Ramadan with Shams: The Ambush of Love

  This Ramadan, I drank from the wisdom of Shams of Tabriz contained in the wonderful book Rumi’s Sun: The Teachings of Shams of Tabriz.  “Shams” means “Sun” of course, and this year the summer equinox fell in the month of Ramadan; something which felt significant. I have discovered that for Shams the best indication [Read More…]

Preventing Spiritual Flabbiness: The Benefits of Regular Fasting

Several years ago, one of the most-thoughtful readers of my blog commented on a piece I’d written about the spiritual benefits of fasting throughout the year, rather than solely during the month of Ramadan. In that article, I’d reflected on how it was during the times I’ve fasted regularly on either Mondays or Thursdays (or [Read More…]

The Timelessness of Hunger

“O you who have faith, fasting is ordained for you as it has been ordained to those who have come before you that perhaps you will attain God-consciousness” 2:183 I sat in the audience at the end of the Mevlevi Semaa ceremony, listening intently to these words recited by Kani Karaca, one of the great [Read More…]

The Feminine Power Supporting the Prophets

I was struck by Jim Garrison and Banafsheh Sayyad’s article last year for the Huffington Post: “Muhammad was a Feminist”. It touched on some interesting viewpoints and received a lot of positive and negative responses. And while the article didn’t go into much detail, it stayed with me and left me with another interesting thought: [Read More…]

What the Heart Knows

My wife and I were recently invited to lead another service at our local Unitarian chapel and when thinking about what our theme should be, it occurred to us that both Muslims and Unitarians champion the use of reason, firmly insisting that reason should be a bedrock of faith.  Yet within Islam, there has always [Read More…]

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Women in His Life

        Dearest M, Where do we go from here? For the last year I have been writing you these letters like a distant admirer. But I don’t want to stay at a remove any longer. I want to be as close to you as I possibly can. And more than that: I [Read More…]

Mother Nature and the 99 Names

One of the aims of our new book The 99 Names of God is to help children, parents, and teachers build a spiritual link to the natural world, making us aware that God communicates to us through nature in the most beautiful, awesome, playful, and sublime manner. Young and old are encouraged to see how [Read More…]

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and His Battles, Then and Now

Dearest M, My heart is heavy as I write this. Not because of anything between us: I feel my longing for you only deepening with the passage of time, the green dome of your mosque in Medina becoming a beacon of certainty before my mind’s eye. No, my heart is not heavy with doubt. It [Read More…]

Before the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Became the Messenger

Dearest M, I’ve been thinking about something you said: “Islam began as something strange and it will go back to being strange, so give greetings to the strangers.” To try to understand this for myself, I’m imagining the time before you became The Messenger. When you were still just an ordinary resident of Mecca, the [Read More…]

Guests of Love: Leonard Cohen and the Sufis (Part 2)

One of the greatest musical performances I have ever witnessed was one wet summer evening in Weybridge in 2009. For two or three hours, a 75 year old Leonard Cohen with his remarkable band kept us so spellbound that the increasingly heavy drizzle felt like life-giving rain. It was as if divine mercy was falling. [Read More…]