Yet Another Migration

road-201x288By Iqra Asad – Medical student, Lahore

Life is a bridge spanning two eternities—voyaging from one to another; we cannot turn back. We are merely nomads, trudging a treacherous path, taking our homes with us, for no earthly place is our eternal abode. From joy to sorrow, from youth to adulthood, from thoughtlessness to wisdom, from life to death; each migration is a world in its entirety. Each migration is steeped in its own uncertainty. The heart longs to go back, the feet go on, for no force can swim against the current of time. We must go wherever it takes us. From one migration to another, on and on, until we are swept into the boundless ocean of the eternity to come, where our weary souls find rest.

I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew:

Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.

…But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,

What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?

There was a time I, too, believed that there was a way back. That going onward was a matter of choice. That one could flee from the mists of the unknown into the soothing world of all things familiar. Ah, what a fool I was. Life is a strict teacher; it gives the test first and the lesson afterward. And so I learned that at every new port, there is no ship to take you back. You must travel on to seas uncharted. The sea of your passing becomes a sea once known, enshrined in the hallowed halls of memory, one you can recall but not relive. The path onward is steeped in doubt and imbued with excitement. Fear is coupled with anticipation. Remorse blends with wonder. It is a tumultuous ride; once you are on it, there is no telling where it will go. It is taxing but rewarding, daunting but impelling. Weak hearts perceive nothing but the hardship and misery; the strong sense the challenge and the adventure. It took many migrations to strengthen this flimsy heart of mine.

I was still gullible, still swayed by fear and doubt, still susceptible to the winds of change, when she came to me. God breathed the soul of a lily into her rosy cheeks and set the spine of a soldier in her unbending back. Small, sheltered and vulnerable, a tiny bundle of life, I never dreamed that my little bead would grow into a luminous pearl. You know how they say that so-and-so was born with a silver spoon in his mouth? She was born with the feather of intellect in her hair, my lovely little daughter.

Having migrated into motherhood, I assumed all my major travels lay behind me. Little did I know the paths I would tread with my Saria. The paths of experience that intertwined her migrations with mine, until they seemed almost my own.

She did not know migrations were the stuff of life until she experienced her first physical one.

“Mommy, will there be McDonald’s in Pakistan?”

“Yes, Saria.”

“And Pizza Hut?”

“Of course, dear.”

“And school? And TV? And chocolate?” The list went on and on.

“Saria, it’s just like America. You were born there.”

“When we’ll come back I’ll tell all my friends!” The little face glowed with childish certainty. She had not the faintest idea that there would be no going back.

“Mommy, it’s all dirty. I don’t like this country.”

“It’s not that bad, even though it’s not as developed as America, you know.”

“They should tidy it up more.” Settling into the new house, meeting the whole family for the first time, studying in a new school, training her palate to an entirely new cuisine; there was a multitude of new experiences for Saria.

“Mommy, it’s Red Colour Day at school.”

“They didn’t send a note, darling.”

“Not this one. My real school. The one in America.”

“Saria.” I took her hands in mine, pulled her close. “This is your real school.” She stared at me uncomprehendingly for a moment, then drew back roughly and shrieked, “No, it’s not! It’s not, it’s not, it’s not!”


“We’re not staying here! I can’t live here! I can’t!”

Can’t. Won’t. Isn’t. Not. Bitter words of revolt punctuated her speech in the days to come. It took a long time for acceptance to sink in, and that, too, riddled with grief. It was her first brush with reality. It readied her for all the journeys life would lay at her feet in the years to come.

“Mama.” Saria had shed her American skin and slithered quietly into a native one over the years. “Look at this.” Her fingers caressed the material of a pair of shorts she had unearthed from the depths of her closet. “I can’t believe I used to wear shorts. Mama, can you believe, I used to wander around the house in a vest sometimes.”

“That was a sleeveless shirt.”

“It was almost a vest. Mama, I used to have arm-wrestling matches with the boys in my class. Imagine!”

“You were in primary school.”

She sighed. “Water fights. I can’t have those anymore. I can’t run. I can’t shout. I can’t…Mama, I can’t do anything now.”


“I’m suffocating.” She clutched her head. “I’m trapped in this ridiculously huge cage. I want to be free again.”

