At first, I did not exist. I was not, and then I was.
Someone said ďBe!Ē and I was.
I did not choose this. My mother did not choose this. My father did not choose this.
And yet it happened. I happened. Be!1
And I was.
Who decided that I would Be?
To whom did I give my consent
To become that clump of cells, the leech, the clot2
I did not have a mouth with which to form words. I did not have a brain
With which to form thought. And yet, I was
Poured into my motherís womb like honey from the hive
My fatherís semen, dumb things, wagging their tails
Obedient drones, flying toward the Queen
At first, I was not, and then I was. Twenty-three, forty-six.
Two became four, four became eight, eight sixteen,
The first atom, encircled by electrons and positrons
Satellites in orbit of the center.
Who told them which way to whirl,
Clockwise or counterclockwise,
like pilgrims swarming the four-sided hive
Who wrote the formulae that summoned the cosmos into existence?
Each day I rested in her womb, my mother spun me, Scherezade spinning
Tales for the sultan to prolong her life.
My mother spun me like a tale,
Each day adding a new chapter to the book.
Hour by hour, day by day I took shape. Alaqa to Mughdah3
The leech, the clot gave way to the chewed up piece of meat.
The teeth marks clearly visible, each indentation a grain of rice
We are all chewed-up things, the universe does not differentiate
Between the largest whale (Jonahís abode) and the smallest spider (Ankabut4)
We are all tales waiting to be told.
When it came time for me to be ensouled,
My bones knitting together, my organs taking shape
Muscles clothing the bones, then skin knitting over the muscles
The pain of labor does not compare to the pain of ensoulment5
Of being imprisoned in the body: A trap, a snare, a web, a black hole,
The three veils of darkness6 covering the crime of conception,
Who is its perpetrator?
When it was decided I would be born, it was a violent expulsion, a nakba
Pushed out from the womb with blood and sweat,
I crossed the waters of my motherís amniotic fluid in a leaky boat
Made a refugee, I was an immigrant into this world.
Forgetting the darkness, I remember only that I do not belong here,
this body, this life is only a holding cell.
I am here for reasons I cannot fathom, at the will of one whom I do not know
At the mercy of those who do not know what they did
To deserve me.
Yet I was not, before, and now I am, and
Now, bereft, blind, wordless and helpless, I am here,
And now what do I do? Without knowing why, I struggled to be here, yet
Nobody is ashamed at what has been wrought upon me
Who will I hold responsible for this forced migration?
Even the sword feels shame when it is asked to behead the innocent.
1 Kun! The command in the Quran that God uttered to bring the universe into existence
2 Stages of embryonic and fetal development as outlined in the Quran and Hadith
3 Arabic names for two stages of fetal development. Alaqa: a leech-like clot. Mughdah: shapeless lump of flesh
4 Surah 29, verse 41 in the Quran: The Spider compares the fragility of false gods to a spiderís web
5 Muslims believe that ensoulment of the fetus begins 120 days after conception
6 Surah Az-Zumr in the Quran refers to a fetus in the womb protected by three veils of darkness. Scientists have surmised this refers to the anterior abdominal wall, the uterine wall and the amnio-chorionic membrane.