Joel Hayward's Poetry

Islamic poetry in English


I wanted to write a poem

Of You

That does not

Include me

But my first word here was

I and I

Want to say I’m sorry

But that’s also about me


You Oh Lord

Are beyond words


Even the prettiest

Are shabby

Compared to Your Heart

Of love


Even words that sound

The same

As their meaning –

Scrumptious, Graceful

Sweetheart –

Are clumsy and ugly

Compared to

Your name


Words as fragrant

As their flowers –

Carnations, violets,


Dahlias –

Wither as weeds

When Your warmth

Radiates as midday

From the pages of Your Book


A poem of You

Needs only one word

Or ninety-nine

And it is finished







The Voyage of a Scholar


On the day that paper clips and files

And memos snowed upon a city

I opened an unfamiliar book

To see what had brought that storm


Each night I brushed back dreams

By turning pages of profundity

To learn what had placed death

In the eyes of passport photos


The heavens opened for

Forty days within my mind

And soul in a Noah’s flood of

Confusing certainties


The willing dead were absent in

Every word but my forty days

Left greater questions buoyant

And curiosity unvanquished


I sailed twenty times

In seven years through

Surah seas of calm swells

Pushed by winds of conscience


Twenty times I charted their

Depths – truly Pacific –

Before I knew that I

Knew nothing


When tranquil winds lifted

La ilaha illallah I heard a soft

Muhammadur Rasulullah

Slip without thought from my lips


A book read twenty times asked

When I would embrace its truth

And in a small stillness I replied

Now oh Lord, Now







Arab Spring


Hands clenched, passions wrenched

Hearts ablaze, these days of rage

Shouts in the air, pauses for prayer

Streets, squares, mosques, theirs


Hearts freed, knees bleed,

Proud, aloud, unbowed crowd

Freedom sought, its shape unthought

Unknown ideal, substance not real

Grass is greener, democracy leaner


Cigarette smoking, despots choking

Forgotten youth and unseen truth

Confused eyes, fleeing spies, sons’ lies

Streets, squares, no longer theirs


Ranting, railing, panting, flailing

Heads full of pain, nothing to gain

Power grasping, compromise asking

Opportunity lost, everything cost

Posterity crushing and the end fast rushing







Your Book


I read your words and hear whispered reminders

As my tired eyes struggle across dots and black curves

While I ponder and wonder and stare holding my chin

As wisdom tries to sneak inside crowds of thoughts on life


I read your words and hear my slow breathing, deep

And know that on that day it will cease and I’ll sleep

And then blink inside your sun-drenched calmness

As I step forward to hear your thoughts on my life


I read your words and feel the tug of sad conscience

And know whom I’ve let down, helped and annoyed

When you wanted more and sigh I gave so little

And wasted time as I walked too quickly through life


I closed my eyes darkly and called back your words

And slid them silently from my tongue into my room

Where they’ll circle and swarm close to my pillow

As I ask for their meaning and the warmth of their life


I spoke your words quietly to friends and strangers

With the force of a hurricane, unnoticed, so soft

While I knew that the wind would tug later at thoughts

And poke hearts with gentle fingers on the hand of life







All in All


Great whales’ hearts thud

Allah … Allah

Eight times

Each grey



The hummingbird calls

Faster, much faster

The name in

A whir of



Knuckly stiff fingers

Count misbaha beads

In resin while

The mind strokes

Each for a second


A baby’s colic cry

And a mother’s

Soft shushing

Hold a meaning



The aches of the

Lonely and penitent

Are never felt

By only



In everything lives

The memory of

An echo of that

First word








Florida Pastor


Tool, cruel, mistaken fool, grabs for fame, causes shame

Christ would cringe, this done in his name

Flames winning, Shaytan grinning, charred mess, success

Promise spoken, entirely broken, failed a single test

Eyes blind, blackened mind, should’ve read the book

A tiny pyre, the world’s ire, three minutes all that it took

Wanted, gained, anger blamed on Muslims always hated

Love missing, wisdom dismissing, happy with Muslims baited


Anger unbound, fists pound, Shaytan fanning the flames

Control left behind, grief in mind, anger pulsing in veins

Streets swollen, crowds emboldened, victims caught in rage

The irony is, the book forbids this, hatred not on a page

Message ignored, calmness abhorred, playing into his hands

World worse for that man’s curse, tension sadly expands

One copy alight, one billion alright, their power even greater

God’s mighty word, always heard, untouched by one Muslim hater







Zuhr Prayer in Peterborough


Long John Silver

With eyes aged like stars

In my mosque, on a crutch


Subhana Rabbiyal A’alah

I whisper past bent knees


He has one and sits in God’s sight

On a chair wearing purity

And whispers too and smiles

Not at me or others but at the One

Who took his leg and gave him a prop


Bright-eyed adventurer watching

The horizon searching for land

Where rivers flow beneath

And upon its white shore of sand

He’ll leave footprints as he strides


Long John Silver

With diamonds that see

In my mosque, on a crutch


Rabbana Lakal Hamd

He responds in a mind full of gold


Beneath God’s words in a dome

While light stretches to reach his cheek

And strokes it with a mother’s love

As I echo three words and smile

Not at him or others but at the One

