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AFTAB VOLUME NO. 4 | SPRING 2010 The Islamic Center at New York University’s publication which serves as an outlet for creative writing, poetry, art, and other articles. This is a publication through which members of the New York University community can exchange ideas, share their literary and artistic tales, and communicate on the topic of Islam as well as the broad range of issues facing the Muslim community.


If you have any comments or questions about the magazine, or wish to help create the next edition, please feel free to e-mail us at



I had the good fortune of being able to visit Egypt for

city shut down and left everything quiet and

the first time this past Ramadan. As an American-

peaceful during iftaar was surreal. On Friday,

born Jew now living in Israel (I moved here this

Yawm Gumma1, there were hundreds of

summer after finishing my BA at NYU), I still find the

people gathered in the streets, praying. It was

whole no-separation-of-Church-and-State thing to

a beautiful sight.

be pretty weird. In Egypt, not only is there no such separation, but the people and society themselves

The unique part of my experience came

are still very religious. Although not everyone fasts

when I realized that I would be on my own

(I asked some Egyptians for an estimate on what

for Shabbat, perhaps as the only Sabbath-

percentage of people there do, but no one wanted

observant Jew in Cairo. I ran to buy all the

to venture a guess), no Egyptian will eat or drink in

Kosher provisions I could find to store in

public during Ramadan; the restaurants are open

my hostel room. Although I had met an

during the day just for tourists. The disadvantage to

Egyptian Jew at one of the old synagogues,

looking Middle-Eastern enough to pass for Egyptian

she didn’t seem to know what Shabbat was

is that I was chastised in the street for drinking by a

and certainly didn’t invite me to any meals. I

store-owner who assumed I must be Muslim.

was headed back to my hostel room on Friday afternoon, a bit dejected about having to eat

Experiencing the pyramids at Giza and the

in solitude, when I stopped at a store to pick

mummies in the Cairo Museum was amazing. But

up a gift for my brother. After giving me a

the most impressive part of being in Cairo was

“Ramadan discount,” the proprietor invited

seeing the way so many people observed Ramadan,

me to stay and enjoy iftaar with him and his

and in such public fashion. An hour before sunset,

family. Never one to be shy, I explained in

people would begin to gather in the streets and

my very broken Arabic and a bit of English

sit down at massive tables that were sponsored

to him and his son (the translator) that I was

for anyone to break fast. Then they would wait, as

Jewish and had to put my things away before

food was passed along the tables, until it was time

sunset, but that I would love to eat with them.

for iftaar. Similarly, while walking in the downtown

I ran to my room, prayed and came back to

area right before sunset, almost every store-owner

my friends.

I passed would be preparing his iftaar meal and invariably would invite me to sit down with him and his family or employees.

Not only did I have my first Shabbat iftaar dinner that night, but I was probably their first Jewish iftaar guest as well. One of

There were some obvious downsides as well –

the cousins of my host family was proud to

although the city was awake until well into the early

show off the Hebrew he had picked up from

morning, daily hours of many stores and attractions

working in the Sinai and most of the younger

were on limited Ramadan hours. I passed Egyptian

generation spoke some English, so we got

police and security guards who were quite literally

along just fine. My time in Cairo was certainly

asleep on the job, often laying down in whatever

an interesting experience, and I’ll definitely

shade they could find. But the way that the entire

never forget my Shabbat iftaar dinner!




“The image that you were going to see was of a cute blond Arab boy playing after the rain in a narrow alley of a Palestinian refugee camp . . .”



Some come before Columbus come

This time like cow and horse you see

Live even with the Cherokee

Rob from all over Momma coun-try

Blend culture with Submission

Different tongue, status, and creed

In hearts they use to see

Treat them like they was the same

Sail from West Coast Momma

These of noble, varied ances-try

Come clear from cross the sea

You have to always tell the story?

Mansa father send 200 ships

February, month for your history

Only one return to he

Roots Book man name Kunta Kente

Go he he self, with 2000 more

The “never again” people always do it

Leave Musa in charge, now he big willie

So why on earth can’t we?

Sail from west coast region

Who speaks for me?

From rich kingdom of Mali Mali get richer still

Is something there you ‘fraid of,

Mansa Musa hand very stea-dy

When back to history we flee?

