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Isma 'il & Noor - Chris Ludvigsen

by Chris Ludvigsen

Beloved Noor,

My love, my light. It has been nearly ten years since I have heard your voice, since I have looked upon you. By the grace of Allah, the Most High, may you receive this letter.

I saw your brother last week, and it brought back many memories – both pleasant and painful. For one who had looked so scornfully upon America in the past, I was surprised to see him here. But the country he once judged so harshly, he is now embracing. When I asked him of you, he had little to say other than you had not yet married, but that you had turned down countless arrangements made by your parents. After some internal debate, I ventured to ask him why you had reacted so harshly the way you had at my simple request, and he confided to me with some shame that your father had lied to you about my intentions. For your own “protection,” as he put it. For this reason, I am writing to you once more after ten years of silence. The great pain I felt in leaving you behind when I came to America has come once more to the surface, and this time with even greater regret at the foolishness of those who are to be “wise.”

In that time, my family had grown extremely poor – poorer than we had ever been before, which is sometimes hard to believe – and I was of age to choose a career. For me, I could see no future in Morocco, although for some time I considered becoming a guide for the caravans through the endless desert sands I had come to know so well, while devoting my life completely to Allah. It would please you to know that I have still done that in a certain sense, though not as one would traditionally think of it. The only thing that held me in the country of my birth was you, Noor. Since I was a boy, I knew that I loved you, or what love means to a boy of so young an age. As I grew into manhood, I felt my love for you mature as well. I knew only that I wanted two things in my life: Allah and you.

Before making my decision, I spent countless days alone in the desert contemplating my situation and what it was that Allah wanted me to do. I spoke out loud to Him, as if I were a madman. Day after day, I cried my heart out to Him. Finally one day, I received an answer, and my heart felt peace. I returned home and announced to my family that I would be leaving to America to bring the message of the Prophet to a land which has historically misunderstood it. Not in the way which, to my heart’s great sorrow, has been popular lately: namely through horrific violence. But through the vehicle of peace and words of Truth common to all religions. My mind was made up, I would leave as soon as possible. Only one problem remained: You, my love. I could not go to America to leave you behind, never to return. I decided immediately that I must take you with me. Together we could build our new life in a new land, to the glory of the Most High. That night my heart swam with angels in the infinite space within. Muslims from many countries had left the land of their birth for the lands of great freedom in the West, and now I, we, were to be among them. Not for any grievance against our ancestral lands, but for grievance of the government. Where ruthless dictators twist the words of the Prophet to keep people of faith in the service of their own selfish, political goals. It breaks my heart that the holy lands of the Middle East have been drowned in bloodshed and ignorance for so long, and had Allah commanded it, I would have stayed and sacrificed everything in an attempt to put an end to it. But it was not to be, not now anyway. Perhaps sometime in the future, time will tell.

I knew then, as I know now, that my mission lies here in America. And I knew then, as I know now, that you are meant to be here at my side. That next morning, I got up at dawn, and after the morning prayers, I made my way to your father’s house. There, I told him of my plans to take you to America, and he immediately flew into a rage. He believes what the news implies to him, that America is evil. Ironically, you find the same thing in reverse here in America. There is a mass paranoia about Muslims in general, though out of respect, it is kept quiet for the most part. Though, I cannot say that I blame them. Most Americans know little to nothing of the oppression in our home lands, and cannot understand why many Muslims feel the way they do. But I will say that their fault lies in their unwillingness to care to know, for the most part: their indifference. In any case, your father forbade me to speak with you anymore, and banished me from his house. He told me that if I did not wish to dishonor my family, I should honor his request. I left your house that day with a pain in my heart I shall never forget, for though I have buried it, it still remains with me till this day. The next week, I received a message from your house, saying that in light of my decision, you wished never to speak to me again. In great confusion and heartache, I left Morocco for America to do the bidding of our Lord.

The story of the past ten years of my life here in America is difficult to tell. When I came here, I had nothing but a small bag with my clothes, a few American dollars, a copy of the Koran, and a book of poems by dear Rumi. The beauty of his poems and the Koran gave some solace to my aching heart, but I spent many nights in my room alone, crying to the Lord for consolation and the strength to fulfill my mission.

America is not as it appears to be from the outside. In both a good and bad way. Though it is called “The Land of the Free,” there is much prejudice and distrust hidden beneath the surface. But the people here are also warmer and more accepting than is made to believe back home. I know the last two things I have said seem to be in complete contradiction, yet it is so. Indeed, America seems to be a land of contradiction. But aren’t all lands to some degree?

Since the events of September 11th, it has become harder for a Muslim to live here. We are viewed with suspicion, fear, and hatred because of the ignorant actions of a few who are using religion as a cover for their own selfish goals. But by the grace of Allah, I see now why I have been sent to this land. There must always be a balance, dear Noor, and I am part of the balance. In order to avoid complete chaos within our tradition, and perhaps to avoid even further senseless violence, there must come those who are true keepers of faith to balance the abundance of those who would use the words of the Prophet for their own selfish benefit, and not the benefit of humanity as a whole. I have begun to publish books and speak publicly more often, and I feel the work is starting to take shape. There are others as well, and we seem to recognize each other on sight. It’s something I can’t quite explain, but undeniable.

And so now I ask you: will you come, my beloved, and be with me and help me in the much work there is still to be done? My intentions are pure and of love only. This is the truth. I know not what your father told you some years ago, but what I tell you now was true also then. I have loved you my whole life, Noor. And I shall ever love you. May the grace of Allah be with you, always.

Ever yours in love,

Isma ‘il