Blood smears from my hand as I struggle to climb up into the dry-docked boat. I hardly notice, hardly care; I just have to hide. All I feel is the pain, physical pain and even greater emotional pain. Fear and pain. Am I going to die here, alone? I’m bleeding badly and there is no way of stopping it. The blood is refusing to clot and every tiny move I make causes little tears of blood to drip from my wounds. I know that I’m gradually bleeding out. I’m weak, I’m shaky and I am absolutely terrified. I cry out to Allah, but all I hear is the same awful silence. All I feel is loneliness, an absolute and total lack of comfort. Allah, where are you in this? Don’t you see what I’ve done, for you?
My Jahar, My precious Jahar, you didn’t do this for Me. Those were My beautiful creations that you murdered and maimed. But that’s what you are too, My precious creation, made in My image. I hear your cries, though they aren’t directed at Me. I notice your fear and your pain. In fact, I feel its suffocating presence. My child, I care about you and want to make you whole again. I am with you. I am here. Don’t you feel My arms of love surrounding you? You will not die tonight. I have much bigger plans for you, beautiful plans beyond your imagination that require your survival. Don’t you hear My voice? As you lie there, feeling like you’ll never know love again, I sweetly whisper into your ear, “I love you.”
I don’t know what I’ve done tonight. I don’t know how many more are dead because of me, but I know my brother is one of them. I did this in your name, but I feel so dark and I know that this is the end of me. My parents, my brother always told me Allah loved me, but I feel no love in this moment. So I lie here as I wait to die, knowing it’s soon. I’m just waiting for the pain to end and to go to paradise. The seconds tick by so slowly. This is a struggle, but I do it for Allah, to please him. I’ll be a martyr, like my brother, like so many others. But my mind keeps flashing back to everything I’m leaving behind.
Oh, My child, I wish you could see that paradise does not lie ahead of you. If you die tonight, your hope will be gone forever. You’ll be separated from Me forever, damned to live in eternal agony. I cannot let sin and darkness into My presence. You see your blood caked on your hands, but I see not just your blood, but also the blood of those you heartlessly mutilated. That does not please Me. It pains Me to know how you’ve been brainwashed into believing it does. You wait to die so that the pain will end, but I won’t let death steal you away tonight because then your pain will be forever. I love you too much to let that happen.
Throughout the night, all I know is the throbbing in my limbs and the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. I hear the screams, I smell the smoke, I feel the shaking ground, I see the detached limbs lying before me. I cannot sleep, yet I am not truly awake. Darkness swirls around me and life feels like a nightmare I’ve dreamed up. Dawn is breaking, the chilly spring air beginning to warm, the sunlight beginning to seep in through the tarp veiled over the boat. I’m aware of the beauty that is wrapped in this sunrise, though I cannot see it. All I long for is for the pain to end, yet I’m so scared of it too. My life has been so brief and now I’m facing the certainty of death. Fond memories bloom and unfold like delicate flowers before me. I see my parents, my friends, my sisters, my brother… I see the overwhelming beauty of Zahira and wonder at how someone so small and so young can be so captivating and mesmeric. The awful realization of how her life will be now haunts me. I try to pray, but it feels empty. My consciousness is fading slowly and the drops of blood have flowed into a pool. I wonder when the authorities will find my body, or if they’ll discover me before I die. I know they’re searching for me. It’s nearing nighttime now, I can tell from the dimness that is quickly overtaking my tiny world. I’ve been in this boat nearly a day, alone with myself. I just want this to end. It all hurts so badly.
My son, as the dawn breaks, the sun serves as a symbol of My light that can penetrate the darkness of your heart and your life. The masterpiece I’ve painted in the sky with strokes of red, purple, pink, and orange pales in comparison to the masterpiece that you can become in Me. You’re never too broken that I can’t make you whole again. Oh Jahar, if only you would open your eyes and your heart, you’d see that you’re far from alone and neither are your family and friends. I’ll be with little Zahira, holding her hand as she navigates the darkness that is now her reality. I’m right here with you, holding your hand too as you lie here. It breaks My heart to feel your unbearable pain, but because I love you and want to give you new life, eternal life, I cannot let you die here in this boat. It is I alone who keep your heart beating and your lungs breathing, even while you hate Me and refuse to believe in Me. I will not let you go.
I hear the sound of a helicopter flying above the boat as it pierces the evening’s silence and I turn my eyes toward the sky anxiously, despite the fact that I cannot see through the clean white tarp. Its loud rumble tells me that it’s hovering above me and it stays there for several minutes. I begin to worry that the authorities have discovered my hiding place, but then the sound of the helicopter’s blades and motor begins fading. I relax slightly, my heartbeat slowing down. Minutes later, the sound of movement, of hushed whispers startles me and I struggle against my fading consciousness to become more alert. Fear guides my thoughts now and awakens me. Please don’t find me. Please just let me die. I’m far too weak to fight back. Minutes go by and I realized I’ve been found. A man shouts at me to surrender, to come out of the boat with my hands held high. Something is thrown into the boat and it clatters against the interior of the boat, then explodes, with a ear-splitting bang! A grenade. Another follows the first and as it explodes, I feel a pain in my left ear and my hearing in it fails. I feel a warmth in the ear and realize it’s blood. I cry out in agony, but I won’t surrender. Then they open fire and bullets spray around me, hitting me, destroying the inside of the boat. The gunshots echo loudly in the night. I feel more pain and crimson trails my arms and legs, like a river emptying into the bloody ocean that I already lie in. This must be it, I refuse to surrender, so they’re going to execute me. I know I’m even weaker than I ever thought to be possible. My breaths are slow and uneven. I’m gasping for air. I close my eyes and welcome death, waiting for it to overtake me, but I’m still so scared. Allah, help me, I don’t want to die alone.
You might not know who I truly am right now, but still I hear your desperate pleas for help. As they fire round after round at you and the bullets penetrate the boat’s exterior, I shield you from the full impact, I shield them from ripping through your skin and tearing your body into pieces. If all these bullets met your body, you’d be dead right now, and all hope would be lost forever.. But I’ll take them instead. That’s how much I love you, Jahar. Oh that you would see all I’ve already done for you! Oh that you could see the wounds in My hands, My feet, and My side! I took them for you, My child. As blood pours out of your body, I hold out hope that you one day will see that My blood was poured out for you. That’s why I’m sparing your precious life tonight. That’s why you won’t die alone. You’ll live with Me right by your side, and therein lies your hope, oh so much hope.
Tonight I die and the only thing to hold me, to wrap me in its arms, is my own blood that I lie in, once warm from my body, but now sticky and cold. I keep crying out to you, Allah, but you are silent. Why won’t you answer me? Please hold me and never let me go. I did this for you, don’t I deserve that much? Men keep shouting at me to surrender, but they keep firing at me and I simply lie here, counting my breaths. Death is refusing to come to me and I realize that I’m not going to die in this boat. Finally, I weakly crawl out of my blanket of blood, towards the evening sky, shining with snow-colored stars. “I surrender,” I say. The men start shouting demands at me, pull your shirt up, hold your hands high. I do as they tell me, but as I climb out of the boat, my strength fails me and I collapse on the side of the boat, my head resting on my arm. “Come down!” they scream. They curse me aloud and I curse them back silently. How did this happen to me? I have to get off the boat somehow. I try to push my body back upright, but I’m so weak now. Perhaps death is coming sooner than I thought. Someone reaches out to help me off of the boat, so I extend my hand out toward theirs, ready to take it. But they don’t catch me and I fall down onto the grass, broken and alone. It hurts so much, not just physically, but deep in my spirit, in ways words cannot ever describe, an ultimate abandonment. Then the uniformed men are all over me, like vultures ready to feast upon a corpse, handcuffing me and searching me for weapons. The EMTs come over, tearing my clothes and applying pressure to the wounds on my body. My consciousness finally fades to the comforting blackness and my eyelids flicker shut.
Oh no, my child, don’t you see: the hands that made the universe and the hands that formed you hold you now. You keep crying out to Allah, hoping he’ll hear you, hoping he’ll answer you. He can’t, Jahar, but I—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—can, and not only that, I gladly will. I will hold you. I will never let you go. I hear you tell the authorities, “I surrender,” the very words that I long for you one day to say to Me, for on that day, however bleak the rest of your life on this earth looks, you’ll have a hope eternal. I see you struggle to come down from the boat. How I wish I could carry you down from there like a loving father does when his beloved child gets stuck climbing to a high place, the child thinking as he climbs that he’ll be able to get down easily on his own. Did you think that somehow you’d be able to escape the terrible situation you placed yourself into on your own? There seems to be no escape, but with Me, there’s a way out of the bleak darkness. I see as you fall from the boat to the ground, as the man fails to help you down safely. My child, when I reach out My hand to help you, I won’t ever let you fall. But this man did, and there you lay, the pain even more intense now from your frightening crash to the ground. I’m with the EMTs as they rush to save your life, and I guide their every move. By My grace, you’ll make it through this night.
I awaken in a hospital bed, handcuffed and wrapped in white sheets, with rubber medical tubes necklaced across my body. It takes a moment for me to remember everything. The bombing, Tamerlan’s death, the shootings, the loss of my ear’s hearing, and finally, my capture. It seems so surreal, yet it sinks in quickly and overwhelms me. My wounds are bandaged now and the physical pain is slightly less intense, but the emotional pain torments me even more than ever before. There are nurses in brightly colored scrubs in the room and next to them, in total contrast, are armed guards. But the thing that they all share in common is that they ignore me, refusing eye contact like I’m a monster. I realize how alone I am and I desperately call out to Allah, again. Then the sorrow chokes me, like hands upon my throat and tears overwhelm my spirit. I begin to cry. And once the tears start to flow, they are never to be stopped. I scream silently for everyone I’ve lost and everything I’ve done, once again longing for death’s sweet and quick embrace. Through the tears blurring my vision, I can see the nurses watching me, from the corner of their eyes. These women, these mothers know I weep, yet they do nothing and it burns like poison being poured into my very being. Who will wipe my tears away now? I sob uncontrollably, the aching in my heart is more than I can bear. Allah, I am so alone and I cannot stop crying. Allah, please help me, no one else will. Take this away from me, it is too much. I do not know who I have become.
The nurses, the guards, and most of the world see an unlovable, less-than-human monster, the very face of evil, but I see you for who you really are, Jahar, My beautiful creation. You were made in My image. That hasn’t changed. Thus, despite all you’ve done, despite all the terror you’ve caused, I still want you. Badly. You feel like there’s no one in this hospital room who truly cares about you, but there is. Open your eyes and look beside your bed. If you’d look with the eyes of faith, you’d see the reality. I am here, standing beside your bed, weeping for you, telling you how much I love you, telling you how one day I will wipe all of your tears away if only you will come to Me. Oh, won’t you hear My voice right now? I will help you. Just come. Come, Jahar. My arms are wide open waiting for you to come home. I know who you can become—My beautiful son, completely clean and completely healed—but in the meantime, I love you just as you are, regardless of your past.
It’s been five months, but nothing has changed. I am just as alone as when I laid in the boat, wishing for death. I’m trapped in a tiny cell, waiting. The bullet holes carved into my body have closed and begun to heal, but my heart is as tortured as the day I got here. It’s been what seems like centuries of sleepless nights, of pain, sorrow, loneliness, anger and despair. The tears depart from me in the evening, but return fresh and with a vengeance each morning. The contact with my family is minimal, I can only remember short notes in the song of my mother’s sweet voice. Most of the day, I just sit here, in agony, because that’s all that I am able to do. For the rest of my life, it is all I will be able to do. I read your word daily, Allah. I’m clinging to you so tightly, because you are the one thing that has not been taken from me. I want you to heal the scars upon my soul, but they’re infected and oozing, impossible to fade away. Allah, is there more to this than what I’ve seen? Am I missing some great and beautiful truth in this life, something so undeniably important? Allah, I feel so empty, please lead me home. Reveal to me what it is I cannot see, because I thirst for something that my heart’s eyes are blind to.
Son, I who have healed the wounds on your body am the same one who can heal the festering wounds on your heart and soul. These five months you’ve never been alone for even a moment. I’m here every morning as you can’t stop crying, wishing that you’d let Me wipe the tears away. I’m using your pain, your hurt, and your utter loneliness to bring you to a desperate place where your eyes will be opened to My truth. Can you see Me yet? Can you hear My voice? If not, I’ll keep pursuing you until you do. I want you. I will never give up on you. There is more to this life than what you’ve seen, Jahar. You are missing out on the most important truth that you could ever know. You ask for Me to lead you home, you thirst for something greater. Do you mean that? I will gladly lead you home, but you’ll need to let go of all you’ve ever known. That which you thirst for is My Son and the forgiveness, salvation, peace, hope, love, fulfillment, and joy that’s found only in Him. Jesus is not just some prophet; He’s the Savior of the world, whose blood washes white as snow even the filthiest of sinners. He stands waiting to become your Savior. Your sin is not too great, My child. You are not out of the reaches of My love. There is still hope for you, if you will give your life to Jesus. In Him, you can stand before Me not guilty, as if you had done no wrong. In Him, you will have a Father who has loved you with an everlasting love. In Him, you will one day be with Me forever, in the joy of My presence, where all your tears will be wiped away and sin, pain, sorrow, and death will be no more. That’s what I offer you. Will you come, My beloved Jahar?