The Rabata Ride: A Narrative Poem
By Anse Tamara Gray
In the year of our Lord two thousand and twelve
I moved from Damascus without suitcase or helve
I left breezes of cardamom, coffee and shrapnel
And expected to arrive to something substantial
(I once hurried along back streets in the heat
To rush up cooling stairs just to greet
A scholar or two, sometimes three and my friends
Where we would parse and study to no seen end]
Here I was in America! Land of the free!
I went to Florida, California and Jersey
What could I offer to these privileged folk?
I hurried on a highway and thought, is this a bad joke?
I met young women, old women, faithful and not
They all told me tales of a devilish plot
To keep them out of places of power
And they found themselves bitter, sad and dour
Mosques with ugly entryways and all male boards
Panels and conferences where men were like lords
Marriage injustice and micro aggressions
All in the name of Islam, this oppression
I could not believe it! It could not be true!
Muslim women in America needed a talking to
I told of Maryam, Bilqis and Assiya
Al-Shifa, Um Waraqa, Here! The panacea!
Eighty percent of our countries were colonized, so
Orientalism and colonization are our main show
Their misogyny, attitudes and customs became ours
Shake it off and reach forward and back to our original powers
Remember Aisha, Nafisa, Fatima and Maryam the scientist
Look to Karima, Razia, Aminatu and Nana the revivalist
We are doctors, teachers, artists, lawyers and engineers
Homemakers, upbringers, activists and volunteers
Let’s come together in the shelter of each other
Hold a microphone to the lips of our sisters and mothers
Women who teach and women who learn
A practice of old is about to return
Now they saw possibility and hope
So I invited them in with a ribbon braided rope
Started an online seminary
Circles of worship right on the prairie
We opened a bookstore and called it a shop
Then started to publish, never to stop!
Conferences, lectures, panels and more
Transformation began to peak under the door
Four hundred women signed up for classes
Male panels – no longer accepted by the masses
Suddenly a declaration and task committee
Was created to make friendly mosques in the city
And one woman says, “Proud and honored to be a part of this”
While another claims to have found bliss
And still another thanks us for saving her sanity
And we all hold hands and raise up humanity.
And now to continue this important conversation
We tweet and post, blog and chat every online location
We stand on the proverbial mountaintops
Place our ears to the ground and pay attention to teardrops
No military metaphors, we are not fighting
No reasons for existence, we are not citing
It is the year of our Lord two thousand and sixteen
And we are women standing, just part of the routine.