The Work of Heart

Lately I’ve been seeing hearts everywhere I look. In a magazine I was reading, I was startled by the image of a heart filled with crude oil (it turned out to be an advertisement for the oil and gas industry). Then I saw a news story about the heart of a blue whale being exhibited at a museum in [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…]

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…]

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…]

Finding Guidance in Dreams

  My dearest M, There’s the Hadith that says, “Anyone who sees me in a dream, it is as if he has truly seen me, for Satan cannot take my form.” Still, I want to ask you about a particular dream I had – whether it was really you in it. I am in a [Read More…]

If You Only Knew This About The Prophet

  This is the fifth in my series of 11 Love Letters to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Dearest M, Everyone who knew you agrees about one thing. “He had a smile of incomparable charm,” writes one Western scholar. She’s going by accounts from written sources, descriptions used by your earliest [Read More…]

Is Love Shelved Under “L”?

My heart knocked against my ribs as I took the stairs two at a time. “The library will be closing at 8 o’clock,” announced a crisp voice over the loudspeaker, though the area of London I was in is one of the least nominally English. Bearded men and women in hijabs speaking Urdu and Arabic [Read More…]

The Saints: Reviving Hearts

The word “saint” seems to have accumulated some negative associations in the West. When we describe someone as a “saint” we don’t always intend a compliment. We can mean someone with a cloying niceness, or a holier-than-thou religiosity. A saint isn’t someone we would want to spend any time with. We’re cynical today and more [Read More…]

Sitting with Holy Women

We sat in our circle in a bright hall, the sunbeams highlighting dust motes in the air. Our teacher was beginning the invocation before we began our loud zhikr together. He said the familiar words to welcome all the prophets and saints into our remembrance, our hearts, our gathering. And for what felt like the [Read More…]

Making Love: Leonard Cohen and the Sufis

My journey to Islam started with Leonard Cohen. In his album, Recent Songs, Cohen writes of being influenced by Attar and Rumi[i]. The lyrics were so beautiful and evocative, I had to find out whom these intriguing names belonged to. Recently, as a Sufi colleague and I were reflecting on Cohen’s music, it was suggested [Read More…]