“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.

Be patient

Be patient. Truth is not like the petals of a rose, which we pluck with ease. Muslims are just like other people, of whom some are good, some are wicked and some everything in between, and it has always been thus. The present is no different from the past. Be bound only by the truth, and seek it out wherever it is. Be prepared to strive hard, and swim against the tide, and face alienation from your peers. The essence of this path is struggle.

Returning to the source

For some of us, our journey began with the Qur’an. I was an agnostic in my first year at university when I bought my first translation. It was a paperback Penguin Classic edition entitled, The Koran, translated by N J Dawood. An overseas student from Pakistan did not approve, because Mr Dawood was Jewish, but I worked my way through it none the less. Verses here and there I now find underlined in black biro ink or faint pencil: sometimes a passage that must have seemed significant at the time, sometimes words that repulsed me, causing alarm.

Continue reading “Returning to the source”

To return

Perhaps now is the time to return to the Qur’an. To read, and ponder and reflect deeply on passages set out before us. Perhaps the time has come to stop investing in false idols: in the cerebral ramblings of men — however great they may be — and return to the verses of our Lord. Perhaps the Most Merciful is calling us. Perchance we will respond.