just another Ayesha


“I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.

We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.”


– M. Angelou



Write about the city you know. Write about the people who you know are not the way the newspapers paint them to be. Write about the way the city is changing, growing older and strengthening itself. Of course, it doesn’t want you to write on its behalf – you’re not writing for this city. No, you’re writing about the city. Your pen skids across the paper and here you’ve drawn this amazing city – strong, beautiful and brave.

Write the truth. Don’t censor it. Don’t worry about the consequences of telling the truth. Everyone knows that the city has been on the receiving end of bullets, booted kicks and never-empty threats. Everyone can hear each night that it is this city that cries itself to sleep. Each morning, its this city which washes itself of the grime that covers it with the help of the Indus that is eternally heading southward.

Write so that the people can read. Don’t forget about them. Let them in. Let their stories peek through your words. Here in these stories are the places, the people and the memories that are forever yours. They cant wiretap, haunt or bulldoze these places. They cant take this away from you. Because they don’t know these places. They don’t want to know these places. They can’t bear knowing it – it is too real, too genuine. If they knew the city, they would fall in love with it. And they would never hurt it the way they do. Had they talked to the people, they wouldn’t pull the trigger, they wouldn’t curse them, they wouldn’t cheat them, they wouldn’t rob them of their rights.. This is why they cant afford to know these stories. They wont read that which you write. They’ll censor it, they’ll ban it, they’ll do everything they can to buy your words.

But your words cant be bought in earthly terms. Your words were never for sale.

You tell me that these places are not in the physical world. That the nations we live in have invisible boundaries. That Pakistan is not just a country, it is a thought. It can exist even when the boundaries suggest otherwise. So the boundary becomes the rubber band which keeps stretching as you move from one city to another. As you pack your life in suitcases and travel from one airport to the other. You will carry your words and your heart will threaten to burst from the weight of that which is your burden. The truth is not the easiest of travel items.

Write so that the trees testify. Write so that the land you plant your feet on will be a witness to all that you stood for. Write so that your inky fingers and tired hands can speak for you the day you will be silent. Write so that the generations that have passed before you and the ones that are to come ahead will pass by your basti – your city – and remember you, all the places you carried, all the people you loved, all the memories you documented and the Truth you wrote even when you didn’t know where to begin.

“Does man imagine that We will not be able to bring his bones together again? Indeed; We have the power to remould even his finger-tips.” [Surah Al-Qiyamah (75): 3-4]

A soul that lived.

If you were to be imprisoned in a room for a long time and could take only two things with you, what would they be?
“Faith and hope”

Sarmad Tariq


This prayer is for you – that you are lifted from the vessel that held your brave spirit and taken to a world that is far more beautiful than any you have ever been to,  that you are given a strength that is stronger than any you have felt, that you are showered with love that is purer than any you received in the dunya.

I’ll think of you when I walk these streets. I’ll think of how there came a point when you could not plant your feet firmly on the roads of Islamabad. I’ll look at my own two feet which keep me grounded and my legs which let me race across the earth here. I’ll lift my eyes to the sky, with a prayer that you are okay, that Allah has kept you safe, and that you are reunited with your loved ones in a better world.

Pakistan is so blessed to have known you.


this is a note for myself and people like me who may have at some point begun to feel a growing hopelessness, who may have asked for that void to be filled and who may have not understood at all. there are some signs which are waiting for us on the journey we have taken. we are too afraid to read them. how then can we ever be guided? to understand, please read/listen/recite: surah Fussilat, verses 49-54.

The answer

The answer

“A battleship?”
“On its way to burn cities and people.”
“The enemy’s? Ours?”
“What difference does it make?”

Howl’s Moving Castle

“You will be with those you love.”

 “Allahumma inni as’aluka hubbaaka wa hubba man yanfa`uni hubbuhu `indak.

Allahumma ma razaqtani mimma uhibb, faj`alhu li quwwatan fi ma tuhibb.

