At home, with his parents, he was Naveedeya! With his old street mates, he was Weedeeboy, but when he threw on a Moroccan jubba, stylish kufi with turban, designer misbaha wrapped around his wrist, and showed up at a mawlid or dhikr gathering, he was transformed into ‘Sidi Noweed’… And suddenly everybody else turned into Sidi this and Sidi that, and Sitta this and Sitta that… It was as if the honorific title, Sidi, drenched his name and identity into a pool of spiritual coolness!
And the ‘Sidi Noweed’ persona was hilariously at odds with the ‘Naveedeya’ and the ‘Weedeeboy’. Naveediya was often scolded by his dad for not being helpful, or taking an interest in the family taxi firm, and he was reprimanded by his mother for not taking an interest in his pretty cousin in Pakistan. Then, in front of his teenage younger sisters, he was Weedboy. He was an ogre to them, whilst they were jackals to him:
“Where you going dressed like that? You on a kuffar ting or somethink?” He would growl, regarding their designer headscarves and tight jeans.
“O shut up, Weedboy! Before we tell mum that your stuff you sniff is not oud from Yemen…”
Then, out on the street, he might come across his childhood mates, like Raz, Maz, and Taz.
“Yes, Weedee man! Wot uz up to? You comin to Taz’s place for Call of Duty?”
“Nah, sorry man, I’m doin some nasheed practice today.”
“A’ go on Maulvi Saab! Sorry, we mean, Sidi Noweed!”
And that’s what he became a few hours later, surrounded by an array of nationalities and converts, in a quaint zawiya on the other side of town. Sidi Noweed was a different breed to Naveediya and Weedeeboy. When he became the Sidi, his eyes radiated with piety, he only spoke of spiritual matters, he played the duff and sang with such gusto and fire! So much so, that he was quite a hit with one or two of the sisters, who would sigh and say: “Hmmmm, that Sidi Noweed, such a radiant, blessed brother, masha Allah, masha Allah!”
Then he would bid salaam to all the Sidis and Sittas and post a spiritual tweet on Twitter through his pseudonym, Natural Saalik. And off he would go home, back to Naveediya and Weedboy!
But one fateful day, it all came to a head… And no weed could save him…
Sidi Noweed was basking in the presence of a couple of sisters, in a beautiful Moroccan café- the type that none of his mates would ever attend. The sisters had coyly asked him to read through some qasidas to get the pronunciation right, and he, full of blessings and radiance, was more than happy to oblige! Masha Allah! The stunning light and dark eyes and elegant ways of his audience had absolutely nothing to do with it!
So, Sidi Noweed had turned up dressed in his finest jubba, crested with a pristine turban, embellished with a fine, polished misbaha around his neck, and scented with an irresistible musk. And as he read the qasidas to these sisters, sitting outside on this beautiful day, in this top-notch neighbourhood, they looked into his eyes, and he smiled at the attention, and all they could feel was masha Allah! Masha Allah! And that is what the sisters proclaimed to him: “Sidi Noweed, masha Allah, masha Allah!” He found it so sweet; just the way they pronounced it piqued his delight- Sidi Noweed- such sweetness, such wonder, mash Allah!
But it was when he got to this line that suddenly the Sidi started to crumble within:
“Laakin tawwahamu gharihi yakhfaabihi”.
He was just about to enunciate it the way he had heard, when suddenly some familiar voices invaded the air:
“Yes Weedeeboy! I see, I see!” He turned to see a shining black kitted BMW and his friends spilling out of the windows with wide grins. “Can’t come out today?… I see, Weedeeboy!”
The sisters regarded the leering faces and clouds of smokes rising out of the tinted windows. Sidi Noweed, or should we say, Weedeeboy just sat there, frozen, stunned, like a rabbit staring at a truck’s full beam before being splatted!
The car stood there opposite the café. The sisters were getting uncomfortable.
“Er, Sidi, do you know them? I think they’re calling you…”
Sidi Noweed, whose Sidiness was beginning to melt inwardly and outwardly smiled nervously: “Oh, they’re just some guys I know- just some jokers. Don’t worry.”
And with that, Sidi Noweed strode up to the car.
