Using Poems to Forge a Connection

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Channel: Poetry Views: 5142

The use of poems for producing cultural proximity is not an innovation. It is a quick, uncomplicated vehicle to express passion locked away in emotion, hopes, dreams, despair, anger, fortitude, etc. Over and again, people have used it to rally for cause. Sometimes it is rhetorical, sometimes allegorical, but to be successful in the way I am suggesting here, it has to be idyllic while being factual and truthful. Verbose or sparing, good poems try to cut to the chase. When a poem connects it lives. It becomes soulful. The poem becomes the cause as much as the cause itself, much as if the messenger and the message have melded into one.

Besides faith, most Muslims in the US are different from the general populace in many ways. Fresh to the scene as well as race, ethnicity, color, language and culture, to say the least - all set them apart. Mostly driven by economics and sometimes driven by persecution, the cause of a Muslim's arrival is no different from that of those preceding them. Yet, for the earlier arrival, through two centuries of shared trials and tribulations as well as successes and joys, a new face has been hewn, a new center identified. It will take a lot for the Muslims to become a part of that while still exercising the nuances of their particularity. And now that some isolated Muslims have appeared as a menace, that some US faithful openly deride Islam, its sacred text and persons, that certain international policies have been unnecessarily skewed or myopic and that the US foreign policy, overtly or covertly, intentionally or unintentionally identifies the Muslim Old Country as the other, it will take a mighty heave of effort by the newcomer Muslim to bridge the divide facing him.

But the effort to do so is for the best! How else can the divide be rectified? The visa, the Green Card and the passport were tools of inclusiveness extended by the hosts. However, the hosts have limitations. It is now up to the newcomer inductee to complete his inclusion into the grand event. The sooner he does it the better. Minimally, then, he can get it done more on his terms without jettisoning everything that ever identified his kind. If he waits, then owing to stress, for survival and other factors, fellow immigrants like him will simply meld into the larger mass and melt away unrecognized and unrecognizable. Then nothing profound of the heritage will survive. It will be entirely a 'ya nafsi' transition. In the Muslim nation states, this is already well underway. By having waited as long as they have on reviewing and recasting political and economic fronts, a wholesale collapse of the society is afoot. Everybody for oneself has become the motto. It is a veritable Hashr on earth! So, for us in the west, waiting to be a real, potent part of the whole cannot wait. Any waiting will be self-defeating. It will save nothing.

How may one do it? There are uncountable many ways, not just numerous! For me here, I want to show how poems may become a part of that process. The people of Medina, some scholars say, were ready for the Last Message because they were repeatedly told by the Jewish people living among them about the imminent coming of a Messiah. So, when Muhammad (pbuh) was called to his mission and the Medinites became fully cognizant of it, they did not hesitate to join his cause, invite him to take refuge with them from his oppressive tribesmen and govern their city for them. As for Musa and Isa (pbut), their age was replete with magic. People related to that form of exposition. So, what do we find in the way they were guided to fulfill their callings? We find that there were a lot of miracles performed by them. Today, among many elements that mesmerize people of the west, that draw their attention and galvanize them, poems set to music are but one of them.

So, what types of poems could do the trick? Something that is easily recognizable, catchy or fetching should work well. Thus, poems with hues of legitimate nationalism, everyday life, of pain and loss, of hope and aspiration, of events and reckonings, of particular forms, etc. would likely fit the bill. However, since this is a drive toward inclusiveness at our own religiously limited terms, use of words, images and events and promotion of causes that compromise that value must be inevitably eschewed. Below I give samples of some poems. They could all be set to music, some soaring, some country, and some left to the imagination of the scorer. In-house religious poems and songs cannot fit this bill. While undoubtedly legitimate, absolutely necessary and profoundly desirable, their cause and constituency are different. Our job is to share, give insight and generate mutual empathy. In the process the culture will become more inclusive, fresh and relevant, all in all, dynamic! That will be our contribution and our ticket to gain inclusion.

Anthem Against Anathema

Born free, born brave
born to pray and...share!

The Truth sets free
the Truth gives power
beholden to One
serving others.

