I went to the University of Damascus to meet someone the other day. I studied at the University during my first two months in Syria (about eight months ago), but hadn’t returned to the campus since I began studying Arabic at a different school.
I got off the micro-bus across the street from the university, and headed towards the stairs that brings people underground, towards a tunnel of sorts, that leads to the other side of the street and to the campus. In the tunnel there are lots of small book shops that sell textbooks, highlighters and pens, posters and notebooks, etc. I always appreciated the act of one brother that worked at a shop that sold medical textbooks, who, every morning that I went to school there, used to play Qur’an. It was such a soothing sound on my way to class.
I went down the stairs trying to remember the name of the reciter he would play, and as I turned to the right towards the tunnel, I saw that all the lights were out. To go from the sunny brightness of the outside world to the sudden pitch black of the tunnel before me was eerie. The tunnel is always crowded with students making their way to and from class, laughing, talking on cell phones, crowding the stores to get their books or studyguides. This day, all sound was muted. I could just make out each of the bookstores in the darkness. I could barely distinguish the outlines of many, many people moving, slowly, walking towards me and away from me. Some people had lighters lit and these small flames floated slowly down the hallway. It was intensely surreal. As I joined the shadows moving through the dark, I felt like I was in slow motion, flowing in a space without time, memory, or future.
Is this real? Or am I dreaming?
Afterwards, I couldn’t shake the feeling that overwhelmed me. Maybe it was its resemblance to the hereafter: Is that how we’ll be on the Day of Judgement? Each of us moving towards our final destination, every person we met in our life only an unrecognizable shadow, going their own way, on the day that our main concern is nafsi, nafsi…
Or perhaps it was such a striking metaphor for my life, moving from one station to another, passing people and memories, past hurts and happinesses, floating almost instinctively to my next place of residence. People are never still in this life. Where will life take me? Where will I end up?
One of the weird things about living in Syria is that I feel like there are so many ghosts here. Not ghosts in the jinni sense of the word (though perhaps there are many here, considering how ancient this land is… but I’m sure they’re the good kind considering how much baraka is here, and how many prophets and righteous people walked this land)… but ghosts of a different kind. I meet people from my past, from a different present, from an unseen future. Everyone is here, seeking something. Ghosts of the past: people I knew at different times in my life. Someone I went to highschool with a million years ago, when I felt like I was first surfacing into understanding my self and life. Another person I attended an Islamic program with in my teenage years, when I had such passion to reform my soul, and such a desire to change who I was and where I was taking my life. It’s not so much these people, but the memories that they stir inside that affect my heart so much. Another person who has a close relationship with one of my most influential teachers… being around them makes me think so much of this teacher, the questions in my mind about what he taught, what I agreed with and disagreed with, what I was able to put into practice and the so much more I was never able to. And I meet ghosts of my future: people I have met for the first time, that remind me of what I can be, or perhaps, what I should already be by now.
Sometimes, here, I feel like I am just a jumble of tangled wires and synapses, dreams and memories, all mixed up and blurred together, poured into this simple body of mine.
Damascus… this place of my dreams, this place of my past. Perhaps, in this ancient place, where past, present and future seem to blend together, one can make sense of the path of one’s life, ruminating on the dust, the varying breeze, and the constancy of the sun.
That’s why I’ve called this journal, ‘Damascus Dreams’. Insha’Allah, it’ll be of some benefit to those who read it, and to my self as well.