A Date at the MET, The Mighty Moorish Empire, Schools of Thought & Discerning between Love and Lust  

NYC | A rainy day | The Metropolitan Museum | Him and I.

We stood in front of the oil painting. It suited its gold frame. With their smooth dark skin and an aura contained by tradition and power, even the common Moor looked like a king. I looked at the decorative jewels the men wore, the precision in the creases of their turbans, and the intricacies of the tapestry rug in the backdrop. Before Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros began his inquisition to forcefully convert the Moors into Catholicism, the Moors colonized and ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula—reviving the oppressed and stagnant times of Europe with their intellectual and progressive practices. The elaborate use of geometry in their windows and walls were awe-inspiring, and surgeries performed in the hospitals of Cordoba would have been adopted by the rest of Europe only centuries later. The Moors were Muslims, and of skin like night. It is no wonder that their honor and empire have systematically been ‘forgotten’ in much of academia.

The first time I heard of the Moors was in Shakespeare’s Othello, as Othello himself, the protagonist was a Moor. I remember my literature teacher defining a Moor as a black Muslim. He wasn’t entirely wrong, but his simplistic description was a microaggression of sorts. Yes, Moor has come to historically describe the affluent Muslims post 711 AD who were black, but the word moor derives from ‘marvo’ of Greek etymology, which simply means black, and nothing more. And to finitely equate Moor to mean ‘black Muslims’, implies two things. Firstly, it neglects the Moorish achievements and the intellectual essence of who they were in deducing how we define them to a physical basis. And second, it makes it as though being black and Muslim must be mutually exclusive as if when a Muslim so happens to also be black, the distinction must be made because that deviates from the ‘norm’ or the Arab Muslim. But since we’re all striving to be more politically and historically correct than we were yesterday, let’s also not forget that Arabs were originally black.

The fabrication of history books certainly favors the oppressor, but art like this does a sort of justice—telling a truth that cannot be untold. This sort of art is my favorite. The type that represents my people, or those of the like, in high esteem.

We moved on to the next painting in the “Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia” section. We stood close to each other, as waves of people with rehearsed tour guides passed by. I tuned them out and made it so that he was the only person in the museum. Us and the art. We silently observed the next piece, and he then asked me about the way I prayed.

“When you say the shahada, as you conclude your prayer, do you simply point your index finger up, or do you move it like this?” He motioned his finger to illustrate.

***

The shahada is what Muslims pronounce in each prayer to cleanse their spirit and revitalize their faith.

It reads:

“Ash hadu an la ilaha ill Allah wa ash hadu anna Muhammada Rasul Allah.”

“I declare there is no god but Allah and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Although a simple saying, it holds much beauty and weight. Allah simply translates to “the one God”, and motioning of the index finger in prayer is a physical manifestation of emphasizing the oneness of God.

***
“I move my finger, as you just did,” I told him.

“Ahh, you do it like the shafi’i,” he said slyly.

“And what is that?”

“It’s one of the Islamic schools of thought, Somalis are of it. I used to go to a Pakistani Sunday school though, so I have some Hanafi tendencies, that’s another school of thought.”

I raised my eyebrow, and fixed my eyes on the painting as I said, “I don’t see the need for all these divisions in ideology, they’re just deviations of God’s word and these people with a motive justify it by calling it ‘a school of thought’ because certainly knowledge is easier to swallow than announced deviation”

“Ya, that’s true Karima. Not everyone thinks that clearly though. Your soul is good, may Allah preserve you and what we have.”

“Ameen walal

It was funny that I so easily called him ‘walal’ (a Somali word meaning sister/brother, but also used as a form of endearment and respect), funny how things the other says so often eventually find a way on your tongue.

I looked at him as he continued to look at the art. He had a nice way of dancing between his hunger for me and his self-control, it was an art of itself.

We moved on to the next exhibit. Hand in hand, rooted in culture and faith. Sustained by God as we sought a happy medium between our love and lust.

***
Weeks later I texted him, and the conversation went as follows:

–How do men know they wholeheartedly appreciate a woman for her soul? If lust and love are so intertwined for them? This is something I’ve always heard. How do they differentiate? How do you differentiate?

//Good question Reem. It’s a feeling that is intertwined for sure. But one must like someone for their character, followed by their physical attributes. If it is the other way around, then lust is the driving force. It’s much deeper than this of course.

–So then how do you know if it’s love of her soul or love of her physique that takes mental dictation?

//I guess one can argue and say that……… good question fam. I’m at a loss for words. Somethings are felt. It’s hard to express love.

–Yeah makes sense. If anything comes to mind tell me.

//I got you. What are your thoughts?