Born free, born brave
born to pray and...share!

Not or, but and
American and Muslim
fortunes both
joined forever together.

Born free, born brave
born to pray and...share!

Born to stay
free and fair
born for here
and Hereafter.

Born free, born brave
born to pray and...share!


For a Lovely Daughter on her Big Day

How many azans & shooting stars does it take
to announce a daughter born, the girl is home
how many?

How many daisies on her dress should announce her presence
dolls of every kind from so many countries
how many? 

How many bows to tie her dress
in the front or in the back
how many?

How many are enough for the little darling
pink ribbons, red lipstick, hair clips & patent leather shoes
how many?

How many hugs & how many kisses raining down
brushing her black (blonde) tresses for the ringlets to hang just so
how many?

How many ways to dry her tears & cast away her fears
finding ways to bring smiles to her face
how many?

Black saris, pink pearls and silver high heels
what else but gladiola, irises and highlighted hair
how many?

How many boys to frown upon
proposals many to set aside before the one just right
how many?

How many suras and du'as
for the darling little cutie pie grown all big and bright
How many?


Believin' I'm not kiddin'
is not a child's play
it needs a lot of gumption
it takes your breath away!

Seein' is believin'
ain't that the truth
seein' that you got everythin'
what's gotten into you?

While it happens in the heart
it takes a lot of toil
you got to use your noggin
seein' The Truth in little things!

Start by being fair
an open mind keep
with The Lord grantin' visitation
you'll not be wantin'!

Watch out for consistency
check on sense and simplicity
and if all around handy
it's the Way you've stumbled onto!

Now, if your buddy asks you to defer
and somebody differs strenuously
heck, even if you're second guessin'
still, my last dollar, I would bet on it!

Hold on to the rope now
stick with the rest
smile if that's all you got
be merciful and The Merciful will take care of the rest! 

Believin' I'm not kiddin'
is not an easy thing
while it's the right stuff for you & me
but it keeps slippin'!

Ballad of Rachel The Palestinian

O' Rachel
Rachel Corrie O'
gutsy young lady fully dreamy
O' Rachel
Rachel Corrie O'!

Where, where did you go
what did you do
fallen Hero
O' Rachel
Rachel Corrie O'!

You came as if a flurry
left in so much hurry
sorry, so sorry
to see you go
O' Rachel
Rachel Corrie O'!

The fire burnt
the sea wept
where are your lost thoughts kept
content or full of fright
know this: whatever goes around
most certainly comes around!

Your time was short
its fruit so sweet
fallen Hero
O' Rachel
Rachel Corrie O'!

O' Rachel
Rachel Corrie O'
gutsy young lady fully dreamy
O' Rachel
Rachel Corrie O'!


Hold me
hold me in your heart
for in your eyes
you will behold me no longer
I will be long gone
beyond touch, grief or greeting
like the peonies of spring post a shower or two
past summers
past tides and waves
past birthdays
past anniversaries
like cranes that fly in during winter
and are long gone as the bleak sky lifts
even tears become flaky lines of salt
if not wiped away
what trace is left of the pain but just the memory
whimpers are sobs gone flat
choking subsides
arms grow limp
clenched fists relax
the pillows dry
handkerchiefs fly away in the wind
the roses bleed
not with their rosiness
but as their petals drop, one by one
until they're just a bunch of stumps
the Sun sets
the Moon wanes
laughter dies
honeymoons end
so, it is nothing strange
that I should leave
I would have loved to tarry a little longer
but I have been hurried along
I will miss the next Suhur
the next Eid
O' how I wish to have made the Hajj
but it will have to wait
you go along without me
remember me when you don the Ihram
reach for Zamzam's delicious drops
while moving in circles
and roaming between Safa and Marwa
remember me at the Maqam of Ibrahim
and at the Rawza of the Habib
ask him to watch out for me
I am Palestine
I died so that Jerusalem should live!

Shafi A. Khaled is a freelance writer based in Minnesota, USA. He teaches and does research in Business & Economics.

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society  Channel: Poetry
Views: 5142

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