collection

Poems of Muslim Faith and Islamic Culture

A collection of poems, prose, and audio and video recordings that explore Islamic culture.
Illustration of mosque arches and doors in different shades of blue.

These poems and features examine Muslim faith and Islamic culture and address important events, holidays, and occasions such as Ramadan. These poets explore a range of spiritual, literary, and political concerns from the 6th century to the present day. Some poets’ voices emerge from the East (Mahmoud Darwish and Saadi Youssef), others from the West (June Jordan and Thomas Merton). Most turn to poetry as the ideal forum to complicate simplistic East-West divisions—learning, questioning, sparking cultural conversation, and speaking from what Nomi Stone calls “[t]his quiet voice that is borrowed or my own.”

 

POEMS
  • Agha Shahid Ali

    Ali, both a Kashmiri Muslim and U.S. National Book Award finalist, depicts ordinary activities in the intervals between salāh, the five-times-daily ritual prayer central to both Sunni and Shi’a Islam.

  • Mahmoud Darwish

    Palestinian exile Darwish’s speaker willingly loses his sense of individuality, time, and even gravity within the ancient walls of Jerusalem as he experiences the power of the city, one of the holiest for Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

  • Carol Muske-Dukes

    Sparked by the imagined sound of the muezzin, the person who calls the community to salāh at dawn, Muske-Dukes’ traveler tries to make sense of cultural and religious phantasms, the people and rituals banished by the effects of war.

  • Imru'al-qays

    Translator Seidel describes his take on this 6th-century poem as a “cross-species salute”: less straight translation than a borrowing of Imru’ al-Qays’ “monorhymes” and “magnificence,” “Mu’allaqa” demonstrates the formal influence of canonical Arabic literature on an American author.

  • June Jordan

    Jordan, who called her engagement with Middle Eastern unrest “the moral litmus test of [her] life,” both voices and critiques a typical Westerner’s frustration with media reports from the Islamic world as she strives to create an alternative discourse through poetry.

  • Thomas James Merton

    Catholic monk Merton embarks on a poetic and spiritual voyage with 14th-century Muslim scholar Ibn Battuta’s Rihla, an account of 30 years of travel throughout the Islamic world.

  • Naomi Shihab Nye

    Nye, who grew up in San Antonio and Jerusalem, sketches vignettes of the praying methods of Muslim shepherds, embroiderers, and pilgrims in the title poem from her first book.

  • Nomi Stone

    In a meditation on faith and communication, Stone gives an account of a non-Muslim’s attempt to observe Ramadan while living within a traditional Jewish community in Tunisia.

  • Saadi Youssef

    Iraq-born poet Youssef’s speaker’s strident address to America highlights the ways in which religion and conflict become bound up in one another in concepts such as “God’s soldiers.”

  • Fady Joudah
  • Khaled Mattawa
  • Kazim Ali
  • Mahmoud Darwish
  • Hayan Charara
  • Fady Joudah
  • Taha Muhammad Ali
  • Khaled Mattawa
PODCASTS
VIDEOS
  • From NewsHour Poetry Series

    Libyan-born poet Khaled Mattawa talks about life under Moammar Gadhafi and the recent crisis in his homeland.

  • From NewsHour Poetry Series

    For centuries, Pashtun women have traded stories, feelings and life wisdom in the form of two-line oral poems called landays. Eliza Griswold, a journalist and poet, traveled to Afghanistan to learn more about daily life there through the modern exchange of poetry.

  • From NewsHour Poetry Series

    Young Syrian-American activist Amal Kassir has lived in Syria, but grew up and now lives in the United States, where she performs slam poetry to bring attention to the suffering in the Middle East.

  • From NewsHour Poetry Series

    The works of 14th century Persian poet Hafez are iconic in Iran. Poet and scholar Dick Davis has spent years bringing the medieval writer's words to the West.

  • From NewsHour Poetry Series

    Farzaneh Milani teaches at the University of Virginia, specializing in women writers in Iran. She also translates the work of Simin Behbahani, Iran's foremost living poet who was recently banned from traveling outside the country.

ARTICLES