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…]

On Animal Companions

  Dearest M, Before I came to Islam, the only story I’d ever heard about you was about your cat. The story goes that she was sleeping on your prayer robe, and you cut off one of the sleeves rather than disturb her. I wish I could say that anecdote is an example of you [Read More…]

Lessons on living from my late uncle

Turning on a tune by Egyptian legend Abdel Halim Hafez, my sister Mandy handed her iPod to Uncle Hoda and gestured him to place the headphones over his ears. Seconds later, an expression combining astonishment and glee came over his face while listening to a melody that must have taken him back at least three [Read More…]

Feminine Symbols in Islam

    Islam and the Divine Feminine? Really? Yes, as improbable as it may seem, really. In our times we have become so accustomed to a male-dominated, authoritarian and repressive interpretation of Islam that has all but eliminated the feminine dimension from our spiritual life causing serious imbalances in our lives, our communities and our [Read More…]

Embracing Presence in the Chapel

The theme for our service this morning is “Embracing Presence”. Two questions arise from this: What is presence and why should we embrace it? If you had told me two years ago that I would be saying these words to a congregation in a Unitarian chapel, I would have been very surprised.  However, my wife [Read More…]

Coming home to the heart

Dearest M, Expatriates are supposed to fall into one of three categories: missionary, mercenary or misfit. When it comes to my own repeated moves overseas, I would say I’ve mostly been a misfit. Here’s the paradox: while I feel inwardly out of place in America, I can relax into the identity of being a foreigner [Read More…]