Happy National poetry day

Poets are of two kinds
Those who boldly say so
Those who sweep it under
The carpet of “oh i am not”

Poems too are of two
Those written with layman tools
Those with gods as targets
Sitting on tall stools

These kinds are unkind, to me
To Bayazid, to Al-Hallaj, to Rumi, and
To Rabi’ah al-Adawiyyah
Who are in their essences
Walking poems
Sneezing in rhythms and
Breathing on metaphors

If poems are of kinds, who
Will unite, the
Broken voices and shattered glasses
That we are

Today is national poetry day
What was yesterday
What is tomorrow
What will be of overmorrow

Poems are erratic
Some submerged in water unabated
Others lie on water
As oil.

But it is not swifter
When in rhymes, rhythms and obscurity
Nor tardy
When in enjambments and fresh air

Emily Dickinson, a keeper of cats
Wrote poems for men on carts
T.S Eliot; was a bank clerk
Whose poems transcend wall street

If poems are of kinds
Some can fly high
Broken wings and entwined feathers, low

Poems and poets
Are nights and sparrows
Nights magically turn days
The sparrows free in flights.


Love, Hate, Fear and Trust


Where I come from; love is like rice.

No rice. No love.

Love, like rice doesn’t exist in a vacuum

Stew. Hate. Meat. Betrayal. Beans. Denial.

Above all; jollof rice. The height of infidelity.

Love is a moving train.

Who says trains don’t halt. Know your station.

Never jump out of a moving train

And don’t be carried away by the rail

“The rice farmer won’t say he won’t plant rice because after all,

It will be mixed with beans and meat and curry and thyme”

Above all, everyone eats rice. Everyone loves.

In different condiments. In different bowls. In different moulds


I hate Sundays. My days of inertia

My Christian brethren love Sundays. They worship it. In it!

When we hate, we hate that that is loved by another.

It could be that we hate our most cherished possessions-

Like Sunday ushers in the week, and week- month

Why hate when you can walk away.

Hate, like killing a lizard, is a waste of feelings.

When we hate we care. And care is the mother of feelings.

So I sleep, read, think, until Sunday walks away.

And the lizard disappears with the darkness.


It is easy to not fear God- the most innocuous

But man can hurt us now and hard

Man can steal your job and wife

Man can, kill your flock and cease your milk

Man can, blast you before your lord- profanity in the house of God

Is man not to be feared?

“I can sin and await my judgment in heaven. But I cannot

Confront a man with Kalashnikov head on”

Ittaqullah; but we don’t fear HIM

Is man then not to be feared?


Because man is fallible. Weak. Loves. Lusts.

Not because no one is worthy of my trust.

I trust no one.



I know me, immune to nerve-wracking,

Then came the words- expect;

Full of promising clouds and evergreen leaves.


Awaiting the arrival of a car,

Every horn yonder-

A threat to my curious calm.


My wife of six months swell,

Every whiff or whizz-

A hint of labor.


The hour-hand-

Never moves, with my eyes-

Stitched on the clock.


But to expect, is human,

To betray it

Even more human.






Speech Ineffable


For over two decades

My heart slept


Today, it woke and spoke

A speech ineffable


I felt it threatening to out

Through my throat, then my chest


I swear I felt my heart cry

With its eyes and then sobs with its nose



A gust of wind blew between thighs



The quest for meaning which is always begun again by every human intellect, is to human consciousness what a fingerprint is to the body; shared by all, and unique to every individual. A universal singularity.

                                                                                -TARIQ RAMADAN

What better month is there to reflect, than the month of Ramadan? I began a spiritual journey this month. It’s not a spiritual journey per se. And I can’t say I just began the journey. I am always thinking, in fact I am a thought in progress. I keep asking questions as always, and this time I am trying to reconnect with myself and perhaps my faith. Three of the prevalent questions we should ask ourselves, as postulated by Immanuel Kant, include; what should I do? What can I know? And what may I hope for? After all, ibn Qayyum refers to human beings as “the seekers” because of their constant quest for meaning. So many questions and so few answers linger. And the mind never tires trying to answer questions.

It has not always been that way, everyone was once a child. And the child is a mysterious being, perhaps perfect. The child is shorn of criticism, liability or responsibility. That is why it is said that the ideal of childhood is the end of philosophy.

But the mind of the child develops by environmental and parental influence. According to Erik Erikson, the environment in which a child lived was crucial in providing growth, adjustment, a source of self-awareness and identity. So I grew up conforming. But also, the mind of the child in the wrong hands is like an accident. If at adolescence the parents continue to dictate its pace, the child is likely to have only the identity his parents have shaped for him, but if they allow the child to explore, he will conclude his own identity. As Erik Erikson puts it in his fifth stage of development, identity v. role confusion; if the parents continually push the child to conform to their views, the teen will face identity confusion.