Take pilgrimage to Makah

Re-evaluate biased conclusions

Black wealth like this, them never see

Cross referencing things fair-ly

Writer write down Musa story

Like, why only individual story?

An’ ‘das what Musa tell all we

What about their communi-ty?

Who speaks for me?

Prince great man, no doubt What ‘bout Georgia and Carolina Island,

Mandinka reach Brazil and Peru

Bilali tribe and family

Opposite end of the land they be

What about Louisiana rice farmers

Reach Brazil then travel west

Bahians, Jamaicans, Trinidadians, even in Belize

Then up north to Mississippi vicinity

Who encode and decoded Nat revolt instructions?

Arizona cave with elephant drawing

It write down in Arabic you see

Pictographs so clear to see

Black Historian, can you please tell me?

Translate Mandinka language

Why the no-learning, no-reading law?

“Elephant sick and very angry”

Was there something you want to cease?

Seem like fairy tale to you

Beat and kill them! Torture and maim them!

Read ‘bout it in book of anthropolo-gy

The Moorish savages will have no ease!

Who speaks for me?

Civilize them with the Bible! Theorize! Move quickly! That’s it!

North Pacific ‘Makah Native’

Infect them with the Ham disease!

Look, dress, name, same like Mali

Who speaks for me?

Garifuna people, same thing On all isles of the Carib sea

Can’t kill Black Religion

More you read, and look, and dig

Survival instinc’ natural you see

More evidence you see

When people force do it

Cover up, distortion, some even say conspira-cy

Religion always sync up with ease

Islam here long time and peaceful

Look Boss, Lord’s Prayer in Arabic

Momma send then in waves you see

Recheck. Quran Opening Chapter. Oh Jeez!

Been coming for long long time now

Criterion say:

And they pitch black like you and me

“Save yourself and your family.”

Who speaks for me?

“Worship Allah as much as, and jus’ as you be.” Allah, I beg you, with them will You be pleased

Next wave get force on ships in shackles


There’s no hardship in Your submission


Not done yet,

What else is hidden from me?

But read it in the histo-ry

That show their survival compromise?

Criterion say it wrong

Would I do likewise?

Should be no part of socie-ty

Who am I to criticize?

Abdullah Son abolish it steadi-ly

Who speaks for me?

Stop access to it eventual-ly Made it detestable in the communi-ty


You said: “After difficulty come ease”

Black Religion alive and thriving

Sand Man come first with force

Church and Un-church my people be

Back Mamma push back even more forceful-ly

I see Hand of Allah

Sand Man come back later, nicer now,

You see nature

Want to build up him own economy

Different name, same tenden-cy

Black Mamma see the human side

A People striving an’ jus’ wanting to be free

Through fair trading an’ engaging intellectual-ly

As for me, force fed the cross you see

Trader teach the people Criterion

But it never really sit fit with me

Translate it, discuss it, chant it very sweet-ly

An’ just seem to leave me ill at ease

Teach Abdullah Son life

Learned Elijah, read some Malcolm

Abdullah Son always explain t’ings clear-ly

Is like I jus’ a start to breathe

Most take it, some don’t like it, sometime fight it

Introduce to Abdullah Son

This how Black Mamma take Islam you see

Now that cat truly spoke to me Now me feel thoroughly at ease

This is definite-ly

Brother of the Drum hear ‘bout it an’ say to me

How it reach to place like Mali

“Travel that road to nothing but cultural aposta-sy,

Seem like fairy tale to you?

“Sand man jus’ another master

Go read it in books of histo-ry

An’ our people has got to be free”

African write him own history you see

Who speaks for me?

Seem like fairly tale to you?

This write down in ‘tousand year ol’ African library But me learn Criterion by heart you see

Book use’ to sell in market like cra-zy

Abdullah Son clarify it so easi-ly

Me say book real cheap

Speak to my mind an’ deep in my heart

Even salt worth more money

Conviction settle in fairly speedi-ly

Literate, educated, an’ strong tradition

Stronger, Black Muslim Mamma came to be Sensible Submission you see, is the real key

Sound like they enslaved to you?

When me chant Criterion

Not to me

It make sense to me, an’ sound still so sweet-ly

Who speaks for me?

