New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

History 1 on 1

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2008-01-11

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue,
An event that happened a bit too soon,
‘cause in sixty-nine they were on the moon.
A happening not without precedent,
The same place Galileo’s telescope went.
Which isn’t to say we’ve become farsighted in our views,
Proof of which is the daily news.

From Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
To imported Nissans and Kawasakis.
The songs the British rockers sing,
Bring back images of Cromwell fighting the king.
To think that neutron bombs held détente’s faint hope,
In the hands of an army strung out on dope.

The poet said, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.
Let’s take a closer look at this insanity.
Watch the TV, play the tape,
The latest chapter in the great escape,
Look at Spock out trekking stars,
Forget the Earth and her petty wars.
A country of R2s, D2s, a world of Darth Vaders,
The Senate makes less money than the Oakland Raiders,
The Renaissance sparked dreams of new worlds coming into view,
Dreams turned into the reality of Madison Avenue.

Ad campaigns sold peanut butter to Peter Pan,
And life rafts to the Tidy Bowl man,
They even sold Kojak some Afro Sheen,
And Turtle Wax to Mr. Clean,
Gil told us they sold tuna to the Chicken of the Sea,
So what do you think they are selling you and me?
When nightol becomes a permanent state,
Apathy and ignorance begins to escalate,
We sit back and watch the dollar’s value deflate,
But how long will our enemies sit and wait?

Visit him, on the wall of his office hangs the head of a moose,
And he sits behind his desk reading Dr. Suess,
This could be a character on your local TV,
But it could be that character in Washington, DC.
Folks going to college to expand their minds,
Can’t relate to dropouts in the unemployment line.
The prisons fill up with perpetrators of nonviolent crime,
While only the Army is working overtime.

Reagan stood Marx on his head,
Headlines proclaim that God is dead.
McDonald’s did what Hitler couldn’t,
Malcolm said what Martin wouldn’t.
The news is void of any meaningful views,
Display any manners you’ll be politely excused,
The Holocaust monument opened to cries of “never again,”
while Bosnia was being ethnically cleansed.

Muslims are on the endangered species list,
Plastic American culture no one can resist.
Ask for principles you’ll find the politicians ambivalent,
Yet they definitively state that the UN is irrelevant.
Cornflakes may become extinct due to gasohol,
The international system has become a free for all,
We trample our freedoms yet proclaim our democracy is best,
Yet Bush might lose to Osama in a popularity contest.

All this while the American public is suffering from back to the future shock,
incapable of distinguishing Afghanistan from Iraq.
We accept the next war as passively as lambs accept the slaughter,
By the way, Did Dick Cheney ever find his daughter?
And on and on the story goes,
So now I’ll bring it to a close,
My purpose has only been to have myself some fun,
Playing ball with history, 1-on-1.




By Seeking Sister on January 12, 2008 at 7:19am

asSalaamu Alaykum, That was truly well written Imam Zaid! The way you have juxtaposed the verses works to further accentuate the immense hypocricies humans have displayed over time. Ahudhubi-Llahi Mina'shaitaani-Rajeem. May God Almighty bless you and yours.

By ayesha on January 12, 2008 at 8:51am

Thank you Imam Zaid! That was an entertaining, jarring and much needed wake up on a Saturday morning. Very very true and very reflective poetry. (I didnt know that you are a poet also, mashaAllah!)

By Ibrahim on January 14, 2008 at 10:00am

Very entertaining and at the same time right on point... Jazakallahukhairan Imam Zaid!

By Suzane D. on January 14, 2008 at 12:04pm

MashaAllah. :)

By Peomgal on January 15, 2008 at 8:53am

I haven't read a good poem in a long time. That was very enlightening. Brilliaaaaaaaant! ha!

By Saleema Nawab on January 15, 2008 at 2:02pm

mashallah that was a very interesting read I was laughing halfway through, but then I started to worry when you kept going. Many of us think about these things (and very few can do what you did) but we can't end the day thinking "our purpose was only fun", isn't that what they want? Ignore the reality of every single line you mentioned, just live in 'comfort'? I guess im frustrated, how can I really deal with your poem? Even if I made it my life goal to fix one of these problems or at least try, it seems close to impossible because of all networks between them... At this point in history ya imam, do you think we can realistically eradicate some of these crimes?

By Dustin on January 15, 2008 at 10:46pm

I really thought I was reading Gil Scott for a minute Imam Zaid. Nice "Whitey's on the moon" usage. I enjoyed it.

By Shukria on January 16, 2008 at 5:30pm

Mashallah. This was a history lesson for me. It was interesting to find out what the advertisement (afro sheen and tidy bowl man) of the 60's and 70's was like. It was interesting to find out who Gil and cromwell were and what Kojack was. Jazackallhu Ghair.