“Listen,” he whispered bitterly to Taz in the front passenger seat, “what da hell are you guys doing? These are my friends from the zawiya you idiots…”
The lads started howling: “Oh dear, is our ‘Sidi’ brother getting angry… Just coz we caught you with some ‘sisters’” And they all formed speech marks with their fingers.
Sidi Noweed looked back at the perturbed sisters. He smiled radiantly, then turned to his mates, growling under his breath.
“Look, lads, please, just give me break…”
“Okay, Sidi Weedee! We’ll let you serenade your sisters with some qasidas! See ya later!”
And with a long loud beep, they screeched off. Sidi Noweed shuddered with irritation before returning to the sisters, aiming to salvage this promising situation.
“Everything okay sidi?” They asked.
“Alhamdulillah…” He remarked. “Shall we carry on?”
They smiled, understandingly, took a sip of the perfect Moroccan tea and cakes, and then waited for the next line:
“Laakin tawwahumu gharihi yakhfaabihi”.
Once again, he was just about to enunciate these lines, when another voice filled the air, and this time Sidi Noweed really and truly fell into a mire of despair.
It was his father; and he was angry, proper furious….
“Naveedeyaa! I’ve been looking for you everywhere. What the hell are you doing here? You were supposed to come with me to the council for that meeting I told you about?” Then his father regarded Naveedeyaa’s friends, his eyes clouding, and he apologized: “I am sorry to disturb your gathering, but I need to speak to my son.”
The sisters, rather awkwardly remarked: “Er Sidi Noweed, we can continue this later…”
Father scoffed: “Acha! Sidi Noweed… What is this ‘Sidi’ Noweed?”
And now the sisters’ awkwardness shifted into a deep disturbance, as they saw the essential ire and bitterness in Sidi Noweed’s eyes. Now they saw a different face.
“You are embarrassing me dad. You are shaming me up in front of my friends…” The radiance had departed; the sidiness had washed away, and now all they saw was a rather petulant child, which disturbed the sisters even more. Horrified and rather sympathetically, they bid their salaams, and made a quick exit from the café.
“Thanks dad.” Fumed Sidi Noweed, feeling the misbaha tightening around his wrist and his turban suddenly weighing him down. And he marched off, ignoring his father’s pleas to return: “Naveedeyaa!”
As he marched onwards, with no apparent destination, he shed the turban, pocketed the misbaha, and felt the shame cloud over his head and mind. He would now be a laughingstock amongst the sisters and the zawiya, he thought. He would never be able to show his face there anymore. He was no longer a sidi….
Then his mind’s eye was assaulted with manifesting forms and words: “Naveedeyaa! Weedeeboy! Sidi Noweed….” The beautiful smiles but then the utter disappointment of the sisters; his father’s accusatory eyes; his mates impish grins. He just wanted to disintegrate into a mound of dust and be crushed and hardened into a bead of a misbaha.
He suddenly remembered the line he was about to read to the sisters:
“Laakin tawwahumu gharihi yakhfaabihi”.
And he also remembered the translation: “But the delusions of otherness veil (seekers) from Him….”
Delusions…. Sidi Noweed… Weedeeboy…. Naveedeyaa…
The shame consumed him mercilessly and would not let go. He felt like he would explode.
The only place that could save him was a cute little corner house mosque, where an ancient man had just entered.
Sidi Noweed rushed towards it, entered, performed wudu, and buried his face and eyes into a prostration. The tears flowed. Inwardly, he spoke:
“Ya Allah- I don’t know who I am anymore and who I belong to… I wear these masks, but there is nothing, no substance underneath them…. I don’t know what to do. Please help me…” He wept some more. There was no one else in this tiny mosque, except for the old man, who sat in contemplation.
Sidi Noweed arose from his prostration and sighed deeply. The old man spoke in broken English:
“Is everything okay young man?”
Sidi Noweed’s filter system had broken down. He now spoke what was inside his heart: “I don’t know who I am anymore… My whole life is a lie…”
The old man seemed to smile, picked up a Quran, patted Sidi Noweed on the head and gave him the book: “Wonderful! Now you are ready to begin. Read verse 16 chapter 50.”
Sidi Noweed wiped his eyes and found the page in the Quran. And it read: “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.”
