The Observation of Shamsa’s Spouse

Every night, my dear Shamsa awakes from her sleep.

She does not leave the bed from hunger or an ill dream.

Nor does she speak to me as she untangles herself from the sheets.

Verily this is her routine.

 

She does not know that I see her in these late hours of the night.

But my adoration for her grows tenfold with the prayer mat she unfolds.

Never have I seen an insomniac so pure.

Never do I forget to thank my creator for a lover who lights the darkness with her noor.

 

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

*sigh*

I hold back on writing to you because enough people give you praise.

What weight would my words hold? What difference would the ink of my love make?

 

I hold back on writing to you because I want from you the devotion I’m too tired to give.

At a command, a branch will not offer a fig. One must pull and work for it.

So, won’t you work for this?

 

I’ve already reasoned with your shortcomings.

New curtains have been hung, and the Turkish cupboard has been dusted.

 

For you, I am ready.

I would dream of you but the moon is a woman and she won’t let me.

 

I have learned not to rest in a home built from strings of words.

Periods prove no point, exclamations marks don’t excite me, and

a grammarian’s suitcase does not have enough commas

to embrace me when your promises fall short.

 

I hold back on writing to you, because your heart isn’t ready to listen.

The Ink of the heavens now rests, so when our timing is rightfully positioned, make an offering to me with conviction.

 

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

(Y’all this shit right here is mad corny, don’t know what got into me)

 

 

 

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

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

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