Suprema-cy not to color, nor to money Only to Allah, God Almigh-ty

Nex’ door king get jealous

“Yeah, but what about the histo-ry

t’ings break down you see

Sand man jus’ another master

When you can’t solve the problems peaceful-ly

Our people have got to be free”

War break out eventual-ly

Who speaks for me?

Loser get captured, and then put in slave-ry Better treatment than your penitentiary

In agrarian economy

Some slave even a run the country

Slavery came to always be

This was not a rarity

It was a pillar of first Greek democracy

Consistent with Muslim Mamma own book of history

By war, thru outlaw, or even treache-ry

Same thing with the oral legacy

Oppression, by custom, sometime even voluntari-ly

Who speaks for me?

Slavery was part of the reali-ty Seem like justification to you?

So my brother of the Drum,

I beg to differ, very serious-ly

Islam not strange Sand Man legacy

I read the books like you

No silly “blow up people” ideology

You don’t make sense to me

But anchor a true and vibrant universali-ty

Momma Africa took Islam willing-ly and voluntari-ly

Sand man, Brown, White, or Black Man

Submit not to Sand Man

Even Green man if they be

But to Allah, God Almighty

Mental freedom from all things

Why is this so hard for you to see?

Transcendental spirituali-ty

Musa made hajj while King

Establish humanity rights

This what Mansa means you see

Predate and supersede constitutionali-ty

Won’t vote for Barack the black

For the community it means social harmony

But vote for he because he white

Some abuse it, which is normal

Or vote for she for she

That’s just a very small minority, That still leave beautiful majority

To even start campaign

More importantly

Black man must have extra ability

If you follow me

Why this cultural normalcy?

It inherently

When big willie right now on-ly get C?

Part of your legacy

Where Sand man shackle or he chain?

That you never talk about correct-ly

He never shackle or chain

Not in your book, nor your school,

He never brand nor maim

And especially not in his story

Momma keep her culture and tongue you see

Still, who speaks for me?

Why Ebonics disgraceful to you While in Mali 46 language alone they be

If you smart, YOU were, from start to

Who speaks for me?




You want me to do what? You have got to be kidding me. Just not this one time – Let me make it all up to You later. Just not today – You want me to do that? It’s too hard to do in front of these

other people. Just wait for them – Let me make it all up to you later. Just not in front of them – You want me to wear one of those? That is beautiful for them to do. Just not right now – Remind me when I am older. Just My own excuses.




brewed every evening in my home. The chai I believe in doesn’t come in a manufactured plastic cup but it is a custom that has been passed down for several generations. My mother prepares chai every evening on an electric stove in our American kitchen. She uses American milk, American sugar and American tea bags. Despite the American products used to make it, my chai itself still resonates of India; quite possibly the only aspect of India that I will ever fully understand. If my frequent summer trips to India have taught me anything it is this: chai is sacred. Not in the religious sense but in the Indians-must-drink-atleast-two-cups-a-day-or-something-terrible-will-happen sense. Families will wake up in the morning, their maids will prepare a cup of chai for them and eventually husbands and wives and children will leave for work or school. Upon returning home in the evening, almost certainly another cup of chai will be served and drank before dinner. The porcelain cups in which chai is served will be washed and dried at least twice every day by the willing maids who have no other way to make a living for themselves. It’s possible that their husbands or brothers or sons are chai-wallah’s: street vendors who give chaiaddicts their daily high. Chai is the solution to everything in India whether it is headaches, stress, insomnia or awkward social moments. As long as there is milk, sugar, and chai mix in the cupboard, Indians can solve any type of problem. Actually, that isn’t completely true; a top-notch chai brewer is also necessary if one hopes for chai to fully work its magic. Underneath the surface, chai has a much deeper significance to me. It isn’t just about the milky goodness that is the hallmark of good chai but it’s everything else that you can’t see or taste. It’s the connection to the traditions of India I feel when I’m gulping down a cup of chai late at night when a caffeine-kick is absolutely necessary. It’s my ability to adhere to an Indian custom without fear of doing something wrong. It’s a ritual I can partake in while in India without needing someone to explain it to me. When I take a sip of my chai, it is the one thing that reminds me of India: the malodorous stench that can be smelled on all the roads, the half-built houses with questionable foundations, the children running around half-naked while their parents make food outside for all the world to see and the stunning technological advancements being made right next to horrifying poverty. I don’t understand why there is so much progress in the face of such great adversity but I do understand chai. I realize that chai may be the only thing that I ever understand about India. This is why I believe, I believe in chai.


