Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A parent found Inspiration

Imam Shamil ra (1797-1871)
Haven’t shared anything here in a while. This post hopefully serves to cement a reminder, insha Allah. I started reading a book on the Russian Wars this weekend and it uncannily turned out as a parenting reminder.

As a young girl, The Bosnian War had me fascinated with the region and it’s people. Like most young girls, traumatised by accounts of sexual violence against Muslim women, I pursued an abiding interest in the equally grotesque Chechen wars that would follow. Now, this many years later, when global politics is an unavoidable pastime, and the Crimea was yet again attacked by Russia last year, I developed an interest in the Caucasus, and one of her revered sons Imam Shamil. Memories of Imam Shamil (ra) live in the heart of Muslim communities, especially those who lived under Russian brutality. So, long story short – when I read an online review of The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela I had to have the book!

I attempted The Kindness of Enemies with reverence. The story is set in contemporary rural Scotland and interwoven with a second narrative - Dagestan, Georgia and Russia in the 1850’s seen from the viewpoints of Imam Shamil. While the novel is fictitious, it is true in the sacrifices of Imam Shamil, especially of his family, and of his son Jamaledeen to the Russian court for the freedom and religious tarbiyyah of his people. It leaves me inspired.

In 1839, when Jamaledeen was six, Imam Shamil sacrificed him as a hostage in a brutal battle with Russian General Alexander Grabbe, to save his followers and the rest of his family. A Georgian aristocrat subsequently reared Jamaledeen in Russia. After years among the elites of St. Petersburg, he embraced the life of a well-educated European, was forced to convert to Christianity, and became an officer in a Russian regiment deployed in Warsaw, Poland. In March 1855, Imam Shamil finally got his son back. Jamaledeen was exchanged for members of the Georgian Chavchavadze family, who had been taken captive by Imam Shamil’s fighters nine months before.

As the month of Dhul Hijjah settles around us in the year 2015/ 1436H, and we’re rekindling the fireside tales of Hajj & the sacrifices of our spiritual parents’ Haajer and Ibrahim, I’m reminded that others like them – others like Imam Shamil were “wow” parents. Wholly unintended by Leila Aboulela (I’m sure she didn’t think she was writing a parenting handbook), she created an Imam Shamil who was a striving parent with an attainable legacy.  Key word – STRIVING.

So much of what we consider great parenting happens under unfortunate or less than perfect circumstances. Saarah (as) and Haajer (as) (like me) had just one, son – Is’haaq and Ismaeel respectively. One was nearly 100. One was a freed slave living in a barren, inhabitable desert. While they may have had Sayyidina Ibrahim (as) to guide their boys to be our spiritual grandpas’, Bibi Aamena and Maryam (as) were single moms. They raised the best among men, Isa (as) and Muhammad (S). Others too, like the moms of Imam al-Shafi’, Imam Ahmed and Imam Bukhari (ra) raised their sons alone, all of whom left a major impact on the world. Single parents are not just a product of our modern culture. There have been single mothers throughout history, women who have raised not only their children but also nations with a higher vision for life. And when I consider what the wives of Imam Shamil achieved in his absence, I can’t help but conclude that raising a kid on your own is its own tradition.

But what if your kid doesn’t turn out a star? What if they don’t turn out like the above-mentioned? What if they end up losers or lost? The answer may lie in what we already know. Allah awards the effort, not the outcome.

As in the case of Imam Shamil, the outcome isn’t always expected or desirable. His captured-and-returned son Jamaledeen fell ill soon after he was returned, and died. Imam Shamil eventually surrendered. Daghestan, to date is STILL not free, but a republic of Russia. In 1999 when Imam Shamil’s namesake Shamil Basayev tried to recreate an independent Islamic State in Dagestan they were driven back by the Russian military. As further retaliation, Russian forces reinvaded Chechnya.

 BUT on the bright side, his son Ghazi Muhammad Pasha entered the Ottoman Empire's service. He managed the cavalry brigade on the Caucasus front during the 1877 Russo-Turkish War. It was the last time Dagestan and Chechnya rose together against Imperialist Russia. Despite communism and post-9.11 phobia’s, the Muslim population remains strong.

To further comprehend the ties I’ve created between all of the rambling above, and the point that Allah rewards the striving, not necessarily the outcome:-

Following a 10-year obligatory residence in Kaluga, Imam Shamil was allowed to go Hejaz to observe Hajj. Imam Shamil did not return to Istanbul after his pilgrimage as he died in Medina in 1871. He was buried in Maqbaratul Baqī' (Baqi Cemetery in Medina).

From the mountains of Dagestan to the desert soil of Madinah Sharief - He was awarded with an eternal “A” for his effort!

And so will you – doesn’t matter if you’re a mom and dad team, or a single mom or single dad. Persevere.  Allah always gives an “A” for every little effort. Insha Allah, Ameen.

Friday, May 29, 2015

“South Africans’ concerned” about more relevant crises than ISIS

I’m trying to ignore the “ISIS in SA” media hoopla today. There are no words for my level of irritation and annoyance at the need for this “national khutbah drive” against ISIS. Hours of negotiations and liaising to draft a platitudinous hymn because impetuous attention-whores had an itch to make ISIS spokesperson our biggest crisis? People who can't see beyond their noses to what actually benefits mankind; people who shamelessly parade anti ulama rhetoric, blissfully unaware the Pandora box they've opened. I feel like our deeds have indeed become our leaders: there are few wise people left, and many many crisis managers. Circumstances we’ve unfortunately brought upon ourselves.

So, in a bid to deflect attention from what I deem shameless media-whoring, I internet-searched “South Africans’ concerned…” and came up with below-mentioned scraps, all indicative of larger wounds  and sicknesses Islam came to heal.

It would be so much more effectible and beneficial if we focused on our greater concerns, the “true fikr” as ummati’s of our beloved Nabi (sa) and not the +-20 or so folk who’ve run off to fight for misguided organisations. Let our government pursue them, and if they have denounced their SA citizenship and the Ieman of their fellow Muslims here in SA, so be it. The rest of us here, well, we have bigger fish to fry as they say. Corruption, poverty, drugs, pornography, lack of education, lack of housing and sanitation, capitalism, national health care crises are just a few. What of the next generation ANC breeding Islamphobia in SA and how to best quell and contain that? How to grow Ieman in our own country? Islam was brought to eradicate injustice, corruption, discrimination and the capitalistic subjugation of the few over the many. Let’s get to work!

South Africans are concerned about Nkandla;

South Africans are concerned about etolls. New e-toll model limits the mobility of health workers’ says Denosa;

Concern over the low number of white South Africans signing up to join the Defence Force;

South Africans concerned about Xenophobia aftermath;

South Africans deeply concerned about our student men having sex with men;

South Africans concerned about refugees;

South Africans concerned on criminal elements capitalising on bribery;

South Africans remains concerned at high levels of gender-based violence in the country;

South Africans concerned over unruly parliament;

Concern that South Africans can afford new cars;

Young South Africans concerned about Ebola;

South Africans concerned about Synagogue building collapse;

South Africans Concerned About Government Supporting LGBT in UN Resolution;

South Africans concerned about our boys to be butchered in botched circumcisions.”

Like these, there are hundreds of thousands more pressing concerns. Hence, it’s my ardent plea (and prayer) this Jumuah that South Africans, especially Muslims, remove the mass media blinkers from their vision, stop dancing to the tune of a choreographed narrative -  and focus rather on the words of our beloved Prophet [S] as part of a longer instruction and ummah descriptor: “the best of Believers are those who are most beneficial to mankind.”

.الْمُؤْمِنُ يَأْلَفُ وَيُؤْلَفُ وَلا خَيْرَ فِيمَنْ لا يَأْلَفُ وَلا يُؤْلَفُ وَخَيْرُ النَّاسِ أَنْفَعُهُمْ لِلنَّاسِ

المعجم الأوسط للطبراني

Sunday, May 24, 2015

South Africa: How ISIS is sorting the journalists from the attention-whores

When we talk about Iraq and the Levant it seems almost impossible to identify one overarching narrative that could guide our discussions. Do we talk about the warring parties and their backers?  Do we discuss propaganda tools, chemical warfare, institutionalised rape and beheadings? Do we discuss ahadith about the end times? Do we deliver historical sermons about America or Israel’s demonic ploys? Do we deliver sermons on the meaning of the black flag? Do we talk about Assad, Nouri al-Maliki and now Haider al-Abadi being tied to regional Shia forces, and the rebels to Sunni actors, which makes these religious wars driven primarily by identity politics? Do we say that sectarian dimensions merely have an imaginative hold over actors, state and non-state, and it’s more a conventional struggle for regional hegemony?

Well, if all that is unclear, there is certainly one principal that is – and that is how SA Islamic scholars should respond. In light of more and more, and more attention-whoring via ‘letter 1’ and then ‘letter 2’ and then, wait for it, ‘letter 3’ this past week, it’s very clear that the large majority of South African Muslims and their ulama leaders are being wise to to ignore anonymous rants.  The sad reality that unfolded this past week however is that cheap shot journalists aren’t. What did our Prophet (S) say about the disease of spreading ‘news’ without thinking through the consequences? When in doubt that information you have may hamstring the greater good, you keep that information to yourself. You even ‘white lie’ if you have to.  If 1 or 2 people, or even 20 individuals from a Muslim population of 1,25 to 2 million in South Africa feel a need to gun-tote in Iraq and Syria, surely they don’t need canticles or ballads? I would assume their intentions are pure and good, and if so, why the need for publicity and letters to justify their choice. If it all about the good fight, go fight it! Rants and tirades and allegations and slander against Ulama and religious leaders and our Muslims heritage in South Africa have no place in a ‘legitimate’ Jihad. One would assume niyyah is part of Principle 101 in this game.

The duty of our scholars is simple

According to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him):

"Every one of you is a shepherd, and every one of you will be questioned about those under his rule: the ruler is a shepherd, and he will be questioned about his subjects; the man is a shepherd in his family, and he will be questioned about those under his care; and the woman is a shepherd in the house of her husband, and she will be questioned about those under her care... Thus, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for those under his/her care. " (Al-Bukhari)

Under this powerfully simple injunction, our religious leaders owe a duty and responsibility to South Africans first. There is educating to be done, there is poverty eradication to be achieved; there are social ills to root out. Yes, we are one body, and yes, Muslims are being oppressed brutally on every single continent, but the priority for Muslim scholars in SA is not encourage hijrah or content-adorn misguided tirades or cheap-shot journalism. At best, what they’ve done unequivocally is to warn South Africans against being recruited for shadowy causes.

And for the journalists…

The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam also said:

"Let whosoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day either speak good or be silent. Let whosoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day honour his neighbour...” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

This hadith discusses some of the ways a Muslim's faith should affect the way he relates to others.  This is an encouragement to speak what is good and beneficial; at the same time it is a warning, cautioning us to be careful in what we say, lest we say something that is harmful or false, more especially to or about our immediate neighbours.

Allah informs us in the Quran some of what constitutes good in our speech and benefits other people - “There is no good in a lot of their private conversations, except if it enjoins charity or that which is right; or it brings reconciliation between people. And whoever does that seeking Allah's pleasure, then We shall grant him a great reward.” [Surah al-Nisa: 114]

There’s a war out there. A war against Islam. And every bit of ammo you give the enemy will be loaded in media cannons and fired against you. The words "We are not at war with Islam" have been uttered by everyone from Obama  to Bush to top-level military officials. Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Muslim world that U.S. forces have invaded, occupied or bombed since 1980 alone. Reading the day's top stories or just listening to people speak about 'the Muslims' sure makes it clear there is a war against Islam. So if by your hack ‘journalism’ you’re simply rooting out extremism; or facilitating ‘dialogue’; or waking South Africans from an ulama-induced 'coma'  - ask yourself these questions: Are the Syrians and Iraqi’s (we all feel bereft about) benefiting? Are the helpless and needy getting care? Are you adding to social and moral upliftment? Or are you just fodder in a modern crusade against our Faith? Then - feel free to spew whatever nonsense you like.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Helen of Try – Why I respect Helen Zille

Helen Zille - 1980's
She’s been called a great many things, a lot of them derogatory, but I will always respect Helen Zille. She’s been a loyal servant of the people - shown tenacity, great spirit and commitment, and remained brashly human in her entire tenure as Premier of the Western Cape; a member of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament; leader of South Africa's official opposition political party; and a former Mayor of Cape Town. And throughout that she’s been a wife and mom (and be brave enough to botox, admit poor fashion sense, and take part in public cycle races). I often wonder what she and her husband talk about in the evenings, whether she ever really relaxes, and how her sons cope with their  mom under the hammer. In a nutshell, till the end of her days, Helen will always have something to teach South Africans about moving forward. And to appreciate that, your blood doesn’t need to be blue, viz. you don’t have to be a DA smurf, nor do you have to agree with the DA’s political approach of offering little else but haranguing the ANC (and accepting Nathan Kirsch’s donations).

Perhaps it’s the Steve Biko experience that made Helen believe she is entitled to be vicious toward the media. Zille was inundated with death threats immediately following publication on the Biko expose and Kruger threatened to shut down the paper. She and her editor, Allister Sparks were found guilty of “tendentious reporting” in a quasi Press Court and ordered to publish a correction. She wrote: “I will never forget that phrase, ‘tendentious reporting.’ I was still young and idealistic enough to become tearful at such injustice.”

So, when she says, “You scrutinise me, I’ll scrutinise you right back!” I deem it merely her way of sharpening and toughening up journalistic integrity and skill within South Africa. Her backhands which made many a journalist ‘tearful’ have shaped a robust landscape of debate and counter debate these past 8 years. If she weren’t that tough, how boring, bland and underdeveloped our young journo puppets would remain.

Helen of SA may not be "the face that launch'd a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium" but she certainly did try. Our Helen of Try.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

What is a Royal Baby – A Symbol of Hope or Destruction?

Image Credit
In the animal/human kingdom, births symbolise hope and promise. Historical accounts are rife about how European monarchs in different times and places have all struggled to produce an heir. So, it is without surprise that the world’s eye is on the dilation per centimetre of the latest royal sprog. But, as the adage goes "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." The new baby may symbolise hope for but a few. For those who’ve been trampled, bombed, raped, abused, murdered, left homeless, orphaned, widowed and tortured by the baby-daddy and his ilk, it’s another story altogether.

Royal Blood

Prince William is currently off active duty, but a serving RAF officer who is a future head of the Armed Forces. Prince Harry on the other hand was interviewed after having flown out of Afghanistan at the end of a four-month tour. He’s served two tours. His comments:

"If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game, I suppose," he said. "Take a life to save a life … the squadron's been out here. Everyone's fired a certain amount."

In March 2015 a heavily pregnant Kate, made her way to lead the British nation in honouring the servicemen and women who fought and died during the conflict in Afghanistan as part of a commemoration service.

The British armies sexual and racial abuses in Afghanistan (of children as young as ten) don’t apparently feature in memorial services. Neither does breaking the Geneva Convention apparently. Oh wait, there’s that one other thing: the NATO Invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was ILLEGAL under international law. Yes, royal sprog serves as hope, but maybe for the aggressors, immoral and thieves of the world.

Abdullah – a baby of Hope

Abdullah al-Zubayr (ra) was a sahabi whose father was Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, and whose mother was Asma bint Abi Bakr, daughter of the first Caliph Abu Bakr (ra). He was the nephew of Aisha (ra). He was the first Muslim to be born in Madinah after the hijrah.

When the Prophet (S) and the Muslims settled in Madinah Munawwara those who bore spite against the Muslims were subdued. They thus spread the rumour that their priests had made the Muslims infertile by means of their witchcraft and Madinah was not going to witness the birth of Muslim babies.

On the birth of Abdullah bin Zubair (radiyallahu anhu) there was lot of rejoicing among the Muslims and the baby eschewed the negativity spread by the Jews of Madinah and the enemies of Islam. The baby was presented herself before the beloved Prophet (S). The Prophet (S) kissed him, then chewed a date and rubbed it on the newbom's gums (a Sunnah called tahneek). 

His life and eventual gruesome death in Makkatul Mukarramah leading a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate by Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf serves as HOPE – hope to be courageous in the face of enemy, hope to stand for Justice, hope that a mother’s duas are accepted, hope that moral parents will produce moral offspring, hope to challenge injustice no matter how irrelevant or small you may be. That’s the hope every new baby should arrive with.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

mamma bear and baby bear – the last of the single digits

I started penning notes on my son’s birthday when he turned 5. Writing them and sharing them have morphed from being cathartic to pensive to celebratory. I currently bask in the privilege of life sharing with innocence.  So much of the motherhood I participate in and observe (aside from sheer hard work), is competitive, entitled or/and self-absorbed. So as I’ve reflected over the last few days about what Abdullah’s turning 9 means, I was careful to note – its what it means to me – not him. Shukr to Allah, his turning 9 and the milestones over the past year have had me glow. I enjoy him speak. I enjoy him explaining. I enjoy him raising his eyebrow at me. (He has a noteworthy side-eye.) I marvel at his understanding of new concepts. To my utter delight I’ve realised he “yes ma’ams” my thinking aloud, even if he’s not on the same page. I watch. I learn. I laugh. Alhumdulillah. [I do also shout a lot.]

The amazing development of character and personality in a human child after the age of 7 just as our beloved Nabi ﷺ prophesised, has me in perpetual awe. For example, if a young child understands the larger plots of Hamlet and Othello he should easily understand the Hijra. If he can build an Atlantis on Minecraft, then he can definitely envisage the cradle of Islam in Arabia. If he can suss the tones on my Farsi poem playlists as ‘sad’ – then obviously the candescent lyricism of Quranic recitation should be clearer. If he wants to know what is "good" about Good Friday if Jesus supposedly died on that day; or why the apa at madressa doesn’t like sport after school; or why I won’t go to Woolworths even if I miss it (a lot) – all this is the habited sense of inquiry our Deeni texts tell us develops between 7 and puberty. If he expresses utter shock at news of pregnancy stats in SA primary schools (717 girls in primary school fell pregnant in 2013/14), then this is indicative there is a clear distinction in the child’s mind between what is decent and perverse. Likewise, on the rare occasion he receives the soft sting of a wooden spoon for a fib, or reneging on a deal to do/not do something, then why for not waking for salaah (at age 10) as Nabi ﷺ asked us to?

Experiencing this particular age with my son (that is essentially a buildup to puberty) the really difficult part is being unfake with myself. Being a mother has become secondary. To my chagrin, any emotion, mood, activity or situation wherein I permute, reflects. If there’s anything that can be said about mothering a boy from 8 through to 9, it’s my own need for self-discipline. That in short supply, I lay my head at the feet of the Almighty. Only He is the Bestower, the Master of Favours, Grace and Ability.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Romantics – a Muslim version

Reclaiming Persian love, not just its’ fiqh;
Seeing the world through humanity, not theology;
Islam is one long romance;
Wait for the outcomes;
Romance cannot exist in a vacuum;
Romance exists as hindsight and as perceived

Khosrow and Shirin is the title of a famous Persian tragic romance by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi (1141–1209). He also wrote Layla and Majnun. It tells a fictional version of the story of the love of the Sasanian king Khosrow II for the Syriac or Armenian princess Shirin. The love story was already well-known from the epic-historical poem the Shahnameh by Ferdowsi and other Persian writers.

When the Seljuq Sultan Arsalan Shah requested a love epic from Nizami without specifying the subject, Nizami picked the story of the lovers Khosrow and Shirin, and a theme set in his own region. He based it on partly historical facts.

Let’s begin:

There is a place high up in the mountains of Kurdistan where the crow roams freely and the snow finally kisses the sun. A place where you can hear the ping of wildflowers in bloom and the sound of butterfly wings resting on their petals. This is where our story sleeps.

There was a brave man called Farhad who loved a Princess named Shirin. Farhad tried in vain to gain access Shirin's heart, but the stonecutter loved a lady of royal blood. Farhad would go to the mountains and spend his days without food, playing his flute in praise of Shirin. At last, people thought to devise a plan to acquaint the Princess of the stonecutter's love. But how could a mere laborer aspire to win the hand of a princess? It was not long, however, before the Shah himself heard the rumours of this extraordinary exchange of sentiment. He was naturally indignant at the discovery, but as he had no child other than Shirin, and Shirin was also pining away with love, he proposed to his daughter that her lover, being of common birth, must accomplish a task such as no man may be able to do, and then, and only then, might he be recommended to his favour.

Wait. Here I have to stop.

Remember that this narrative forms part of a larger story.

See, Shirin was already in love with a King called Khosrau. And there are other versions too. Some say Farhad worked for years and cut the canal the Shah requested. He had to dig a well in the rocky beds of the mountains. He was half-way through, and would probably have completed it, when the Shah consulted his courtiers and sought their advice. His plan had failed. Farhad had not perished in the attempt, and if all the conditions were fulfilled as they promised to be soon, his daughter must go to him in marriage. The viziers suggested that an old woman should be sent to Farhad to tell him that Shirin was dead; then, perhaps, Farhad would become disheartened would stop the work.

It was an ignoble trick, but it promised success and the Shah agreed to try it. So an old woman went to Farhad and wept and cried till words choked her; the stonecutter asked her the cause of her bereavement.

"I weep for a deceased," she said, "and for you." "For a deceased and for me?" asked the surprised Farhad. "And how do you explain it?"

"Well, my brave man," said the pretender, "you have worked so well, and for such a long time, but you have laboured in vain, for the object of you devotion is dead!"

"What!" cried the bewildered man, "Shirin is dead?"

Such was his grief that he cut his head with a sharp spade and died. His own blood streamed into his canal. When Shirin heard this she fled to the mountains where her wronged lover lay. It is said that she inflicted a wound in her own head at the precise spot where Farhad had struck himself, and with the same sharp edge of the spade which was stained with her lover's gore. No water ever flows into the canal, but two lovers are entombed in the same grave.

I’ll have you know Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was only published in 1597. The Shahnameh was composed between 977 and 1010 CE.

Nezami's version begins with an account of Khosrou's birth and his education. This is followed by an account of Khosrow's feast in a farmer's house for which Khosrou is severely chastised by his father. Khosrou asks forgiveness and repents his offence. Hormizd IV, who is now pleased with his son, forgives him. That very night, Khosrow sees his grandfather Anushirvan in a dream and Anushirvan gives him glad tidings of a wife named Shirin, a steed named Shabdiz, a musician named Barbad, and a great kingdom, that is Persia.

Shapur, Khosrow's close friend and a painter, tells Khosrow of the Armenian queen Mahin Banu and her niece Shirin. Hearing Shapur's descriptions of Shirin, the young prince falls in love with Shirin, the Armenian princess. Shapur travels to Armenia to look for Shirin. Shapur finds Shirin and shows the image of Khosrow to Shirin. Shirin falls in love with Khosrow and escapes from Armenia to Khosrow's capital Mada'in; but meanwhile, Khosrow also flees from his father's anger and sets out for Armenia in search of Shirin.

In the way, he finds Shirin unclothed bathing and washing her flowing hair; Shirin also sees him; but since Khosrow was traveling in peasant clothes, they do not recognise one another. Khosrow arrives in Azerbaijan and is welcomed by Shamira the queen of Armenia - yet he finds out that Shirin is in Mada'in. Again, Shapur is sent to bring Shirin. When Shirin reached Armenia again, Khosrow – because of his father's death- has to return to Mada'in. The two lovers keep going to opposite places till finally Khosrow is overthrown by a general named Bahrām Chobin and flees to Armenia.

In Armenia, Khosrow finally meets Shirin and is welcomed by her. Shirin, however, does not agree to marry Khosrow; unless Khosrow first claims his country back from Bahram Choobin. Thus, Khosrow leaves Shirin in Armenia and goes to Constantinople. The Caesar agrees to assist him against Bahram Choobin on condition that he marries his daughter Maryam. Khosrow is also forced to promise not to marry as long as Maryam is alive. Khosrow succeeds in defeating his enemy and reclaims his throne. Maryam, due to her jealousy, keeps Khosrow away from Shirin.

Meanwhile, a sculptor named Farhad, falls in love with Shirin and becomes Khosrow's love-rival. Khosrow cannot bear Farhad, so he sends him on an exile to Behistun mountain with the impossible task of carving stairs out of the cliff rocks. Farhad begins his task hoping that Khosrow will allow him marry Shirin. Yet, Khosrow sends a messenger to Farhad and gives him false news of Shirin's death. Hearing this false news, Farhad throws himself from the mountaintop and dies. Khosrow writes a letter to Shirin, expressing his regret for Farhad's death. Soon after this incident, Maryam also dies. According to Ferdowsi's version, it was Shirin who secretly poisoned Miriam. Shirin replies to Khosrow's letter with another satirical letter of condolences.

Khosrow, before proposing marriage to Shirin, tried to be intimate with another woman named Shekar in Isfahan; which further delays the lovers' union. Finally, Khosrow goes to Shirin's castle to see her. Shirin, seeing that Khosrow is drunk, does not let him in the castle. She particularly reproaches Khosrow for his intimacy with Shekar. Khosrow, sad and rejected, returns to his palace.

Shirin eventually consents to marry Khosrow after several romantic and heroic episodes. Yet, Shiroyeh, Khosrow's son from his wife Maryam, is also in love with Shirin. Shiroy finally murders his father Khosrow and sends a messenger to Shirin conveying that after one week, she would have to marry him. Shirin, in order to avoid marrying Shiroy, kills herself. Khosrow and Shirin were buried together in one grave.

Sorry, you have to read all that to get to my point. The actual story is far more beautiful to read, share and celebrate than that bleak summary. It’s part of the magic of epic and grandiose literature. Nizami wrote five long poetic books, commonly called "The Five Treasures." Among these, the "Khosru and Shireen," is generally regarded as his masterpiece.

Nonetheless, if we’re to define a great enduring romance as understood from the Sunnah? We’re all part of a greater story. There are telling details we leave out when we focus on just one part our lives. For e.g. if we focus on just the Shirin and Farhad story, we ignore that she loved the King, Kosrau too, and he was doing everything he could to be with her. Is this not an example of Allah’s love for us? If we focus on just one part of a bigger picture we aren’t true romantics. What is the greatest gesture? What is an epic romance? If the answer says something along the lines of sacrifice, perseverance, believing in a dream and hoping  - it’s all about interpretation, right?

(Allah’s blessings, pleasure and peace be upon His beloved servants and Prophets)

Adam roamed the earth for hundreds of years looking for Hawa;
Qaabil killed his brother Haabil for a woman they both loved;
Noah held out for that one kid – he pleaded with him from a ship as apocalyptic waves crashed around them “I’m here, waiting for you”;
Ebrahim went into fire for his conviction – to prove a point to his father;
Safoora married a man who pitched up at her door after having murdered someone. He was flat broke.  Her father harboured him as a fugitive and tenant + he had no family (he's THE Musa) and -- and then he becomes the greatest freedom fighter & liberator of Egypt.

And if we want to get 1400 years closer -- Umm Salama's husband waited for her even after his family tried to tear them apart; Zainab, the Prophet’s daughter gave up everything to be with Abul Aas. Usman gave up a decisive war to nurse his wife back to health. Prior to that he'd crossed deserts to be with her. Mugheeth wandered around the city disoriented after Bareera broke up with him.

Our seerah is replete with such examples. What's the romance really? The story, or just how its marketed/ interpreted?

The answer to making our lives epic, I believe, is to recognise (Who) as in the Almighty really wants to be with us.  His love is enduring. His tests are to strengthen us. His challenges are part of a bigger picture. Ultimately, to recognise this, we must force ourselves to become romantics.

Allahul Musta’an