Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Race For The Sunset

Context: In January, I and my best friend in the world decided to take an uncertain trip to a place far away from home. We chose the Maldives because it was the only seemingly magical location where we didn't need a visa. We had previously tried to travel to Europe but visa issues and limited time so we quickly made a choice. We could not have made a better decision. This was one of the many magical experiences I had and I tried to recapture the moment in the language in which I felt it. 
We had taken an evening trip to Guraidhoo, which is one of the many magical islands of the Maldives.
I have gone back in my head several times to this moment. To the profound euphoria and ecstasy that I felt. If only words could do a moment justice. I try. 


Guraidhoo bid us adieu when we made the niyya to search for the sunset. She hoped to see us again and if not in this life, she asked for a visit from another. My bowed head buried this promise in my heart. In the middle of God’s Indian ocean, we believed the sunset would welcome us home. The water set its pace and we set our sail, on our mark as we began the speed boat journey, to the middle of the world, where the sky meets the sea. We picked up speed and Guraidhoo became smaller and smaller until the mighty wind joined us on our race. We had 20 minutes to catch the artistic wonder of the sunset. Our driver and his sidekick braced their feet against the floor of the boat looking ready to take on the world. The captains of the sunny waters. Silky hair and kinky curls flew with the gust of the ocean breeze while we made our journey to the sun. There was nothing but God in the sky. The clouds were boastful as they took their form and became massive structures above our heads. I could hear them daring man to attempt to construct as beautifully as they can. They laugh at the weight of our brick walls and glass towers. While we sink, they rise high above the ground, weightless and exhilarated, boastful, and proud. What wonder, I was captivated. 

Our drivers still, defying the wind raced through the sea. They were a young and intimidating army of two, ready for conquest, with no shield or armor. This was no ordinary battle. Which of our wars has been against the mother universe? Who would win in a war that has already been won, humanity seemed so insignificant and small in the vast ocean as we chased the sun. My aching arms clutched the railing of the boat for dear life as the wind carried it’s ocean and asked us to make our peace with it. The pain was meaningless, the wind was stronger and I knew it. I closed my eyes and imagined the depth of the ocean, not even nothingness could scare me while in front of me, our war raged against the fierce current of the water and was being won by young island boys who have grown up fighting this fight. There was no CGI theatrics I still couldn’t believe my eyes. The wind took up its challenge up a notch and I held on for my life. My companions asked if I am okay. There were no words left on my tongue to answer their question. So I smile, comforting myself with the gift of sunnah as the limitations of my language suddenly dawned on me. I received the punishment for this curse of the English language, I accepted the saltwater as it slashed my face and dried my tongue. Aristotle could not have possibly documented in any language, this work of God that is the sky, the sea, the majestic drivers, and the looming sunset. So I forgive myself quickly for my linguistic shortcoming.  I send out a promise of a poem, a verse, or an ode. Immortalising the moment seemed like a life or death ordeal. As we begin to sight the boat on to whose deck we have received parley to view the sunset, I marvel at an irony. The menacing high walls of the Maafushi prison complex stood angrily and bitterly on reclaimed land. To deny one the beauty of the Southeast Asian sunset must be the cruelest punishment of all. How did we all fall for the lie of a system that kept people in cages? The walls stood tall, reaching for the sky, towering over every other building that has been sunk into the sand to keep a person in darkness. An unholy embrace. I could see no rehabilitation, only a sin. I close my eyes and give gratitude for my freedom. I am reminded of how quickly humans can become cruel and so this beauty must be praised. I prayed to the mother to exonerate us of the wickedness of the heart. Time was ticking but God was calling. 

We reached the Princess and alighted onto its wooden floor. Wound our way up to its belly and onto its deck. The sun had set. We had reached the end of our journey. God of the universe, whichever soothes your heart was reaching for me, calling my name. The pink sunset reflected the pink of my shirt and the pink twinkling Christmas lights that snaked around the neck of the deck. It was the most beautiful burst of color. The sun was large and soothing above our faces. The clouds, wanting to keep this beauty to themselves did their best to hide the descending sunlight. Is this a sign? I cry my eyes out at this magnificence. My tears seemed so small against the vastness of the sea and the ravishing sunset. I could feel it all, the love, the disappearing sun, the darkening water, the relentless wind. I answered the call and the muezzin sang through the heavens almost to say, Shaheedah, calm yourself. Believe in a God of wonders.

Allahu Akbar he bellowed but of course, this is greatness. Sunset at Maghrib is as inseparable as life and death. I answered the call for I have borne witness to the greatness and wonder of the God of wonders. Hayya alal Salah! Hayya alal Falah and with hurry, I wiped my tears and received salvation. The darkness had taken over the sky as the sun went on to have its rest.

Arabic words used: 

niyya - Intention
Allahu Akbar - God is great
Sunnah - Habitual Practice (also defined as the body of literature which discusses and prescribes the traditional customs and practices of the Islamic community, both social and legal.)
Hayyah alal salah - Rush to pray
Hayyah alal falah - Rush to success


  1. Wow Masha Allah, I love this. I hope someday I get to travel to a place as beautiful as this and experience the wonders of God's creation.

    1. Insha Allah Amirah. And I hope you will be able to also share it with us.