Dear Reader, as Shaykh Hamzah Yusuf reminds us in a recent lecture titled The Zakat of the Poets: Praising the Prophet ﷺ in Verse, poetry is the hallmark of civilisation.
In Islam, poetry (in its many forms) has been a mainstay in devotional expression. For each culture that encountered Islam, poetry in that culture's language reached dazzling new heights. We see examples of this near and far.
In the Malay world, we have the poetry of the 16th century Sumatran Sufi, Hamzah Fansuri, who in addition to being an exponent of Islamic metaphysics, broke new ground in the development of the Malay sya'ir with his intricate use of Arab-Malay homophones. (For those interested in Malay Sufism, you can refer to a recent reprint of Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas's 1963 study, Some Aspects of Sufism as Understood and Practised Among the Malays.)
In our own age, where the media and discourse is increasingly in English, Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore's poetry stands out because of its grounding in Islamic spirituality and inspired linguistic inventiveness. Over the weeks since our Zoom session with Medina Tenour Whiteman, who introduced Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore's poetry to a Singapore readership, we have managed to source several volumes of his poetry. You may view all the available titles here.
Speaking of Zoom sessions, last Sunday we were extremely honoured to host A. Helwa, author of Secrets of Divine Love.
What stuck us during the session was not so much what Helwa said but rather how she says things.
She is generous with her conversation, deeply appreciative of questions and points of view, always taking great care to be sure that people know that they are being heard and that they matter. This comes from a deep awareness that every individual matters, because God, in his infinite mercy and wisdom, created everyone (and everything) with purpose. We have made the recording of the session available for everyone to revisit.
May we be among those who interact with the kindness of Ihsan.