2020 – Age 19+ Years: Winner
Nihal Valji (29)
Theme – Rising for Justice
Judges’ comments: This past Muharram has been an introspective journey for all of us. This poem captured the feelings and emotions of a lot of mourners who had to re-evaluate their relationship with Imam Hussain (a) and search within to understand how well the truth of Azadaari was embedded in their souls. This poem served as both a sympathethic ear and a warning voice.
Eyes, glistening, blood-shot and sore
Heart, broken, soft and forlorn
Chest, beaten, red and raw
Feet, heavy, as I walk to the door.
Candles, flickering, black drapes on the walls
Ambience, sombre, gathered to mourn
Every Ashura, the grief is reborn
Every Ashura, we lament until dawn
Weeping, wailing, in sorrow adorned.
We gather to remember, to grieve, to pray
The dark night consecrated by the lover’s wail
Never tiring of the pain, internally we burn
As we remember, for our Master we yearn.
But this year I find myself reflective,
Is it time to ruminate, reassess my perspective
Shrouded in sadness – is this all it’s about?
Ceremonial ardour – I may be devout
But achieving his mission? Am I held to account?
Or do I limit myself, unable to transcend, to surmount?
Another year, another Moharram has passed us by
I shout “Labbayk ya Hussain!”, but heeding his call – how hard do I try?
Am I just in love with Hussain’s name on my tongue?
Content with traditions to which I’ve so tightly clung
Not delving deeper into his sacrifice for me:
For the continuity of Islam, he stood against Yazid’s army.
Hussain taught patience, steadfastness and virtue
Never bow to oppression but to your faith stand true
Famished gaunt children – Yemen – we’ve seen on the news
Occupied Palestine, settlements, the Zionist ruse
Saudi, Bahrain, Pakistan – violence on the rise
Our brethren are suffering, for their love they’re chastised
Hussain’s call for help is being echoed today
Silent, resonant, unanswered, we have yet to obey
We have so much to learn from his stand in Karbala
I needn’t look far, for every day is Ashura
When oppression is normalised, the pleas for help are unheard
Then, when it’s too late, our emotions are stirred
“I cant breathe!” a frantic cry that sent ripples through the world
A black brother, for the colour of his skin murdered
Twentieth century, yet I feel we’re in the dark age
Flagrant injustice met with temporary chagrin and outrage
Individualistic and frivolous pursuits-
distract me from devotion to where I’m needed
Hal min nasirin yansuruna, have I even heeded?
Hussain revolted to save the Islamic nation
But are we just stuck, spectators of admiration?
How many Abbas’s will charge to their death
Unwavering, selfless, right until their last breath
His love for his brother caused him to abstain
Thirst unquenched, refusing to drink before Hussain
How many Zaynabs who symbolise strength and nobility
Eloquent, defiant, yet leading with humility
Endowed with steadfastness, fortitude
Seeing only beauty in Allah’s will, filled with gratitude
Year upon year, I commemorate
Walking miles to those blessed domes I gravitate
But maybe it’s time that I start to look within
Allow my soul its revolution to begin
Love and devotion that now must translate to action
Not be misled by false altruism and benefaction
Woe upon me, my eyes were averted,
A creature of habit, around my duties I skirted
May my love truly soar to the heights he deserves
At last, let the lantern of his guidance set me free
From the shackles of my negligence as I embark on this new journey
To embody the action, mind and spirit of a true Hussaini