“Remember there is always redemption, you might be at a cross roads alone, looking down at a precipice in fog, calculating, bracing your potential losses, sensing a magnitude, the mystery of a reward just beyond the veil of the horizon – never despair and my fuel I was always willing to share.” –
“When you are ready to embark on the journey of life to find meaning, when you have made a solemn inward pledge, when you have readily submitted to the ultimate task alone, when all you thought you knew becomes a phantom when you exchange your ego for mystery you shall find me next to you.” – Ayaan Ali
So…there is something more to all of our lives and as I write this I feel that we are on unmarked paths and the only way to find the path is to fully open up the senses, to listen to the silences.
As Rumi sang songs of separation we have to endure, the separation of Allah and man. We have to make an extra effort in order to know what is expected of us in this circumstances or another, to know what it felt for Abraham when he walked alone and left all he knew behind. Constantly dropping weight, letting go of attachments, deferring to Him in all circumstances. Savoring that final meeting. Yearning.
I would like you to know so far the progress I have made in finding my place in the world.
I came back from Morocco knowing that:
- I cannot drag myself forward without doing something I love. Passion for me is everything even if I have to work through dreary obscurity. I have seen peaks but I had to sleep at night so it wasn’t for me in those circumstances.
- I want to dedicate myself to learning, to paying homage to the greats to fill my vessel with light. I want to bog myself down to entirely immerse myself, I want to shadow the greats I want to open the scripture and be in awe.
- I want to listen to the silence and hear Allah’s voice, I want it to all make sense, to configure the truth like a puzzle.
- Thing is, I don’t think I have the right to say I want to complete truth either, in fact what I most want is forgiveness just forgiveness and a new day to start a fresh.
Today me and my sister – like the season veteran nomads we have become – finally moved out of our hotel for greener pastures.
Our hotel in the Jemma el Fna was an earthy hotel with a balcony overlooking the square. We were escorted on the first day of arrival by a helpful young gentleman for a modest tip. The hotel was decent with all the modern amenities you could expect in a tourist city like Marrakech.
The hotel was in fact as authentic as you can get not exactly a ryad but 10/10 for location, and service. The hotel was in fray of it all. A stone away from the historic Koutoubia mosque, and Bahia palais.
For the first few days I was encouraged to share my travels on social media but I was afflicted by something else entirely….anxiety (but back to that later).
What had brought me here was in fact deeper than what people expect a series of torments, questions that have been forming gradually pushing me over the edge like a tsunami.
From the outside it looked like eccentric Ayaan was having another one of her spontaneous trips. The story however runs deeper than you think.
All my life I have felt deeply. Growing up I was a very shy kid. The kid who would only put their hand up when absolutely necessary .You know that kid at the back of the class who only raises their hands to say something something so eye-wateringly deep you pull back the sting of a tear in your eye. Those melancholic souls that drifts through the corridors unnoticed…yeah that kid.
I always nursed secret passions, deeply held beliefs you know that kid who has the thorough political or religious stance from a young age who you think has got it all figured that one kid who would die for those beliefs.
Parents lament their intensity, teacher keep a cautious eyes out (not all, some are warmly encouraging. I had a deeply intelligent English teacher who encouraged me). These kids are unusually precocious.
I kept to mydelf.
This is where it began the restlessness for something more.
This is going to be a bit of a ramble. I know you have all come to know me for my aphorisms and miscellaneous comments etc. But today I’m going to try something new .
Today sat in my hotel room just overlooking the Jemma El Fna square, trying to fight off the inevitable Moroccan heat coming in through an open balcony, the earthy yet rickety wooden door swaying gently. I came to a realisation.
Beads of sweat trickle down my scull.
What series of subconscious triggers led to me taking the decision to leave in such a rush one night. Fly across two continents, soaring above the birds above millions either asleep or going about their lives in contentment, half way between space and and earth.
What made me so restless? So eager to leave everything I knew behind, so eager to make that final journey that would take others years even decades to muster.