–Well for me the two, lust and love, have always been compartmentalized. They never initially mixed. I wasn’t physically drawn to you. I’m hardly ever physically drawn to men at all. I’ll find them attractive, but I’ll never entertain a thought into the realm of lust. So, I have to know one’s character before being drawn in. You get me fam? Then a trust has to be built. And then, only after the trust is established, can lust develop. So, you see, the two are never really intertwined with me. It’s sequential, and therefore controllable.

// That’s well said, Reem. I won’t lie, for men, sometimes, actually most times, lust is preliminary. It’s an asshole thing to say, but I’m just telling you like it is. And despite that though, when you respect and honor the woman for the way she presents herself, you train yourself to settle those desires. And in a weird way, sometimes the lust shapeshifts into some type of fire that fuels your desire to learn about her on a deeper level. So, I wouldn’t disregard the lust entirely. It’s energy. So, tell me, if you don’t lust first, how do you go about getting to know someone deeply?

–Valid, and well I guess I sort of just listen to them with no expectations. And they’ll eventually say something impressive to stimulate me mentally. I’ll talk more and more with them, and eventually a trust forms. And then I envision the potential of sexual relations, and if I see them fitting that role too, then love follows. That’s my process, full circle, and whole

//Interesting.

–So I’ll cut the bullshit, I guess lust lowkey precedes love for me too. But it just happens deeper into the game, further into the process. You feel me? Lust is never an initial thing for me.

//I feel you. I love how you think. Your mind is a science homie.

–Really? Is it easy to follow?

//Sometimes. Once you break it down. I think I’m keeping up well.

–lol, yeah, I suppose you are.

***

People discern between love and lust in different ways. Emotions are of the spectrum and beyond the spectrum. When you try to quantify it, you deduce it to what is tangible. Emotions are not of the tangible realm, to begin with. They are meant to be overwhelming at times and inarticulable. Despite this, this is a glimpse into how I view it.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

 

 

 

 

 

Avoidance Mentality & Learning to be More Present

“Sir, can I sit here?”

“Yes, of course.”

Thank you.

***

I never used to so comfortably ask to sit with a stranger. And I certainly never call a man sir, it’s so proper, and he was wearing an Iron Maiden shirt so I especially don’t know why I did it.  I am not shy, but avoidance is easier. Entirely simple interactions sometimes feel weighty and exerting. It’s not a type of avoidance derived from the fear of being awkward, for I’ll gladly make a fool of myself and not overthink it after the fact. Rather, it is an avoidance stirred from my being so deep within myself, that it’s hard for me to find solace in other things besides myself, make sense?

I walk around so deep in thought that I’m often confused for being sad. I suppose it’s a reasonable assumption, as sadness does have a way of making one introspective. But I’m hardly sad. I just only speak to people if I have to, and that’s if I’m being spoken to…or ordering something to eat.

This is not to suggest that I don’t like people, for I do. But I just rather look at the symmetry (or lack thereof) of their faces. See their repetitive hand gestures or inability to sit for long in their seat. I want to study them. I want to be a listener.  A person’s idiosyncrasies tell me far more than their scripted words do. I feel like a hypocrite because I too, often reply, “Oh that’s nice”, or other bland scripted fillers to bridge silences in the conversations I’m not fully invested in… conversations in which I strategize ways to escape with an “I have to head to class now, ” or “It was nice running into you, but I have to call my mom back, it might be something important.”

(Haha, if I’ve said either of the two to you before, don’t worry, sometimes I’m actually telling the truth. Sometimes…)

That’s another thing, silence. If you want to know whether I like/ love you, assess if I can comfortably be silent with you. I talk less the more comfortable I am sometimes. Small talk has become the only form of talk for many. It’s small talk that drains the shit out of me. I get bored too easily and wish someone would ask me something radical every now and then. I like people who don’t sit on the fence of contemplation. Just lose the filter from time to time and say something that might piss me off. It’ll prompt a worthy dialogue. Just don’t be too much of an asshole though, I remember everything people tell me. Discretion is key homie.

***

I topped too much cinnamon on my iced coffee and it gave me flashbacks of when I was 12 and choking on a spoonful of cinnamon for one of those challenges. I practically almost died, and I couldn’t forgive my little sister for forgetting to hit the record button because going viral at that age would have at least made the near-death experience somewhat worth it.  We do dumb things while we’re young to live less precariously as adults, or at least that’s the hope. Some adults are still idiots.

I opened my cobble textured black planner, (I have a thing for minimalist stationary) and stared at all the things I didn’t get to check off from yesterday. There weren’t many people in the bookstore, but I recognized the gray-haired cashier with the limp. She must always be here on Tuesdays. There was a girl with skin dark like my dad’s, and a loud sophistication swaying from her orange summer dress. There was a familiarity to her, but I’ve never seen her before. There were other empty seats near and in plain sight, but she locked eyes with me.

