Connecting to God & Ummah through Poetry this Ramadan

Tanzila Ahmed

Tanzila Ahmed

This Ramadan has been hard. The long summer solstice days and deep heat. The nation charged with racial tensions. The obligatory iftars, the late night taraweeh, the early suhoor. The problematic tafsirs with implicit “-isms” that are so triggering. The thirst, the faltering, the not knowing if your piety is enough, and the wondering why piety doesn’t entail feeling more.

It is in this time of chaos and reflection that I choose to write. It’s the only way I know how to calm my mind, to focus my feelings. I know that if I can commit myself to writing one poem every day, that in those words I find healing energy, time to reflect, and a connection with Allah. It is for this reason that every Ramadan I challenge myself to writing a poem daily.

This year marks the second year I’ve hosted an online Poetry a Day for Ramadan virtual writing group. With close to fifty members, the only rule for poets is they must commit to writing daily. They can share if they want to. Just write. Make art.

It has been beautiful. There’s something cathartic about knowing that you are struggling through Ramadan and poetry with an ummah. It’s a space where I feel like I can be vulnerable and where I promise to hold space for others to be vulnerable. The poetry flows, and people share.

Below I’ve shared a few poems from our Poetry-A-Day for Ramadan project. To read more, please visit our online public zine where poems are being published daily.

May Allah make Ramadan easy for you. And may it be filled with poetry.

– Tanzila

Sighting

– Taz Ahmed

Dancing under the shadow of the dark side of the moon,
Squinted eyes
Through dupatta gauze and
Between clouds on mountaintops,
We turn to the sky for answers.
For time.
For forgiveness.
Trying to catch a glimpse of the flash
Of heaven’s gates opening
Telling us,
Again, it has arrived.
It is time.

Open dua-ed hands raise skyward
Let the tears rain down.

Have a Spine

– Hena Ashraf

when in sujood
do not be intimidated by those walking nearby
stay aware of Who you’re praying to

when he comes to your table
don’t feel in awe of his power and influence
remember the One who has power over all things

when you shake his hand
don’t censor yourself
stand up like He commanded

and just because this time
there wasn’t an outright instigator, insulting us
doesn’t delete all of the wrongs he has done
is doing
to us

you already chose to be there
have a spine
no excuses

this month is not about fancy
dress parties where you forget
what it’s for
i see you posting about the food
i see you falling over yourself
i see you forgetting

all of the wrongs he has done
is doing
to us

you already chose to be there
have a spine
no excuses

‪#‎whitehouseiftar‬

Day 2

– Naazneen Diwan

I’m listening to the tea kettle,
a necessary Ramazaan tool to
help dissolve and digest
quickly, to make room for more.

Keep filling, keep filling
and then, in the middle
of the day, around 3pm,
when the sun gives up
on mercy
and you’re alone in your sacrifice,
you won’t crave
or curse the beloved.

The question is:
will I ever be so full that I won’t starve,
that I won’t long to be closer to You, inside of You
like the rays of sun that choose to stay
nestled in Your brilliance?
Will I ever
be so full
that I won’t desire,
with every parched, homesick fiber of being,
to burn, burn, burn?

Father’s Day

– Leanne Scorzoni

On the fourth day of Ramadan
which you know nothing about,
I rode the bus
back from a graduate program
you have no idea I’m in.
Every time the bus rests
in front of the building
where you’ve worked
since I was born, forcing you
to admit you knew me,
I hold my breath.
Afraid I will see you.
Afraid that I won’t.

When Muslims admonish me
to blindly respect my father,
the same one who kicked my door down,
and in the worst moment of my life
admitted to never loving me,
their ignorant orthodox chatter
like birds caught in my hair
is the only time I sometimes wish
I could hate crime the same people
I am a part of.

6.26.15

​Wazina Zondon

32.5 years it has taken for me
to make peace with the spaces
in between the slash hyphen and/ors
that form my flesh and spirit 
realizing too late
that construct of
reconciliation
is a bust
having me chase after it for so long in the form of rulings and parades

so please excuse me for
not feeling so whole
today.

Read more by Tanzila, here.

Tanzila Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles. She can be heard and read monthly on the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast and Radical Love column respectively.  An avid writer,  she was a long-time writer for Sepia Mutiny and is published in the Love, Inshallah anthology. Her personal projects include writing about Desi music at Mishthi Music where she co-produced Beats for Bangladesh, making #MuslimVDay Cards and curating images for Mutinous Mind State. Taz also organizes with Bay Area Solidarity Summer and South Asians for Justice – Los Angeles. You can find her rant at @tazzystar and at tazzystar.blogspot.com.