March 9, 2012
I heard his voice at night and it came into my chest and cradled my heart. Beating in the couch of this voice, my poor little heart unfurled its bloody tendrils exposing the throbbing ache it had masterfully splinted, sutured and put into a cast. It lay spread eagle in exhaustion, feeling his voice rise up underneath it supporting every heaviness it had come to bear. In the tender spring of the voice that bathed it, my heart welcomed the stings and starts that opens a wound to cleaning. The pain was palpable and comforting still. Each word was heavy love’s caress. It dug into my knotted heart with the deft fingers and knuckles of a blind masseuse, soothing where it inflicted pain. I lay loose and unraveled having succumbed to its complete embrace.
I began to cry, moved as I was, hollow as I felt now that I knew what I wanted to fill me. His voice was crying too. We cried in our reunion and cried because near as his voice was burrowed in my chest it wasn’t near enough. I was keenly aware of how the bones and sinews that kept me whole and strong were a cage that kept me apart from him. What good was strength if it was only a dam fortified against the waves that I so wished would engulf me?
I heard his voice at night and it came into my chest and cradled my heart.
I was inspired to write this vignette after reading The Recitation and Interpretation of the Quran: Al Ghazali’s Theory, translated by M. A. Quasem. In this readying, Ghazali talks about being moved to weep during prayer, not as an outward show of piety, but in response to being moved by a feeling of closeness to the divine. This vignette uses the traditional metaphor of the believer as a lover pining for Allah and attempts to capture the emotions of divine love as they are experienced during a night prayer. The language intends to convey the intensity of the experience and the desire to surrender completely to Allah.
In this vignette, Allah is referred to as a voice in the same vein of the Prophet hearing the words of Allah during the moments of the Qur’an’s revelation. Pain and suffering are also themes in my work, not as a negative thing but as being redemptive, healing and purifying. The image of Allah washing the imperfect heart of the believer is a metaphor for the purifying nature of prayer but is also reminiscent of the ritual ablution that Muslims are required to perform before salat.
Allah’s voice in the story cries with the believer, bringing to mind the Quranic verse:
Allâh says, ‘I am just as My slave thinks I am, and I am with him if he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than them; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.’
The vignette ends by expressing an insatiable desire for Allah and to be close to Allah. The believer in this story wants to surrender everything including her physical body in order to be closer to the divine. She recognizes that what may be lauded in the physical world and the human reality we exist in, is not necessarily bringing her towards Allah. At the close of the vignette, we return to the very first line, right back where we started yet finding that the starting point is no longer the same. The structure of the vignette aligns itself with the spiral model of spiritual growth.