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
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.