I sat down on the bed next to her and ran my fingers through her hair. “Saria, I can’t run either.”

“Only because you’d trip over your own feet!”

“Really?” I tugged at her sleeve. “Let’s see it then, my girl.” Saria sat up straight. “Last one to the gate is a rotten egg!”

We rushed through the house in one blur of motion. Saria beat me to it. She clutched her side, panting. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes were shining.

“You still have to take me to buy a new dress!”

“Oh, I thought there was nothing you could do now?”

Saria smiled.

She was a born philosopher, she of the feather of intellect. With the years her theories evolved from childish prattle to actual sense. Sometimes she surprised me with her thoughts.

“Mama,” she would say, in tones suggesting she was talking of the market rates of celery, “You know what I think about suicide?”

“No,” I would reply.

“I think people take their own lives because they don’t want to move on, and they keep trying to go back.”

“Back where?”

“Into the past.”

“I thought it was because they couldn’t see a way out.”

“That too. There’s always a way, though it isn’t necessarily out. There’s no such thing as ‘having no choice’. There’s always a choice. Even if it’s between braving it out and killing yourself.” She lapsed into silence.

“What are you thinking?”

“That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”


“Letting go.” She moved her head away. “It’s hard. Letting go of the past. Accepting that you can’t get it back again.”


“That’s it, isn’t it?” Her eyes were filled with tears now. “We had to let go of Ami.”

“Saria.” It was a sigh. “She is in a much better place than we are now.”

“I know.” She looked straight at me. “But that doesn’t make it any easier, does it? She’s not coming back. We’re not getting her back again. She was my only living grandmother.” Her voice broke.

I had to speak evenly so my voice didn’t follow suit. “Saria…one day…”

“I know, I know, we’ll see her again. That’s nice and all, but that doesn’t make it stop hurting.”

I did not say anything. It is hard for the one who migrates, and it is hard for those who are left behind.

“Mama,” Saria went on. “I used to think moving here from America was hard. But Mama…Ami told me, when Pakistan was made, and she migrated to it with her family, they had to leave all their things behind. Everything they knew. Their house. Their furniture. Their belongings. Their relatives. They had to let go of so much. When they reached Pakistan, they didn’t go straight into a new house like we did when we came here. They had to wait while everything was sorted out. It wasn’t easy. It couldn’t have been…” I did not interrupt her. “Mama, just think, if they hadn’t migrated here, we wouldn’t be here. We could be anywhere. Mama, if they had been killed on the way, you and I wouldn’t even exist!”

“Don’t say that.”

“Just think about it. It’s enough to give you the shivers.”

“It would. My little girl can’t even bear to part with her Barbie dolls.”

“Mama, that was ages ago.”

Was it ages? Even ages seem to pass by in the blink of an eye. Time is a torrent, and it carries you along so fast you hardly get time to latch onto anything before it has slipped out of your hands. Saria, my Saria, is leaving me now. She will leave me and enter a new life, a new home, a new family, a new existence. She is borne away from me on the tides of matrimony. The house will ring with her laughter no more. No more will she pinch my cheeks and tease me in that characteristic way of hers. It is…yet another migration. A migration to top all migrations, a migration that seeds so many more. And so on the cycle will continue, every new path leading on to so many more, paths upon paths, twisting and turning out of sight. This is the road that has been, is, and will be, trodden by humanity into the mists of infinity, until all the drops coalesce and flow into the eternal destination, beyond which there are no more migrations.

This short story was one of the finalists in A Life-Changing Experience, a story-writing competition organized by Hiba Magazine

Chand Raat: A Thoughtful Perspective

July 11- Chand raatThe announcement of the sighting of the moon is the signal for us to shift from prayer mode to party mode, and why not? After a month of spiritual devotion, we feel like we’ve earned the right to some worldly indulgence. However, the conclusion of the month of fasting shouldn’t mean the end of our awareness of being a Muslim. We should carry that consciousness throughout the enjoyments of Chand Raat as a testament that we haven’t forgotten Allah (swt) in the joy of the new moon. We can enjoy ourselves without losing our self respect as the best creation. Here are some handy tips:

Go easy on the accelerator

I don’t mean just literally. The Quran says: “Eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (God) likes not Al-Musrifûn (those who waste by extravagance).” (Al-Araf 7:31)

Sure, eat out and buy pretty things, but don’t go overboard. It is best to decide beforehand the exact things you need to get, in order to avoid impulse purchases. Do you really need those silver bangles when you have a perfectly good set at home? If you still fall victim to over-shopping, instead of keeping the extra stuff guiltily among your things, give it as a gift to someone.

