An Inward Mail

Ahmed Ashraf
10 min readAug 16, 2019


Shot this at Glen Coe in 2018. It remains the north-most I’ve ever been on the map. Maybe one day, God-willing, I’ll beat this too. :)

Dear mountain flower,

Everything in this life is in some way displaying hope, constantly. And everything in this life whispers of the unending possibilities of renewal.

In autumn the leaves may shed, but in spring they return. And the day that lays spring’s breath in motion will birth colour from a lifeless ground, and the sweet song of the cuckoo it will carry from shore to shore. Every sunrise breathes the reminder that light is the sequel to darkness. The stone that takes the beatings of a chisel one day becomes the statue that is marvelled at. In the flight of an eagle, there is no design for falling. Have you observed the tailor bird sewing leaves together to make its nest? What a wondrous architect. If in the hole-ridden bamboo, so long as air travels through it, a song can be played, then in the hole-ridden heart, so long as it still breathes, can a melody be made?

Sometimes I picture the divine writing steering my life as a sky full of Muqarnas. I once read somewhere that Muqarnas is made up of specific nodules of perfect geometry and close, intricate artwork, but that their beauty lies in the gazing upon them as a whole. While a focused viewpoint may reap its good, living long in that narrowness may cause misalignment and confusion. In taking a step away from that concentrated perspective that we have warmed to, and gazing wholeheartedly upon our life as a whole oftentimes births clarity and gratefulness. Perspective — that kind of magic that turns even grief into a flower. There is beauty in the planning of God that we may or may not comprehend. The internal state of our peace and happiness either gains or loses its foothold based on how much trust we place on this divine planning and wisdom. Have you ever seen the detail in a snowflake?

Travel and immerse yourself in all the beauty the unknown holds; swoon at history and stories of people and places. Listen to the village elder’s perspective on the night sky, and drink from your eyes the evidence of an ancient architectural mastermind. Ride the lilt in that old woman’s voice welcoming you with a folk song in rural Kenya, and allow a foreign language to stretch your tongue a little more than your mother’s until a 2-month peculiar swirl in your accent may be the only hint of another land. Continue to find and keep close the warmth of the familiar in the foreign, and embrace the mint of foreign in your familiar. Travel as much as you can dear sir, as long as you have the means to. This life is a treasure chest I am slowly learning to scour as I age. This thirstful inquiry about life and the journeys one must take to understand it is undoubtedly fruitful and important. To forever be a nomad — in the world within and the world without, but understanding that it is living the question that matters; answers will arrive along the way when they are meant to, to the patient one.

All of life’s meanders teaches you profoundly of the human condition. And that our hardships can be the most powerful conduit of connection to another. It reminds us that we could achieve a lot that we wish; we could stretch this curiosity and knowledge onto a vast expanse that births marvellous inventions and discoveries and feats and yet, still, how bounded we are.

Go into yourself. There is a world within that needs to be traversed, understood, and in it, mountains of riches with which one can beautify himself.

What we all need is the great inner solitude. To be able to be truly solitary is something I am beginning to understand, has great power, fortitude, and remains a vital doorway to an astounding spiritual and emotional discipline. It paves way for a greater understanding of self and life that can only unravel in such a condition. Our moral compasses slowly undergo fine-tuning as we practise being in this state. For in this state, one confronts his weaknesses and the great human fallibility, truths about himself and life that most avoid because this confrontation requires strength to be drawn from an aspect of our being we are often indifferent about, and for us to stand before a multitude of feelings or states we usually disregard and label in haste as negative, not realizing that each one of those is teaching something deeper than the surfaces we bow to. One cannot achieve letting go if at first, he doesn’t let in. And of the many things that this solitude reveals to us is our bloated egos. Ego is an interesting thing. It likes to make accounts to keep us in our comfort internally, always in familiar territory. What we often forget is the many forms in which it manifests as part of our being, and that it takes our entire life in identifying and working on all of them.

Now it does not come easy — to be truly solitary. Its initial stages may seem like discomfort but breathe through that, start small and keep practising. There is an unspeakable strength, clarity, and calmness born as a result of immersing in this state now and then (so long as it is understood and practised right). It is a vessel for replenishment, a chance for renewal and fresh insight. The greatest of those who lived in this world often practised this, but it was them knowing when to and when not to that made all the difference. If such a state makes us become less conscious beings as a whole and renders us unable to connect to or gain access to the depth of matters of self, or feels like imprisonment, then it no longer is solitude; something is wrong in the way we view and use it and perhaps a review of habits, thought patterns and intention can help.

There are strength and goodness in many things as long as they are within the secure hands of moderation; as the adage says –‘’too much of anything is good for nothing’’. Moderation or rather balance in everything, I am learning profoundly in my own life, helps recognize our wavering sooner and keeps things in perspective. I cannot write much on balance as I have not understood it thoroughly yet, but I will say this to you sir — balance — this middle path, is a light that will one day save us.

Most events in life beggars all description. They are not as most people usually have us believe — most of it is incomprehensible, taking place in a realm where every language buckles and bows before it. No matter how eloquently one may try to describe certain things in life, they are, in their nature, inexpressible.

Inner growth isn’t as easy and linear as people have you believe. This journey travelled within is arduous but undoubtedly beautiful too. There is a satisfaction that will fill your heart unlike any other as a result of working on it for the sake of God. Understand my dear sir that this is a journey in which you naturally can take no one with you, nor is it upon anyone else to deeply understand what you only must. And search not in the outer world for answers to questions that only the deepest parts of yourself can perhaps respond to; you cannot be more irreverent to your growth than that.

This path is needless to say, ridden with frequent change of boundary, behaviour, and principle as the innate cartographer uncovers new ground in your inner life. As long as your growth as a whole is towards light and goodness, then worry not much. If you are wrong about something after all, hurry not anything within you. “The natural growth of your inner life will lead you slowly and with time to other insights”, as Rilke once said. Rilke also emphasized on the importance of allowing each feeling to gestate, to “come to completion’’ –as a whole, “and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity’’. For when an emotion/feeling does not completely mature, it leaves behind a void that ego earnestly fills.

Be both gentle and firm with what goes on in your innermost being and understand that it is worthy of your whole love. Work at it invariably and lose not much time in clarifying your state to people. And remember that love is tinged with humility. Delight in your growth as you go on, and be kind to those that remain behind. Everything takes time and each person will realize things about themselves and their lives in a timeline that is exclusively for them. It is not meant to be compared with another. There is divine wisdom in why something may come sooner or later to someone that we may or may not understand in this life.

If there’s one last thing that I should write on the growth of your inner life, it is this — let there always be movement within; the stagnant water will soon sink into the earth, but the river flowing will grow into the sea. There is a mile that exists in between the tongue and hand, and working to make the tongue and hand but one for the sake of God becomes one of life’s most rewarding work. This beautiful sojourn will always be a process of learning and re-learning (re-learning is just as important as learning, sometimes more), of gauging this inner landscape to draw new boundaries and erase the futile, of healing, of re-organizing ourselves in order to put an end to trauma that we unconsciously carry — of older generations passed down and discreetly sitting in our speech and behaviour, and of our own — the wounded inner child that quietly controls a part of our adult lives.

Man has blemished love with old biases and arrogances. We disrespect and burden love when we shackle it to the notion of only heat, intoxication, and restlessness. Genuine love isn’t based on and doesn’t depend on mere feelings or vibes or romantic inebriety, for anything built upon a foundation solely containing these tend to be as shaky and unstable as is the nature of such things. It is something not found, but created by two individuals who understand deeply what it means to be solitary first. For this, amongst a multitude of other things, frees the lover from the conception that love is to possess or obsess over the other.

In their perspectives, the two people do not integrate the strict seeking of flawlessness and perfection in a person and relationship that by their nature, cannot be those. It is to understand that honesty lies at the core of any relationship and it certainly doesn’t resemble two people constantly having to prove their worth to each other or having to always maintain a high in order to keep what is in between them alive and afloat — that is seemingly endless anxiety — if there’s a constant fear that the relationship would collapse if these things are not fulfilled. No perpetual excitement can be sought in a relationship, nor does such a thing exist. Nor is it empty grand gestures, or one of the silly romanticised ideas that society has constructed. And if society or popular culture glorifies the feeling of constriction or suffocation as something accompanying love, do not believe in it. Such a thing is not a characteristic of love. A sense of freedom and safety is what love brings.

Love is sacred, and we have been extremely careless. Our lack of understanding of it has marred hearts for generations, and there is still much that needs to be said and done. I understand the extent of my inexperience and my very own lack of understanding of love; my naivety on such a subject permits me not to venture further in this instance. I wish only to re-iterate on one thing — real, healthy love is mature, and it is in between two individuals who understand what it means to be solitary first. Love as a whole is tranquillity, coolness. And lastly, from an author I deeply respect — ‘’ That which is given from your heart is the most valuable gift you can give someone. It’s only fitting that you give your love carefully, at the right time, in the right place, and in a way that is pleasing to your Lord.’’


In the deepest and most important of things, we are unutterably alone. We came alone and naked and we will leave alone and naked, companionship and clothing are but a saudade of the transitory. You and I truly own nothing in this world. We each are but a timed oath, clusters of mere dust borrowed from this earth until we return to it. And may that oath be fulfilled, and that returning be with light.

My dear sir, the knowledge and wisdom I possess are not even the size of a mustard seed; extensive is my ignorance. If in these simple words I write you find good and comfort, then do not believe that I live free of any trouble. My life too has its difficulty and may remain far behind yours. For how else would have I been able to find these words.

Finally, remember that there is much mercy throughout this voyage and that every manifestation of it is beyond beautiful. There is no dearth of pleasures in this world. Complain, oh we complain, let us complain less. Until the soul answers its call from the heavens, let us go on, striving for uprightness. When the time to bid our farewells has come, release upon this earth like dawn- one last smile as a testimony to the gratitude we have watered in our chests. This bliss and peace that God plants in the halls of our heart - may they live every day therein and never evanesce.

I wish you well dear sir and hope for the continuity of this correspondence. May confidence accompany you in your journey.


Ahmed Ashraf

Shot this at Glen Coe in 2018. It remains the north-most I’ve ever been on the map. Maybe one day, God-willing, I’ll beat this too. :)


To the reader:
I am both the sender and the receiver of this letter, as you may have realized by now.
This writing was inspired by some inner life journeys in 2019, and the ever so timely, rather cosmic deliverance through art and insight.

I think it’s interesting to point out that, no matter what one learns in their life, if they were to keep their hearts open, almost every belief of theirs will at some point be halted by a question bursting through some celestial window. The result, perhaps, could be the end of that belief, the casual continuance of it, or the fashioning of it into something higher and purer so that it could one day unleash upon the self and the world at large - a tremendous amount of meaning that humbles mans fragile heart.



Ahmed Ashraf

Forever a student. Whenever time moves in my favour, I write on my sojourn. Doctor, grad.student.