It therefore pins upon us to find the balance, between doing what other people do (conformism), doing what other people wish (totalitarianism) and doing what is right for us (individualism)

Of course my parents didn’t allow me to explore, like many parents wouldn’t. We are simply required to follow a particular trajectory of tradition. But somewhere somehow, I found a way to. So this article is about my scout generally. It is a tranche of the things that have shaped my world view, in, at least the last five years.

S.A.M (Salihu Abdurrahim Maiwada): Sam has been an epitome and an intellectual beacon in my life. I often ask myself, what would have become of me today, if five years ago, this gentleman had not walked up to me and asked, “Do you read books?” he was holding a book on capitalism,- “what is a state”- if my memory serves me right, on that day. So obviously he meant intellectual books in the real sense. I told him I didn’t. I used to read only romance novels. Especially because it got me female friends back at high school.

Since that day, my life has not been the same. He recommended tons of books to me and is one of the few people I sit and converse with and feel intellectually inferior. I learnt new words from him, one of the words I learnt from him was “paradigm”; he loves using the word. Also, I learnt a lot of ideas from him. I was pushed to read ancient Greek philosophy by him.

When we came in our first year, Sam already knew satisfactorily about classic and modern philosophy. I just started learning about modern philosophy last year. I knew Rene Descartes through him, I knew Immanuel Kant through him, Bertrand Russell, and many others. This is a formal piece, so I can only talk about the intellectual support he has given me. But if I were to talk about the moral, financial and fraternal supports inclusively, Sam is the only individual in the whole world that has propped me and impacted on me the most in shaping my metamorphosis as an adult. More than my parent, teachers or anyone else, so thank you really. I respect you a lot. After all it was Seneca who said, “A person able to revere another thus will soon deserve to be revered himself.”


The Stoics Made Me Stoic

There is a sort of bliss when we find ourselves in the books we are reading.  In fact, I found myself in the Hellenistic period at a point. I was a stoic. I fell in love with all their traditions. All these I got from reading the ideas of Epictetus, their actualization by Marcus Aurelius, and their analyses by Seneca.

The stoics saw the world as a single great community in which all men are brothers. For the stoics, the ultimate goal in life “virtue” is a combination of four qualities: wisdom (moral insight), courage, self-control and justice. Even though stoicism had god in its philosophy, it wasn’t the same as in theology. The stoics talk of a supreme providence which could be spoken of almost according to choice or context, under a variety of names or descriptions. According to the stoics, it is mans duty to live according to the divine will and this means living in line with nature’s laws and resigning oneself to whatever fate may send him.

Stoicism is a philosophy of ethics, it has a lot of admonitions on tolerance, respect, self-control etc. it teaches that, the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting that which we have been given in life, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear for pain, by using our minds to understand the world around us and to do our path in natures plan, by working together and treating others in a fair and just manner.

For example, in one of his letters, Seneca said, “our motto, as everyone knows, is to live in conformity with nature, it is quite contrary to nature to torture one’s own body, to reject simple standards of cleanliness and make a point of being dirty, to adapt a diet that is not just plain, but hideous and revolting.”

Perhaps, there is nothing extraordinarily new in stoicism; it reaffirms a lot of the basic tenets I thought were solely Islamic. I came to see the multi-dimensions of the world. Overtime, I saw stoicism as a system of truth in itself akin to a religion. Ultimately, I realized that Islam, for example, doesn’t have a monopoly of virtue. Stoicism also tells us to contemplate the broader picture. This is called “the view from above”


Reforming Islam…

I had a sort of crises situation, between what I had idealized from childhood i.e. my one perception of reality i.e. Islamic exclusivity, and some emerging traditions I came across such as stoicism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, far back in time- the codes of Hammurabi etc. I came to the realization of the, albeit unique, but striking similarity of moral codes and templates. I read Socrates, Aristotle, Plato among many others and I realized that figureheads were not exclusive to Islam.

One solace I got during this time was from Abdolkarim Soroush, who wrote; “I believe that truth everywhere are compatible, no truth clashes with any other truth. They are all the inhabitants of the same mansion and stars of the same constellation. One truth in one corner of the world has to be harmonious and compatible with all truths elsewhere, or else it is not a truth. That is why I have never tired of my search for truth in other arenas of intellect and opinion.”

