if you find me

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if you find me

take me to the city lights

the night sky heard my whispers

she’s calling for me

on such days

when my weight is too much to bear

gravity pulls me to the bottom

I fade

I’m distant, non-existent

I forget how to fight the current again

if you find me

take me to the city lights

it’s been dark underneath this surface

 

Mona Issa 

 

 

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The Exile of ’48

Palestinian_refugees

“Only faith will free Palestine” was something my grandma acquired after six decades of being a refugee.

“I was born in 1938 – the eldest among my siblings. Everyone in Melkiye had a gun at the time, so my Dad bought one of those French guns to protect himself, and protect our home.”

She was 10 years of age when she and her family were forced to exile from the motherland. Leaving behind everything they had, there was a desperate call for asylum.

“We were sure to protect ourselves when they wanted to beat us with their guns. Every time they tried to raid our land, we’d kick the Zionists out each time. At one point, we were able to defend ourselves,” Khadije reminisces.

But when the bombs started falling from the sky in broad daylight, there was no way the Palestinian people could stand a chance.

“There was absolutely no room to think when the world was set on fire. I was panicking. We were many children, and almost every corner of the sphere was either bound to ignite or already firing up in flames. The stampede of villagers by our home was ridiculous. I felt dizzy not knowing which way to head midst in the chaos. However, it was until I watched my mother run for her life with my other siblings, leaving me behind with my sister, was when I realized that there was no room to be dizzy either.”

After her mother left, Khadije looked onto the bolting crowd with the infant in her arms. Fatima, her sister, was only two months old, and they were both alone with their own fate. She ripped a cloth from her dress and wrapped Fatima for protection. Khadije charged into the crowd, lumbering with the flow.

“Nobody could see, and nobody could hear. We were all running for our lives as our homes were burning to the ground. There was no time to go back and retrieve anything that mattered to us at the time – and by things that matter, I mean even children. Many children were left behind, just like what could’ve happened to Fatima. Come to think of it, I could’ve left my sister the same way my mother did. But, I didn’t. I don’t know how, but I didn’t,” she said.

War, for someone as young as Khadije, is a shock which doesn’t leave her memory.

Palestine in the 40s didn’t have much technological advancements: Khadije’s family, like many other families in the northern region, were farmers. They sustained themselves with crops as well as selling their harvests to commoners. Although their home was “wooden,” as Khadije would call it, they were the owners of over 500 acres of land. As bourgeois as that may sound, the lands were rather utilized to grow crops made to sell.

Barefoot with Fatima in her arms, Khadije made it to Aytaroun, a village in the Southern region of Lebanon today, just on the borders. It is a twenty-minute drive from Melkiye, where war rid her family from.

There, she found her mother. Refugees and homes were compact in a time so critical, so it wasn’t impossible for her to get her way through. A refugee crisis splurged in the region, losses and displacements were profound, and tensions arose.

“The first thing I remember is that when I saw her, it wasn’t a hello or a “thank god” – it was more of me, asking her, “How did you leave me?”  The answers remain nebulous; there are some questions which couldn’t be provided logical explanations.

When I spoke to her, she was lying on a mattress in her garden, staring into the black sky, recalling the unending memory of her mother. “We were all over the place. I do not blame my mother. Israel oppressed us all,” she muttered. “I forgive her.”

Khadije married at the age of 18 – both she and her husband were holders of the infamous “Palestinian Refugee” identity card, and they raised 12 children.

“I never needed anyone. I never stretched my hand out for help, and I’m forever humbled for that. I’m illiterate – I barely know how to read. But I cared and gave everything I could; I sold my gold for my children’s education – with the rise of the dollar in the region, life got expensive. But, I taught them well.

They took away our land, our children, our pride – even when we left to Ghazieh, the Israelis followed us. They broke into our home at 2 am and kidnapped our 16-year-old son and imprisoned him for six months. Even the young and innocent weren’t let out of it. But, my heart never ceases to tell me that there still exists a void, which knocks and bounces on every wall in every room in this building.

