Tuesday, January 4, 2011


This evening I sat at the bedside of old Ali,
his voice as dry as sand,
his eyes searching yet unseeing.

I listened as he recounted his genealogy
from ancient times to the present
from Abraham—peace be upon him—
to his own father in one unbroken line.

I listened in awe as the generations he summoned
transported us swiftly through the years
and ending with his own great-grandson Ishmael.

You might have thought it was boring, but it wasn’t.
Some people will admit that they find the mosque services boring,
so people are just people and you can’t judge them too harshly.

But truly, I found Ali’s genealogy and the services at the mosque
fascinating for precisely the same reason:
both were acts of worship.

An old dervish I know once told me that
worship is any act that connects us to the larger Reality
of which we are so small a part. He was wise.

I love the prayers, because when I kiss the ground,
it connects me to all the men and women
who have prayed these words before.

I love my religion, because it connects me
to all those who have followed it in the past,
and all those who will follow it in the future.

I love the hajj, because when I walk it
I am connected to all those who have walked it’s dusty roads before me,
and all those who will walk it.

I love those moments when a dribble of sadness
erupts from my throat unbidden
or a shout of joy bubbles up unforeseen
for these connect me with my Beloved.

And here is Ali, speaking the connection between himself
the prophet Abraham—peace be upon him—
like the words of the Friday liturgy
spoken with as much reverence and authority
as any imam has ever spoken.

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