بسم الله الرحمنِ الرحيمِ

Peace to you, traveler. The name is Heba (/ˈhɪbɑ/). It means “a gift from God.”

You might say I’m god-given; you might call the particular way I do things “like Heba.” Or, as an adverb, “Heba-ly.”

“God-given-ly.” Now you know.

010. the crossroads: aladdin, rushdie, and me

Aladdin was my Disney Prince. I had a crush on him for as long as I can remember; as a kid I watched the library’s copy of Aladdin and the King of Thieves enough not only to internalize every scene and song, but to run the VHS tape beyond repair. He was my Prince because he was kind enough to offer his bread, because I had a penchant for rogues (or perhaps for this he and Peter Pan are together to blame?), and because he was painted familiar: Tanner skin, black hair, shalwar, and Robin Williams’s suggestion that we “brush up [our] Sunday salaam for Prince Ali” while he rode on “Abu.”

(Incidentally, my father’s favorite way to annoy me was to pronounce my boy’s name “Al ad-Din,” to which I’d immediately stomp my foot and correct, “No, it’s Aladdin.” Embarrassing in retrospect.)

Read the rest at KROS magazine →

009. He knows, and you know not.

The house is on fire, like it has been for ten years or fifteen or thirty-five, when a legitimate parking dispute in a residential neighborhood turned into Republican racism. No, they said, you can’t gather here, although you can pray in the basement if you must. For your community, we suggest the next town over.

Then they lit matches and handed them to worshipers like a present. Divide them–divide them however you can, geographically or by the geography from two generations ago, it doesn’t matter. Once you light the fire they’ll fight amongst themselves.

When is the moon and where is Ramadan and what is Eid?

“I want a community,” I said at my interview last summer. “That’s why the pay doesn’t matter. All I want, all I’ve ever wanted, is a group space that clicks and where I feel like I’m doing something useful for us. Where I’m an asset. Where I belong.”

When did I stop making that du’a?

Oh Dream, when did I quit you?

Was it in college, or once I graduated, or that first direct deposit?

“I came here to fulfill myself and I am torn at the seams.”

Where did I lose you?

“Maybe it is still here, your dream. You have no way of knowing. You have to fight.”

It always feels like I was better yesterday, that every moment I march toward death with a blacker, harder heart.

Smile, it’s Sunnah. “Maybe I don’t.”

I know I am yet worthy.

Please, come back.

[all in the msa] #2: the other side

january 2017

“Why are we having a meeting on New Year’s Day literally what is wrong with us?”

Officially, Rayyan is the lookout. She is, after all, the one with an Apple watch—and Sobia’s own phone is dying.

“That’s what coffee is for,” Nora says, and with all her authority as their vice president: “It’ll be quick, Sobi.”

“We’re never quick.” Especially when their meeting is scheduled around Adult World lunch time, especially because they are currently in an extremely long line at Dunkin’ Donuts, but Rayyan is determined to obtain her coffee and Nora is determined to obtain her doughnut. Sobia says, “Do you think maybe we should get them something, too? As a peace offering? Would that be weird?”

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008. carpal tunnel

My school had an established universal signal meant to garner instant silence whenever a teacher so required. It was done in kindergarten, it was done in middle and high school, and—I caustically informed my class—it was even done in staff meetings.

You, the authority figure in the room, are supposed to raise your hand. Thereafter everyone else is meant to quiet down and do the same. A successful signal is fully effective in seconds. My signals took minutes at best and would flat-out be ignored at worst. Of course, there were the poor kids who I can only compare to Hermione—their hands would shoot up and stay shot up as I leaned against the SmartBoard for spinal support.

I can’t keep my hand raised. Doing it at all peeves my pinched nerve. It’s the same reason I can’t use a stress ball (tl;dr: an administrator noticed my fidget and recommended one, I tried to use it, my back screeched. Next time, I’ll go for the cube).

Minutes into an attempted signal, I once barked a frustrated, “Do you guys know you’re physically hurting me right now? I have an injured shoulder and this awesome thing called carpal tunnel and this is literally putting me in pain.”

It shut them down for the day.

Not so the next time I signaled. But at least one of the Hermiones cried out, “Guys! Quiet down! I’m gonna get purple tunnel!”

Bless him, really.

Warning: May cause more stress than it dissolves.

[all in the msa] #1: donut panic

january 2017

“Well,” says Mustafa, frowning deeply, “that sure was a semester.”

Yusuf blinks up from the conference table, where he and MH have spread out playmats, newly determined to complete a match before the girls finally arrive. “That’s putting it mildly, ya akhi.”

“Look,” says Mustafa, then breathes audibly, a relaxation technique identifiable from December’s pre-finals de-stressing event. “I’m trying this new thing where I only highlight positivity, alright?”

Muhammad snorts and dispassionately sets two cards face-down, gaze shuffling between Yusuf’s field, Mustafa’s erratic pacing, and his own hand of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. “Donald Trump is going to be President of the United States in, like, three weeks,” he says. “It’s not like the coming of the Hour is news.”

“Oh, my God,” Mustafa says, and stares with saucer-eyes at nothing, like he’s seeing the idea manifest in front of him. “I need to sit down.”

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