Sunday, October 31, 2010

Love or Fear

Just stop it.
I hear you whispering, “Blasphemer”
whenever I walk by.
And you’re wrong.

My love for Allah is real, as real as His is for me.
Ours is a passionate, intense relationship.
Like any real relationship it is messy,
it has its ups and downs,
it has days of struggle and nights of murmers and caresses.

Do I get angry at Him? Of course.
Do I tell Him so? What kind of relationship would we have if I didn’t?

If you cannot share your most intimate secrets with Allah
if you are afraid to be honest with Him about how you feel,
then I feel sad for you, because you do not know Him.
Not really.

Listen to Najat: There is not room in the human heart
for both love and fear.
Pick one.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I understand if you do not want to abandon yourself to Allah.

He is, after all, almighty, and you are weak.
He is, after all, omniscient, and you know so little.
He is, after all, omnipresent, and you can only be…wherever you are.

Surrender to such a being is a frightening prospect
—but I strongly recommend that you do it.

Because if you are suffering under the illusion
that you are strong, wise, or master of more land than you are standing on
you need to be taken down a notch or two.

Najat knows just how to do it:

Put your ass in the air
five times a day
in front of your women and children and servants.

The Prophet—peace be upon him—knew what he was doing.
The heart must be humbled before it can know true strength, wisdom, or power.
Only if you surrender your pride
will Allah give you what you really desire in its place.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who Told You?

Who told you that this world is a sad and dangerous place?
Who told you that people were untrustworthy and corrupt?
Who told you that you were worthless and stupid?

I think you were set up.
Tell someone a story about a jinn and guess what?
They see jinn everywhere.

Listen to Najat as he tells you another story:

This world is an oasis, teeming with life and joy.
Everywhere you go you will find people who are caring and responsible.
And you are a treasure beyond price…and smart enough to see it.

Whoever told you those things,
you should find them,
you should wrap your arms around them,
hold them close,
and tell them
that Allah has a special place in Hell
for liars.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who Needs the Mosque?

Today I met a man who admitted
—with darting eyes and a hushed tone—
that he never goes to the mosque.

He never hears the recitation of the Holy Qu’ran,
never listens to the Imam’s sermons,
never gives alms.

He says he can worship Allah just fine spending the day praying in the desert.
I asked him when the last time he spent a day praying in the desert was.
He looked like he wanted to punch me.

Look, I get it. The mosque is filled with hypocrites,
—I am one of them, so I should know.
And the Imam isn’t the best preacher I’ve ever heard.

But it’s hard to build the Ummah—the Just Society
if you’re always ducking actual people.
It’s the pains in the ass, after all, that grow your soul.

Listen to Najat: Sure, it’s possible to grow spiritually all by yourself,
but it’ll take you a lot longer to do it.
A three-legged dog can certainly cover some ground,
but it still only has three legs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Not Speaking

Allah and I are not speaking today. I am angry
—don’t ask why, I don’t want to go into it with you—
but Allah is bemused and just waiting it out.

An apology would be nice,
but I’m not going to hold my breath.
Allah says He will love me even if I have turned blue.

I don’t want Him trying to make it up to me, either.
With his cooings and ear-nibblings—
sure I love that stuff, but not when I’m so mad I could spit.

I just want him to imagine how I must feel for just a second.
To understand how cruel and vicious life can be
when you’re not the one holding all the power,
and something like….like this happens.

He seems oblivious, though,
and just wants me to sit down, have some tea
and “relax, relax, relax.”

Listen to Najat, buster:

If you want to kiss, here’s my round brown behind.
I’ll “relax” when the energy you put into sympathy
rivals the effort you put into seduction.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stray Dog

A stray dog is driving me crazy
following me everywhere I go.

Her too-cute mangy face pops up every time I go out onto the street,
and she waits for me every time I enter a doorway,
head on her paws, whimpering.

What am I going to do with her?

Halfway through my day I think,
“I am like this dog, tagging along after Allah,
whining for Him whenever He disappears.”

I feel proud.

Big mistake. My soul speaks to me, saying,
“Najat, you fool, you flatter yourself too much.
You are nowhere near as faithful as that dog.”

Then I think, Of course! The dog is Allah,
Chasing after me everywhere I go, shadowing my every step
whining for my attention.

I feel special.

Big mistake. My soul speaks to me again, saying,
“Najat, you fool, you flatter yourself too much.
Allah has better things to do than follow you around all day.”

I scowl at the dog.
She wags her tail and gives a little jump.
I touch her fur, she licks at my hand.

I am just Najat. This dog is just a dog.
Can I not love her without turning her into something else?
Apparently not. Never mind the dog,
the religious imagination is the tenacious bitch.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people in the world.
There are those who have learned how to love
and those who are still learning.

Those who have mastered the art of love we call “prophets”
—peace be upon them—and they are our teachers
Ibrahim, Isma’il, Dawud, Sulayman, Musa, Isa, Muhammad…and many others.

All the rest of us are learning.

