A Slumbering Sojourn Toward the City of Lights

I stand alone, on the edge of an abandoned campground, stupefied by the sight of ashes once bright. Shrouded in sheets of iron and shackles of pyrite, imprisonment has led to an all-consuming ache that has since seeped into the rivulets of my palms.

In this listless state, I begin to hear from the distance, dulcet tones arriving to me as shy ripples, one after the other, until they crescendo into a roaring wave. The voices become husky and frantic, matching the intensity of the drumbeat. In praise of you The Messenger of God ﷺ, the munshid, having arrived at the apex, stumbles, his voice catches and pierces through the curtains hanging heavy over my soul. Through it, I suddenly catch a sliver of that beauty which has forever eluded me.

Color bleeds through the scenery and hands push me forward, headfirst into the destination that is anticipated endlessly. Overflowing, the heavy cup falls aside, overtaken by the enormity of the gaze bestowed upon me. Moonlight runs across the jagged landscape, marked by a garrison of treeless mountains surrounding garlands of verdant green that adorn the path long tread by caravans of lovers. 

As my disbelief begins to subside, relief turns to strangle me. It rips open my eyes, tearing through their delicate layers, burning red down the planes of my cheeks. A desperate scream shies away from release, lodging itself at the base of my throat. Rushing to my aid, the blessed breezes take hold of my being, filling my lungs with their joyous greeting. 

In ecstasy, my voice rises to the heavens, for how I have longed, and longed, then longed again for just a moment beholding this splendor. My words are met with silence that holds the promise of speech, beckoning me to move further ahead towards the palatial eclipse of lights. Taking my hand, my companion on this journey, the token of praise guides me ahead, lighting the dusty path home. 

By now, I am blinded by the agony of anticipation and have lost feeling of all else. No longer can I contain the depth of my fervor. My strides grow hurried and frantic till I am finally drawn into gates of gold, which lay open admittance to a portal of heaven. The nearing of union, however temporary, intensifies my dazed state into a potent intoxication that sinks deeper with every heartbeat. What perfumes the air, or carpets my steps, I do not know, for my senses have abandoned me to the delusions of my raging fever. 

A beggar, I arrive at your doorstep. Love reaches its pinnacle as I bask in the closeness to your presence, swaying in tortured delight. A thousand bow-lengths stand between you and I, but even then pain has torn open my wounds afresh, stinging them with the salt of my tears. 

In front of you the world lies threadbare, brought to its knees in utter humiliation. Time has slowed in your reverence but in turn it fans the embers of my anguish bright. Unabating, it has come to a slow boil, represented by a single minded throb whose torrent pushes past all dams and bursts forth in raging torment. Around me, breaths hitch, fingers clench and shoulders shake. The beat picks up its pace, pounding in shared grief – the melody of glorious lament.  

My fixation is ruptured by the beguiling call of the green lattices who tease, each offering me a peek at the treasure within, without compare in every heaven and earth. Although undiscerning, I am not so insane as to give my bent head and prostrating lashes the courage to ever heed their whispers. Ignoring their summons, my love flows free, perfuming my tongue with convictions seldom understood by experience but never by description. 

But as fate has it, reason returns. It reins me into its clutches, laying its fierce crop across my chest, bringing my swaying to an end. I struggle against its heavy hand, for it seems impossible to leave now. I cannot summon the thought of retreat. From where shall I obtain the will to turn  back when the journey has brought me this close. How will my soul remain, and how will my heart recover, if separated from this instance. 

Placating, the presence gathers the shatters of my spirit, emblazoned with ripples of light, and hands it to me, a safekeeping for the next time. The minarets accompany me toward the boundary, holding my gaze until they recede into the blanket of a night sky. I continue in trance, turning backwards to stare until there is nothing remaining to cool the heat of my muffled wails.

What words can convey the utter contentment the scent of this city brings. How can I speak of you, when the dust that gathers in your crevices is the kohl with which I anoint my soul. Within you does the Most Beloved of Creation ﷺ lay. To you my heart and soul. For you, may my soul be ransomed a thousand times over. 

Innumerably blessed are those who reside in your sanctuary. Mere mention of your name makes my eyes grow weary. Torture are the days away from you, beloved are the nights that carry me to your realm. Convey peace and salutation to the Most Beloved ﷺ often and forever. Tell him of a longing so severe, that at times the very breath is rent asunder with desire to journey without return.

Photo Credit: Mohammed Alzubidi 

About the Author: Fariha is a graduate in cognitive science. Her interests include medicine, philosophy, Islamic spirituality and poetry.

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