Sidi Noweed looked up at the old man and smiled in appreciation. And the old man’s words soothed him: “To Him do we belong…. And to Him we will return….”
“Laa kin Tawwahamu ghairihi yakhfa bihi” from the Diwan of Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Al Habib, Allah bless him: Qasida: Roohee Tuhadiththunee”
Right when I felt vulnerable
A knock rapped on my door,
Misgivings were darkening my soul
And hopes strewn on the floor,
Dawning there before my house
A dear guest stood outside
Now saluting graciously, blessings had arrived.
Novid Shaid, Ramadan Kareem! 1442/2021
My friend has made a monster
He did it for a joke
He wanted to frighten the girls
The teachers and his folks
He combined all these chemicals
Then added bones and rocks
The only thing remaining was
Lightning to stir and shock!
And now his monster lives and breathes
It’s growing in a box
He tells me that he’s feeding it
With flies and roasted ox!
“This monster will give everyone
A fright!” He likes to tell me,
“Especially all my friends and foes,
They’ll swoon and gasp, I tell thee.”
My friend has made a monster
I hear it now above
These limping, shifting, soft footsteps
Which bump around and shove.
And now after some weary weeks
Those footsteps seem much louder
My friend tells me: “It’s growing well!”
His smile could not be prouder
Some days have passed; my sleep perturbed
My friend no longer meets me
And all I hear from up above
Is a whimper: “Help me… Help me…”
Finally, I rush upstairs,
And knock at my friend’s door
A moaning voice cries: “Help me please….”
Then I hear no more…
My friend has made a monster
And now I know for sure
That what he made is a travesty
Against the natural law
And let this be a lesson friend
Of hubris, understand
Before you fashion such a fiend
Which grows then blights the lands…
As now the door has opened wide
Before me stands this thing…
My friend lies dead; a mangled mess
And red eyes stare and grin…
Recollecting and treasuring the knowledge
That your teachers shared before
Is not merely nostalgia
Nor is it a sign of your acquiescence
Of your teachers’ future errors
Verily, your remembrance is simply gratitude
For the enlightenment you received
And a consolidation of ideas
You deem indispensable
Your gratitude for the past is fundamental
And if your past teachers now thrive,
Gives thanks and praise
And if your teachers now have erred,
Pray for their deliverance
For how much of an ingrate is the one
Who once lingered and traced their shadows
And now sticks a proud nose up in the air
Oblivious of the debts you can’t repay
For the inner light of knowledge and progress….
And do be careful, now, my compadre
As on this theatre of inconsistencies
Who knows if you’ll slip far with ease…
So don’t be so impatient to condemn
The ones who gave you such benefit before….
Advise your seers should they transgress
And prosecute should they oppress
But never forget the good that you received…
Harassment starts with just a look and thought
A lustful thought after a lustful look
So, check your thoughts and looks, and don’t persist
The whole point of desire is to resist
And then cherish your fire for the one you love
As when you satiate within the bounds of love
It is reciprocated, eternal
But unleashing your desirous looks on strangers
Can lead to ill and thoughts become a danger
Lower the gaze and keep your soul in check
And look at others with a deep respect!
And know this, though you may think this so odd
That all desires eclipse in the presence of God!
Some would-be sailors reported abuse by a line of skippers, and returned to the shore, heartbroken, anguished, and perturbed.
One of them said: “We must bring them to account! We have been wronged! Looks like there are no true skippers anymore….”
The ocean listened patiently, heard their pain like a mother, and spoke from within the rising and falling waves:
“Wrongs must be addressed…. You must act with unrelenting fairness.. For all who embark upon the journey deserve a fair hearing.”
Waves ascended majestically and then fell, like swooning dervishes; the water swelled, then settled, proclaiming:
“But there will always be true skippers, who have navigated the ocean, who have travelled far, far, far through me and can show you the way. And there have always been false skippers, full of names for my waters, but full of hot air within. So why do you give in? Was I your goal or was the skipper’s good pleasure your idol? Did you pine after my vast mysteries, or were you just enjoying the cruise? Did you think I would let you voyage upon me without some stillness, without the currents throwing you off course, without assailments by pirates dressed in a skipper’s cape? Perhaps there was nothing wrong with the skipper? Perhaps he was a true guide, and the problem was in your self?”