Listen to Najat: There really is an “us” and “them”
but it has nothing to do with borders or race or religion.

It has only to do with
whether you know
when you are being kissed.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Am Not a Believer

Stop with your accusations!
I am not a religious man, and never have been.
I am not attached to anyone’s sacred writings, or teachers, or mosques.

They are like candied dates:
pleasurable, but not enough to sustain one’s life.
They are like the shimmering silks worn by a beautiful and seductive woman:
nice, but the real pleasure comes when she takes them off.

So stop calling me “holy man” “teacher” “religious” “believer”
I have as little use for these names as I have for a belt made of scorpions.
Married couples do not call each other “husband” or “wife” when they are alone.
They just say, “Honey” or “Sweetheart” or “My love” or, more likely
just “kiss me”

There is a difference between the mind and the heart.
Religions want your mind to be a certain way, to believe certain things,
so they can tell if you are “one of us” or “one of them.”
They love to name things, define them,
so they can tell who are the “true believers.”

But Najat says, Listen: I am not a believer.
I want to take off the silks and get down to business.
I am not religious.
I am a punch-drunk fool
in love.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Allah is Feeling

I have just come from the Mosque, and I am shaking my head
I do not understand where the Imam gets his information.

If you listened only to him, and not to your heart
you would think that Allah spends most of his time angry
—at sinners, at heretics, at infidels, and especially at Sufis.

But I talk to Allah frequently,
and anger is not what I hear from Him.

I hear his deep sighing for those who do not return his amorous advances.
I hear him desperate to be loved, talking constantly,
like a girl with a crush when everyone but her knows it is hopeless.

I hear Him worrying about people until I am sick of hearing it
and threaten to throw Him out with the old tea
if he does not stop his mooning.

There’s no reasoning with him.
I talk, He sighs. I pour more tea. He paces.
I try to change the subject, He walks out into the night
without even grabbing His hat.

Najat says: I don’t know. Maybe He is angry. I would be.
But the emotion I hear most from Allah
is longing, and a deep and aching sadness.

Friday, October 22, 2010

“Allah, the Merciful”

The Holy Book says Allah is merciful.
The word of the Prophet—peace be upon him—is always true
so I affirm this as an article of our faith.

Still, I wonder about this “mercy” thing.
I know my Beloved pretty well, and just between you and me,
I have never seen an occasion that requires it of Him.

I have never seen Allah angry (although I have been angry with Him many times).
I have never seen Allah jealous, nor vengeful, nor cruel, nor punishing.
I have never seen Allah force anyone to cower before Him, pleading for her life.

So why all this talk of mercy?

Listen to Najat: Lovers forgive.
Mercy is only required
of gods unworthy of your worship.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Perfection of Allah

Today I met a man who went on and on about the perfection of Allah.
How he is the Highest, the Immutable, the Unattainable.
He waxed poetic in his descriptions,
rapturously describing something beyond conception, something untouchable.

I don’t know who this man is in love with,
but it certainly doesn’t sound like Allah to me.

The Allah I know is not elevated beyond this earth,
but bunched up in the clods I kick on the way to work.
The Allah I love is not perfect,
but a stubborn, difficult, argumentative pain the ass.
The Allah that kisses my lips as I kneel in prayer,
is not unattainable, but threatens to crush me with His embrace.

Immutable? I don’t even know what that means.
I’m going to guess it means unemotional,
but my Love is so passionate that I have to push Him away
for fear He will smother me with his kisses every time I turn toward Mecca.

Najat says: Don’t speak to me about the “perfection of Allah.”
Worshipping deities that you dream up yourself is called “idolatry.”
If you want to know Allah, be prepared for the mess He leaves in His wake. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Many times I have asked my Love for guidance.
I plead until my voice is hoarse, but He does not answer.
I cry until my head hurts, but still He does not answer.
I prostrate myself towards Mecca and grind my question
into the dust before my face. There is no answer.
I tear at my tunic until I am wearing nothing but threads.
No answer.

This is typical.
If there is one thing Najat has noticed it is this:
When you want information, Allah is not chatty.

Last night my entreaties went on until morning,
and I fell into an exhausted heap.
As I watched, a raven hopped right up to me,
an olive stuck in his beak,
and cocked his head so that he fixed me with one black eye.
Then he cawed, and flew away.

Najat wants to know: That’s an answer?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Five Times a Day

I am laying in the shade near the village well
While old Muhamet’s widow scolds, shaking her fist
and calling me “lazy.”

She has been a widow for many years now,
so perhaps she has forgotten
that when you make love for hours on end
you need to rest a bit before you can do it again.

Her shrieking is interrupted by the distant cry of the muezzin,
And with a yawn and a stretch I get to my feet.
My love is calling me for another roll in the hay.

Five times a day is too much for some people.
But Najat knows that when Allah picks you for his lover,
He gives you amazing powers of endurance.

Monday, October 18, 2010

We Are All Broken

Have you fallen, and broken?
Do you fear that no one can love you in such a sorry state?

