Should one think of the Muslim month of Ramadan in English verse?

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Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting started on Monday (June 6) and it struck me that most non-Muslims probably rarely think of it in terms of poetry. English-language poetry. A poem that lays bare the mystical personal struggle for self-dominance and self-control for each person who fasts.

Instead, most people think of Ramadan in terms of the admittedly dismal news cycle. The Chinese ban on fasting for its Muslim civil servants (what if someone had a seriously bad tummy and didn’t feel like eating?)

Or the divisive viciousness displayed by the barbaric extremist group ISIS, which used Islam’s holiest month to call for bloodshed and violence, especially in the US and Europe. Its spokesman Abu Muhammad Al Adnani suggested that ISIS supporters make Ramadan “a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers”.

But, Ramadan lends itself well to English verse. It is about mind over body, after all. Have a read of this offering from UK-born US-based Kazim Ali, whose parents are of Indian descent. It is simply titled ‘Ramadan’ and it feels like the poetic equivalent of a CCTV camera trained on someone who is resolutely, doggedly, fasting the whole “starving month”, as Mr Ali writes. (The full poem is below this blog).

Consider the following line:

The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?

And this:

the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,

the angel stops whispering for a moment —

The secret night could already be over,

you will have to listen very carefully —

That seems to me to be a reference to the Night of Decree, Laylah Al Qadr, when the Quran was revealed. Laylah Al Qadr is certainly one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan and often, it’s thought to fall on the 27thday of the month. But the most pious refuse to chance it and follow the prescription that they should be especially prayerful in the last third of the month of Ramadan.

See what I mean? Ramadan lends itself to poetry.

Ramadan

by KAZIM ALI

You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,

and have to choose between the starving month’s

nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.

The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?

If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets

into the air and harvest the fog.

Hunger opens you to illiteracy,

thirst makes clear the starving pattern,

the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,

the angel stops whispering for a moment —

The secret night could already be over,

you will have to listen very carefully —

You are never going to know which night’s mouth is sacredly reciting

and which night’s recitation is secretly mere wind —

Originally published at www.rashmee.com on June 8, 2016.

Written by

Journalism by trade & inclination. PhD. Sign up for free email updates on https://www.rashmee.com email me at rashmee@rashmee.com http://muckrack.com/rashmeerl

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