Of Masks

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Written by Omar Shareef of Muslim Medicine for Muslim Youth Musings.

He was but a young impressionable man from the hood,
Naïve to the world but clung to faith as best as he could.
Surrounded by a tempting torrential dark sea of lust and desire,
Salacious images, caricatures, symbolisms that aimed to conspire.
His mind flooded with preconceived notions of what he mistook for love,
All to fill an empty void in his heart, companionship he was deprived of.
His friends ate from fruits forbidden and enjoyed gratifications abound,
And yet here he stood – cursing his own predisposition with ire profound.
Out of a deep fear of never finding the soul he longed so desperately for,
He donned new clothes, attitudes, and personas to bury who he was no more.
Looked to uninhibited men of fame and fortune flanked by fake beauties unreserved,
And with a disimpassioned disillusioned disposition he set upon the world.

She was a bright but naive young lady surrounded by a society of garish opulence,
Lost in a world of vapid glamour, gossip, and pseudo-romance as her provenance.
Her friends’ fueling a vacuous obsession over vanity to feed a feminine hubris,
A perfect pastiche of beauty caked over hollow shells, dying flowers – rootless.
She saw through the shallow smears of chemical cosmetics and superficial plastic,
Vain gestures meant to fill a hole in her heart driving efforts unenthusiastic,
And yet, here she stood – cold, alone, and infected by jealousy invading her core.
An undeniable fear of never finding the kind of soul she longed so desperately for.
She saw the enchantment of her adornments in the wandering eyes of men,
Sought societies’ nod of approval of how attraction and beauty can entice them.
Her faith was hidden beyond sight lest it shackle her once again if unfurled,
And with such a convoluted contorted complexion she set upon the world.

One fateful day, their paths finally crossed as they set eyes upon one another,
Their worlds would meld together, their false masks gazing intently, seeking to discover.
For him, she seemed no different than a plastic Barbie – a thin cutout of a magazine,
For her, he appeared to be nothing more than a typical man – depthless and obscene.
And so with mutual sighs of disappointment they passed by one another,
Searching for the faith they both hid – but hearts desperately yearning for the other.

They searched for one another their whole lives through,
They passed right by the other – and never truly knew.


The inspiration for this poem came from Shel Silverstein’s poem, also titled “Masks,” a very short and simple story of how people hide away parts of themselves that they don’t want others seeing, putting on fake caricatures of themselves that fool others. When everyone begins hiding their true selves, we wind up in a society where we can’t tell who’s genuine and who’s putting on an act. I applied this concept to Muslim youth who face the same struggle of hiding away their deen and putting on a disingenuous persona to blend in. The result is tragic, leading to an ironic misjudging of one another and an inability to appreciate one’s true inner beauty. This is the rather sad result of the image-obsessed society we live in.

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