We are all broken
Some try to hide it
Some try to pretend it never happened
Some are ashamed and lash out at anyone who gets too close to the wound.

Najat says, come to the café,
order some coffee, and sit among friends.
You will find that not a single person who drinks with us
lacks a scar.
We will compare them
and laugh about how we got that way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Rules of Propriety

I know my lovesick madness confuses you.
You do not understand why a grown man
would run into a garden longing to roll in flowers,
why tears stream from his face as he gazes at the stars,
why he would spin around until he topples over,
why he would sing nonsense rhymes to the cows,
why he would go into fits of ecstasy at the sound of the muezzin.

I know that this is not acceptable behavior in society,
this is not how responsible adults behave.
But it should be.

Listen to Najat: The rules of propriety are a dangerous trap.
No one will tell you this, but I will: they are poisonous to the soul.
And I’ll tell you something else, that you will only hear from me:
Allah does not want you on your best behavior.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

When a Person Falls in Love

When a person falls in love,
she expresses it in one of two ways.
Either she shouts it from the rooftops,
so that all the world will share in her joy,
or she holds it like a secret in her heart
admiring it like stolen jewelry when no one else is around.

Najat does not shout his love from the rooftops,
For that is the way one ends up in prison.
Instead, he pretends his love is a secret,
But he whispers about it to everyone.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Promise of Rain

In the alley I can hear Ahmet screaming at his servants.
The merchant is unhappy because a deal has fallen through
and he must find someone to punish.
Usually, he punishes someone who would sell an arm
to know a fraction of Ahmet’s good fortune in this world.

Above me, the sky grows dark and thunder rolls in the distance.
The dogs in the alley sniff at the wind.
Listen to Najat: These dogs know how it is.
Allah never threatens rain.
He promises it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pleasing Two Loves

It is not easy to find a woman who understands my love for Allah.
Some are jealous
Some want to come first
Some simply don’t understand the attraction.
Pleasing two loves is no sport for the faint of heart.
Ask Malik how peaceful his household is with his two wives,
or the Sultan with forty-five!

Najat says, if you find a woman willing to engage in a threesome,
marry her quickly.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Corpse

The city is buzzing this morning.
A corpse was found just outside the gate.
I join the crowd of onlookers as the watchmen examine him.
My heart sinks into my bowels—I know him.

Perhaps he died trying to get in
before the chill east wind took him.
More likely his heart burst from love unrequited.

I don’t go closer.
I fear, for I am complicit in this crime.
I do not need to see the face to know who it is.
It is Allah.
But I’ll end up as cold and stiff as he is
if I say so

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Drunkenness and Wine

When merchants visit Christian lands
They often find it difficult to refuse the wine.
They tell me it is heavenly, soft as a sunset
A warm blanket pulled over the mind
and gladsome to the heart.
I never touch the stuff.
I've been to Christian lands and "no" is the easiest word to utter.

Listen to Najat: Wine isn't hard to refuse
But drunkenness should call upon you 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What They Say About You

You must know what they say about you
You have lost your mind
You are immoral 
You are a heretic and worthy of death
I don't know if these things are true.
But they say these things about me as well, you see
And about everyone who has ever truly found Love.

Najat says, Be easy
It's jealousy that causes them to gossip
Those envious wags
aren't half as mad or wonton or heathen as we are
Not in their wildest dreams

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hard to Get

The morning sky shrieks light and cries, “I am in love with you!”
The rooster answers but I hunker down in my blankets
and try to ignore it.

At midday the sun blazes away screaming, “Come away with me!”
But I seek out the shade
And stuff bread in my ears.

At night the stars sing faintly and sweetly, “Make love to me!”
But I am throwing dice and drinking coffee with my friends
And although I hear them, I pretend that I do not.

In my dreams the Beloved punches me in the face and says,
“Why are you playing hard to get?”
In my dream, Najat says nothing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Robber

My love covers me like a coat
He keeps me warm in winter
And shades my skin from the sun

Last year as I was going home late at night
a man put a knife in my ribs
and told me to give him my coat.

I am not an idiot.
I gave it to him straight away.
To tell you the truth, I haven’t missed it.

If anyone should ever demand it,
I would hand over my Love just as fast.
You wouldn’t even have to threaten me.

Although my Beloved is mine
He does not belong to me.
I wish I could give Him away to everyone.

Najat says, If a robber would put my Beloved on like a coat
The only thing he would ever need to steal again
are kisses.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Save Your Feet

A merchant travelled all the way to China and back
And said that he never once saw any sign of Allah.

Yet my neighbor Amahl, who has never once visited our neighboring village,
Can talk your ear off describing God in the most intimate detail.

When I asked him about this, Amahl laughed and said,
“I do not know if Allah is in China. And really, I do not care.

All I know is that there are two of us sharing this house.”
Before Amahl’s wife died last year, there were three.

Najat says, save your feet, for the beloved is not a foreigner.
And do not strain your eyes looking for Allah.

Eyes are not the only organs that see.