Humming Bird by Michael Elliott, from

Humming Bird by Michael Elliott, from

You don’t find Islam with the big guys

who have their own logos and facebook pages

they are only purveyors of ‘ilm,

kettles for the tea.

The taste is brewed into you

by the grandmothers’ sweets trayed out

at dhikrs cramped and heaving

with singers pink-cheeked on love

by the vapour their breaths

make on the dark windowpanes

the impressions their sitting leaves on the rug

the lingering on way after midnight

sipping, sipping

hummingbirds drinking their fill

for the long journey out across

cold joyless plains.

The tea leaves grow

in the soil of the everyday, anyday,

mothers putting down bags of shopping

to breastfeed under a scarf on a park bench

breadmen bringing out their khubs

on muscular, burn-scarred arms

keeping aside your favourite plus

a lollipop for the kids they refuse to take money for

smiles from faces unexpected and familiar

doors sweeping open to the smell of ‘oud

heaps of shoes cluttering doorways

hands clapping to a Sudanese song

back teeth – gold, or missing – seen.

This is how Islam grows into you,

not in the words of a teacher, but in the

reality they blossom into.

You learn Islam from the small people

the open-handed nobodies

the beauties who shy away from lenses:

that is why it is incompatible with fame.

Be a witness to it.

Be aware they witness you.

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