Is Studying Astronomy an Impossible Wish?

al-Biruni-lunar-eclipse

After talking time and again about the problems in our post-conflict society, I feel that I have missed something. I want to take a deep breath and untwist my wings for a flight to my dreams.

I want to take some time to think about my wish to become an astronomer.

Maybe this wish is not just a dream for people in other parts of the world. But here, where there is neither an astronomy major nor an instructor, it seems like a dream.

We believe that dreams are possible and if we believe in the beauty of our dreams, they can become true one day. But unfortunately, we are living in a society where even dreaming is restricted for women. Even in dreams we cannot bravely soar.

I have seen many girls in my country who think men can read their minds, so they never dare to dream for something they want. My character is different, but faces a difficult situation in Afghanistan where women are not used to dreaming free from culture and tradition. I grew up in Iran where there were no limits on dreams.

I am like a hawk, which is always flying in the sky, but once she opens her eyes to reality, she finds herself in a cage. Every night I watch the sky lit by shining stars. As much as I sink into the beauty of it, I feel in fear of its darkness and awe. However, fear does not dissuade me; it makes me more curious.

Our house is located in the hills around Kabul city. The roof of our house is the most fantastic place at night. One side of the roof is surrounded by the mountains, which are like the guards of our city. On the front side I see a snapshot of the whole city lit by bulbs.

When I see the bulbs I wish they were stars, because stars are generous and shine for the anguished hearts of people during the night. Bulbs are in the control of the government and shine to provide occasional power, without attention to the needs of people.

Between the city view and mountains, the azure dome of the mosque in our neighborhood provokes the sense of a peace in me, like the doves that fly around the domes of holy Islamic shrines. These are only my surroundings; I still have not looked above.

When I look above, I see a different world that I wish I was born in. In this saintly place, I feel that I am Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī, a famous astronomer from centuries ago in my hometown of Ghazni.

I don’t know what he could have watched centuries ago, but I know that he loved and felt the sky and he contributed to the science of astronomy. I feel that I am not alone and during some surprising moments while watching the sky, I have a warm conversation with this scientist who is the hero of my life.

I remember the night that I saw a comet and he asked me to wish something and I wished one day I would become an astronomer. I would reconstruct his observatories in Ghazni and resuscitate his memories and dedications.

I wish to become so capable in this major that I would contribute to the development of it in my country once again and grow and expose the talents of this field and show that I am a woman who can dream freely about whatever I want.

Although the ceiling is shorter than my stature, I will not bend, but will continue dreaming and believing in the beauty of my dreams.

By Zainab

An illustration from al-Biruni’s astronomical works, explaining the different phases of the moon. From Wikipedia.

Comments

  1. “I have seen many girls in my country who think men can read their minds, so they never dare to dream for something they want.”

    Zainab, this essay slays me. There is more beauty in your dreams than on all of the floors of every Tiffany jewelers. The stars are in your heart, in your mind. Wishing you the ability to bring into fruition your dream of studying the stars beyond this earth. May the girls around you know that their mind is their own, and they have a write to wish and hope without punishment.

    Stacy

    • Dear Stacy,
      Thank You so much for your beautiful words which give me hundreds of stars to keep on dreaming and writing! Thank You!
      Zainab From Kabul.

  2. Zainab, thank you for writing your beautiful thoughts. You dream of being an astronomer; you already are a poet. May your sky always rise to let you fly.

    • thank you Kat! you indicated to a good point! one of the reason that i became a poet was to create a sky in my self with the stars made of words…magic words!!this sky rises whenever i want and wherever I am to let me fly! I love this sky because at least it learns me how to fly!

  3. Dear Zainab,
    After I read your story I felt so certain that you will become an astronomer. I am glad you are so full of hope and strength. I loved your whole story, but I particularly loved these words: “stars are generous and shine for the anguished hearts of people during the night”. Thank you for writing this story.
    Jeannie

  4. Dear Zainab,
    If you believe in the beauty of this dream, I believe you can make it come true. We are star stuff, the American astronomer Carl Sagan once said, in explaining how closely connected we humans truly are to the planets and stars and comets whirling above. So dream into the sky and beyond because the stars are listening.
    Thank you for your essay, your dreams.
    All best,
    Pam

  5. Dear Zaynab!
    My name is Yunos and I am an astronomer living in Kabul. Since 2009 I together with my 10 friends we established first astronomy association in Afghanistan (Afghanistan Astronomy Association). We do astronomy for ordinary afghans like you and especially for school child. We have telescopes. I have TV program about astronomy but not regularly. We organize moon and planet and sun observation programs. I would be so glad to help you to realize your dream. This is my phone no: 0799 325 939

    • Dear Yunos,
      Thank You so much for your information. I think that I have your association Facebook page already in my FB and it would be my pleasure being involved in the association events. I will be in contact with you through my FB account. I would like to talk to you more since you are an Afghan and perceive the inattention of our government to the science specially astronomy in which we have a great shining history. and it is great to have friends who are common in thinking and this tells me that I am not alone and if we can raise our number,we can do something stronger in this field. really Happy of hearing from you.
      Thanks a lot,
      Zainab

    • Zainab and Yunos,

      As an astronomy teacher who just returned to the United States after a two week visit to Kabul, I regret deeply that I didn’t learn about your dreams and work until after I left. I wish you both smooth sailing through the sea of stars! If and when I am able to return to Kabul, I will certainly be in touch. In the meantime, know that I have been touched by your words and goals, and I will do my best to champion them from this side as well.

      Sincerely,
      Darik

      • Dear Darik,
        I am also very sorry for missing you, from whom we could learn a lot and with whom we could have nice astronomy discussion in Kabul. Inshallah in the next time that you come to Kabul, we will be informed and hosting you and I have many other astronomy plans in my mind to share with you and do something together by your help. I try to keep in touch with you through E-mail and face book.
        thank you teacher,
        Zainab

  6. Elizabeth Titus says:

    Wow, talk about stellar connections! So glad, Zainab, that you wrote this, and now, you have heard from Yunos.

    It is beautiful in every way.
    Liz

  7. There are so many lines to love in this piece, Zainab. Let me now show some appreciation for these:

    “Our house is located in the hills around Kabul city. The roof of our house is the most fantastic place at night. One side of the roof is surrounded by the mountains, which are like the guards of our city. On the front side I see a snapshot of the whole city lit by bulbs.

    When I see the bulbs I wish they were stars, because stars are generous and shine for the anguished hearts of people during the night. Bulbs are in the control of the government and shine to provide occasional power, without attention to the needs of people.”

    Beautiful writing, Zainab! Stacy

  8. Your article and faith in your dreams inspire me, Zainab! I identify with the fear of having dreams and expressing them, let alone having the audacity to continue to believe and them, hoping and working towards them coming true! I am so happy to see you supported and encouraged in your lofty goal and wish you all the sustenance you need to make them come true. I have a book on astronomy I took a class from University of Connecticut- I will be happy to mail it to you!!!! Best of God’s luck and love to make all your dreams come true and continue to shine as the bright light You are!

    • Dearest Mary,
      Thank you so much for your motivational words. it is my great pleasure to have enthusiastic readers like you who greatly contribute to the improvement of my words. It would be great if you can share the book with me. my E-mail address is zainabsafari4@gmail.com. I am looking forward to read it.
      Thank you so much!
      by love,
      Zainab from Kabul

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