Leave the tinkles and shimmers at home…

Every day is not special enough to wear special clothes. We all jump at the chance to wear them, but there is a place for everything, and public places, especially on this night, are not fit for wearing attractive outfits; we all know the kind of crowd that is on the streets on this occasion.

…or stay at home with them

Who says you have to go out for fun? Food can be delivered at home, or someone can go out to get food for the whole party. Whether you go to the people or get the people to come to you, fun is how you make it.

Bazaar and Dhikr are not mutually exclusive concepts

Want the shopping and sightseeing but don’t want to leave the Barkat (goodness) at home? Begin with the name of Allah (swt). “I begin my adventure among the crowded stalls and malls by invoking Allah (swt),” may sound weird, so we have this tailor-made Dua for the marketplace to use: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah alone, Who has no partner. His is the dominion and His is the praise. He brings life and He causes death, and He is living and does not die. In His Hand is all good, and He is Able to do all things.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Don’t let the Isha prayer slip by in all the excitement. It’s the first post-Ramadan prayer. You don’t want to be marked absent on His attendance register immediately after the holy month has ended.

Keep it down

While staying up late at night chitchatting or watching TV, remember that it only seems that the whole world is awake. There are early sleepers, little babies and elderly people all around the neighbourhood. Even if you know that your neighbours will stay up longer than you, you should still avoid making noise out of charity.

Abdullah Ibn Masood (rta) has narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) has said: “A man is not a Muslim till his heart and tongue are submissive, and he is not a believer till his neighbor is safe from injurious behaviour on his part.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Remember those who work at your house

A set of bangles for the maid is a small price to pay to make her feel special.

Chand Raat: the “night of reward”?

The Hadeeth “Whoever stands up (in worship) in the nights preceding the two Eids expecting rewards from his Lord, his heart will not die when the other hearts will die” is weak: its chain of narrators is unsound. The night before Eid has not been recommended for worship. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t pray during this night. We just shouldn’t go out of our way to do special worship that we wouldn’t do normally.

Instead of weighing the propriety of an action or practice on the unstable measure of public opinion (“if I do that, what will people think?”), it is better to consider what the Almighty thinks. Unlike our fellow flawed human beings, He will actually reward us for taking His approval into our consideration.

Punishments of the Grave

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Punishments of the graveBy Iqra Asad 

Life is a test, for which we get the exam questions beforehand. We already know which answer will score how many marks – or at least we would have known, if we had bothered to check the grading scheme. With questions and answers already given to us, all we have to do is prepare. There isn’t any excuse for failing such a test, is there?

Yet, whenever we encounter any description of the punishment of the Hereafter, we ask: “What about Allah (swt)’s mercy?” The answer is contained in the very beginning of the Quran, where, in Surah Al-Fatihah, Allah (swt) is described as the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. He is called the Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e., the Day of Resurrection). That is – He is Merciful, but He is also Just.

The time between death and the Day of Judgement is spent in the state of Barzakh or interspace, i.e., the waiting period, which every soul spends according to its actions in life, as Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Verily the grave is the first stopping place for the Hereafter; so if he is saved therein, then what comes after is easier than it. And if he is not saved therefrom, then that which comes after is harder.” (At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim)

“When a person is buried and the people go away, two angels approach the deceased and ask three questions: a) Who is your lord? b) What is your religion? and c) Who is he (the Prophet (sa))? (…) A disbeliever will express regret at not being able to answer the questions. Upon that, an angel, who is blind and deaf, is appointed to punish him – blind so that the angel does not see the punishment and feel mercy, and deaf, so that the punishment is not heard. The hammer used to punish a disbeliever is so heavy that it can reduce a mountain to dust. The disbeliever screams with pain, and every creation can hear him, except humans and Jinns.” (Abu Dawood)

“If you are made to listen to the punishment of the grave, you will stop burying your deceased.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Punishments for… 

