Peace, one and all…
On my way to work this morning, I read with horror the account of a 13 year old boy guilty of the vicious assault and rape of a 20 year old woman. The boy, who is now 14, has received a sentence of three years in a young offender’s institute (source). My first thoughts and prayers go to the victim. May all her wounds be healed. I am also deeply shocked that someone so young could do such a thing. Three years seems such a desultory sentence for such a heinous crime (even though the offender is technically still a minor).
Where do such crimes leave us as a society? What do they say about the state of manhood in 21st century Britain? Where do we go in the face of such horror?
I don’t have the answers….nor am I probably asking all of the right questions. At any rate, as I was thinking about these issues, I caught a line in the qawwali song I happened to be listening to. Just as I was feeling overwhelmed by the awfulness of this crime, and the serious challenges it poses to men and maleness in today’s world, I came to the line ‘tere murshid Ali, Ali‘ (loosely, ‘your guide/teacher is Ali, Ali’). I suddenly realised the truth of this lyric: to respond as a Muslim, I must learn masculinity from someone like Imam Ali (may God ennoble his countenance); injustice must be challenged wherever it is found – internally or externally; strength is only given to men that we might use it in accordance with the highest truth, that we might protect others; the struggle for truth is always ongoing, there can be no easy answers or quick fixes. As I felt this truth wash over me, I felt inspired to write a small poem in response. And so, I share it here. It is not an answer to the awfulness of this boy’s crime. But, for me, it is where new beginnings must emerge from: the ever-present and ever-fresh mercy of God. Huuu….
‘You have closed my mouth,
and poured sorrow upon my head.
That one so young could do such a thing
has left me feeling raw and numb.
And, in the midst of this bitter moment,
healing truth descends like rain upon my aching heart:
Son of the Way, speak truth, do what is right,
listen with opened ears:
Tere murshid Ali, Ali
Did that lion ever fight for anything other than truth?’