Allaahumma ma zawayta `anni mimma uhibb, faj`alhu li faraaghan fi ma tuhibb.”

“O Allah, I ask you for Your love, and the love of the one whose love benefits me with You.

O Allah, whatever You have bestowed upon me of what I love, let it be a strength for me in what You love.

O Allah, whatever You withhold from me of what I love, let it be a void (to be filled) with what You love.”

The Forgotten Sunnah – Standing in the Rain

Anas said, “Rain fell on us while we were with the Prophet ﷺ. He ﷺ then removed part of his garment so that the rain could fall on him.” When we asked him why he did that, he ﷺ responded, “Because it has just arrived from its Lord.”
(Adab Mufrad)

Fiqhul Hadith

The Forgotten Sunnah – Standing in the Rain 

An unusual sound penetrated my train of thought as I sat studying at my desk. I looked up pensively from my book and a few moments passed before I realised that what I was hearing was the sound of pouring rain. A sound so common back in my hometown,Cape Town, was now so foreign to me in the desert city of Madinah.

I rushed out onto the balcony to admire the rainfall. As I stood, witnessing Allah’s answer to the prayers of the community, a strange sight caught my eye down below. A man, instead of running for cover, walked calmly to and into his building. He reappeared shortly carrying a chair. Still in a state of composure, he placed thechair out in the pouring rain and just sat down! He appeared to be enjoying the sensation of the raindrops falling on…

View original post 621 more words

“I was only trying to spell a loss”


Everywhere I go life and death hold hands like two of the three strands of a braid, pulling at mine. Telling me it’s time.

It’s time to let go.


Don’t go yet, please.

It’s not time yet. You can stay. There is room in my heart for another lifetime. We can still live that. We can sleep under the shade of the trees in a world where the shadows will be so long they won’t seem to end. We will drink from the rivers that pulsate under our patches of gardens. You will build your home on the nearest riverbed and you will work hard and patiently. It would be as if you were back right where you left me here in the dunya. When you finally will start looking for me, it will be the trails of jasmine that will bring you home.

It won’t be hard. The maps would be easier to memorise there. For who can forget the memory of a place which no eye has seen, no heart has dreamed of and no soul has imagined. Will you ask about me? I wonder what you will be told. They’ll look for me in the many Ayeshas there and I’m not sure where I will be or if I will be at all.

If I am, you will find me at the beach near sunrise. There will be shells, remnants of the lives we have lived in the earth we left behind, and there will be flowers scattered in each wave as it pulls me in, asks me to let go.. I will release my firm grasp of the ground and I will feel myself being taken in by the ocean as it reaches out and caresses my face. Like a friend who I met in another lifetime.

I will be waiting. As I am now.

Don’t go yet. There is still room in my heart to house another lifetime.


There are people who fall asleep in my city on nothing but the bare ground. Where are they now? Is it cold outside? Have they found the warmth of good company.. are they sound asleep in the comfort of loved ones.. can they feel angels settling down beside them as I remember them in every half-remembered dua.. will they awake to the fajr azaan tomorrow?

It will be the last day of this year and you will sleep under the same sky as they are and we will dream of the ocean and the waves and us heading back to the shore with salt on our skin and the scent of the sea on our palms.


Islamabad knows cold winters and this is my first winter here in the capital. When winter arrives, it walks beside you like a constant companion; its silence never really leaves you. At times, such silence gets suffocating and like every soul who calls Karachi home, there comes a point when I begin to feel numb. Writing, it appears, has been helping in preventing numbness from reaching the rest of me. As I write this, there is this need to go back to the place I have been, to reach out for what was familiar that now appears strange.

For a long time now, I’ve been wondering how I’m surviving away from home. Yesterday, I met people who have never known any homes except for those which they’ve found with each other. What I learned is what I would like to share with you.