By Hamzah bin Talib on January 17, 2008 at 6:23am

Bismillah Salaam, Traditionally, the Sufi poets were considered the mainstream voice of Islamic music. I think that it would be effective if our spiritual leaders shared their poetry with our american muslim artists (Hip hop or otherwise). My father would like this.

By Imam Zaid Shakir on January 22, 2008 at 7:31pm

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Sister Saleema, You mention a relevant point, reflect and just forget everything, it was only a joke. My intention was just the opposite, reflect and be moved to action. When I wrote the first version of this poem I was a freshman in college, and I was bored to death by my history class, so I tried to enliven some of the things we were learning to make them more conducive to reflection, not to belittle the significance of some of these ironic or contradictory realities. Hence, the line "my purpose has been to have myself some fun..." I was trying to have more fun than I was having in history class! On a more serious note, the first challenge for a Muslim is to try to deepen his or her level of spirituality. When we are in touch with Allah, all of the strife in the world and vagaries of history can be kept in perspective. We realize that Allah is in control and He sends us trials and tribulations to test us. We work as hard as we can to pass those tests, and in many instances that involves working to change unpleasant realities. However, at the end of the day we understand that all we own is a good intention and righteous deeds. If we can manifest those in all of our actions, rather those actions are in the social, political, or personal realms, then it is easy to depute the outcomes to Allah. Our frustration sometimes arises when we feel the outcomes are not what we desire. However, we should understand that Allah has a plan in the outcomes He brings about and His wisdom is penetrating and very deep. Secondly, we should realize that much of what we see in the Islamic world as conveyed by the media is there to demoralize us. Constantly being exposed to the bloodshed and strife that characterizes the lives of a minority of Muslims, and never being exposed to any positive news, which reflects the lives of the overwhelming majority of Muslims, can be demoralizing. One has to keep such things in perspective. Finally, one has to focus one's energy by planning to make a contribution towards a better day for both Muslims and humanity at large. Find something you are passionate about and work to develop the skill set that will allow you to be the very best at that particular thing and as you educate yourself, begin planning how you will give back in the future to help those less fortunate than yourself. If you are a mother or plan to be one, look for ways you can cultivate a dynamic and sharing personality in your children. Try to help them develop the sort of consciousness that focuses on serving others as opposed to joining the maddening consumer society we see enveloping lives all around us. In conclusion, realize that you have the power to change the world. Once you look at it differently, it has changed. Water is tasteless. If we have sugar in our mouths it will taste sweet. If we have salt in our mouths it will be salty. If we were sucking on lemons before we take a drink it will be bitter. So eat a healthy portion of honey and then drink heartily from the fountain of life!

By Ibraheem S on January 24, 2008 at 5:25am


By Saleema Nawab on January 30, 2008 at 10:31pm

salamun alaykum Imam Zaid Thank you for your response and advice. Inshallah it will be of benefit for us all. I've heard and read what you said in the following many times. I'd like to ask about some clarifications on this belief. [Our frustration sometimes arises when we feel the outcomes are not what we desire. However, we should understand that Allah has a plan in the outcomes He brings about and His wisdom is penetrating and very deep.] Even when things don't go as we hoped they would have, does it always mean that the final play, which Allah knows, is what was best for us? It seems easier to answer why things go bad when someone does something bad, but what about when someone does good and yet still things seem bad? Can it be reflective of the intention (perhaps it was not sincerely for Allah) or do we always believe that that the apparently bad outcome was actually good? Are tribulations good for us? One a related point, and kind of to just make sure I understand or to be corrected, today in Civ discussion we were talking about Chinggis Khan and the Mongols in Islamic history. The question (non-Muslim) students had was why did the Muslim writers of those times (such as ibn Khaldun in particular) keep legitimizing the change in power to the Mongols as something acceptable by saying God was allowing it to happen to the Islamic world. To me it seemed obvious -- wallahu ala kulli shayin qadir. It was a matter of faith. So for us, even if it seems horrible, we have to realize that Allah SWT is the sole doer of the actions, and that there is indeed wisdom for why He is doing it that way, and not any other way. Maybe it's not necessary for us to know why, we just obviously can't lose faith, and not question why bad things are happening but still try to make the world a better place...? Alhamdulillah for this technology! I hope it's not an issue to talk it out to you via the blog; I greatly appreciate your comments. Salaams

By arrow on February 5, 2008 at 8:54pm

JazaakumAllahu khair for the poem.. "Can it be reflective of the intention (perhaps it was not sincerely for Allah) or do we always believe that that the apparently bad outcome was actually good? Are tribulations good for us?" Sh. Hamza Yusuf has an awesome lecture entitled "The 17 Benefits of Tribulation." highly recommended...

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