I believe in chai. No, not the mass-produced Starbucks garbage that chic New Yorkers enjoy drinking but the hot traditional drink from India that’s

HENA JEHAN Hena, a rising junior at Baruch College, paints abstract art. She started painting in order to express herself in a creative way. She was inspired to do abstract because it is probably the only style of painting that allowed her to paint as she liked. The amazing thing about abstract painting is that it can help someone find creative solutions to problems. Hena feels that painting has been an excellent way for her to relieve stress while juggling a job, college, and other extracurricular activities. Hena believes that abstract paintings do not need any guidelines: everyone develops his/her own unique style. All of Hena’s paintings are based on her life experiences and the lessons she has learned. When Hena paints and hangs the finished pieces in her room, they serve as a constant reminder of those amazing lessons she has learned.


THE OTHER ME Earlier today, when I woke up, I looked at my clock, as usual. 10:17 AM. I stuffed my face back into my pillow, and after a few seconds, threw the blanket off myself violently. It usually takes a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to waking life. I sat up on my bed. I looked to the left. I found myself staring. Just staring, with parts of fear, awe, and confusion mixed together. Staring into a thin, translucent wall cutting my room in two. It took a few seconds for my eyes to realize this isn’t something I normally wake up to. But wow. It was a dazzling spectacle. The wall was so thin and fragile looking, yet there were hundreds electric impulses and sparking energies and things tangled together in a flat, glowing, breathing, white web. The branches looked like veins. The clusters looked like neurons. I crawled to the edge of my bed and continued to observe the wall with this childlike wonder. I’m thinking about how this could have grown overnight without my knowledge. Maybe a ghost built his house in the middle of my own, and this was a ghost wall. Maybe a hyper radioactive spider went berserk building an impenetrable spider fortress. Maybe it bit me a few times. I actually thought about the prospect of being Spiderman for a minute or two. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any bite marks on me. I raised a finger to touch the wall, making sure to be extra gentle. I felt this small spark ignite on my fingertip, but the overall electrical network seemed to flow through and around the tip of my finger. The wall cut off my nightstand on the left side, and my bookshelf on the right end. The only items within my reach were a dollar hanging over the side of the stand and a pen and notebook I bought last week, hiding underneath my pillow. I ripped a piece of paper out of the notebook and crumbled it into a ball. I took aim and threw it into the wall. Just like that, poof. It disappeared as it passed through the wall. Just as it made contact, though, about a foot to the left of me, it reappeared, just flying through the air, and landed on my bed. I picked it up and opened it up. It was blank. I really couldn’t tell if it was the same paper that I had thrown. It had reappeared as soon as I had thrown it. I took my pen, the only real tool I had, and wrote Puppies on the paper. It was the first thing that came to my mind. I crumbled it up, and threw it back, and sure enough, a ball came right back my way just a foot to the left. I opened it up, and this is what it read:


I took a moment to consider what this could mean. That

a hundred percent alike. Thus the

wall could have been some intergalactic space portal that

existence of both worlds.

bounces everything back at me. Just to mess with my head. Meaning I was eternally stuck on my half of the

You’re me, I wrote, which I promptly

room. I could run through the wall and jump and land

received back. This is some parallel

back on my own bed. Forget the ghost and the spider,

dimension gate, we said. Awesome,

Puck was now my biggest concern. Or, maybe there

we agreed. This went on for half an

was another person in some other dimension who just

hour. Everything was the same. We’re

happened to throw a piece of paper that read Puppies at

both film directors. We’re Rangers

the same time that I did.

fans. We ate three turkey sandwiches

The next test would be my pillow. I slowly pushed it

President. People still made fun of

through the wall. An eerily similar pillow poked through

Canada. Firefly was in its eighth season.