The liar: His face is ripped open with an iron hook, from the eyes to the neck, then the mouth to the neck. (Bukhari)

The one who learnt the Quran but failed to follow it: His head will be smashed open with a rock. (Bukhari)

The ones who committed adultery: They shall be roasted in a pit of fire. (Bukhari)

The one who dealt in usury (interest): He will swim in a river of blood or boiling tar, and every time he wants to get out, a person at the bank will smash a rock into his mouth, crushing his teeth. (Bukhari)

The backbiter: They will tear their own faces and chests with copper claws. (Abu Dawood)

Those who turned away from prayer: They will crack their own heads open with stones. (From the collated Hadeeth regarding Miraj by Al-Shami and Al-Ghayti)

The slanderer: They will cut pieces of flesh off from their own bodies and eat them.(seen by the Prophet (sa) during Al-Isra journey) In all of the above, the person is healed and the punishment is repeated until the Day of Judgement.

Avoiding the Punishment of the Grave Avoid sin carefully: In Baihaqi, there is a Hadeeth, in which the Prophet (sa) said that the occupant of a grave was being tormented, because he gossiped and was not cautious about splashing drops of urine on himself. Moral: never consider any act unworthy of correction.

Make Dua to Allah (swt): The Prophet (sa) cautioned people to seek protection from the punishments of the grave. One of the duas that he (SAW) used to make quite often towards the end of his prayer was: “Oh Allah, I take refuge in You from the punishment of the grave, from the torment of the Fire, from the trial of life and death and from the evil affliction of Dajjal.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Recite Surah Al-Mulk before going to sleep: Abu Hurairah (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sa) said regarding Surah Al-Mulk: “Verily, there is a chapter in the Quran, which contains thirty verses that will intercede on behalf of its reciter, until he is forgiven.” (Al-Albani)

Do good deeds: The Prophet (sa), in a detailed Hadeeth, specified that the good deeds, i.e., your prayer, Zakat, Sadaqah, good behaviour with others, etc., form a shield against Azab. (At-Tirmidhi)

Tipping the Scales

Vol 6 -Issue 2 tipping the ScaleIqra Asad draws a comparison between worldly rewards and rewards in Jannah.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Allah (swt) said: ‘I have prepared for My pious worshipers such things as no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard of, and no mind has ever thought of. All that is reserved, besides what you have seen, is nothing.’” Then he recited: “No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.” (As-Sajdah 32:17) (Bukhari)

We can never actually perceive what heaven is like. The Divine description paints a portrait with words that blow us away, and when we try to imagine it, our minds get jammed. We can, however, aid our comprehension by comparing the nature of the rewards in heaven with the nature of the rewards in this world. By putting the materialistic rewards of this temporary life in perspective, we understand the silliness of spending so much time in pursuit of them.

Food and drink is the most natural point to begin with – a part of every human’s afterlife as well as present life. The Quran says: “The description of Paradise which the Muttaqûn (the pious) have been promised (is that) in it are rivers of water the taste and smell of which are not changed, rivers of milk of which the taste never changes, rivers of wine delicious to those who drink, and rivers of clarified honey (clear and pure) therein for them is every kind of fruit…” (Muhammad 47:15)

Though simple and straightforward, this description raises some questions. It is obvious that in taste, the nourishment of Paradise is greatly superior to that of this world, but what is meant by “taste never changes”? There are two meanings to this. One is that while worldly edibles differ in taste due to pollution, adulteration, use of chemicals, improper cooking and other such factors, heavenly edibles are consistently pure and free from imperfections. The other is a concept that beautifully illustrates the difference between this life and the hereafter. The pleasure felt in eating or drinking something in this earthly existence is directly associated with the degree of hunger or thirst. For example, the first slice of cake eaten when one is hungry tastes delicious, the second not so much, and the third would seem quite bland. Not so in Paradise, where there is neither thirst nor hunger. Every bite is as tasty as the first one.

The second question is regarding the mention of wine. Isn’t it forbidden because it has bad effects? The Quran clears this confusion: “For them there will be a known provision (in Paradise). Fruits; and they shall be honoured, in the Gardens of delight (Paradise), facing one another on thrones, round them will be passed a cup of pure wine; white, delicious to the drinkers, neither they will have Ghoul (any kind of hurt, abdominal pain, headache, a sin, etc.) from that, nor will they suffer intoxication therefrom.” (As-Saffat 37:41-47) As all heavenly things are completely pure, they do not have any adverse effects. You can consume as much of it as you like, without any harm.

