Kazim Ali. It is a collection of prose-poems/poem-journals that describe through surprising, spiritual linkages and imagery what it feels like to fast. What the body goes through, what the mind goes through, and the reminders that the mind is not separated from the body, nor the body from the mind. The body is, after all, where the mind lives.
I am bad about fasting. I am bad about praying five times a day or even once a day. I am bad at feeling like I am a part of a community, and I am bad at being in that community. I am bad at traditions. I am bad at conservatism. I am bad at gratefulness. I am bad at even acknowledging there is a god or a higher power. I am bad at hiding this, and I am bad at not hiding this. I am a bad representation of my family. I am bad at love when there is pain. I am a bad Muslim, I am a bad agnostic, and I am bad at pretty much everything, but I am not bad at thinking.
I think I love this book so much because Kazim Ali’s voice trembles more than it booms. There are no certain answers, and he is just a man asking questions, always asking questions, and his curiosity and quest will not end until he dies. To me, there is so much that is wrong with the “Muslim Community.” So much violence, bloodshed, intolerance, ignorance, rigidity, judgment, gossip, corruption, oppression. A voice that disagrees or questions is a voice damned to hell, but in my deepest heart, I know, I stand with the doubters the most, and doubt is my home.
Kazim Ali is a doubter, and his relationship with faith is not limited to his relationship with Islam. He has a relationship with Buddhism. With Hinduism. With yoga. With another man. With his mother, his lineage, his present company, and his solitude. He has a relationship with the future that can never be spelled out, can never be written, and this is frightening. But he continues the relationship anyway.
I am reading this book and I am feeling like, for the first time, I am more good than bad.
And isn’t this the point of fasting? A relationship with your emptying self, given to something else, wholly, with love?
Thanks, Kazim Ali, for being remarkably, bravely you in your poetry.
“You hope like anything that though others consider you unclean God
will still welcome you.
My name is Kazim. Which means patience. I know how to wait.”