I have fallen in love with a man named Kabir

Or at least, his poetry.

Kabir (a name derived from Al-Kabir, “The Great”, one of the names of Allah), is a somewhat mysterious figure, the true history of whom has been blurred by time and folklore. It is believed that he was born around 1440 in Benares, India, and brought up by a family of Muslim weavers (there is some debate as to whether he was “born Muslim”, but ample evidence to suggest he was raised Muslim). He was influenced by the the religious thought of his locality, his poetry painted in colors of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. At the same time, he decried dogmas in all their forms and spurned caste systems – so, yeah, he wasn’t exactly popular in life. In death, however, his legacy was ironically claimed by Muslims and Hindus alike. His poetry is at times reverent, at times confrontational or even rude, but always thought-provoking.

Brother, where did your two gods come from?

Tell me, who made you mad?

Ram, Allah, Keshav, Karim, Hari, Hazrat –

so many names.

So many ornaments, all one gold,

it has no double nature.

For conversation we make two –

this namaz, that puja,

this Mahadev, that Muhammed,

this Brahma, that Adam,

This a Hindu, that a Turk,

but all belong to earth.

Vedas, Korans, all these books,

those Mullas and those Brahmins –

so many names, so many names,

but the pots are all one clay.

Kabir says, nobody can find Ram,

both sides are lost in schisms.

One slaughters goats, one slaughters cows,

they squander their birth in isms.


I guess I have a thing for bad boys.  🙂

I have been doing a lot of reading lately. I recently finished “Believing Women” In Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Quran, by Asma Barlas – a wonderful read! It really helps one to understand the difference between Islam and its interpretation/practice, while offering a very clear interpretation that doesn’t oppress women.

In addition to reading, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying… Since I have found little value in the Hadith myself (and it bears repeating that I say myself and don’t think those who disagree are wrong), I have been spending quite a bit of time trying to understand prayer. The Quran doesn’t say exactly when or how to pray – it mentions prostration, it advocates praying audibly and habitually, and of course their are Ayat that begin with “Say:…”, so one could easily recite these as prayers. Various Quran-only sects have pages and pages of hypotheses about the “right way” to pray – and no two theories are the same. So what’s a deviant little Believer to do? I could just copy the instructions of the Hadith, but I really don’t find the formalized prayer to be all that helpful – and I’ve read many complaints online from Muslims who feel disconnected in prayer, even if they do each movement correctly. I’ve worked out my own method of praying which embodies the same general principles of the five-times prayer: prostration, recitation, meditation – you get the idea, I’m not going to get too specific because I’m not trying to tell other people how to pray, just find my own way – all ideas found in the Quran. I also regularly pray without any specific formula when I feel the need to reach for God, usually silently. Here’s the thing… my understanding of the Quran has led me to theorize that we aren’t meant to only think of God while praying at specific points each day – I think we’re supposed to try to always keep our minds turned to God. Not a radical idea, really, but it’s certainly not easy. I mean, try to do a simple algebra problem in your head. Now try to do it while also contemplating the Oneness of God. How did you do? Anyways, this is what I’ve been musing about for the past few weeks.


10 responses to “I have fallen in love with a man named Kabir

  1. Sophia my dear,
    Again you have made me connected to what you’ve written. I felt a strong connection of what Kabir is saying, and I understood what you meant about finding your own way in understanding prayer. Especially for those who are sceptic with Hadith (which I find it’s part of the journey of understanding it, one day who knows-we all would find an answer to it), ritual act of prayer is something which needs deeper understanding to have the same kind of connection when we put Him in our mind on other second of the day. I hope you continue with your journey in your belief simply for a better connection with Him…you’re in my prayer and in my thoughts.

  2. Thank you for this post and for sharing this poetry!

  3. I love Asma Barlas’s book, too! I recommend it to anyone interesting in hearing a different viewpoint! The book was brilliant. And her writing style is really good, too.

  4. P.S. That poem is lovely! I love this kind of poetry; it’s the most authentic thoughts there are!

  5. I like what you said about prayer. I love that you are making it your own based on your understanding of the Quran and not by what scholars have decreed is the right and ‘only’ way to pray! enjoyed this post!

  6. Thank you for sharing that beautiful poetry! Really enjoyed it.

    Loved your thoughts on prayer, they closely echo mine these days. What you said about keeping God in our minds constantly, also reminds of what it said in the Bible to pray ceaselessly. Easier said than done!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s