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Post Two

The Five Pillars in Cross-Cultural Poetry  

(Week 4)


My mouth speaks the truth

This is beginning and end

There’s no God but God


Morning to evening

As my body is prostrate

Allah hears my prayers


Pockets are lighter

Heart outstretched in charity

God, purify me


I drink no water

My lips thirst only for You

Your love sustains me


Travel to Mecca,

Holy City, as both a

Muslim and muslim

This series of haiku poems represent Islamic ideas on many levels. First, they each represent one of the Five Pillars of Islam: the testimony of faith (shadah), ritual prayer (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting during Ramadan (sawm), and pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). The shahadah haiku references the practice of reciting the testimony of faith in a wide variety of situations and to begin and end ceremonies and acts of devotion. The salat haiku speaks to the practice of daily prayers and Muslims as both figurative and literal “submitters”, prostrate in prayer. The zakat haiku speaks of the idea of almsgiving as a way to purifying oneself and one’s wealth and as an act of charity to the poor, mandated by those who follow the Five Pillars. The Sawm haiku refers to fasting in order to show devotion and to focus on God during Ramadan, and the Hajj references the journey to Mecca as both a physical and spiritual journey. The Pillars are ideas central to and obligatory for Muslim devotion and instruction per a hadith widely accepted: In the effort to imitate the life of the Prophet, Muslims look to the sunnah (customs) of Muhammad’s life that were recorded in the form of hadith for direction about spiritual and lifestyle obligations and recommendationsThis is especially true for issues that the Qur’an does not directly address. As Ali Asani explains in his Infidel of Love: Exploring Muslim Understandings of Islam:

“While all Muslims strive towards imitaio Muhammadi, they differ amongst themselves regarding those aspects of Muhammad’s sunnah that are obligatory and those that are voluntary. Generally speaking, all that stems from the Prophet concerning the faith, including its prescriptions and practices, is considered obligatory. This is particularly the case with issues about which the Qur’an is silent or unclear. […] [S]ince the Qur’an stresses the importance of salat, the ritual prayer, without describing how to perform it, the actions are determined by Muhammad’s reported practice.” (p. 117-118)

They unify Muslims in acts of devotion and obligatory lifestyle elements to promote ideas central to Islam, such as charity and social justice, and love for One God. I chose poetry as a widely accepted form of Islamic art (accepted after the Prophet’s Burda). I chose haiku more specifically both because haikus usually describe nature (a central theme in Islam in that manifestations of God and his Word are found all around us in nature) and because, as an originally Japanese art style, represent the unity and the universality of the Islamic faith by their influence in non-Arab cultures.

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