Patheos/AltMuslim On Ramadan, Forgiveness, & the Shape of the Woman Beneath: Ayesha wrote a piece on this site about being disowned by her mother after the publication of her first book, here. In this follow up piece, she explores her six-year path to inner peace.
Washington Post/The Lily This Ramadan, I’m focusing on fostering tender masculinity in my son In the #MeToo era, we need to talk about how we’re raising the men of tomorrow
M Magazine Constellations of Love Surround You Your love life isn’t limited to your romantic partner
The Establishment Jane Austen And The Persistent Failure Of The White Imagination
Good Girls Marry Doctors anthology essay Without Shame
I Will Be Satisfied I will never be satisfied Until you flood me like the Nile floods the plain Until your arms become Babylonian lions and devour me raw Until you scale me like the Temple of the Feathered Serpent And I will never be satisfied Until you cast yourself into the fire And its flames are cool and safe for you because of me Until you break the chains of impossibility And slay the beast of doubt like oxen sacrifice At the altar of the Holiest of Holies Until I see my face in all your writings Until my name enters all your words And you adorn and crown yourself with me Love me—love me—love me—love me— And I will be satisfied ~ From Mohja Kahf’s unpublished love poetry manuscript written in 1999. Printed here by permission of Mohja Kahf; please do not republish on another site without the express permission of Mohja Kahf.
Mohja Kahf is a Syrian-American poet and novelist. Her first collection of poetry, E-mails from Scheherazad, evokes the mixture of pride and shame involved in being an “other,” with characters balancing on the line between assimilating and maintaining the habits of a good Muslim. In addition to contemporary Muslim women, Mohja’s poetry also explores figures from Islamic history including Hagar, the wife of the prophet Abraham, Khadija and Aisha, wives of the Prophet Muhammad, and Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. According to The New York Times, her writing on contemporary subjects “draws sharp, funny, earthy portraits of the fault line separating Muslim women from their Western counterparts.” Of the intersection of Islam and art, Mohja says: “One of the primary messages of the Qur’an is that people should recognize the beautiful and do what is beautiful. This is not simply a moral beauty but a visual and auditory beauty as well. Conduct should be beautiful, writing should be beautiful and speaking should be beautiful.”
I left my twelve-year marriage two years ago this week. The decision was a long time coming, yet the final countdown involved a weekend at an abandoned haunted asylum hunting ghosts in the dark with a religious philosophy professor and his wife. We found our way to a room where four people allegedly committed suicide, and the rest of the evening passed in lofty dialogue about metaphysical issues regarding life after death, Heidegger’s philosophy, long-term commitment (the professor and his wife were in their thirtieth year of marriage) and how exploring mysterious things like ghosts could be a transformative, contemplative endeavor.
Something about that dark evening unveiled more than academic discourse on the paranormal. Of course, I longed for more events like this; opportunities for esoteric contemplation in strange spaces with educated folk. This creative little moment in the suicide room was not about death. The evening showcased how beautiful inconsistencies can morph into living possibilities. I wanted to be a girl brave enough to emerge from this metaphorical darkness, from this site of death, to a space empowered by art, story, and philosophy. It was baffling that little odd conversations in creepy buildings carried such hopeful weight. I had heavy things on my mind — a decaying marriage, for example — and such magnitudes were pondered best in complete darkness with tragedy and philosophy as a soundtrack.
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Our parents named us after Islamic figures in hopes that we would grow up to be just like them. They wished that somehow having an identical name would breed an identical character. But parenting does not work that way. You can’t just name a person Fatima or Maryum or Omar or Ali and expect them all to run their course in a devout and compliant direction.
It’s not that simple. “Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.” Khaled Hosseini wrote that in The Kite Runner. Picking a name for some parents tends to be their favorite “go to” crayon. But children aren’t two dimensional cartoon characters.
So when they grow up throughout the years and make decisions in beautiful dichotomy of their respective parents’ compulsive expectations it should never come as a surprise. Because here is the other thing, children cannot be computer programmed either. You don’t get to input a name and output a saint. Children aren’t robots. And while robots and other objects can be possessed, a child will never be his or her parents’ property.
This talented young American Muslim writer has written comic books, a graphic novel (Cairo), a wonderful memoir (The Butterfly Mosque), and, now, an irresistible novel which has a foot in Eastern and Western ideas of fantasy, philosophy, religion, technology, and spirituality – and is equally comfortable in both.
Pick up Alif the Unseen and dive into its lively world today!