Similar to the way in which Elie loses his faith in “Night” , there was a period in my life where I had distanced myself from religion. The following poem was written while reflecting back on such a time. It was inspired by a collection of prominent memories from the mosque (namely, remembering the anxiety I used to feel during prayer time, and night I sat outside on the stairs rather than praying). I’m grateful for these experiences as they led me to question and, ultimately, develop my own interpretation of what religion should look like- what Islam is to me. In my Islam, all that matters is you bring out the best in others, by being the best version of yourself. Treat others well, and teach them all that you can. Show your love for God by loving his creatures. This is, basically, what religion is to me. I believe this with everything that I am.
The click of prayer beads
A bead of sweat
Down his face, he’s stressed. He sees
His father three rows ahead, one man to the right
Looking the other way, he still emanates spite
Despite this he doesn’t pray
He’s never learned, in all his days
His mother, his father, their other son and both daughters
All embrace the religion
But he has not and
He’s okay with it
Almost like a measured apathy
He knows just what he has to be
But chooses not to care
Defy his parents he does not dare
Instead he finds his defiance while sitting on the stairs
Almost like a metaphor for his fate
Not quite in hell, nor at heaven’s gate
He’s okay with it
Growing up had been strange, with each of my parents being from a different sect of Islam. Of course, the religion was the same, but there were slight discrepancies in beliefs and practices. For example, as referenced in the poem above- I hadn’t ever actually wholly learned how to pray. A combination of being taught at a young age, and a fear of asking questions culminated in prayer that wasn’t entirely correct.
Admonition for “not praying properly” was one of the driving factors of my dissociation. I believe that prayer is prayer- regardless of where you put your hands when you do it.
Not only the prayer, though, but the interpretations of Islam seemed to be a touchy subject in certain circles. Sunnis and Shiites parted ways in their ideologies when it came down to who the successor of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) should be. Now normally, different interpretations of history should they
be celebrated, as they allow for insightful discussion, and pave the way for further understanding. However, in my experience, the “discussions” did less actual discussion due to all the ad hominem fallacies tossed around. These were the first instances I’d ever seen of religion being used as status, and it appalled me.
There was something incredibly disingenuous about their Islam. It was only there when it was convenient for them (ie: in front of others). Everybody wants heaven but they do the bare minimum to get there. If I make it, I want to deserve it because of everything that I am, not just because of who I am at the mosque.
People have no trouble saying the devil is in the details, so why not show them God is there too?
2 thoughts on “Everything That I Am”
I am honestly blown away by the elegant authenticity in your piece. There was a masterful style with which you respectfully, yet truthfully, addressed what religion means to you, and in doing so, certainly made me take a moment to ponder my own stance on the topic. Your poem intertwined expertly with the points you were making, and your word choice was exact in portraying the beauty with which you regard Islam.
There isn’t really much I can say in terms of improvement, as this piece is truly amazing and overall immaculate. I did, however, notice a minor error in the preface that could have surely been avoided with a second read. You wrote: “It was inspired by a collection of prominent memories from the mosque (namely, remembering the anxiety I used to feel during prayer time, and night I sat outside on the stairs rather than praying).” I would add a “the” before the word night.
Thank you for writing such a stunning blog post; it definitely invited introspection, which I believe to be the telltale sign of exceptional writing.
Everything in your poem from the rhymes and the imagery to the flow and your own personal story left me absolutely amazed. Having extremely limited experience with religion myself, this piece provided me with newfound insight and understanding on the perspective of those who grow up surrounded by religion . I thoroughly enjoyed reading over your blog as you were able to communicate your beliefs so succinctly in only a two stanza poem.
After reading over this piece, I find myself hardly qualified to make any sort of criticism on your post. However I do think there was a missed opportunity in the last line of the second stanza to end with “He’s okay” and rhyme with the previous line. While this may have been intentional in order to parallel the conclusion of the two stanzas, it seems worth pointing out.
Thank you for taking the time to share with us a little piece of yourself. I sincerely look forward to future writings and how much further you will develop as a writer.