I know my house is destroyed in Melkiye, but my home thrives. I keep telling myself I want to go back. There will always be a sense of emptiness at the end of the day, and I could only feel it – only my generation could feel it. At this point in my life, my only wish to go back and die there.”

 

Writer’s take:
To me,  Melkiye is rather a concept – an abstract one  that I have yet to see.  
Melkiye is a place to live and a place to die. It is a battleground of war and a rose-bed of peace. Like the concept of God, I know it’s there even though I haven’t seen it – but I know He’s watching over it, for He watches over all territories: the free and the forbidden; the known and the unexplored. Between right and wrong; from sea to coast and all that is apart: I will meet you halfway, where hearts are blind to beauty and skin; minds conscious to hatred and imperialism; eyes which see beyond the wall – a place where souls find a home to rest in.

Mona Issa

 

The Islam of Science: What Lead to The Downfall of The Muslim World?

are_science_and_religion_compatible

It’s no surprise that scientists argue that science and religion are two separate entities incapable of integration. Western thought and agenda have taken the science world by storm throughout modern history, and in return, have become the vanguards of technological development and modernity.

Undoubtedly, Western colonialism and secular hegemony have highly influenced the way Arabs, particularly Muslims, substantiate identity formation. One way Western hegemony was able to do this was to simply create a sense of confusion – better yet, a contradiction – between religion and technological advancement, which psychologically, renders religious views as the culprit for being “third world” and underdeveloped (1).

However, as many are taught, it is not quite intelligent to set the full weight of the blame on the Western world for colonizing the region. In fact, colonial establishments in the Arab world are highly due to the Muslim Ummah itself, which wronged its community by separating science from religion.

It isn’t as simple as it sounds, though.

The Muslim world, throughout history, passed through its “Golden Age”, which was a significant period of time where tolerance, natural sciences, rationalism, medicine and other noble pursuits, economic and social development were at their peaks. Leading the intellectual world from A.D. 1100 till 1350, the Golden Age ended when the European world began its advancements and the Muslim world failed to keep up(2).

Why did they fail to keep up?

Theological schools in the region restricted their education to Quranic teachings and Sunnah, excluding natural and empirical sciences from their programs and thus failing in development. Generation after generation, an antagonism between religious teachings and natural science was borne; this rendered religion as “divine” and sciences, in a sense, “kafir” or more commonly, “undesired.”

The Muslim community, unquestionably, wronged its history, progress and future through such disparaging initiatives.

Many times, schools of religious thought and theology fail to understand that the word ‘ilm – or, science – is mentioned at least 780 times in the Holy Quran. As if this does not stress the significance of seeking knowledge enough, one prominent hadith for Prophet Muhammad clearly enstates the following:

“Acquisition of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim.”

In “The Holy Quran and the Sciences of Nature,” a compilation of essays written by Iranian scholar and scientist Mehdi Golshani, science fails to be separated into “religious sciences” and “non-religious sciences” : such classification rather hinders the universality of Islam. Dr. Golshani argues that all science, whether natural or philosophical, is “religious.”(3)

The rationale behind this claim is that knowledge and science are very much intertwined with the Quran. Knowledge is vast and universal, which therefore illustrates the universality and omnipotence of God and creation itself.

 

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While ignorance leads to misinterpretation, tyranny and downfall, knowledge leads to justice, righteousness and sustainability. By substitution, for one to interpret Quranic teachings fairly and correctly, it is vital that one acquires background knowledge in natural sciences, such as biology and physics, and finally, philosophy.

What makes a nation easy to colonize and control is its ignorance. It is easy to charge Western supremacies for the crimes which lead to underdevelopment; however, it could be inferred that our late ancestry did not do such a great job at protecting us from our defeat.

Rendering scientific research and acquisition a fundamental part of practicing religion should be the Middle East’s next goal as part of education, an initiative for resistance against intellectual colony and dependency, and advocacy for progressive Islam.