the wall next to me. I used my left hand to tug on the

Our parents were still alive, and our






Other pillow, that is, the intergalactic space pillow, and

mother’s birthday was coming up in a

felt something pull away my own pillow from my hand.

week. The same life. It finally occurred

I get a bit startled, so I let go of my pillow and take the

to me to ask about Isabelle after all

other one, inspecting it thoroughly before tossing it

these banal questions. Might as well

aside. It was the same pillow. The same pillow. It was

bring my girlfriend in this game.

absolutely the same damn pillow. I was stuck. This portal

How’s Isabelle? At this point I was the

was bending space around back at me, and now had me

master of creating paper balls for inter-

confined to that little bed forever. Just to kill time, I wrote

dimensional transport, and it flew on

some more messages. Maybe I was wrong. I wasn’t ready

through, as does my Other’s response.

to just jump through the wall yet. So I wrote message after message, and every time I threw it over, the same

Except it didn’t read How’s Isabelle?.

message, same handwriting, same crumbled up form

Written on the crumbled paper was, Do

reappeared on my side.

you miss Isabelle, too?

About fifteen minutes later, something really shook me.

I studied that note for a while. A long

I wrote The walls in my room are blue. And tossed the

while. This was the first inconsistent

ball over, and even caught the return ball in my hand. I

message since the green-blue wall

opened it up and had to read it twice. The walls in my


room are green. That’s what the note said. The look on

circumstances of that information. I






my face was priceless. Probably. Shock, confusion, and

was thinking about my Other thinking

all that. There was definitely someone else on the other

about the same thing. He was reading

side. I sucked up my fears of disintegration and put my

my note, not understanding why my

finger back on the wall. It took a little more effort, but I

message didn’t have his element of

managed to push my hand through. Just a bit to my left,

loss. The wall color was absolutely

fingers were protruding the wall back at me. It’s a pretty

marginal. This was the reason for the

creepy sight to see a hand appear through a wall. Sure

dimensional split. I still had Isabelle,

enough, the skin color was the same as mine, the same

and my Other didn’t. I got this really

fingers wiggled when I wiggled mine, the hand pulled

weird, vicious headache. One I had

out when I pulled mine. It was me. It was me on the

never felt before. My mind actually felt

other side. Well, another me. This Other me was doing

like it was splitting in half like paper.

everything I was doing in his world. Everything. Every

I leaned back to rest. After a couple

thought that was mine was his. He’s the one who pulled

minutes, neither of us making any

on my pillow. He wrote Puppies. He realized something

move, I asked, You two aren’t together

was fishy when my note said that the walls were blue, so

anymore? The message I get read, You

he put his hand through the wall. But our worlds weren’t

two are still together? Now I have so

many more questions to ask. Is he

I heard my voice coming out of his mouth. It didn’t seem

happy now? Leading a crazy bachelor

right. He had stolen my voice. And I’m sure if I spoke, he

life? Being single after three years? I’m

would have felt the same. He was telling me that I didn’t

getting really excited. The life I could’ve

deserve this life. He wanted to switch spots. He reasoned

lived. Without a serious girlfriend.

desperately. Everything was the same in his world. I could find someone else. He begged. I was begging to myself.

Then I thought about his thoughts.

Switch places. Nothing would be different. The more

He wanted to know if I missed her.

I backed up, the more his emotions evolved. He asked

His life without Isabelle, without my

about my walls. Was Isabelle still mine because I had blue

Isabelle, and my life with her, that’s all

walls instead of green walls? Although when he said it, he

he was thinking about. I wrote another

dropped the f-bomb a few times to accentuate his point.

note. Yes… she nags as much as ever,

If everything was the same, why was he suffering and not

thinking that would make my Other


feel better. The one I received though goes, No. Just that. No. I instantly felt

I couldn’t answer him. I didn’t know. I couldn’t say

regret for writing my note, and I know

anything. I knew myself. Whenever I was in a state like

that my Other knows that I instantly

this, all reason was blinded by my emotions. I was a

felt regret for writing my note. I was

romantic at heart, and I would do anything – anything

furiously trying to remedy all this. I

– for the love of my life. I backed up against the wall, still

was just kidding. She’s the world to

trying to force the tears back up into my eyes. He raised

me. I throw that one aside. I’m sorry. I

his right arm, and so I raised mine. He struck down, and

love her? Trashed that one, too. I was

I caught him. It was crazy. All of our moves crisscrossed,

writing a third one, and something

and he couldn’t land a blow. Fear and confusion had

started to come out from the gate. A

blocked my capacity for a counterattack, and desperation

minor amount of electrical interference

and fury fueled his barrage. But hell, my room is messy.

