Sunday, September 9, 2018

Coming Out as a Radical Lover: Prayers, Poems, and Passion for Hagar (R)

By Jamillah Karim
I almost believed the story I told myself. That Radical Love was something new, that started when in love with him.

But then I found an old letter to her.

Love Note #1
July 3, 2001
. . .
I pray that this letter finds you in Allah’s mercy and love. I am writing this letter inspired to write to you and only you. I feel this way because I realize that God sent you as a companion for me on the path, and I did not always know it or appreciate it.

I don’t know where to begin. Allah (swt) is so Merciful, so Generous, and so Magnificent.

This letter was to a dear friend who introduced me to a program to sit with and learn from eminent scholars of our time. I told her about my Maliki fiqh class with Shaykh Hamza, and then wrote,

My heart and intellect want and desire so much. The knowledge quenches my thirst but only makes me thirsty again. Pray patience for me.

I was twenty-five then. And not married. Not surprisingly, the next paragraph in the letter describes my desire for marriage and a brother I had noticed. At the time, I had no idea that I’d have to wait another four years for that type of union.

Now back to the love I did possess. My love for this sister beloved was engraved on my heart, but the letter was long forgotten.

Fast forward fifteen years, two days before turning forty. I am married with three sons. I write a love note that mirrors the mingling of satisfaction and wanting expressed in love note #1. The days of pretty stationery now long gone, this time I confess my love in a text. (I’m giggling.)

This love note, #2, is also to a sister, inspired by this Amir Sulaiman line, “Let my breaking be beautiful.”

. . .
Your beauty is my breaking...My breaking deepens because in the vastness of pleasure, my heart discovers there is no limit to Allah’s Beauty and Love. I become immeasurably content only to find myself wanting more. Wanting Allah. May Allah give us Allah.

Satisfaction, desire, breaking, yearning, prayer, patience, love, Allah! I call these feelings and expressions—gently colliding--Radical Love.

Radical Love is love for the Divine manifested in passionate love for Allah’s creation,
Love with God written all over it,
Love heightened, elevated, and sweetened,
Love with the physical veils lifted and sensual satisfaction not the goal intended,
Love you hadn’t expected to find here or there
because you had yet to realize that love is everywhere.

What? You found love where?!
I began this post with mention of love for him because that is how women are expected to speak of love. And our ultimate breaking must relate to him, especially if he desires another her.

I’m sorry, beloved, this is not my love language or story.

True, he desired her,
Made union with her,
All of it pleasing and sacred,
A destined son, a delight,
Came out of it.  

For sure, I experienced heartbreak. But the wound is where the light enters. Rumi said it, but all of our hearts have lived it. 

Beloved, my story is that of Radical Love.

Yes, I experience it with him,
In love with him,
Caresses I’ve known only through him.

But, as love note #1 proves, I was on this path well before him--loving and longing and breaking.

Perhaps, though, there's a reason why Radical Love appeared to give birth with this particular breaking, that is, watching my romantic beloved love another beloved. I never expected to find so much love in it.   

Hopefully another love note will help to capture what I’m saying. Let’s call this love note #3:

October 12, 2017
I am reminded of the moment when I realized that love was the reward for Ihsan (virtues like beautiful patience and generosity). I mean really realized it, and I began to do so the moment when from the outside, it appeared that I had lost out on the pursuit of love as the world sees it. I was experiencing this unseen love, between God and me, which many people would expect, given that we turn to Allah in hardship. But what was mind-blowing was the human love that suddenly overflowed in my direction. That even I had not anticipated. In God’s mercy and loving kindness, He not only makes His Love tangible, but He gives His Love through actual people. And the best of people through whom He showers His love is His Beloved (S).

A Prayer for Hagar
And I wrote all of the above to provide context to a poem inspired by Hagar (R). But before the poem, there is Prophet Ibrahim's (S) prayer. I've read this prayer countless times before, but it wasn't until this time that it came to me, that his prayer embodied Radical Love, and I couldn't wait to share with you. And I had to before this sacred month left us. My way of saying, I love you.

Mother Hagar,
After drinking from your sacred bosom,
Walking your sacred struggle,
The pilgrims have left you,
Returning home,

But home is where the heart is,
We are still thinking of you,
Remembering you,

Every time we hear your story, we worry for you,
Who will feed you, sustain you?

Then we remember,

Prophet Ibrahim (S) left you,
But his first prayer was for you,
A man of heart,
Sustenance was the last thing he worried for you!

“Our Lord! Verily, I have settled some of my progeny in a valley without cultivation by Your Sacred House, our Lord, that they might perform the prayer. So cause the hearts of people to incline toward them, and provide them with fruits, that haply they may give thanks.”

Prophet Ibrahim’s prayer embodies Radical Love through and through,
Who would expect to find love where there is hardly life?
But Prophet Ibrahim knew,

Devotion to God was his first concern,
“That they might perform the prayer,”
Divine Love would spill over from the cup of devotion,
He knew.  

And how does Divine Love manifest here on earth? In human hearts--Prophet Ibrahim’s dua’ for his family--and then fruits. This is the prayer for true happiness, he knew.  

My First Radical Love Poem
So now that I’ve explained Radical Love, it won’t surprise you that my first Radical Love poem is for her. In the embrace of a sister beloved, I remember Hagar.

May 2013, The year I prayed to be Hagar (Smile)

“Being with Hagar”

Fullness flowing everywhere,
My hand in her hand,
My slender arm wrapped in her fullness as her baby sucks the milk that Allah gave,

Our hearts occupied with the remembrance of Allah,
Our eyes on the Awliya’ Allah,
Our bodies at the house of Allah,

All other desires,
The remembrances of all other beloveds,
They stream down into this single gushing river,

This love came out of dying,
Out of intense longing,
It came when my heart was broken,
And I could only turn to God,

It came when I became Hajar,
Left in the desert with only God to fall on,

This love came like Zamzam,
Out of nowhere, making it utterly Divine,
It is the love that pilgrims drink from,
Pure because the source is Pure,

Allah is the Holy One,
Blessing this love,
Elevating this love,
Giving me life,
Turning me to Allah and His Beloved,

Through him, Sallalahu alayhi wasssalam,
Through the Beneficent King, the Holy One,
Through her, may Allah bestow peace on Hagar,
I have tasted the sweetness of Iman,
And have been led to the path of Ihsan,
Where I am living and dying,
For the Face of Allah.

April 2017, Goree Island, Senegal

*Please pray for me and my book tentatively titled, Radical Love: Sufi Reflections on Heartbreak and Happiness.