RESPONSE TO AN ANONYMOUS POEM
The following poem was found posted on the bulletin board of a mosque. It was not signed, but when I read it, it touched a raw nerve and I began to cry. I thought of all the people over the years who had come and gone. Over the last few years I have heard so many tragedies and received letters and articles that people wanted printed anonymously. Our policy is not to print anything without a name, and even with a name these letters seemed too much like exposing an open wound. This poem however struck me so powerfully and brought back echoes of so many other wounded spirits that I felt I had to print it.
I showed the poem and my response to a few individuals and asked their opinion. The response ranged from “I know exactly what that person is saying, I have been there myself” to laughter at the “childishness and weakness” of the person, who therefore “couldn’t be taken seriously” and who “must not have been sincere in their acceptance of Islam in the first place to be so easily put off.”
I have been “sitting on it” for over a year now because I was dissuaded by those who thought this was not the sort of thing that should be addressed publicly. I have not been able to forget it - and it seemed somehow to demand attention.
Maybe the only way we can begin to heal is first to expose the open wounds to the air and light. I remember 15 years ago in California a woman wrote a similar letter and it was published in the “Minaret” which was then a small newsletter. Soon after it was published the woman had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized. A few people said that maybe there was a problem that needed to be addressed, but most said: “Well, you see it wasn’t true at all, there was no problem with us, it was her problem. She must have always been unstable.”
I don’t know what happened to the lady in California so many years ago. I don’t know what happened to this person now. I don’t know what happened to too many people over the years. But, I do remember. I do care. I do know that they came looking for Islam. And I know that there are others who also know and remember and care. We just don’t know what to do. We can remember you in our prayers and we can “hang in there” and keep trying to break down the cultural barriers that allow us not to see or hear. And, we can pray that on the Day of Judgement we are not among those to whom you point in accusation.
Whoever you are - wherever you are - don’t give up. Find the truth and you will know who are the truthful. It is not the Muslims who are pure, true and just. It is the pure, true and just who are the Muslims! Wherever you find them you will find your brothers and sisters.
Know that you will be missed, even by those who didn’t see or hear. They may not know what they are missing, but they will know that something is missing. You are not the one in need, we are in need of you. Know that there are others searching for you. And, when you find each other, even if there are only a handful of you we will all know, because together you will be a light in the darkness. Insh’ Allah the rest of us will find you.
FROM DARKNESS TO DARKNESS
I came from jahiliya.
I found the Qur’an or the Qur’an found me; And it spoke directly to my heart.
Islam attracted me. I could not resist the power of the call.
I came to the mosque because I thought it contained Islam.
I came to find peace - my intention was pure.
What I found here was not Islam, of that I am sure.
I found Muslims but no Ummah. I found the form without the Spirit.
I found “the word” without the meaning.
I found judgement without mercy.
I found knowledge without wisdom.
I found rules without principles.
I found the same jahiliya from which I had fled.
Where is Islam? Where are the Muslims?
Where is the Ummah? Where are my brothers and sisters?
I do not know, but I know they are not here.
I was here. I was searching. I was in need.
But no one saw me. No one heard me.
I came a stranger and I will leave a stranger.
You will not know that I am gone, because you did not know that I was here.
You will not remember. You will not care.
But I will know. I will remember. I will look somewhere else for Islam.
What will you do?
Originally published in the Fall 1992 issue of The American Muslim.