surrounded it. A hand. My hand. My

A real mess. We grappled at one point, and I noticed my



guitar case laying on the floor. He started pushing me,

Then an arm. The wall showed severe

and I pushed him back. We were the same. I put one leg



turbulence. Then a face. My face.

back for more leverage, as did he. Except when he did it, the leg caught the top of case, which slid under his

It’s a strange phenomenon, to see

foot, and he flew backwards. Back into the gate. I could

yourself with tears streaming down

see the last look of terror on his face, no doubt the same

your face. When you see it in a mirror,

look he saw on mine, and he disappeared through the

you know the mirror is just doing what

gate. My room turned into an electric volcano. I covered

you’re doing. Sometimes you adjust

myself under my blanket, a trick I learned when I was

your facial expressions and watch the

only five years old when something horrific went down

mirror mimic the actions. That, in

in my room, as electricity was buzzing and crackling

itself, feels fairly strange. But imagine

everywhere and those energy neuron things started to

that you’re looking in a mirror, and the

inflate like balloons. The wall started making this high-

mirror image starts crying. You’re fine,

pitched siren noise, and my room started shaking. Like a

but the mirror is showing that you’re

baseball through an old factory window, the whole thing

crying. What happens to you? Do you

made a deafening shattering sound and it crumbled into

cry? Do you adjust your facial features

itself. Like a mini-black hole, the thing sucked itself up.

to match what you see? Because that’s

And it’s done. A few stray pieces of paper floated down

what I did. I felt the muscles in my

from my ceiling.

face twitching, contorting, scrunching up. It was reactionary. Instinctive.

I stepped through where the gate was, and everything’s

Unconscious. I fought those urges

fine. There’s no evidence of the Other. No trace. Nothing.

to match my Other’s emotions and

I get my phone, and I go down my contacts to reach

movements. He crept towards me, and

Isabelle. The love of my life. But that gets me to thinking.

My Other was right. Everything in my life was the same,

always wanted to have the one girl in my

and I wasn’t with her. I suppose, yes, my walls were a

life, and now I do.

different color. Other than the fact that he missed her, there was no real significant change in my life with her

But maybe I saved him, because he’s

out of the picture. How often do you get the opportunity

going to live his life climbing the hill,

to see that your significant other offers no significant

while I’m sitting on the top of the tallest

effect on the way you think? On the way you act? On

mountain with nothing on me but

your life? I had gone each day just fine. Maybe not

climbing gear. I realize that he messed

100% okay, but my thought patterns were pretty much

up. He messed up terribly. That’s why

the same. The very same. Then again, he lost his mind

he was as crazy as he was, and I have no

hearing that there was another life where they were

intention of letting myself go through

still together. And that was my fortunate life. I would

that sort of desperation.

have done what he did. Without any consideration of consequence. I would have fought to get my girl. I

Then again. I was never one to just sit

would dive through a dimensional gate that grew in

around and enjoy the scenery. Here she

my room overnight. I almost envied my Other. Maybe

comes now.

I just forgot her worth to me since I’ve always had her. I



As a medical elective from the Howard University College of Medicine, Sidra and eighteen of her peers traveled to Urubamba, Peru to provide medical assistance to the town’s inhabitants after a flood left many in the community homeless, injured, and sick. The trip was set up by Nexos Voluntarios, a group that promotes voluntary activity and social initiatives in Peru. Sidra brought her camera along to document her experiences and her travels to neighboring cities in her free time.




“My Mother’s Brother” This photo collection was shot when Atif’s mother learned that her brother had passed away. Although it was difficult to remain composed, Atif was dedicated to documenting this tough period so he could capture raw, unadultered emotion that represents the loss and sadness his family had undergone at this time.




