The Night before Ashura’

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SHAFAQNA –

If I was in Karbala on this night

the last night before the end,

I would witness Heaven and Hell

spread out before me,

Heaven blocked from Furat,

Heaven prostrating to God,

Hell surrounding Furat,

and forgetting their God.
I would witness in the tents of Husayn

Oil lamps illuminating faces weeping in prayer.

I would witness the last Isha salat of

him who rode on the shoulders of the Prophet.

I would witness the love in the faces of the companions

as they prayed their last behind him.
I would witness the shining eagerness of the boy

for whom tomorrow’s death is sweeter than honey .

I would witness the flag bearer with a little girl on his knees.

I would notice that his arms are still intact.

Tomorrow, Sukayna, your uncle will not be here.

They will rip out your earrings and lash you with whips.

Stay close to him for as long as can.
I would witness a man bowed with grief and shame,

making his way towards Heaven,

and being embraced by one so tender and forgiving,

that he overlooks the deed that led to this end.

From the forgiven I would witness the steam of Hell leaving,

and a breeze of Heaven wafting through.
On the last night,

the night before the end,

if I tread softy through the tents,

I would witness dry water bags,

and children rolling their sandpaper tongues on parched lips

acutely aware of the sound of the gushing of the river water near

and also of the savages blocking the way there.

I would witness a mother with no milk to feed

the baby who’s thirst would at last be quenched

by the blood from a spear to his tiny throat.

I would witness a woman

who’s a sister foremost and then a mother

preparing her sons for the slaughter tomorrow,

when her heart will be wrenched many times over

and she’ll cry out to the desert as she witnesses her brother,

fall on the plains of Naynawa.

A woman who’d lose it all,

except for her faith,

which would be the strength of Karbala.
I would witness a man restless with fever

who would awaken later to find him self clad in chains,

leaving his family lying unburied, slaughtered in the plains,

as he drags his feet, whipped to Sham.

 

It is the night before the day

Zhuljanah will weep

as he returns shamefacedly to the camp, his back bare,

with blood of his master dripping down his flanks

The night before the day the Zhulfiqar will go back in sheath

Having done its duty yet again.
If I was in Karbala on this night,

I would hear sounds caressing the desert.

From one side I’d hear the calls of al atash al atash

and murmurs of praises to the Lord

and see tents glowing with noor

and from the other I’d hear wicked laughter

and swords sharpening on hearts made of stone

and see their wretched tents ablaze in hellfire.

It would be the night before the day

when on one side horses will cool their thirst with water,

on the other the thirsty household of the Prophet

will be slaughtered like no animal before.
It is the night before the day

the stars and the angels and the cosmos will weep

as they witness the final sujjud

of a body so brutally cloaked in arrows,

the forehead couldn’t touch the ground.
On this night he prostrates with angels behind

But tomorrow the angels will shield their eyes,

when his blessed head is butchered with a knife so dull

that the heavens will cry out.

If I was in Karbala on this night,

the night before the end,

and this is what lay in sight

surely I’d pour sand on my head,

and I wonder where I’d end.

Would I cower in the background like the Kufans?

Or join you in quenching my thirst from the banks of Kauthar?

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