldn’t help but laugh freely at the way she mimicked James Dean with a sly smirk and obnoxious confidence. ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ was one of the only movies he could remember seeing some time ago at a theatre. The subtitles didn’t help much because he could not read. But that did not matter so much because who could ever have forgotten the smirk of James Dean.

 

᎒ “What is so funny old man?” She asked rhetorically

 

“ You know, if you didn’t look so silly, I may have slapped you for disrespecting an elder, but because you don’t actually smoke, I’m a bit relieved and can laugh at your playfulness”

 

᎒ “What makes you so sure I don’t smoke old man?”

 

“Listen, call me by my name, I am Abshir.” He suddenly had more patience with her now

 

᎒ “Ok, Abshir, why do you care for whether I smoke or not?”

 

“Because it is not good for you, young one”

 

᎒ “Abshir, call me Rihan. Now Abshir, why fear my affairs with a cigarette if you yourself smoke?”

 

“Rihan, sometimes, the things we bring upon ourselves are not what we wish for others, it’ll make sense when you grow older. How old are you anyway?”

 

᎒ “Do you want my years in how long I’ve been in this body, or by how much I’ve experienced?”

 

“Because I know you like to talk a lot, give me both.”

 

– “12, and just born.”

 

“You are just born in accordance to how much you’ve experienced?”

 

᎒ “Yes. How much we experience is not about quantity, that is the delusion. Experience is about undergoing something more profound than you had yesterday and letting that override all you know. I detach from yesterday if I’ve witnessed something grand today. And tomorrow Abshir, if I meet someone in another town more fascinating than you, I will forget about you and I will live in the moment my new friend gifts me. So, I am always being revived and reborn.”

 

“You didn’t make any sense at the start of our encounter, and I’m afraid that hasn’t changed. But I like you now, I hope God keeps you safe in wherever you venture to next.”

 

᎒ “How can you assume I won’t build myself a house in this town?”

 

“You’re a 12-year-old girl Rihan, my dear, what house can you build alone?”

 

᎒ “Fair point, but you’re an old man, so we’re both unable in that regard.”

 

She smiled at him and he smiled back. They found common ground.

 

“It was nice meeting you Abshir. I hope you stop smoking just as you warned against it for me. It’ll make your wife happy, and when the women of the world are happy, the entire world is at peace. Empower your daughters as you do your sons. Be equitable, not traditional.”

 

“Rihan, you are perhaps the most interesting person I’ve met in the years I’ve been at this bazaar, can you at least tell me where you are going so I can give you some money according to the distance you must travel, you have made me laugh and for that I must repay you.”

 

“I would tell you if I knew, but I only know one thing.”

 

And she recited for him,

 

Wherever you are in this world, & for whatever your labor may be,

If at any moment you look up and see an end, go outside and look up again.

And if even a star is seen at night, move and look to where there is nothing in sight.

For when your gaze becomes lost in the endless sky,

 you will entrust that you know nothing except the fact that you know nothing,

and your compass gifted by The Most High is buried inside.

 

 

The old man was moved by the young girl’s words and began to weep.

 

She took off her glasses and put it on his face and said,

 

᎒ “I know you like looking manly, so do not let others see you cry. But know that because I’ve seen you cry, you are the manliest of men to me. Be more vulnerable from time to time, your masculinity isn’t so fragile. Be well Abshir. I am an orphan and will keep you in my prayers. The prayer of an orphan is of the most sacred.”

 

“Rihan, don’t go, my wife and I can adopt you as our own. You won’t make it very far alone!”

 

᎒ “The moon & the stars have already done so, you mustn’t kidnap me, that would be a crime. Also, who are you to say I won’t make it far alone without having known how far I’ve already come? I am never alone.” She smiled and left without turning back.

 

The old man wept and called after her but did not run after her. He knew that a traveling soul could never be captured or kept at a standstill. He knew that he himself had been still for too long in the box of custom and tradition. His masculinity was not fragile and he quit smoking that very moment for his wife’s contentment.

 

He admired the young girl. The world was hers and she belonged wherever she set foot. This, he now understood.

 

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

Do Not Let the Net of Your Unconscious Float Too Far |Purpose & Essence

There are certain places that can shapeshift my certainty into shapeless sand. Places like the children’s section of a bookstore, or the corner by the bookshelf in the mosque, bring me to contemplate the things worth living for. It makes good sense, for there is a common root in the child and spiritual one, both are embodiments of what is innate, and what can only be tarnished by the loss of innocence or the negligence of guarding one’s energy.

There are verses from the Quran that can strip my ego of its worldly embellishments, and the dancing thick sound of an oud being strum that can move me to tears in gratitude for God’s gift of hearing.

But if I am uncareful, there too, are certain forms of music that have a way of fabricating my truth—turning reality into an enjoyable delusion in which I forget my sense of self. Profane lyricism or careless nudity can with time, plaque the heart. This is old news of course, but a reminder to myself first and foremost.

Do not get me wrong, good lyricism is poetry, and nudity can be done in self-love and respect, but as with anything, it is about the context, and therefore the energy in which you permit to enter your ears, eyes and all other windows. These are windows to the heart, the cage of your essence. Heighten your awareness and do not let the net of your unconscious span so large that it catches anything and everything with such disregard. Learn to be more selective and in tune with how your heart fluctuates in response to your surroundings. This is the start.
***
Last night was probably the first time I ever challenged my purpose. I’ve lived each day with my ambitions as far from the abstract as one’s jugular vein—within me and sustaining me. It’s a beautiful thing, to know exactly what you want. Vision is the antidote to the one who wastes time. For how can you move with purpose if you do not yet see your purpose?

                                                                                 ***

But as of last night, I’ve come to realize two things about the fragility of purpose:

1. The concept of self-revival emphasizes that we do not have to be who we were yesterday. Our previously self-defined purposes are not definite, for as we grow into our life experiences, we should not be closed off to the idea of our purposes potentially changing.

2. At the same token, if we strive to maintain a single purpose, then the journey is about accepting the different routes, for although our vision is concrete, the ways of getting there are fluid.
There are two journeys to self, one in which the vision is fluid and one in which the route is fluid.

Not everyone realizes their purpose. Some people live in accordance with expectation, and some in a result of limited opportunity—both in which are sometimes in tragic harmony.

I must note that our purpose is not synonymous to our essence. Our self-defined purpose is subject to change, whereas our essence is more abstract and entirely distinctive. Two people can potentially have the same purpose but the cannot share the same essence. Our essence steers us to our purpose. And if you want to gain clarity of your purpose, heighten your awareness and detox your energy. In doing so, you’ll create a safe space within yourself, free of societal expectations and checkboxes. Perhaps you’ll realize that your previously declared purpose is different, or maybe it’s the same and you’ve just now accepted the liberation in knowing there are abundant ways to achieve the same thing. It is about being true to your essence and achieving what you want in the way that is integral to you.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima