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Qasida of the One who Assumed the Posture of the Slave

Beloved, where was I to look

but in the mixed beads

of ablution and sweat,

shrubs growing in the secret peace

between plush grapes and sour grass,

the streets meandering into marble

squares where pigeons are fed

by orphans, where the rich walk shoeless

like innocents

on the mirrored floor, rubbing off


grime. Where was I to look

but in the beam from the skylight

that first hits the baby in my arms

then the jam jar and toaster,

wooden butterfly, yesterday’s

pepper and paper—  all shuddering

in their small shadows,

standing against our pretense

of omniscience. Where was I to find

comfort, beloved, but the coarse prayer


rug of the slaves,

the chants of Ya Allah by the swollen-footed,

muscled bearers of burdens,

where was I to look

but the scarcest shade

under which you sat

to eat with them.

Your light,

one half of the universe’s,

cooling their burns—


And I wait

on the straw mat of your companions,

hungry for the remaining parts

of light:

the pen and the tablet—

creaming all seas

into the lit blackness of ink,

of the enduring quill of java grass,

or jade inlay or common chalk—

Where was I to look but into the scribe’s heart?


The phone startles a blue jay

deep in dew— I’m cast

in a ten year eclipse, beloved.

In you a vast coppery desert

called forgiveness. Stone

tied to stomach,

thorns in the daily way,

your bleeding feet, beloved. The fourth

part of light, unbearably hot,

quivers still, under your green roof of mercy.


Fourth part of light: “the first thing Allah created was the light of your Prophet from His light, and that light remained (lit. “turned”) in the midst of His Power for as long as He wished, and there was not, at that time, a Tablet or a Pen or a Paradise or a Fire or an angel or a heaven or an earth. And when Allah wished to create creation, he divided that Light into four parts and from the first made the Pen, from the second the Tablet, from the third the Throne, [and from the fourth everything else].” Hadith of Jabir















Posted 06/02/17
A version of this poem appeared in the publication featuring the winners and judges of the YOUNG MUSLIM WRITERS AWARDS 2013 (an annual contest held in the UK which I've had the honor of judging numerous times). This poem is an adaptation of the sacred qasida form, written in praise of the Prophet (PBUH).
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