Ramadan goals

Here are my two core, intertwined Ramadan goals: to be less cynical and to be more grateful.

How will I achieve this? I will try to ignore and cut myself off from both Muslim and anti-Muslim propaganda. I will try to minimise my exposure to politics, media and sectarian self-righteousness. I will try to see goodness with my eyes and utter gratitude with my tongue. I will try to find the good in others and overlook their mistakes or assumed intentions.

I will try to withdraw on social media from all who light the spark on cynicism by posting unfounded, bombastic or ridiculous claims, and where not possible, to resist the urge to comment or respond, and instead content my eyes with photos of rivers, gardens and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

And in my home — though this will take much more effort — I will try to see goodness in place of constant provocations, to reward good behaviour and not just censure transgressions. To become more tolerant of noise and more forgiving of the daily riots; to praise more and condemn less. I will try to be more mindful of blessings, more grateful in my actions, more humble in my opinions, less easy to anger, and I will, if the Most Merciful wills, try to be more truthful and more sincere, and rid my heart of the hypocrisies which overwhelm me.

Oh dear. What a mammoth task I have set myself!

Agitated faith

I wonder. Should I be envious of my fellow converts who know themselves to be rightly guided? Should I be envious of their fanaticism, which enables them to declare others heretics with such certainty? Should I wish for a faith like theirs?

Daily I rebuke myself for my sins. Daily I measure myself against truer believers, clothed in their righteous garb, and see how far I fall short. Constantly I question my own faith, and my sincerity, praying for guidance despite myself. And when, momentarily, that fleeting thought crosses my mind, suggesting for an instant that I am rightly guided, my inner voice quickly admonishes me: ‘Why would a sinner like you be blessed so?’

Sometimes, it is true, I am envious of the pious ones, with their self belief and constancy. But in truth: I despise the fanaticism which blinds us to possibilities beyond ourselves: to insist on the absolutely preposterous, in the face of all evidence, simply because we have convinced ourselves that it is part of faith. No, leave me to my agitated faith that might, one day, carry me home.

Obscure outliers

How satisfyingly simple the world of Islam must appear from outside: just those two big groups of Sunni and Shia Muslims, and a scattering of obscure outliers.

How peculiar is reality, once you’ve passed through the door and find yourself in that claustrophobic room looking out. Here are the multitudinous sects and sub-sects, each one rejoicing in what they themselves have, as they declare all others than themselves outside the fold. Continue reading “Obscure outliers”

Not for nought was all of this created

I will be the first to admit that I have not blasted into space on a rocket to see first hand, with my very own eyes, that the earth is spherical. However I have walked by the sea and seen the gentle curvature of the horizon far off in the distance.  Continue reading “Not for nought was all of this created”

The faith of the masses

They say, ‘This is a clear attack on our scholars, designed to undermine the faith of the masses.’ But in reality, most of these men and women who apparently represent us are simply people who have put themselves forward for the role. Continue reading “The faith of the masses”

Intelligence of the heart

“There was a time when we chose the best of us to guide and represent us, when human qualities were more important than PR. The prophets were humble shepherds, not powerful celebrities, and revelation was once granted to the unlettered one. But today? Today the worst of us are running mosques and community organisations, accepting invitations to strut on television sets, to get ahead with degrees and titles, both real and imagined, whatever it takes. Forgetting, tragically, the intelligence of the heart.”

— paraphrased from a social media post in French


It is funny when you discover that things you believe to be true are not true at all. I have been walking this path nearly twenty years. To me, my Islam is self-evident. But it is not so. Rarely do others link my behaviour, my utterances or my associations to my beliefs. Even when I have been spotted praying in a mosque, people must jump to all manner of preposterous conclusions to explain away my presence. It is funny: I thought my faith was self-evident, but it turns out it is not so. No, I’m still just that odd eccentric I always was, traversing two worlds, but never really a part of either.


“Being a candle is not easy,” says the preacher, with words he attributes to Rumi, “for in order to give light one must burn.”

Indeed so. But there’s another problem with being a candle: you easily disorientate and confuse a swarm of moths, which might otherwise have calibrated their flight to the light of the moon.

As Shakespeare has Portia say in The Merchant of Venice:

“Thus hath the candle singed the moth.
O these deliberate fools! When they do choose,
They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.”