The ocean grew into an almighty breaker, falling with a thunderous clap, then rested and rocked hypnotically:
“Keep your hearts with me, and I will send you everything you need… Keep your attention on my waves, and I will move you further ahead… And absorb the beauty of the light of my full moon… But remember this, the point is not the skipper, the point is the Sea. If I am no longer your one desire, and it’s just all about you or the skipper, then either you are off, or the skipper is off… So, seek redress with the law, if crimes and oppression were perpetrated, for the pirates in the garb of skippers must be rounded up, but keep your gaze on me; make me your one and only concern, make my vastness your dreams.. Remember the signs of a true skipper, and if you gained from any of the skippers on this sea; if you were guided further through my waves, you must show thanks and send your sincere supplications their way- for they are my special ones; I have brought them closer to me…. But also know this, my skippers can never be as vast and as perfect as me…. Never lose hope in the ocean… And enjoy the resplendence of my full moon, which brightens my waters and fills your hearts with light!”
The ocean breathed out like a hidden saint and then slept soundly, like a sleeping baby. They turned their eyes from their troubles, and looked out- the waves shone, like hearts…
An almighty, streaming, surging downpour enveloped Medina Baye, flowing onto the streets and roads, washing away the memories of past days. It showered through homes, upon the elderly, upon mothers and fathers, upon children, drenching them in a water that they could not see, and clearing the air, and refreshing the hearts…
Idris Wuld, with the troubles of the world resting on his shoulders, rushed by Medina Baye, on his way to meet an official of the municipality. A singular old man stood in his way, raising his hands in the air and rubbing his face, as if catching the rain. Idris halted.
“What is wrong with you, old man?” He asked unkindly, regarding the clear sky and shifting his shirt in the spring heat.
“Oh! the rain! The rain! It’s everywhere!” Cried the old man, once again, staring at the empty sky, and welcoming the air into his arms. Idris sighed with irritation and moved briskly ahead, “Crazy fool…” He muttered.
Two hours later, Wuld passed by Medina Baye again, a wide smile on his face; his eyes confident and contented. The meeting went splendidly, and his financial troubles had been taken of. And once again, the strange old man came into his path, shifting from side to side, raising his hands in the empty, stifling air, rubbing his palms on his eyes and cheeks, while the awesome, majestic minarets of Medina Baye, stood behind him, like tower giants watching them. Wuld stopped in his tracks.
“So, what is it with you and this rain old man? Have you gone mad?” He joked.
The old man lowered his hands and looked deeply and intensely into Wuld’s eyes. “You will understand the rain I allude to if you do this one thing…”
“And what is that?” Wuld smirked. “Go to Sayyida and say what needs to be said…” And he walked off.
Wuld stood frozen, as the minaret giants looked on. The old man had spoken the name of his wife, and of the thing which was hidden cancer in his soul: his pride. He understood immediately and rushed off.
At home, whilst the children played outside, and his wife was engaged in the labours of her life, suddenly, she dropped her work, for her husband, Idris stood before her; his eyes in a way she had never seen before for a long time. He spoke: “Sayyida, my wife, and the mother of my children…” She leaned against the washing machine, her fears growing- had he found another woman? Another woe upon the woe this man had given her. “What I mean to say, my wife, and I mean this, I have been a cold man to you, for a while, and you have been a good woman to me. Forgive me. Let me make amends. I will take you to see your mother and kin on the weekend…” His eyes were remorseful and true- she could see it… She could see the shame and discomfort in every trace of red in his eyes. Finally, he saw her, the way he used to see her before. And she collapsed in his arms, the tears not stopping, the pain leaking out into his frame, being replaced by warmth, and love, and cheer.
Later, Wuld, having lost track of time and place, since his revelation to his wife, wandered over to Medina Baye, and suddenly, without warning, water fell from the sky, enveloping the whole expanse, covering his head, and washing away the pride. He looked up, feeling the rain flow over his head and face. The old man appeared next to him. “I told you it was raining,” he said, as people walked by, regarding them whimsically, on this, the driest day of March so far….