Mona Issa

 


References:

  1. Maziak, W. (2017). Science, modernity, and the muslim world. EMBO Reports, 18(2), 194-197. doi:10.15252/embr.201643517
  2. Stearns, J. (2011). Writing the history of the natural sciences in the pre-modern muslim world: Historiography, religion, and the importance of the early modern period: Natural science in the pre-modern muslim world. History Compass, 9(12), 923-951. doi:10.1111/j.1478-0542.2011.00810.x
  3. Golshani, M. (1986). The Holy Quran and the Sciences of Nature. Islamic Propagation Organization. 

 

 

Love: A Memoir of Diagnosis, Symptoms & Side Effects

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Love for me is very much like the embodiment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Falling in love captures the very core of your brain. It holds you where you are, by your central control system, and wires it into a shock. The shock falls into two phases.

In the first phase, you fall into a deep sleep where you are narcotized. You swim in your ocean of feelings. These feelings, they’re your ideas of love you’ve collected throughout your lifetime. It’s infinite. Like infinity, your thoughts are irrational and unbreakable. You can never break infinity.

Love suffocated me. I’d call him love, but I blame my thoughts more than anything else. It was me who wanted to forget the world. My soul lit fire and danced when I thought of him. Memory receptors on my skin have lived and died, but they learnt their history by heart. It was constant war between me and them; between wanting to forget the past and wanting to repeat it.

The second phase is when you realize the higher you go, the more painful the fall. You lose sleep for all the wrong reasons. You have abrupt shocks. You’d be in the middle of day-to-day ordinary tasks, then the memory hits you, and you feel the world quake down to your bone. You start to sweat, tremble, and if it’s bad, you might even shiver for a while. I’d be wrapped in seven blankets, and still feel the cold. The love, which you designed “infinite,” makes you want to die.IMG_5809

Love – true love – will hack into your system and take away rational thought. But, once it breaks you, you develop stoicism. I forgot what it was like to look at somebody, and wish they were as beautifully infinite as my thoughts. The good thing about it is that once it’s over, you realize that half the things you thought were painful aren’t as painful as you thought they were.

I’ve experienced the same ache twice. Leaving him was a lot like leaving Australia.

I lost myself along the way.

When I Crossed The Indian Ocean; Mona Issa.

A Polaroid: Jacarandas, Rain and Farewells

 

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Image by Reem Taha Photography

I could recall beauty in separate, slow polaroids, one after another. The world was moving fast around me, unswervingly coherent with the pace of my legs, as I run as if I were in a dream.

Laughter filled the air and into my lungs; Amana ran behind me and Golden-Hair-Honey-Eyes had me at my hands in front of me.

The clouds drizzled and there was no shelter anywhere around. Like everything that’s natural, so was the desire to live forever. I wanted to taste every flavor of adrenaline there was. I wanted to love like there was no time left for me in this world. I wanted to immerse in every last pleasure left abandoned.

And, it hurt me to think this would all be over soon. Was my life at the time the little “world” I spoke of? What if it was heaven, more than anything else?

We were in Luna Park – a heaven – and Amana and I just met Golden-Hair-Honey-Eyes when we got on the Ferris Wheel.

Golden-Hair-Honey-Eyes, where you from?” I asked him.
“Wollongong, you?” he replied. His eyes gleamed in the faint sun. He had freckles scattered like stars in a night sky across his face.
“I’m from Liverpool. Amana over here, though –”
“Bexley,” she said.
“Cool. Let’s go to the Magnetic Fields after this.”
“Let’s GO!”

Hastily, as if we’re running out of time, we jumped out and ran yards into some future I knew nothing of.

That night, we walked by jacaranda trees in some old suburb. Although the streets were almost empty, I could hear music of deep melancholy ease into my ears; it was as if the jacarandas were bidding some sort of farewell to me.

“Goodbye, Golden-Hair-Honey-Eyes, you’re never going to see me again,” I felt nervous and funny, how a stranger could matter to me. The streetlight flashed above us; not more than the mere silhouettes of our features were apparent under our pixel autocracy. He pulled me into an embrace – there was nothing weird or awkward about it. It was the first time.

We were young, and nothing in the world mattered because  we were.

 

Mona Issa