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Islamica Magazine


Ramadan's revelations are served up in one month, but it is the rest of the year that the fruits of spiritual experience are savored


In the dim before-dawn meal-preparing, in the four a.m. microwaving flurry of father, mother, sisters setting spoons, stirring soup, suddenly here comes the little guy descended from seventh sleep when he shouldn't even be awake, small and confused at the kitchen door: "What are you doing, Mommy?" His eyes so full of j'accuse: "You mean, you do this-this-eating thing without me, while I sleep? You mean I am not the center of your night as of your day?" This is what his big eyes sayIt's the primal scene of Ramadan, it is baby's first somebody-feed-me-now blues



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In Ramadan, food becomes clay, becomes plaster, has no sway over me during the day

I can work with it in the kitchen sculpt it into meals, and not even think of dipping a hand in,

as if it were for other creatures, not human, not with my features: Desire, you have no reach here!

I don't even remember, by mid-month, to feel hunger at the sunset cue, only wonder

that I once lived in its clutches or thought of it as much as I used to before my crutches

were whisked out by Ramadan "I'm free," I think, "Bring it on!" "I'm free!" I think-but I'm wrong

This is only the first illusionNo vice worsts self-delusion I'm still in the realm of confusion, as the truth dawns and stuns: I have not even begun to climb Ramadan's first rung

MOHJA KAHF RAMADAN, MY BELOVED Powered by Joomla! Generated: 11 August, 2008, 01:00

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Ramadan, my beloved, come to me in Ramadan Nudge the sweet dateflesh between my lips parted in sleep

My lips are parched and forsaken, my breasts pinched and dry, like little Zuleikhas without Yusuf

Nourish me, my beloved No one knows that you came to me once, a revelation, joy. Datefruit, sweet flesh at sunset

Remember me in Ramadan How I came to you like water to Hajar, like food to Maryam How the bodies were strewn

in the abandonment of sleep, and I came to you in the small hungry hours with water in the cup of my hand

You put your lips to the rim of my hand You put your lips to the rim of my hand

Remember me in Ramadan Remember how I loved you Eat now, and drink Powered by Joomla! Generated: 11 August, 2008, 01:00

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"They've taken our food away to the desert they're feeding our food to the birds and fishes They've swiped all the food from our tables and kitchens all the most scrumptious and delectable dishes

The fatted calves pigeon pies mincemeat in sauces compotes and appetizers crudits and jams things done in nut butters things in puff pastry aspics and tarjeens and sacrificed lambs

Oh what shall we do we'll go hungry we'll starve without all those mainstays to our health and wellbeing! The candies and bonbons quince pies and peach melbas each scrap and morsel now hurriedly fleeing

We'll be left sucking bones or our infantile thumbs we'll sit on the floor and stare into space we'll cry for our mummies and like mummies we'll grimace all the color and glow will go out of our face"

So sings Desire in chorus with Appetite thinking the world has gone lifeless and gray for once in their lives they have to go hungry from dawn to sunset for one month every day

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Leaving our bodies at rest from their torments our stomachs in shackles while the bright sun shines to remember Who gave us each morsel and delicacy set free for one month from our bodily confines

To die before death where the menu is meager though in Paradise each goodie's multiplied in quantum This world a pale shadow in comparison O let's urge ourselves there with greater momentum!



Pillars of cloud extend down to earth during Ramadan

inside of which angel coils swirl continuously upward and downward to a sweet music just beyond earshot

Great aerial pulleys and gears mistily squeaking like crickets calling out for mates in their emeraldine solitudes

And great transparent columnar tubes amplifying distant voices

And encoiled inside the voices meanings in incomplete sentences

All of which both the intermingling of sounds and voices is completed by our hunger for His sake Powered by Joomla! Generated: 11 August, 2008, 01:00

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And then our palatial appreciation of any morsel that breaks it as if such hunger

never existed



The fast is also like being so wracked with love you can't eat. Tossed and wrenched and high and dry with single-minded devotion and expectation that no single

bite or sip can pass our lips, our eyes are parched, throat dry, head gone elsewhere almost entirely, and

only with extreme concentration can we perform our usual tasks with anything like normality.

It sweeps us off our feet. It's bigger than we are. It goes off with all our thoughts.

It's a jealous lover.

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10 Ramadan (morning) (from Ramadan Sonnets)


Angels, furtive and unseen pass quite easily through matter. They move like a cascade's glittering sheen from peak-top crashing with a clatter

as rapidly and deft as water. Made of light, they move as light that has no substance to get fatter, but only, against the dark, more bright.

Angelic bands move through the night. There's no cliff, gulf or canyon too outrageous for their leaping flight to cross, or swim, or scatter through.

They're what makes everything alive. Dead worlds vibrate when they arrive.


13 Ramadan (from Ramadan Sonnets) TASTE BUDS

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Arab coffee poured from an American plastic decanter, pale, made from what is known as "blond coffee beans" from being only partially roasted, prepared with cardamom seeds you can tell as much by some subtle cardamom vibration as by smell, pungent even in a Styrofoam cup. Then

Malaysian chicken biryani, a sauce made from spices and greens, tiny pointed chili-peppers that in one bite open your nasal passages and put zigzag light along the sides of your head.

Libyan couscous, very red, unlike white goat-buttery Moroccan style, with tender spareribs whose meat is as sweet as cheese. Then

sesame halva, memory-triggers for Middle-Easterners because they grew up on chunks of it in pita bread for breakfast, as we did on the Pilgrimage in Mecca, and it was there I

first heard of it as a staple breakfast diet with cups of milky coffee to start the

day. Powered by Joomla! Generated: 11 August, 2008, 01:00

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This is the taste buds remembering God's Divine Names in their

own way.


15 Ramadan (night) (from Ramadan Sonnets)


Red sky burns to ash around the New Moon's cradle. Ramadan begins.




The edge of the day is studded with wine-colored shards. The edge of the day is strung with silver ornaments. Hunger stalked us all afternoon and now our heads ring hollow and dizzy like high towers. The bells in our heads ring: Praise God. Praise God. Praise God for cold bright air cold bright water Powered by Joomla! Generated: 11 August, 2008, 01:00

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darkness, food, light of lamps at the edge of the day.


You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches, and have to choose between the starving month's

nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evening. The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?

If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets into the air and harvest the fog.

Hunger opens you to illiteracy, thirst makes clear the starving pattern,

the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses, the angel stops whispering for a moment-

The secret night could already be over, you will have to listen very carefully-

You are never going to know which night's mouth is sacredly reciting and which night's recitation is secretly mere wind-

KAZIM ALI from "The Fortieth Day" by Kazim Ali, BOA Editions

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