Poetry and the Spiritual Journey

Fatimah Gomez reflects on her writing journey, and how poetry can cultivate spiritual growth.poetry

Sometimes, we may feel as if few truly understand the hardships that we go through in our lives. As I grew older, I realized that the struggle in our spiritual paths was something very real. I wanted to convey the importance of it to others, show that others go through hardships like any of us.

Ink written upon smooth paper brought the gravity of the spiritual journey to life for me. I knew that not everyone connected, understood and articulated words in the exact same way, but I found that the beauty of poetry was just that. It gave so many different meanings, connections and recognition of intentions for others to see, for a chance for others to take what they benefited from and leave the rest. The vast door behind poetry created a connection, a form of articulation of feelings and expressions for me. It gave me a way to convey my praise, my love, my joy, my struggles, within just a structure of words in a satisfying way for the soul.

Muslim Poets Through the Ages

Muslims poets in the past demonstrated their great yearning for their Beloved by compiling poems that spoke of sweet praise and yearning. Their words gave a way of reflecting over experiences of praise and striving for closeness to Allah. They also used poems to articulate themselves to the world, letting their thoughts and heart spill onto the paper. Even the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, had his own poets that would praise and glorify Allah through their words that were stitched with such love and sweetness. The poets who appeared in every age, created a connection spurred by words with their Beloved, enclosing them in a bonded connection that we all seek today as Muslims. Many of these poets are greatly known today, including Imam Al-Busiri, who wrote the entire Qasida Burdah, which is recited around the world. Spiritual masters such as Gawth Abu-Madyan, and Sheikh Muhammad Al-Habib, wrote poetry and songs that gave us a invitation to the experiences and deep connections they shared with their beloveds.

Words and Intentions

My goal was to let people understand the hardships of others, letting them recognize that we all struggle. I found that this understanding led to closer relationships with like-minded hearts who struggle along the same path, focusing on the same goal in their sight. However, I didn’t want to unwisely expose my own personal experiences and struggles. When I stumbled upon poetry, I realized that rhythms, rhymes and free verses were a perfect way for me to do so, while concealing my real story behind my own words.

Every word that I crafted, every verse that was written, I did so with three intentions. Firstly, I prayed that my words were a way for others to find an uplifting joy in the connection that would inspire them in beneficial ways along their own journey. Second, I had the intention of writing words to bring me closer to Allah’s pleasure. And lastly, all my poetry has the light of hope twisted into the meanings. I wanted to show others that there’s still hope to cling onto in a world of pain and destruction.

Writing to Allah and His Prophet

My poetry of praise brought me closer to loved ones, strengthened my desire to be with the Prophet, and made me yearn to learn more about him and Allah. Another beautiful thing about writing poetry is that we all articulate ourselves in our own unique manners and ways, making every word we say particularly special, ultimately discovering our true selves in the words we say, write, chant and praise.

My words held stories of struggles, pain, joy and moments nobody would ever truly know or understand except for my Lord. Writing created a wall that I could hold myself behind, a wall of words that people understood and connected to in their own unique and special ways, while behind that wall I shared a conversation with my Lord that only He knew about.

Not everyone will be attracted or encouraged to the idea of discovering the secrets behind poetry, but I would encourage others to try writing about their experiences, feelings, expressing their emotions in an intimate way with their Lord. I’ve always felt relieved and satisfied after putting together a poem that speaks my heart out, and I pray that we will all be able to find ways to re-connect, build and strengthen the delicate relationship of our Lord in such ways.

Poetry in Practice

A year ago, I stumbled upon a beautiful project called “Letters to the Beloved,” led by Sanad Collective, an organization based in Ottawa, Canada. This annual competition was aimed at a diverse audience of all ages and backgrounds, an invitation to allow others to discover their connection with the Prophet by writing a letter or a poem to him. This allowed for many to discover the power of their connection with their Beloved and express their yearning for him through the power of words. Over 300 letters and poems were submitted this year, with so many beautiful writings and articulations of love and longing. This year, I decided to submit a poem of mine, which explains where I continuously found love of the Prophet in the many journeys and roads of life.

Where Love is Found

A Poem to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم by Fatimah Gomez

Where it steeps from my heart the longer you’re near me

Where your presence is louder than the yellow sun collapsing

Where the pulse on my throat races against its own mortality

Searching for the true faith I need from you.

Where these ungrateful limbs of mine weep with endless sins

Where you give me the clearest water to cleanse my soul within

Where the clarity on this path of golden light starts to begin

I clutch your promise to my chest true.

Where ten thousand lies dance around

Where life’s lines are blurring, never ever sound

Where my ego’s long trailing cape is stripped, no longer gowned

Because humility and shame at this point are long due.

Where times become blurred with confusion and pain

Where the struggles of this world are enough to drive me insane

Where this candle of hope suddenly bursts into flames

And I imagine how you fell down hardships, too.

Where I trip and nearly devolve deep down in desperate despair

Where life leads me down traps I enter, completely unaware

Where mocking whispers enter my heart in a confused nightmare

I call out frightened, but knowing that like you, I’ll find my way out soon.

Where sweetness shrouds my body and paves my nights

Where I beg you to take my hand, not to leave from my sight

Where I press my fingers to your pulse as I’m overcome with plights

Knowing that your firm faith will eventually carry me through.

Where the chant of praise stirs within my heart, penetrates my soul

Where it forms this spirit of mine completely whole

Where this heart is purified from its cloaked state of coal

I realize that pain in this life was something I never knew.

Where the gentle rhythm of your heart revives mine from the dead

Where I place my foot ever so carefully upon the path that you tread

Where the soothing praise through my entire body begins to finally spread

And the light of your presence shines through.

Where your golden light strikes my vision suddenly blind

Where I was offered the distant mirages of this world but politely declined

Where the rope of your mercy I finally could grip and find

Suddenly, I want to see only the light emitting from you.

Where this heart of mine aches sorrowfully with painful cries

Where tears spring into these watering eyes of mine

When I wish that I were alive at that time

Just to have a brief glimpse of you.

Where your gentleness sweeps away the layers of dust off my heart

Where my tears of shameful cries are flowing from the start

Where realization strikes me that along this journey, we will never part

Because my Beloved صلى الله عليه وسلم,

I need you.

Fatimah Gomez is 15 years old, and the second eldest  of five. She’s currently in high school and has had a passion for writing since age 9. Recently, she completed her first book for Muslim youth, which she intends to publish soon. She enjoys playing and watching soccer, training for taekwondo, jdm cars, discovering the beauty in art and poetry and connecting with Allah’s creation.