Sûrah LIX
"Lo! Allah is stern in reprisal."


1. Dear, Father.

2. It is loss of you I suffer most.

3. Unworthy of your love, I rove this foreign shore an outcast from your counsel.

4. Mother's too, despite her Alevi eccentricities and quaint shibboleths: "eat not rabbit"?

5. How I railed against this prohibition. Hares are hares, not humans. To consume a hare is not to be a cannibal. How... benign.

6. And yet I slew one to torment her, skinned and cooked it on a spit, then dined alone—both parents looking on despairingly.

7. Why must children gnaw umbilical chords with such ferocity?

8. In my youth, I all too often staged unseemly fits of outrage.

9. Disrespectful.

10. And, in retrospect, clearly wrong.

11. I made too light of shadde basar by observing the impermissible, this before I caught my error and made amends, embraced the veil. It was my wont to witness everything—to experience all, as well—till Al Qur'ân mapped boundaries past which women must not venture.

12. Childish zeal and Reins of Faith at odds, by Allah be commanded, lest ones callow energy lead headlong to doubt; a dismal fate.

13. Here in doubt's Capital—namely the U.S.A.—questions raised reap quandaries. Whereas Truth is surer in my homeland—wherein Allah's Laws hold sway. Here Church and State are separate entities. How set morals apart from order? How pretend a nation's leadership is detached from Al-Islam?

14. "When seas are secular, ships are steered by naught save greed and lust and whim, each sextant's lens fixed on the star of self-refulgence."

15. Is this sage?

16. Or are Divinely guided vessels just as prone to lose direction owing to misinterpretation or disobedience?

17. Which course chart?

18. It was my father's wish to reconcile State with Sacred Law (Sharia). Turkey shifted (under Ataturk) from Rules of Allah to rules of men. My father struggled with this nobly, though I judged him ineffectual. I described him as a scarecrow, lacking substance; empty sleeves were what he waved in vain at Western ways intent on Faith's defilement.

19. Did he slap me? I deserved it.

20. Did he punish me? No, not he. It was my father's style to coax, persuade by reason, argument, and evidence.

21. And for this I deemed him spineless.

22. He replied, "Does fire mend rifts?"

23. To which I shouted, "Flames are used to temper steel"—the scarecrow's daughter having yet to learn what comes of waging holocaust.

24. Woe is me: reduced to trembling in the dark of this forsaken outpost, cowering, letting strangers (disbelievers all) conceal me from the Light, I shirk the very trial-by-fire I once had championed.

The doorbell sounds. A single ring; not three, then two, as prearranged, but one long clangor jolts the penitential prisoner into action. Zahra jumps, snaps to attention like a soldier called to arms, performs each duty with a well-rehearsed precision:

  • starts the tape

  • turns on the lamp

  • adjusts the manikin

  • exits the studio

  • kills the light en route to the buzzer that unlocks the door downstairs

  • gives it a poke that lasts the fateful seconds needed by the caller to admit himself

as Zahra takes position in the niche to fulfill the plan:

  • if all goes well

  • if he ascends the flight of steps

  • if he proceeds across the darkened space attracted like a moth

  • homes-in on hearing "Put the groceries on the counter, will you?"

  • THERE! mistakes its source

  • assumes the dummy (partially visible through the threshold) is indeed the accursed embodiment of his target


With all her might she shoves the padded door and slams it shut.


In a palpitating rush the trap is sprung!