I learned that each human has the capacity to endure way beyond what he or she believes himself or herself to be capable of enduring. We may weep aloud or silently when we face loss but we can and do make it through. I learned that even the calmest of cities can hide the ugliest of truths. Here in the capital, you will find homelessness and hunger and pain of the worst kinds and forms. Islamabad is green and very much alive but there are people on the streets, under the shelter of the trees, who are careworn and need a place to rest their heads in dignity. The city gives the impression of being distant from the rest of Pakistan because it’s more organised, less chaotic and that it takes care to beautify itself in every season it weathers. But it’s the people who make up a city, for “what is the city but the people?” (That’s Shakespeare for you. Coriolanus. One of his best and highly underrated plays)

There was something about loss which I needed to understand.  I had to know that there always is a comfort which every soul yearns for: to be loved, to be safe and to be warm. When that is taken away, souls suffer. You may not tell it in their radiant smiles or feel it in their wrinkled hands. You may not find it written on their faces or spot it in their words. But if you look hard enough, if you speak gently and kindly enough, if you are patient enough, you will know what they have lost.

It’s easy for me. I’m learning how to carry home with me, wherever I go. I’m learning to tuck away my fears, to look forward to what is to come in a constant state of hope. But what about those people who live in homes for the homeless? They were left behind because they could not keep up, because they were unwanted, because they could not talk or look at the world their parents did. Will you – or lets not bring you in, lets talk about me – will I give them a home when they are in most need of it? Will I let them enter my home, wherever it is or however it is, when they have no place else to go? Or will they be left on the streets or at the doorstep of another stranger like me?

If you are reading these words, I only ask this of you: Please don’t forget the family who may or may not be always there for you. Don’t forget to call up those you know, to go meet them even if it means going out of the way, and to ask them how they’ve been. I am writing this to let you know that sometimes all it takes is one person who can tip the balance, one phone call which can save a life and a walk in the winter morning which can help put everything into perspective.

If you are in Islamabad and would like to volunteer, please call up Edhi Homes and let them know when you’d like to come over. I hope to see you there.

Edhi Homes, Islamabad
Near Shifa International Hospital
Sector: H – 8, Islamabad
Phone: +92 (51) 4435129

Neither Here nor There

Picture by Chris Hadfield

“Karachi, Pakistan. More than 20 million of us live in this thriving delta city.” – Picture and caption by Chris Hadfield

“You want to hear the heartbeat of a place? Do you know how hard your heart beats when you’re lost? Do you know what it is to wander out of the comfort of your own stories?”

Picture by Chris Hadfield

“Calgary AB, glowing up into space, early on Sunday morning.” – Picture and caption by Chris Hadfield

“Maps weren’t about going from point A to point B; they were about helping someone hear the heartbeat of a place.”



Where I’m at:

Kartography by Kamila Shamsie

Kartography by Kamila Shamsie

A lullaby for Karachi

You have lost far too many children, Karachi.

Somewhere along the way, I have stopped counting. Children of all kinds, their laughter echoing in the valves of my heart, appear before me like a dream from back when the world was simpler. Are they yours, Karachi? Do you remember their names?

When I reached fifteen, it was you who taught me that each person is a story. A melody. Karachi, do you know these stories? Is it you that sings me to sleep every night? I thought I heard your voice. It was late and I could not fall asleep. It was you who helped me in that darkness. Even when you could not see me, you embraced me with the sound of distant traffic, your loyal fireflies and the occasional airplane lulled me to sleep. It was your fajr azaan that stirred me from slumber. I thank you, Karachi. You have been far too kind.

Your brothers and sisters call you every day, Karachi, telling you it will be okay someday. Look now, there is Quetta clearing out pain from her backyard, raking away the fallen leaves. She tries to tell you, with her silence and little gestures, that she is with you. That she has always been.

Peshawar stopped by this morning for a cup of tea. He hides himself in the walls he has created all these years in hopes of defending that which he loves, but don’t you forget now that you were his first love.