I was dissatisfied with life, I was in the throws of an existential depression, of relentless questioning.
These are some of the questions that swirled around my head for weeks, it was an oppressive thing pushing against the innner side of my forehead, an ache that disabled my usual routine, something was telling me I had no time to waste, I felt the pull of a greater being.
Before I left I was tormented by a lack of meaning or substance to my life. I know we are meant to be grateful, cherish the life that is given us, I am not saying I haven’t accepted my lot in life or whatever was decreed for me or a humble existence for that matter or the selfless obscurity most of us toil away in. It was deeper then this, much deeper.
I had questions….
-What is the purpose of my life?
-what is my calling, when will it hit me, and how will I recognise it?
-What is categorised as a good life, what will make me happy at the end looking back
My soul was swelling within me, I needed to understand where I fit in, what noble mold, what calling was supposed to seamlessly fit into. I felt I had to contort myself live for bigger things. I felt there was something out there, something I as meant to live for, but I had to deserve it first.
I didn’t want to fail, I felt it was sink or swim, yes it was that URGENT. Something was teasing me, the greater plan of a noble being who wanted to enrich me.
I was being called to SOMETHING it told me not to be content.
To spread my wings in courage, to take the first step the first jump into the unknown.
There was obviously the dual aspect to it. The fact that world events and my personal struggle for meaning converge the personal responsibility to myself was made more potent by my sense of duty to others.
Here in Marrakech
I was not disappointed the surroundings, the whole city was conducive to a kind of soul searching, a soul searching drenched in mystery. Looking over my balcony everything aligned the stars, the square the rhythm of tourist and locals mingling I was on the earth’s edge. The beginning of everything I felt optimistic, this is where I would start my journey towards self discovery.
When the Quraysh saw that the companions of the Messenger of Allah were increasing in number, ‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah suggested that he go to the Messenger of Allah and try to patch up their differences. If the Quraysh made some concessions, he might agree to leave off his mission. ‘Utbah was given permission to negotiate on their behalf. He went to the Messenger of Allah and sat down beside him.
‘nephew’ he said, ‘you know your standing among us, but you have brought a matter of grave concern to your people. You have divided their community, made fun of their customs, criticised their gods and their religion and declared some of their ancestors to be unbelievers. Now listen to me. I will make some proposals for you to examine and perhaps you will accept them.’
The Messenger of Allah said, ‘speak Abu’l-Walid I am listening.’
‘Nephew,’ Utbah continued, ‘if you want money by this business, we will collect some of our property and make you the wealthiest among us. If you want honour we will make you our chief so that every decision is yours. If you want a kingdom we will make you our king. If you are possessed by a ghost of a jinn that you cannot drive away from yourself, we will find a skilful doctor to help you. We will spend our wealth on it till you are cured.’
When ‘Utbah had finished the Messenger of Allah asked ‘Have you finished Abu’l-Walid?’
‘Then Listen to mee.’
‘I will,’ said ‘Utbah.
The Messenger of Allah recited some verses from Surah Fussilat. ‘Utbah listened intently, putting his hands behind his back and leaning on them. When the Messenger of Allah reached the place mentioning prostration, he prostrated and then said, ‘you have heard what you have heard Abu’l-Walid. It is now up to you’
‘Utbah returned to his companions who commented ‘Abu’l-Walid’ came back with a different expression on his face to the one he went with.’
When he sat down beside them, they asked him what happened.
‘By Allah!’ he said, ‘I have heard words of the like of which I have never heard before. By Allah it is neither poetry nor magic nor soothsaying. O men of Quraysh! Obey me! Leave this man alone with what he has. Be considerate towards him and don’t interfere.’
‘By Allah,’ they said, ‘He has bewitched you with his tongue, Abu’l-Walid’
‘This is my opinion about him,’ he replied. ‘You do as you see fit.’
1 When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
2 When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
3 Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
4 Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
5 Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
6 Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
7 Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.
8 Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
9 Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
10 Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.