Abez sez Assalamualaikum!

Monthly Archives: May 2005

You are browsing the site archives by month.

For a while we lived with people,
but we saw no sign in them of the faithfullness we wanted.
It’s better to hide completely within
as water hides in metal, as fire hides in a rock.

-Rumi

Beware of Oud

Here we are, coming to you live from yet another net cafe in Sharjah where I am surrounded by people speaking the national language, this according to Knicq bhai, being not Arabic, but Malayalam. hehe

I don’t know where to start. There are zillions of things to blog about, but I don’t know how to say them. Take, for example, the time I was sitting in the lobby of our hotel when the hotel manager, an Arab man in a white thobe and white head-thingy (amama?) came with an incense burner of Oud. I don’t know what Oud is, I only know that it is a fragrant wood that smells nice when smouldered in a funny little dish on the coffee table. Yesterday, the manager very happily brought this smoking, fragrant incense burner to us in his hands and said,

“Do you know this?”

“Yes,” I said, “It’s Oud, and it smells lovely.”

“Wait one moment,” he said, kneeling at my feet. (Abez sez: wha…?)

He then set the Oud on the floor and lifted the hem of his thobe so that the smoke wafted up into his clothes.

“See?” he said happily as his dress filled with smoke, “It makes your clothes smell nice!”

“Ok,” I nodded politely.

Then he grabbed the hem of my jilb (shock!) and held it above the incense burner and suddenly my dress was filling with smoke.

“Two weeks!” he said enthusiastically, “It will smell good for two weeks!” He then stood up and took his incense and went away, presumably to good-naturedly infringe upon the airspace of other hotel guests.

There were several thoughts that pushed into my mind just then. The first was: did he just grab my clothes? The second was, Thank God I’m wearing pants and the third was, should I tell him I wash my clothes more often than every two weeks? hehe.

explain thyself

The poem titled ‘From the Homely Brother’ was not written to be overtly sexual or deliberately offensive, but to explain behavior that is so often misunderstood by people- he doesn’t look at her, he must think men are better than women. He walks in front of her, what does he think he is, superior? He won’t even say her name, what a religious weirdo!

My intention was to show how these behaviors were not callous or extreme or chauvinistic, but motivated by respect and geared towards preventing any debasement of a sister’s character. He doesn’t look at her because he respects her too much to lust after her. He doesn’t walk behind her because he won’t leer at her. He keeps his distance out of respect, in spite of the overwhelming emotion he has.

It’s for Islam, not spite it
That I will not meet your eye
And it’s not romantic cowardice
That keeps my smiles shy

When I wrote this poem three years ago, I had been trying to see inside the heart of a person facing temptation in love but resisting for the sake of Allah and for the sake of the sister’s dignity.

But sister my devotion
To your honor is foremost

We have enough of people giving in to temptation, of letting their desires override their morals and letting love be a higher god, this was supposed to be different. This was a brother dealing successfully and patiently with what he feels, not letting it go towards haram, but waiting to make his relationship halal, and until then, doing his best.

So until Allah, He blesses me
And you become my other half
I will always close my ears
To the melody of your laugh

Why am I explaining myself right now? Well, apparently this poem has been misunderstood. Because I wrote it, what I meant is crystal clear to me and I therefore had no mental pause about posting this publicly. But the way people have been interpreting it has been very off from what I meant.

‘I love you,’ is what this brother is saying, ‘but for the sake of Allah and Islam and you, I will keep my distance until Allah makes you mine. And until that happens, don’t think my behaviour is rude or chauvanistic, I’m keeping my distance out of respect for you.’

I seek refuge in Allah and seek his forgiveness for sins I have committed against others or against my own soul. Any good is from Allah and any bad is from shaitan or my own self, astaghfirullah wa atubu ileih.

For we have thought the longer thoughts
And gone the shorter way.
And we have danced to devil’s tunes
Shivering home to pray;
To serve one master in the night,
Another in the day.

— Ernest Hemingway

From the Homely Brother

I want you too much to take you
And cherish you too much to cheapen
So sister accept my distance
And watch my love slowly deepen

I am but one man among many
Who longingly thinks to savor
Your warmth, your eyes, your smile,
And wonder at its flavor

My place among them is common
Of merits, I cannot boast
But sister my devotion
To your honor is foremost

And I alone among them
Nearly burst with wrath
When he of lusting eyes
Stood and blocked your path

When he of thieving hands
Stole a caress from yours
When he stood damn close to you
As he would with common whores

As I stood in my rage
You stood in virgin shame
I’d come to your defense
If you’d only call my name

If only you would see me
As more than just a beard
If only you could think of me
As more than religiously weird

It’s for Islam, not spite it
That I will not meet your eye
And it’s not romantic cowardice
That keeps my smiles shy

It’s not because I fear you
That I will not call your name
And when I call you sister
I’m trying to be tame

It’s not that you’re inferior
It’s just that I’m so base
I haven’t the control
To gaze into your face

Without my heart missing beats
Without forgetting to be ‘brother’
Without wishing your love
Was for me, and no other

So until Allah, He blesses me
And you become my other half
I will always close my ears
To the melody of your laugh

I will always close my eyes
To the beauty of your face.
I will kindly ask my heart
To beat at normal pace.

I will walk a step before you
And cast no looks from behind
I will move my lips in zhikr
To keep yours off my mind.

For I want you too much to take you
And cherish you too much to cheapen
Sister, accept my distance.
Sister, watch my love deepen.

-Zeba Khan

(Dec 7,2002)