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.”


It is wonderful that you see dreams which predict the future and through which all things are made clear. I am envious, for my dreams are ever of the mundane. Friends of mine see themselves flying in theirs; at most, I only see myself struggling with hills. Yes, dreams teeming with apparent meaning are a wondrous thing.

But remember that the entourage around Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani, who laid siege to Masjid al-Haram in 1979, also had lucid dreams, in which they believed him to be the Mahdi. At first they did not believe the dreams. But as they became more vivid, and all of them began to see similar dreams, so they became convinced that their dreams were true. Sadly, that escapade resulted in 255 deaths next to the Kaaba.

So be careful, oh dreamful one. Keep your dreams to yourself. Dreams may indeed be part of prophecy, but for certain you are not a prophet. Be careful with your dreams, dear friend, for no matter how real and true you think they are, they are best kept between you and your Lord. And God knows best. Sweet dreams.