A veteran photographer for Aftab, Yahya continues to share his visual explorations of both human nature and conceptual still life. Focus and perspective frame our everyday experience, whether our attentions are captured by the richness of color, or the myriad shades of gray. It has been his good fortune to articulate and represent his personal view of the world, full as it is, of beauty, sacrifice, and dignity.




No stranger to traveling, Rania has a developed an extensive portfolio of images that explore the varieties of wordly cultures. But back in New York, she has developed her own style to capture those tiny yet magical everyday moments. Rania’s personality bursts with youth, and this sentiment comes out in full force through her photography.




Hana is an Orlando based photographer and a 17 year old junior in high school. She started doing photography when she was 15. Her favorite genre is fashion photos and uses her closest friends as subjects for her photography. She works as a contributor for SAPNA magazine and provides article photos.

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SHERMEEN RAHMAN Shermeen Rahman is a student at NYU majoring in Urban Design & Architecture. In her spare time she enjoys dabbling in a variety of visually artistic endeavors. She began experimenting with henna in high school as a hobby and has continued to build interest since then. Her skill level developed rapidly and vastly as she tried and mixed different styles, and now does Henna work professionally.



MAHMUD KAZI While waiting for the B train on Cortelyou Road’s small and simple platform, a man descends the stairs to my left. I look at him. He raises his right hand to his forehead to salut me, stopping his hand just before it touched his grey flat cap. Maybe he’s Muslim, I wonder. I say “salaam,” but I doubt he hears me over the screeching noise of the approaching train. He stands next to me as we both pretend to inspect the metallic caterpillar.

“and my son.” Peshawar, a large city in west Pakistan is located close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. His wife, daughter and son live in Canada. Eventually, he will leave New York to see them. His daughter, 32 years old, is engaged–but “not married,” he repeats several times.

“Does this go to DeKalb?” he asks me in an accent I can’t quiet trace.

Mahmud tries to speak in broken Urdu, but surrenders very quickly.

“Oh, yes,” I respond, quickly turning back my head to face the train.

“My wife knows Urdu very well. I know Farsi, Arabic, Pashto, and English,” he says, counting each language off on his fingers. He continues to recite a verse to me in the Qur’an and then give me the English interpretation.

“Sister, where are you from?” After my initial reactions have been confirmed, that he is Muslim, I don’t mind answering: “Pakistan.” “Oh, we’re neighbors!” He exclaims, as I stand there confused, “I’m pashtun from Afghanistan.”

“What are you studying?” he asks. “Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies,” I respond. “Oh, masha’allah! Good for you, sister.”

We both enter the train and sit down together. He begins to speak his life’s story as his strong tobacco breath and taped glasses give him an another-worldly facade. Born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, Mahmud Kazi has a six-generation family history of judges, hence the name kazi. “I’m not a judge,” he emphasizes several times. As a young adult in pre-USSR invasion of Afghanistan, Mahmud was a soldier for four years. He was only supposed to be a soldier for two years, but his commanding officer made him stay for an extra two years–a job he did not mind doing. Afterwards, he went to California to study at an American university. During the same time, however, the USSR invaded Afghanistan. “Don’t come [to Afghanistan],” his mother warned. He heeded her words and decided to remain in the US. As Mahmud explains the CIA’s role in the creation of the Taliban, his voice is remorseful. “Fourteen members of my family were killed by the Taliban,” he recalls, “fourteen.” Moments of silence fall between us only to be interrupted by a new slice of Mahmud’s life. “My daughter went to college in Peshawar,” he says happily,


After another moment of silence, he tells me that he is meeting a friend. He needs to get to a place in Brooklyn and plans on transferring at Dekalb to the R train. His rough hands fumble around in his torn bag and finally take out an aging business card. The back has a handwritten address. “I don’t know the address,” I say, not familiar with the Bay Ridge area, “but to transfer, you have to go up the stairs and go to the other side for the R.” “Thank you, sister,” he responds, putting the card in the inside pocket of his worn leather jacket. “I am very happy to see you, sister,” he says finally, “someone familiar.” As the train stops in Dekalb Avenue, Kazi picks up his bag and exits. Before he reaches the door, he turns and says: “I hope you happiness and goodness in life. salaamu alaykum.”


aftab // vol. 4  

a student literary magazine including contributions from new york university muslims + those in the surrounding area.