I suppose my smile was synonymous to an invitation. It was the sort of smile that was full and warm, not passive and routinely. I’m not sure why I smiled at her like I was expecting to see her, maybe it was the way her dress hugged her body or the amethyst crystal on her neck that made me catch a vibe. I have a thing for beautiful women or living art if you will.

“Do you mind if I join you?” she asked.

Her accent had the same fragility as mine. Like her parents immigrated here, and although she only spoke English, she could trade accents unknowingly depending on if she was talking to someone in academia or an aunty she bumped into after Friday prayer at the mosque. A tongue that was always one with the people.

“Of course, you can!”

I was secretly happy she didn’t choose an empty table. I found the simple gesture of her approaching me really attractive. And I loved how unruly and curly her hair was.

(I sound like I was totally checking this girl out… & damn it I was! Women admire and study each other all the time, its fact. And for whatever feelings the inspecting ignites, to each their own.)

That’s all it took. Make eye contact, exchange smiles, and merge existences. The algorithm was simple and refreshing. I decided right then, that I’d make the effort to sit with strangers and connect effortlessly because there was never anything to lose if there was no expectation.

***

“Sir, can I sit here?”

“Yes, of course.”

Thank you.”

I sat at the table with him. He looked about 35 and his thick beard was jet black. From his angular features, perhaps he was Persian, but I wasn’t too sure. He had circle-wired glasses that reminded me of a boy from one of my many high school flings (I was a player…kidding). His Iron maiden shirt was wrinkled and fit in a way that suggested he had it since junior high, which would’ve made him around 13, and that made perfect sense because Iron Maiden was really big in the early 80’s, and people like him must’ve joined the bandwagon in the 90’s.

The table was by the science and business bookshelves. I found it juxtaposing to have the two right near each other. But it made sense when I gave it a second thought, an unsettling sort of sense. For much of public knowledge and the sciences are dictated by those of power, those of the profitable business. I looked at it for a bit longer and found a more settling interpretation. I’m pursuing the sciences and my love does business. Maybe God wanted me to notice the two near each other for assurance.

The man with the wired frames read his thick book with fine print & I got to my own tasks. We minded our businesses in comfortable silence. No expectations, no awkwardness. The world was in order.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima

Paradoxical Beginnings

I’m currently sitting in the far right seat, two rows from the very back of this dimly lit lecture hall. Behind me, two boys– one with a snapback too big for his head– are hovering over a shared phone screen with anticipatory grins, waiting for the funny part of what I presume is some Instagram video from one of those “Daquan” accounts. Such accounts are why vine did not last very long. To the left of me, a girl is eating a Quaker’s granola bar. From her seating choice, and too small of a backpack, I can tell she isn’t the studious type– only here because her major requires it. You’re perhaps wondering what that suggests about myself, as I am sitting right next to her. Well, the difference is that my school bag is quite full, and I typically sit in the very front of every class, I’m that student. But this is just psychology class, no offense

The edge seat is most suitable for those who intend to do other than pay attention to the professor. I never quite understood the students who sat in the middle of the room, with their screen brightness fully on, as they peruse YouTube, Facebook or even porn. I, of course, haven’t seen the latter happen in any of my classes, but I’ve heard a fair share of stories. Such people are either fools or too comfortable with themselves. Sometimes the two are indistinguishable

While I find psychology fascinating, it’s all too instinctive, or at least the introductory courses are (to undo my prior offense). It’s much too common sense. Rather than catching up on FKJ and Soulection tracks on Soundcloud, or inking my planner with ambitious tasks that require me to be up past 9:30 pm, (not happening, I need my sleep) I may as well start this blog.

I don’t know how this stuff quite works; and while I’ve always considered starting one, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Ifemelu from Americanah was to me, like eating the whole bag of chips because you didn’t ration the serving by eating from a bowl. In other words, a fictional character brought me to impulsively buy a membership for this WordPress thing, without first putting my thoughts into the bowl and eating slowly, making the snacking a more thoughtful process.  I could have just opted for the free version of WordPress, but a personal domain is more aesthetically pleasing. The aesthetic of things is what makes life more than passive breathing. Anyhow, the deed is done now, and so far I have no regrets. I suppose the membership will keep me consistent about blogging, then again, I’ve said that about the gym too. I’m on my third gym membership. Coincidentally though, this is my third attempt at a blog. 3 is also my favorite number, my mother will tell you.

***

I remember a couple months back, say mid-June, I had my first day of clinical. I was taking the morning train, thinking of all the things I could call the blog I intended to start that night. I impatiently wanted a side hustle. I spent more time planning clickbait blog titles and strategies to solidify a viewer base, all before even thinking of the blog content itself! How in-genuine and passionless! I’m usually not like that, I promise. I was simply broke, and I think that explains enough. Anyhow, God quickly put me in my place that morning.