The defining characteristic of this life is work. The defining characteristic of life in Paradise is ease. For instance, when Allah (swt) grants us food on earth, we have to buy, prepare or make an effort for it in some way. A person seeking shade in this world will have to seek it himself. In Paradise, the trees themselves will spread their branches low, there will be servants for the people, and the doors will obey them:

“And the shade thereof is close upon them, and bunches of fruit thereof will hang low within their reach.” (Al-Insan 76:14)

“And round about them will (serve) boys of everlasting youth. If you see them, you would think them scattered pearls.” (Al-Insan 76:19)

“’Adn (Eden) Paradise (everlasting Gardens), whose doors will be open for them, [It is said (in Tafsir At-Tabari, Part 23, Page 174) that one can speak to the doors, just one tells it to open and close, and it will open or close as it is ordered].” (Sad 38:50)

Purity is, of course, not limited to the food and drink of Paradise: “…they (the believers) shall have therein Azwajun Mutahharatun (purified mates or wives i.e. having no menses, stool, urine, etc.)…” (Al-Baqarah 2:25)

Apart from the great beauty of these companions, which is incomparable to human beauty, there is another aspect: “And with them will be chaste females, restraining their glances (desiring none except their husbands), with wide and beautiful eyes. (Delicate and pure) as if they were (hidden) eggs (well) preserved.” (As-Saffat 37:48-49)

This aspect is twofold, i.e., the companions are not only kept ‘preserved’ (untouched) just for the believers, but there is also the security that they keep themselves for their human mates. Bluntly said: where loyalty is concerned with human companions in this world – one has trust; with heavenly companions – one has a guarantee. In any case, one of the greatest blessings of Paradise is peace of mind in all matters, something that is impossible to attain in the world:

“And they will say: ‘All the praises and thanks be to God, Who has removed from us (all) grief. Verily, our Lord is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Ready to appreciate (good deeds and to recompense). Who, out of His Grace, has lodged us in a home that will last forever; there, toil will touch us not, nor weariness will touch us.’” (Fatir 35:34-35)

“And We shall remove from their breasts any (mutual) hatred or sense of injury (which they had, if at all, in the life of this world).” (Al-Araf 7:43)

It often happens that a sad or upsetting experience steals our sense of peace or happiness. Only Allah’s (swt) healing can remove such pain and hurt completely, leaving the dwellers of Paradise mentally free to truly enjoy the smallest delights of the afterlife in a way they could never take pleasure in their greatest joys on earth. The biggest factor in this regard is, however, as follows:

“Allah has promised to the believers – men and women – Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of ‘Adn (Eden/Paradise). But the greatest bliss is the Good Pleasure of Allah. That is the supreme success.” (At-Taubah 9:72)

What accomplishment, greater than pleasing Allah (swt), can forever quell the restlessness of the human soul? When we follow the straight path effectively, we can feel the soothing effect on our hearts, but the feeling of striving towards a goal is nothing compared to actually crossing the finishing line and receiving the trophy. That is the true reward, in front of which anything of this earth is worthless.

Holding Infinity in the Palm of your Hand

Once, one of my friends said to me: “There are so many things I want to do, books I want to read, people I want to meet that I would need several lifetimes for it all.” Somewhere between the morning rush and afternoon hustle, one sometimes gets the irrational feeling to throw one’s routine in the trash and spend the rest of the day doing something else. We long for limitless time, but when we mentally consider this temporary life forever, we can never actually grasp the concept of eternity. Think about it. A two-year swim in the pool? Months-long chitchat with friends?

Anas Ibn Malik (rta) reported that the Prophet (sa) said: “There is a tree in Paradise (which is so large that) if a rider travelled in its shade for one hundred years, he would not be able to cross it.” (Bukhari)

This is in direct contrast to the concept of time in this world – as Surah Al-Asr tells us, man is at a disadvantage because of time slipping by, and not returning, whereas in Paradise the dimension of time will cease to exist. It is hard to imagine, because it is on a different scale from anything we are used to. After all, who has an instrument for measuring infinity?