Understanding Soroush was helpful to me, in his theory of the contraction and expansion of religious interpretation to the Islamic reform and revival, he sought to reconcile the sacred and the profane, the constant and the variant, form and substance, he sought reviving innovative adjudication in religion, finding courageous jurisconsult, reinvigorating religious jurisprudence, changing the appearance while preserving the spirit of religion, acquainting Islam with the contemporary age etc.

For Soroush, there is a difference between religion and religious knowledge, what remains constant is religion (din); that which undergoes change is religious knowledge and insight (ma’refat-e-din). So there is hope, I thought, for discarding religious dogmas. There is hope for an interpretation of religion that is embracing and inclusive. There is hope for women rights, human rights, peaceful coexistence between societies, multiculturalism, universality etc. within the Islamic tradition.

And through reform i.e. reinterpretations, the Muslim society can put behind it, all the challenges it face in integrating into the modern world, and make courageous rulings on controversial standpoints such as slavery, female genital mutilation (FGM), halala, killing of apostates etc.


Finding Love…

It was easy for me to relate, when Viktor E. Frankl said, “love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.” As at that time, I was submerged into Sufi tradition.

I was introduced to Sufism by Reynolds A. Nicholson, I found his book, “the mystics of Islam” very foundational as a curious mind. Through this book, I became aware of profound Sufi scholars such as ibn Arab, Niffari, Rumi, Hujwiri etc. he summarizes the essence of Sufism thus, “the whole of Sufism rests on the belief that when the individual self is lost, the universal self is found.” In one of his quotations, ibn Arab summarizes his Sufi state, “my heart has become capable of every form; it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks- I follow the religion of love, whichever way his camel takes, my religion and my faith is the true religion”.

Sufism is to discern between the real and the unreal, to concentrate the soul upon the real and to bring the soul to conform to the real. In this love-seeking orgiastic state, Jalaluddin Rumi takes us through a journey of love, spiritual and mundane in his works, Masnavi and Divan e shams. In the latter he portrays fully his love for his teacher, mentor and lover, shams Tabriz.

In Sufism I appreciated the essence of love, and became an unrepentant lover, now I love all as I love myself. I have a very strange idea of love; I fall in love without expecting to be loved back. And when I tell people this, they are like; you are mad right? And I am like I know right. I will go ahead and include that, this unconditional love is what we need to actualize our shared humanity.

I will conclude this with one of my best Rumi’s poem, it goes thus;


I need a lover and a friend

All friendships you transcend

And impotent I remain

You are Noah and the ark

You are the light and the dark

Behind the veil I remain

You are passion and are rage

You are the bird and the cage

Lost in flight I remain

You are the wine and the cup

You are the ocean and the drop

While afloat I remain

I said, “O soul of the world

My desperation has taken hold!”

“I am thy essence,” without scold,

“Value me much more than gold”

You are the bait and the trap

You are the path and the map

While in search I remain

You are the wood and the saw

You are cooked, and are raw

While in a pot I remain

You are the sunshine and the fog

You are water and the jug

While thirsty I remain

Sweet fragrance of shams is

The joy and pride of Tabriz

Perfume trader I remain.



I am poor not penniless

I am poor not penniless

Fiends would rather I am wretched

Life for me reels like ratchet wheels

My intestine ignorant of squared meals

No salt, no beef, or an aqua beast

All straight it stretches like a Christian monk

Rotating my three tops regularly than standing fans

Then that same shirt yesterday and everyday

I waddle my torso with presidential panache

One wonders my empty stomach lust

With the loudest smile it cries

Fiend would rather I die and dry

But I am poor not penniless

I school public and know naught private

I know not beds but safe mats

Where I sleep with no fear of falls

Rolling through both edges of my cave

At night I dance like a wondering dervish

Fiend would rather I stand and cry

But I am poor not handicap

So I shoki, wiggle and giggle

Since love does not lurk on the legs

Or mouth or anything visceral like that.



Holding my sleep to ransom

Holding my sleep to ransom

Standing stakes pierce my bed from bottom

To prick me back to book lest I flinch

Though fees fly like finch

Draining daddy like cold dunes

My brain washed the future shallow

Mutilating my bones and my marrow

Maestro says I will lead tomorrow

Farther I go from my staked bed like an arrow

And sing my head not to red

Night to morning I have read

Not believing noise who thinks futile my toil

Hostage I am to lamp oil

Holding my sleep to ransom

I know him, future is handsome

Electioneering pregnanting our hope of change

That my hostage will be free again

The stake will leave alone my bed

And raindrops the fees for dad

And prove my captor not a dud.