I glanced at my google maps and saw that my train stop was next. It noted that I’d get off at 40th & Colorado and then board the 40 bus

I got off the train, thinking a bit of what my clinical preceptor would be like, but I was again overcome by thoughts of what niche I should pick in the blogging world. 15 minutes passed by and the bus came. The driver got out to take a smoke break and closed the bus doors. I stood behind the light pole, standing in its slim shadow. I’ve always been good at finding the in-obvious shadows produced by the side of a building, or the height of street signs. It’s a skill a commuter picks up real quick in the heat of the summer.

As the bus driver got back on the bus, he opened the doors. I rummaged through my purse for my wallet to scan my RTD pass. My wallet. Damn it!

Trying not to lose my cool, I asked the driver for an RTD pamphlet with the numbers for the A-line train. I called, praying unceasingly while on hold as I waited for the tasteless elevator music to end. I couldn’t help but give myself kudos for leaving the house 2 hours early. I intuitively figured I’d need buffer time in case I got lost on the first day of clinic… or lost my shit.

Finally, someone picked up. From her soft nasally tone, she seemed to be in her mid-twenties. She was so immune to calls like this, giving no assurance or sympathy. I was burdening her, keeping her from online shopping, or her unfinished text.

“Is there really no way you could simply call the security guard on the train, I literally just got off!”

“No it doesn’t work that way, sorry”  I swear I almost heard her filing her nails to accompany her bland customer service voice.

“You have no form of communication with the security on trains?”

“No”

“So what are my options then? Everything is in my wallet.” 

“You either wait till tomorrow and call the RTD lost and found, or wait on the opposite platform for the same train to reroute in 20 minutes”

“Alright, thanks for your time” 

“Good luck with your wallet”

“Good luck”, why do people feel the need to retrieve such empty phrases. They don’t say it because they mean it, but rather because they think you expect to hear it.

***

I waited on the opposite platform, and in my anxious loneliness, spoke to the most high, God:

I’m sorry for wanting to start a blog as a side hustle, I could probably just put that time into worshiping you better, or exercising. I don’t know, I suppose you and I both know I would taint my essence in the pursuit of a money driven hobby. It’s unlike myself. Do you want me to stay more low-key? A private life is a happy life they say. Or is my influence best for a different platform? You know what my soul needs. You know I’ve never been into the radio because it’s too mainstream; or read a book recommended by enough people to push me (to the edge, lol) away from my remote initial interest. If it is a thing made mainstream, or a space too saturated, I want no part. And not because I intentionally steer from things that are common, but because I subconsciously feel repelled. You know this already.

But SubhanAllah, what a paradox! As I embellished the idea of starting a blog for money, I became so consumed by the thought that I forgot my wallet and lost my money.  Not to mention, my social security card was in there. So in a sense, it’s as though the idea of profiting in in-genuine ways was compromising my identity. My truth.

Oh most high, if my wallet is still on that train, I won’t start a blog. 

Before the train arrived, I came to terms with whether or not I’d find my wallet. I always went the extra mile to look out for others, always washed my hands long enough to notice if a woman was leaving the restroom without her phone or lipstick. I had everyone’s back when given the opportunity. I knew God would not forsake me. The wallet isn’t a big deal, it’s all material. But it’s the time I’d have to spend replacing everything that made it not worth considering. And my faith surged. The train blew its horn three times as it approached the platform. My anxiety drifted and I felt calm.

The train doors opened, a Hispanic officer smiled at me and said, “Have a seat, I have it!” Praise be to the most high, I was so grateful.

“I knew it was you as soon as you entered, you look just like your I.D,” he said, & we both laughed warmly.

“I don’t know how to than..”

“Ma’am if anything looks out of place, it’s because I was trying to find a phone number, I really didn’t want to have to turn it in or RTD would take it to their lost and found and that would have been a headache for you, hardly anything is ever really found with them.”

He handed it to me. His finger nails were trimmed. His hands were browner than his face and wrinkled, he had to be about 45.

“Oh thank you so so much, everything is in here, God bless you”

“Don’t thank me, ma’am, I’m happy you have it. Aslam alaiku”

He smiled with an innocence that died in most adults at 27, and I smiled back with glassy eyes– biting my cheek so that I did not cry. He didn’t pronounce ‘Assalamu ‘Alaikum‘ quite right, but I knew his intent, &that’s what mattered.

I got off the train, put my sunglasses on, and allowed my tears to fall. People can be genuine. And so I gave up the idea of starting a blog.

***

And yet, here I am… It has been a few months since then.

At this point, I don’t really care for a side hustle or any sort of egotistical attention. I observe nuances others often overlook, and ponder things like eschatology and whether or not I should have another cup of coffee. It’s thoughts like this that I want to preserve somewhere, and if you enjoy my words in the process of me doing this, then I suppose that’s good too.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima