Living With The “Unimaginable”

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
Then push away the unimaginable…

These powerful words begin the song, “It’s Quiet Uptown,” in the amazing musical “Hamilton.” I must admit: at first, I was “too cool to like Hamilton.” But after seeing the musical here in Chicago, I was an instant fan…and quickly proceeded to download all of the songs.

Spoiler Alert: I can’t help but reveal some details about what happens…

The part when Hamilton’s son Philip died was extremely powerful for me, for I understand the pain: my eldest daughter past away from cancer in 2009. On December 30, she would have turned 20.

Then comes the song above, and I am instantly captivated. Losing a child is truly, truly a “suffering too terrible to name.” I also “held [my child] as tight you can” as she passed away, but I couldn’t “push away the unimaginable” because it was happening to me right then and there.

Sometimes, Lord,

I get tired of being strong.

Ever since then, I have been living with that “unimaginable.” Ever since then, the pain of her loss has continued to plague my heart. Most definitely, I have been blessed with so much goodness, so much ease, so much blessings. I truly cannot thank the Beloved enough.

And at the same time, the words of the song are so very true:

The moments when you’re in so deep
Feels easier to just swim down

Living with the pain of losing your child is indeed like constantly having to swim up. What’s more, because I don’t want my wife and kids to feel bad, I am always trying to be strong for them. Because I don’t want my wife and kids to feel sad over our daughter’s loss, I am always trying to be strong for them. Because I don’t want my daughter’s death to be a constant dark cloud over their lives, I am always trying to be strong for them.

But, you know what? Sometimes, Lord, I get tired of being strong. Sometimes, Lord, I don’t want to be strong any more.

It hurts. It hurts so much. And as the months and years since her death have passed, her memory becomes more and more distant. That hurts as well.

But when I take myself back there; when I take myself back to those hours before she died, the memory is overwhelming; the pain comes back full force, and it is suffocating. In those moments, it definitely “feels easier to just swim down.”

But, when I feel that way, I “push away the unimaginable,” because I need to be here for my wife and kids. I need to be strong.

Yet, whatever strength and value the lyrics of this song have for me, there is one thing in it for which I am so grateful did not apply to me:

And I pray
That never used to happen before

Thank God, that does not apply to me. Before she passed away and ever since, I have prayed to the Lord, and I continue to pray to Him. This is because:

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name

I have been living in that grace. If it wasn’t for that grace, I would not be here right now. If it wasn’t for that grace, I could have easily strayed away from my Beloved. If it wasn’t for that grace, I probably would have gone mad.

But, thank God, I am still standing, albeit in terrible pain. That “grace too powerful to name” has kept me breathing, kept me going, and it has kept me from choosing to “just swim down.”

And I can’t thank the Lord enough for that grace, and I pray that He never, ever takes it away from me.

And, my beautiful, beloved Booboo: Happy Birthday. What a beautiful 20-year-old you would have made. Baba loves you so very much.


Forgiveness, Not Death, For Hamza Kashgari

In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

This was published on altmuslim

The ultimate fate of Saudi blogger, poet and writer Hamza Kashgari is still unknown. The 23-year-old, who formerly worked for the Saudi Arabia newspaper Al Bilad, recently tweeted some critical comments about the Prophet Muhammad (saw), which left conservative Saudi clerics crying blasphemy and calling for his blood. Kashgari’s cause has been taken up by Muslims around the world, many who say the call for his execution goes against the Prophet’s emphasis on love and forgiveness.

On the Prophet’s birthday (which fell on Feb. 12), Kashgari tweeted these statements, in 140 character increments, of course:

On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you. On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more. On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

Because of those tweets, conservative clerics are clamoring for his death. I, and many others, spoke out against his execution, citing the fact that there is no evidence in the Qu’ran that calls for the death penalty for apostasy. But what’s more sorrowful is that in the heated rhetoric surrounding this young man’s tweets, lost is the substance of what he wrote. No one, it seems, focused on this statement: “I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.” That, I think, is the key: He did not understand many aspects of the Prophet, his life and ministry.

Well, especially if that is the case, then the response should be compassion and education, not death and destruction. And, even if he had completely denied the prophet hood of Muhammad, he shouldn’t be executed. His faith, or lack thereof, is his choice. Kashgari, like all of us, will be judged by God, and it is not our place to play God’s role.

Maybe, despite his having been born and raised on the same piece of earth as the Prophet, Kashgari really did not know the Prophet Muhammad’s story, his life and his ministry. Maybe he did not really know the beauty of his character, the sanctity of his method or the magnanimity of his conduct. Maybe he did not really know how much his contemporaries loved him, how much his family adored him and how his followers were devastated when he was gone. Maybe Hamza Kashgari just does not understand, as seems to be from his tweets.

The Prophet’s story and life is indeed inspirational, as young Hamza himself said. Prophet Muhammad’s life has inspired me so much that I was blessed to publish his story entirely in poetry. And, if those who call for this blogger’s death truly love the Prophet, then they should follow his example and have compassion for the man. Those who are against him should lead by the example of the Prophet and set the blogger free.

The Prophet’s life is full of stories of how he forgave his worst enemies. Time and again, he refrained from taking personal revenge against anyone who slighted him, attacked him or even tried to kill him. His own uncle, Abu Lahab, would follow the Prophet wherever he went and tell people, “Don’t listen to him! He is a madman.” The Prophet did not even try to stop him. And when he marched triumphantly in Makkah, where I am sure many of Hamza Kashgari’s detractors now live, he told the Quraish tribe — his most bitter and brutal of enemies — “Go now and be free, I forgive you.”

Where has that spirit of forgiveness and compassion gone? Where has that kindness and generosity gone in the land of the Prophet (pbuh)? Why this rush for blood and death? This is reminiscent of the reaction to the silly Danish cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). If one really loves the Prophet, then he will react in the way the Prophet would react: with kindness and generosity. Listen to the word of God:

 ”But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil] with something that is better and lo!, he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend! (41:34)”

Yes, the tweet may have been imprudent and disrespectful. But, is killing him the answer? Is calling for his death going to make him come back to the faith and love the Prophet even more? Absolutely not. Our faith is all about love and compassion for all, to spread the light of God’s love to the rest of the world through our actions and thoughts. Why is it that, so many times, our people completely fail to see this?

A Poem For His Birthday

In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

On that day, the world was lighted
Darkness was on that day banished
The day bright, Heaven was delighted
The rule of man, at last, would vanish

Balconies and curtains of power shaken
Criers with another book would scream
“O sons of man, your souls awaken!”
For his light on all places would gleam

Family and friend would be utterly amazed
A father twice over was overly pleased
Signs of his greatness continue to daze
His coming is as a cooling breeze

“Continually Praised” is what he was called
A name of grace for all the ages
Forces of evil will forever be appalled
And his wisdom would feed a myriad of sages

Year after year, this day we rejoice
We revel in the knowledge that he came
For he gave our spirits a beautiful voice
And the portrait of Prophets a majestic frame

A Birthday Prayer

In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

Today, by the grace of God, is my birthday (DON’T EVEN THINK about extracting from me my age…). I offer up this prayer on this day:


Precious Beloved Lord,

Today, You have blessed me with another year of life

Today, You have blessed me with another year of breath and movement

Today, You have blessed me with another year of enjoyment with my family

Today, You have blessed me with another year to bask in the light of Your Love

Lord, my Beautiful God, forgive me for all those times in the past year that I have fallen from Your Grace

Lord, my Beautiful God, forgive me for all those times I have fallen short of Your Call and Way

Lord, my Beautiful God, forgive me for all the ugliness I have shown You for all of Your Beauty

As I traverse another year in Your Love, I ask that You bless my path

Bless my travels, bless my time, bless my family, bless my writing

Bless my practice of medicine, bless my practice of Your faith

Lord, let my next year be better than this one that has just passed

And Beautiful Lord, forgive all my sins that I have yet to transgress against Your Beauty

And if my journey were to end in the next year, please, my Precious Beloved:

Let me come back to Your Glorious Face happy and joyous,

Let me enter into Your Presence to dwell therein forever and ever

And let me, once again, see my beloved Booboo in all her glory and beauty.

In Your Most Holy Name I ask this. Amen.

Happy Birthday, Habeebee…

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

I wasn’t keen on having children at first. I was a newly wedded man and a newly matriculated medical student. I was afraid of having children. But, thanks be to God, my feelings changed. I thought to myself, What is the purpose of getting married if not starting a family? What am I afraid of?

And then she came…December 30, 1996. It was one of the happiest days of my entire life. I never knew I could love another human being like that. It was as if the love I had for my new daughter Bayan came from God Himself (which it did).

Bayan brought my wife and I untold joy and happiness. Her face was angelic; her smile was infectious; her laugh was uplifting. She was a piece of Heaven that came down and graced our lives.

When she was first-born, I passed out chocolates to my medical school classmates (I was in my second year), and it was still appreciated many years later. Yet, if they only knew the sweetness that she brought to the lives of my wife and me…

My wife and I, obviously, have been thinking about our Angel a lot lately. This year, for some reason, has been particularly difficult for us. May the Lord help us cope…

What strikes me most about our daughter is the purity of her heart. She could not be malicious or mean-spirited, even if she had the physical ability to do so. Her soul was sweet, kind, pure, and sincere.

I remember one night at the hospital, we were able to be discharged early, and we kept it a secret from my wife to surprise her. My wife was at home with the kids, and so my sister came to help me take her home. Bayan wanted to ride home with her, but she was so scared it would make me sad. I told her that if that made her happy, then I could not have been more happier to drive home alone that night. She was just that beautiful, and everyone who ever knew her would attest to that very same beauty.

My heart is broken into so many pieces, and yes, it has been mended, but I will never be the same. Both my wife and I will never be the same. Sometimes, I  sit in front of a picture of her and stare for minutes. It could be hours if I didn’t have to continue to live my life. I am trying to reach out into that picture and try to taste the experience of having her be with me again. It’s a grieving parent’s desperate attempt, I know, but it is all I have left: pictures, videos (which are too hard to watch), feelings, and special belongings that she left behind.

Today, she would have been 14. The Lord called her back to His Garden when she was 12. It really hurts to know that she will not be coming back, that we can’t take in the warmth of her smile, the beauty of her face, the purity of her soul. I just I really, really miss her, my Lord. I really, really want to just be with her once more; to see her face; to share a laugh like we used to.

So, Happy Birthday Habeebee (my love in Arabic). I know they are throwing you a huge, beautiful, pink-themed birthday party in His Garden right now. I pray that our well wishes reach you as well.

Happy Birthday, Habeebee. Happy Birthday from a grieving father who misses you so very much.