by Na’ima B. Robert
Here we stand, apart, not touching, not looking.
Tomorrow is our nikah.
But today, it is as if we are standing at the edge of the sea, the tide coming in to meet us.
We are almost ready to plunge into the rolling surf and swim out to the world of tomorrow, with its far-off horizon.
Families, words of praise and recommendation, questions and shy glances are behind us now.
You have seen what pleases you.
And I have seen what pleases me.
But I have not seen your heart.
And you have not seen mine.
And so now, before our fates are inextricably entwined, I will bare my heart to you.
Without reservations, I will show you the core of my being.
I am like a sapling, a tender sapling, whose roots reach eagerly to drink life’s goodness.
Take care when you hold the tender sapling between your fingers.
I was created by Allah, a delicate seed, born of my mother and father’s love.
My mother nurtured me in her womb
where an angel blew a soul into my tiny form.
My mother’s body cradled me and I breathed of her air.
She nourished me from herself and spoke love to me in the darkness.
I was born into the love of my parents and I began to grow.
Seed became seedling under their care and attention.
They showered me with praise, and my self-esteem sprouted.
They guided me with kindness and my character blossomed.
They weeded the world around me so that I could grow strong and pure.
And now that my first buds are about to open, they have entrusted me to you.
How will you tend me?
Will you coax my buds to unfurl with words of love and kind attention?
Or will you pluck them before they’re ready, crushing their new petals and delicate stems?
When I bring forth delicate blossoms of talent and inspiration,
Will you smile at their dreaming petals and share in the blush of hope?
Or will you watch as blossoms wither under your disapproving gaze,
Your criticism, your scorn, and your self-righteous censure?
Will you guide my wilder branches, gently, coaxing them to grow straight and true?
Or will you simply break off the ones that displease you, trampling them carelessly underfoot?
And when, insha Allah, I come to bear your children, will you continue to water me?
Or will you pluck those precious fruits, one by one, and turn away from the empty branches?
And when my trunk grows wide and thick with age, will you marvel at my strength?
Or will you recoil from touching my rough, brown bark?
When the years have become mere memories, will you admire how tall we have grown?
Or will your restless, selfish heart long to reach out for another sapling?
When I am as weak as the waving branches of a weeping willow – will you protect me?
When I am as strong as the trunk of the mighty Redwood tree – will you support me?
When I am as wise as the age rings of the old, old oak tree – will you respect me?
When I am as foolish as the fickle blossoms of early Spring – will you be patient with me?
When I am as fragile as the flowers of a jasmine tree – will you keep me safe?
When I am as bold as the roots that break through concrete – will you believe in me?
How will you tend me?
For now I have shown you my heart, its dreams, its hopes and fears.
Look carefully as we stand at the edge of the water.
Are you willing to bare your soul and show your heart to me?
So that I feel safe as the two of us swim on out to sea.
Remember that I am like a sapling, a creation of Allah.
Take care when you hold me between your fingers.