Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash


Hafiz Abdulkareem
Published in
7 min readMar 3, 2024


The trees in Nagaha always looked so elegant. King Catub had traversed the world but the scenery in Nagaha held a strong place in his psyche, maybe so strong because it was so familiar. Yes, this is fitting he thought. To end his life in the city he began it, gazing at the trees as he waited for the mercy of death. He would have it no other way.

King Catub, in his final moments, wrestled with the shadows of his past deeds. Memories, both vivid and haunting, flashed before his eyes like an unrelenting storm. The tumultuous battles, the kingdoms subdued, and the vast expanse of lands under his reign — they all converged into a montage of conquest, dominance, and bloodshed. Yet, amid this tapestry of power, there lingered a pervasive emptiness, a void he couldn’t fill with the spoils of victory.

This journey started out in the exuberance of youth, in a bid to unify and strengthen. He couldn’t help but wonder though, at what cost this came. His fragile empire was precariously held together by the torment of innumerable unwilling souls. In his older years, he became more ponderous on the cost of unity and empire. On the widespread misery his actions had caused. He had seen too many horrors on the battlefield to believe in a God. So while the priests stood beside him reciting the religious texts in hope for his salvation, he could only wonder in what hands salvation for a wretch like him lay. If salvation did exist, then he wanted it not for himself but for Azam. He’d conquered the world and had the finest possessions but his proudest lay there at the foot of the bed. Prince Azam. If any good parts of him existed then they embodied himself in his offspring. His young face whispered innocence and hope.

The time for conquering had come and gone. He heralded a leadership era of conquest, now was the time for consolidation. Now was the time for Nagaha to build on their victories and usher in prosperity. He only wished he had more time to put his affairs in order before he faced eternal torment, but death came with no warning and as he thought of the future of the empire and the challenges his young offspring would face he slowly drifted into an eternal rest.

Meanwhile, whispers of succession circulated among his advisors. The future of Nagaha, now on the cusp of transition, remained uncertain. General Yakut, a towering figure in the empire’s corridors of power, harbored aspirations that didn’t align with Catub’s vision. The impending struggle for control loomed over the palace, overshadowing the enormity of the kings passing.


Yakut sat on a throne in his chambers, elevated just about a meter from the ground, surrounded by relics of war — swords collected, exotic animal skins, and jewelry worn by former leaders of Nagaha’s enemies. He intentionally chose his chamber room as the meeting point, as he needed to exude power to his followers, assuring them of his strength. While the generals dallied and made discussions, one of his servants approached and whispered into his ear news of the kings passing, and so it had begun. As the king drew his last breath, Yakut and his followers gathered to plot the overthrowing of his heir.

Yakut stood up from his throne, and a sudden silence fell upon the generals, an intensity seeping into the room. He knew the generals all feared him, and he hoped that fear would translate into respect. Yakut began his monologue, “What does a child know of empire? For thirty-seven years, we fought to build this empire. Among the lot of us in this chamber, how many were killed for the sake of this empire?”

“General Jadim!” Yakut shouted, fixing his gaze on Jadim. “You were with me at the desert of Salaha, while arrows flew and cowards fled, I led our troops at the forefront of battle. Catub lay behind us, watching our men being massacred. It was I who put our armies into order, I who killed almost a hundred men in that battle, I who cemented Nagaha’s legacy. Now, the old wretch lies on his deathbed, planning on leaving our legacy to a child. So I ask again, my brothers, what does a child know of empire? When the dream of Nagaha was only just a dream, and the factions of the kingdom were embroiled in silly skirmishes. When Catub became king and searched desperately for warriors to join his kingdom, did we not give ourselves to him proudly?” The generals around the room began nodding in silent agreement.

Yakut’s voice rose louder. “Did we not lay down our lives to build this kingdom? And now, we are to be ruled by a child. The great Yakut, the lion of the eastern territories, is to be ruled by a child? Today, I stand and ask of you that the sacrifices we have made and the efforts we have put forth don’t go in vain with Catub’s legacy. I ask of you to elect me your leader so we may once again rise and conquer.”

A general offered a solution “Yakut, if you give me the order, I can eliminate the nuisance right away” but Yakut declined, “No, that would be too blatant, too obvious. The priests wouldn’t bless our rule, and the intelligentsia would revolt against us.”

Sadat rose with a glint in his eyes. The generals seemed to think he was too smart for any of their good, but he was older and far wiser than anyone would like to admit and they knew it. He spoke with a slight slur to his words, “My mother used to tell me of a stone. The stone held a diamond, and the people in that community were in desperate need to retrieve the diamond from the stone as it would change their lives. They would have riches beyond measure, you see. But this stone, they just couldn’t break. It was too hard. So they put the stone under a water droplet, just a single water droplet, and they waited. Centuries passed, and finally, the stone began to crack.”

Jadim interrupted, “If there was ever a time to get to the point, it would be now. What is the importance of a mythological stone?”

Sadat continued, unfazed “My point is this, Jadim: Why struggle to kill what we can gradually devolve? The prince is the stone. We send him to a faraway land for him to gather enough knowledge to rule the kingdom. We leave him to rot as a youth without guidance, and then, when he comes back, he is nothing but a boy in the body of a man. That, my friends, is our legitimacy. That, my friends, is our right to rule.”

Yakut unconsciously felt a smile spreading across his face as the workings of a plan came together. And so, the prince was sent to the far edges of Nagaha, where the worst of vices had found dominance. Under the pretext of training, the prince was sent. Drugs, prostitution, and every other possible vice were traded with impunity. But Prince Azam knew he was meant for something greater than the rot surrounding him. He was patient, learning from the vices but not engaging in them. Fifteen years passed, and Azam was ushered into the headquarters of Nagaha. The generals were shocked to see his development and growth. They hadn’t expected such, and they couldn’t deny him now. His character was unassailable, thwarting any plot they had to achieve their goals. Their carefully devised plan had been foiled. Azam had proven himself worthy.


We’re all kings I say. Like Azam and Catub we are all kings. Kings beaten down into subjugative obeisance. An obeisance that has resulted in us being less ambitious, less brave and less daring. And by whom have we been beaten down? I say we have been beaten down by no one but ourselves. Imprisoned for a lifetime in identities we don’t dare imagine ourselves out of.

To be untrue to yourself is the biggest betrayal and so man finds that he is his own best friend and at the same time his own worst enemy.

In the alchemy of happiness Ghazali says man is held between two extremes. One is the animal that follows his lust and primal callings. On the other extreme lies the human with the capability to be greater than angels. A master of self — built in the furnace of discipline and abstinence and hardened in the crucible of adversity, trial, and challenge. The ability to elevate oneself to such a status resulted in the Creator to beseech the angels themselves to lay at our feet. So even though the sky thundered and the mountains shook in fear of the names of the angels, the creator beseeched them. Imam Ghazali says free will was offered to the mountains and they refused it. Man in his ignorance gracefully accepted wanting to be a master of this enitity called destiny.

If one runs toward danger without fully understanding the gravity of danger, is one brave or is he stupid? As man eagerly accepted the gift of free will, could it be we hadn’t contemplated the sharpness of this double edged sword?

To answer our true virtue. To achieve this status, man has to renounce the fickle trappings of this world and give himself to higher callings.

There is a universe in the self. A whole unexplored world. Ghazali says, the human body is a kingdom. The passions are the revenue collectors, the soul is king, the senses are the armed forces. If the passions and the senses overpower the soul then it is as though a king has been overthrown by his viziers and his generals. In which case the kingdom runs the risk of anarchy. If the passions in connivance with the senses with which we perceive them take over us in a manner so overwhelmingly, then you the human, you the soul have lost control of this kingdom and what a loss that is. To lose the true prize in the pursuit of temporary pleasures. To lose your soul in the pursuit of the fleeting treasures of the world.

I philosophize for self. The understanding of self, the mastery of self. As we cometh the world only in full understanding and control of self and we leaveth only with full experience of self. Every other assumption of knowledge is a farce we have told ourselves to live in comfort. Every other assumption of knowledge is a lie we have told ourselves for the continuation of our quiet yearning.



Hafiz Abdulkareem

Documenting my thoughts as I try to find myself in this journey called life.