At first, I did not exist. I was not, and then I was.

Someone said “Be!” and I was.

I did not choose this. My mother did not choose this. My father did not choose this.

And yet it happened. I happened. Be!

And I was.


Who decided that I would Be?

To whom did I give my consent

To become that clump of cells, the leech, the clot

I did not have a mouth with which to form words. I did not have a brain

With which to form thought. And yet, I was

Poured into my mother’s womb like honey from the hive

My father’s semen, dumb things, wagging their tails

Obedient drones, flying toward the Queen



At first, I was not, and then I was. Forty-six.

Two became four, four became eight, eight sixteen,

The first atom, encircled by electrons and positrons

Satellites orbiting the center.

Who told them which way to whirl,

Clockwise or counterclockwise,

like pilgrims swarming the four-sided hive

Who wrote the formulae that summoned the cosmos into existence?


Each day I rested in her womb, my mother spun me like Scheherazade spinning

Tales for the sultan to prolong her life.

My mother spun me like a tale to give me life

Each day adding a new chapter to the book.

Hour by hour, day by day I took shape. Alaqa to Mughdah

The leech, the clot gave way to the chewed up piece of meat.

The teeth marks clearly visible, each indentation a grain of rice

We are all chewed-up things, the universe does not differentiate

Between the largest whale (Jonah’s abode) and the smallest spider (Ankabut)

We are all tales waiting to be told.


When it came time for me to be ensouled,

My bones knitting together, my organs taking shape

Muscles clothing the bones, then skin knitting over the muscles

The pain of labor does not compare to the pain of ensoulment

Of being imprisoned in the body: A trap, a snare, a web, a black hole,

The three veils of darkness covering this crime,

Who is its perpetrator?


When it was decided I would be born, it was a violent expulsion, a nakba

Pushed out from the womb with blood and sweat,

I crossed the waters of my mother’s amniotic fluid in a leaky boat

Made a refugee, I was an immigrant into this world.

Forgetting the darkness, I  remember only that I do not belong here,

this body, this life is only a holding cell.

I am here for reasons I cannot fathom, at the will of one whom I do not know

At the mercy of those who do not know what they did

To deserve me.


Yet I was not, before, and now I am, and

Now, bereft, blind, wordless and helpless, I am here,

And now what do I do? Without knowing why, I struggled to be here, yet

Nobody is ashamed at what has been wrought upon me

Even the sword feels shame when it is asked to behead the innocent.



A poem inspired by the passage of the anti-abortion law in Alabama. This poem utilizes imagery in Islam that describes the conception and development of a fetus in the womb.