Lahore flew in the other day, Karachi. She left a box of mithai for you. In the silence between us, I could almost hear you when you wept quietly: What’s the point? Lahore was kind. She understood. Few manage to do that in a time such as ours. There was a knock at the door and Hyderabad walked in with a smile. He wanted to have a taste of the mithai so he arrived that very night with a platter of rabri. They did not speak of the children. They were quiet. I think they were remembering their own.

There was laughter. Islamabad had been up to her antics again. But she worries for you. You know that. You have always known. The children age faster in Islamabad, you tell me. I see your point especially when I wander out towards the Margalla Hills but there are times when I know you are partially wrong. There are no children in Islamabad anymore. She sent them away from us. For their own good, that’s what I remember her saying with that sensible but worried voice of hers.

In other news, Ayubia wrote for you today. Her letter is hardly decipherable – it has been snowing again – but as a concerned aunt and your youngest sister, she writes from somewhere deeper and rawer. She said that when this will all be over, you could take the kids up north to meet their extended family. They would love Pakistan in the rain, she promised.

It is almost Maghrib and the sun is reluctant in saying its goodbyes today. Is it because Rawalpindi’s flight has not arrived yet? She packed her bags this morning and said she was moving out. Pindi has been so troubled lately. It is understandable. She fears for the kids. She stopped them from going to school for one whole week. It was the kids who convinced her that shutting down anyone’s education was merely another name for being a coward. But Pindi will see the light one day. I hope that day is near.

The sun has set now and were the children here, they would have been home by now. I know you miss them, Karachi. You used to ask me why they grew up so fast, where there innocence vanished only to be replaced by excess independence. I see you standing there in that aasmaani shalwar kameez and I know you still look out for them. You do not latch the doors unless the night guard arrives with his whistle telling everyone it is safe outside and that he is there. He told me, the other day, that he would be retiring soon. The State does not pay me enough, he grumbled. It was only when I caught up with him near the masjid that he told me he had had enough. He had seen too much. You will find him selling fruits outside the masjid now.

You are tired. I have written too much. I end my letter here, Karachi. But just before this sunset plants a kiss on your forehead, I have one last thing to say to you about the children.

We will find them. I promise you. We will return them to their homes; they will run or walk silently towards the welcoming arms of those who love them, who have always loved them. We will not ask them how they have been. They will tell us, in their own time. We will simply let them enter our homes, ask them if they would like lassi and the fruits their aunts and uncles have sent them from all over Pakistan. When it is dark enough you can sing them to sleep, just like you always have.

With love,

A. Nasir



“If you could hug a place;


Enfold in your arms

Its very walls and floors,

Its scents and sounds,

Its feelings and memories,

And the very lives of people

Who roam it,

(Or once did);

I would hug three places:

My School,

My home,

And Yours.”

“If you could hug a place” by Sidra Maryam



“All of this love. Every piece. Every part of all the love in this world. The love they make poems with. The love of spellbinding novel. The love in songs. The love they tried to capture in a movie. The love of a mother for her child, of a child for her father. The love that liberates. The love that enslaves. The love you win. The love you lose. The love you chase. The love you live for. The love you know you’d die for. The love that makes men bleed. The love that swords have killed for. The love of fairytales and tragedy. It is all just a reflection. An echo. Of one single Source. Of a single love that you know, and I know, because we knew it before we could know. We were loved before we could love. You were given before you could give or know what it was to give. It is the love that your heart was created to know. It is the love that creates and sustains all love. It is the love that was before—and will remain after all else has passed away.

It is the love that was before…and will remain after all echoes have passed away.

-Yasmin Mogahed

In every prayer

A’isha (ra) narrates:

Once, when I saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a good mood, I said to him: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Supplicate to Allah for me!’

So, he said: ‘O Allah! Forgive A’isha her past and future sins, what she has hidden, as well as what she has made apparent.’

