To Tape to My Dorm Wall

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My sister, know that only

a prayer keeps us afloat
for tomorrow:

pulling down, pushing
through the boarded window.

I pack three suitcases
for part two of the world:

sleeping in, cheap wine,
tax forms, sorority girls.

I will miss my little
brother calling adhan.

Will I wake for
fajr, a pink dawn?

In a few months,
I will have all Ramadhan,

alone, to leash myself,
to work my way

through a plastic box
of Palestine’s sweetest

pitted dates.

This summer, I’ll be packing my bags and preparing to step into the real world and its temptations. This poem is about this transition to life as a college student, living away from family for the first time. As a Muslim, this comes with its own set of struggles: will I be able to uphold my Islamic identity and values without supervision? The temptations I’ve faced in my life in a small suburban Muslim household have been muted. A friend asking why I’m not planning to attend prom last week was enough to cause a small panic. But beyond that, there exists another world of “sleeping in, cheap wine, tax forms, frat girls.” When immersed in day-to-day worries about getting to work on time and chasing straight A’s, will I remember to wake up for Fajr and early Qur’an recitation without my mother there with her hawk-eyes?

“Mutual rivalry in seeking increase in worldly possessions diverts you from God,” we are told in Surah At-Takathur. How long until this trial ends? “Till you reach the graves.”

I know that Allah will always know what I am doing and what I am not doing. He knows whether what I do is for Him alone or not, but the fear remains. Without the bubble of an Islamic environment surrounding me, will I be able to commit to a full month of fasting during Ramadhan, as my roommates devour their fast food and I sit alone and study? Am I prepared for this? How can I be prepared for this? Can anyone be prepared for anything?

The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) has said, “Whoever says when he leaves his house, ‘In the name of Allah, I have relied on Allah and there is no power nor strength except by Allah’ will be told, ‘You have been guided, spared and protected,’ and Satan will be kept far from him.” And what was Satan’s response? “How can you get at a man who has been guided, spared and protected?” (Abu Dawud)

I began my poem with a reminder – Something we all know, but forget when we most need guidance: “only a prayer keeps us afloat for tomorrow.” Only Allah can protect us. Only he can guide us to the right path.

Aysha Khan is a high school senior in the suburbs of Baltimore, where she is editor-in-chief and a designer for her student newspaper. She plans to continue studying journalism and statistics in college. A Strunk & White-adherent slacktivist with a penchant for literature and politics, she hates two things: fluff and senseless compliance to dogma. Aysha recognizes the need for more young Muslim voices, the need for peace, and the need for a united Ummah, all of which she believes MYM is instrumental towards.


  1. Ibn Siddique Reply

    Powerful piece, masha’Allah. I liked how the different pieces seemed disconnected at times, and connected in weird ways in the next. Definitely gives the feeling of college really well. :)

    • Jazakumullah. That was what I aiming for – the feeling of being disconnected from your world. But I imagine it would come in fits and spurts, not as a constant longing for your family and Islamic values.

  2. Aysha,
    A really beautiful piece mashaAllah. I am so proud that you are such a strong Muslimah. You are an example for many. College will present it’s challenges, but I can say from my own experience that it is just as likely that you will find your Muslim identity there. After all, Islam was born in the most “un-Islamic” of environments. Even if your family is far, God is near and only comes closer when the believer calls for Him. I wish you the best!

    • Jazakumullah. And what a great – and dare I say poetic? – point you raised about Islam itself having been born in the worst of environments because that is where it is most needed.

  3. Masha Allah, well done! The end was my favorite, the way you broke off “through a plastic box / of Palestine’s sweetest / pitted dates.”

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