Sûrah XLIII
ORNAMENTS OF GOLD
"How then are they turned away?"

43
ALL THAT GLITTERS

Having traveled round the world, one half, to the coast of California, land of riches so exorbitant they surpass ones wildest dreams, material wealth in such abundance nature's wealth might seem to pale were it not likewise over endowed with miles of scenic splendor, Zahra can only view her sound-proof home with irony.

1. This is jail.

2. The wardens come, deliver food, discard my refuse, sometimes chatter.

3. But their discourse seldom comforts, bred of this world, not the next—to which my less than worthy prayers are humbly offered.

4. To Allah the Merciful, I, as penitent, must submit.

5. My faults, egregious and habitual, cover me with shame.

Ahmed's threat—so real the day that Zahra saw him like a specter out-of-context, a reminder from the past that made her present insecure—decreases daily; less substantial, less believable, less appalling, he, whose mission is to mete out retribution, looms less large.

6. I miss my father.

7. Yes, I miss my mother, also. She is kind. But love from her is unconditional.

8. Father's love is more like Faith. He makes demands before he hugs you. There are rules and regulations. He expects that you will do your very best, whatever the task. His love is boundless yet insists on being earned. At this I failed.

9. Except that Allah counsels otherwise:

"What! Even though I bring you better
guidance than that ye found your
fathers following?"

10. He condemns my father's outlook:

"And he whose sight is dim to the remembrance
of the Beneficent,
We assign unto him a devil
who becometh his comrade..."

11. Father's jinn; the voice that advocated compromise with the West, encouraged tolerance, maintained "even disbelievers may be counted among the Good, the Saved, provided their behavior draws its sustenance from the Light" expressed opinions I denounced before I fled.

"...Ah, would that between me and thee
there were the distance of the two horizons—
an evil comrade!"

12. Lo! horizons now divide us, father from daughter, him from me. What is the lesson to be learned, from this my newfound vantage?

Zahra prays, performing al-maghrib (the evening prayer) with fatalistic zealousness, prostrations bent on absolution—resigned, nonetheless, to fate, a nagging skepticism sentencing her to hell-fire.

13. It grows late. My own uncertainties shall indict me. Amy's heresy echoes mine; the sun indeed is fixed, and we on Earth revolve around it.

"Lo! the guilty are immortal in hell's torment..."

The doorbell rings.