So, I began smiling, to the point that my head fell into the lap of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) out of joy.

The Messenger of Allah said to me: ‘Does my supplication make you happy?’

I replied: ‘And how can your supplication not make me happy?’

He then said: ‘By Allah, it is the supplication that I make for my Ummah in every prayer.’


(Narrated in Al Bazzaar, classified as Hasan according to Shaykh Albaani)


We were walking across the ground after the bell rang. I usually take the ramp since I like being surrounded by kids. I like kids. They make me happy. But then I like her. And she makes me happy. So I broke what was a regular feature of a regular school day – just for her. I don’t think she noticed. It’s okay, it took me a long time myself.

“You don’t blog anymore.”

It was a quiet statement. Not a question, not a complaint or even an accusation. I would be deserving of all of the above.

The thing is, this “blog” has evolved into personal rather than what was initially thought of as political. It has become a mirror to my life. I’m pretty sure that just by going through the archives you can tell so much about me which I might not have even intended on revealing.

Problem is, that shouldn’t concern you. In the grand scheme of things, it really shouldn’t.

What you could worry over is the ratio of hugs to gunshots in our world. The names (and NOT numbers) of missing people at this very moment in time. The economy, the wars, the hunger, the pain, the homes burnt to the ground and the trees razed every singly day. Every. Single. Day.

You see, when we start to obsess over our own lives, when we delude ourselves that our problems are unique to ourselves and when we stalk the lives of those we think have it easy… oh that’s when we’re in for trouble. Person A is a celebrity, her life glossed over in photographs and late night interviews (in our case, morning shows). Person A, for one sheer human moment, decides to do what is incredibly normal. Even if it is the simple act of falling while walking. That’s when their world erupts. Like a volcano that has been seething to burst through. The interrogations, the endless paparazzi. The phone-calls which say “well you overworked yourself”, “it’s going to be okay, you know”, “i cant imagine what it is like for you.” The times when Person A just starts questioning who Person A really, truly is. Is she what the picture tells her, is she who her mum always said she was, or is she what she becomes when she’s far from home. When she hangs up the phone, it’s the last comment which makes her laugh.

Of course you can’t imagine what it is like. But should that stop you from trying? Will burying yourself in statistics hide the fact that no one in those refugee camps slept the night you thought the world was ending? Will it change the belief that they did?

That’s why in the grand scheme of things, perhaps it does not matter how Makola spent her day, what colour she was wearing, if she smiled, and what she had for lunch.

What matters so much is how it’ll be like that Day when the world truly has spun to a stop, when each word said or written will be out there in bold for all to see, when the earth shall testify for the souls that walked upon it.

And perhaps that is why I keep writing. I’m not even halfway where I would like to be. I don’t always have an answer for all the pain and heartache in the world and sometimes my duas are quite incoherent. But should that stop me from trying?

On that Day, we’ll know. That Day, we’ll understand.

This has been in my Drafts folder for way too long

Shifa Hospital (Associated Press/Bernat Armangué)

“At first light we would cover the direct consequences of these air strikes: destroyed buildings, bodies in the hospital morgues and funerals. In situations like this, there is no fixed agenda; reality changes every minute.

There were certain areas that were constantly affected by bombs, which I avoided. My main priority was to show the life of the people in Gaza; I followed them in their houses, on the streets, to the morgues.

That day 11 members of the al-Dallu family were killed when an Israeli missile struck the two-storey home of the family in a residential area of Gaza City. Some bodies were recovered and brought to the morgue, so I went there to take some pictures. While I was there, another family came to check if it was true that one of their relatives had been killed. They cried, held his body and one of them kissed his hand while saying goodbye. “

Associated Press photographer Bernat Armangué: Photographing the conflict

Gaza, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)


From far the sky appears to be riddled with stars. You stand on that soil, taking in the gas and the gunfire, and you realize they are pamphlets that are thrown by the warplanes whirring overhead – is this what courtesy looks like in this world – warning them to move out. Move out. But they have nowhere to go. They’re trapped. You think that in all these years, things would have changed. You were wrong. The pamphlets fell even now, they remain trapped even after all this time.

“And all the while, we hear bombs. Bombs that bear autumn’s scent and winter’s chill. Bombs that batter. Bombs that kill. I still have waking nightmares of the bombs that tore through our sky nearly four years ago, when a classmate, Maha, lost her mother in an Israeli strike. And a childhood friend, Hanan, who saw her mother’s leg severed under the rubble from another strike.” (source)

This has something to do with fear – perhaps if the fear was subdued then would peace return. For how can there be peace when one lives in fear?

“I’ve really tried to understand the Israelis. I used to work on a farm in Israel. I speak Hebrew. I watch their news. All the time they talk about fear. How they have to run to their bunkers to hide from the rockets. How their children can’t sleep because of the sirens. This is not a good way for them to live,” said Khoudry, who now scrapes a living growing his own produce.

“We Palestinians don’t talk about fear, we talk about death. Our rockets scare them; their rockets kill us. We have no bomb shelters, we have no sirens, we have nowhere we can take our children and keep them safe. They are scared. We are dying.”(source)

When I am asked about Palestine, I know it is safe to remain silent. But living here, this kind of safety has ceased to matter. There are far more important things. One of which is to consider how humans always try to subdue the pain. They invent painkillers to remove the symptom. They do not search for the cure. They do not speak of putting aside all technology and going to give your family a hug.

They do not tell you that more than often, there is wisdom in pain.

“A stroll around Gaza says it all. Out in the streets people are cleaning up the rubble, sweeping away dust and glass, extinguishing the fires that remained, and fixing the blown out doors of their homes.” (source)

It has been long.

I’d really like to put up a window on this blog. An actual window. So you could place a letter, a flower, a pebble, a notebook, a book, yourself and then tell me what it feels like to see the world from there.

Because of that window you will know what it feels like. But how can looking be equal to feeling? The eyes are glassy orbs and it is the perception that is beautiful. Similarly it is the perception that is flawed. The heart can tell the difference though. It really can tell the difference between the two.

The problem is, you don’t want it to.

You don’t want to know the difference.

It’s not that simple, I know. Not everything can be recorded in words or in a photograph. You will know this in whichever profession you take up. Lawyers may get false testimonies, may have missing pictures. Journalists may find no words to express the horror they have seen and no angle is too audience-appropriate to be published. Teachers may have to grab hold of a chair to try to fathom the effect of the thoughts they are imparting on the group of fifteen-something kids in front of them. Even chalk and pencils refuse to do the trick.

I can tell you that everything is bright and radiant in this roshniyon ka shehr. That there is peace here. That I love it here.

None of that would be a lie, but none of that would be the only representation of truth.

Please take your words and tie them to my kite of loveliness. I could drift away in a heartbeat but all that is stopping me is the thought of you crying during a not actually good goodbye.

Oh, I truly wish you happiness and sukoon in what you are opting for. In what you pursue or seek out or stay with.

The Wrappings of Gratitude

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah Most-Compassionate, Most-Merciful


Alhamdulillah, here are some dua’a to make when under stress and experiencing anxiety. They are a means of dispelling fear, of seeking forgiveness of Allah, seeking His aid, protection and guidance. They are the words of the Messenger of Allah (sall’allahu alayhi wasallam) and hence anyone that sincerely makes these dua during times of great need Allah will always answer the dua of the sinere seeker. May they be of benefit to us all for there is not a time in the life of a believer when he or shedoes not need the protection, guidance and mercy of Allah. And those that turn to Allah sincerely imploring His aid should know that in reality it is Allah  turning to His slave, for, When Allah wants to be good to someone, He tries him with some hardship.” (Abu…

View original post 1,086 more words