Who gave him more than he lost


White haired voyager gazing eyes closed

A journey stopping without ending

When he sinks upon young knees

And scoops living water from the source







Thank You


Eyes squinted at the sun for the merest moment

It remained emblazoned inside closed lids

For longer than the squint then faded

When I turned away


Prayers climbed to You from a plaintive heart

You Oh Allah shone down upon me brighter

Radiance greater and without fading

When I rose from my knees


Eyes without a blink gazed up at a cool moon

My thoughts rose and brushed its ice-white face

And You Oh Allah returned warm answers

When I asked what all things mean


Anxieties sailed out beyond the ocean’s only line

You Oh Allah raised a breeze to fill the sails

And You sent me comfort on lapping waves

Whenever life caused deeper footprints







That City that Day


I saw fear in Leicester

Sons and fathers whispering

Sentries standing guard

Mosques and shops

Empty inside crowded outside


I saw suspicion in Leicester

Waiting eyes watching

Looking for the arrival

Sighing with resignation

Minds chanting prayers


I saw calmness in Leicester

Brothers as bars on a steel rail

Older steadying younger

Wisdom with beards

Jaws clenched and no fists


I saw democracy in Leicester

Permissiveness in uniform

Reluctant toleration

Authority manifest

Allowing to limits not beyond


I saw hatred in Leicester

Empty eyes and open mouths

Knuckles and noise in grunts

Herded and cornered and held

Braying and jubilant in losing


I saw Old England in Leicester

The red and white of the nation

Their hollow emptiness

Protest and pride without point

The English Defence League


I drove home from Leicester

Weighing so much more

Mind’s eyes staring at stupidity

Memory blocking strangers’ curses

To hear the quietness of brothers







The Six at Thawr


The first said Oh Allah

My labour is for You

You honour me

You ask me to weave

Silken concealment

Silver sun-gleaming

Eight working together

Let it please You

You chose a dot a spot

And not an armour-clad army


The lovers said Oh Allah

We create life for you

Encased white in ovals

In a hand-shaped house

Twigs knitted within clefts

He said I brought them

She, I plaited them

Let our love please You

You chose two small who coo

And not a shield wall of angels


The fourth said Oh Allah

Let not our cleft shadow

Form an unwanted tomb

Deafen the ears of hate

To my frozen breath

Or gulping swallow

Send us an army of angels

To defend the Wise

And let me join them

With courage in Your service


The fifth said Oh Allah

You fill our cave of two

And are the Third

Soothe my beloved

Who first said yes

Touch him with calm

They are deaf who listen

And blind who watch

There is no work for warriors

We need no angels

You are All







Wounded at Uhud


That scar red-iron-seared to seal and heal

Lip face and pride torn ripped split by a rock

A random pick in a war of shouts and sand

To fit the hand of the blind in mind who bent

Wanting hate sent to that leader then bleeder


It rests still mean unseen by eyes except God’s

Who reclaimed the red that stained it a while

That plunging meteor of shame gravity-called

Guided by the hisser from a strong arm of hate

It knocked the Great from his feet in Arabian heat

To earth flat with a groan clothed heavy in mail

Circles linked as if sewn shielding the worthy


Above the Great a friend lay cushion-pinned

To save the Chosen and a better place win

The Prophet’s death filled the sky shouted high

Turned the foe’s slaying to braying and staying

And a sigh-yawning mouth of fleeting time

A moment teeth broken to rise from sore dirt

Falling from ringed shirt with surprise as he climbed

The hill of confusion which rang with the gloating

Of claims that the future was shaken then slain


Yet the Prophet knew through the dust of a daze

That truth dawning would blaze justice one day

When the living scarred smile that they saw

Proclaimed God was a shield sword and more









Such beauty so close

Fluttered and



A butterfly

Impossible to catch

Yet if Allah willed

She would alight

Upon his arm


If Allah willed


For what should he pray?







The Calling of Musa


Shade-searching exile alone thronged by thoughts

Deep as a well while the sheep lost and found

Lapped at a sparkle on the ground’s burned crust

Leather unstrapped so that his dust-covered feet

Could holy ground meet as miracles danced

On each fingering branch untouched by the heat

That crackled in flames beneath the mile-wide wrist

Of an arid rock fist holding wild emptiness


Then the growling roar of a whispered caress

Said Go with your heart like the tree’s radiant glow

Show with lustrous right hand and a staff slithering

That the kohl-eyed scarab king who sin-hiding

Smears sun-frightened arms with animal fat and

Rests with fears sat on the footstool of slaves

Must now use his ankh to unlock as a key

Those who loved Allah and sought to be saved







The True Wealth


Oh Great Lord grant me treasure

I pray insha’Allah for a parchment

Unrolled lambskin tattered and dull

Inked now faintly with an island unknown

A map of a far-flung forgotten speck

A fleck of sand on a blue glass floor

I know the mark to find: the X


Oh I will risk and struggle and hunger

To reach that lost and empty atoll

The lure of that wealth enticing me

I will pace the ground counting steps

Chest tight and mind full and swollen

With a craving for what I’ll have to dig

To reach deep where it lies in ancient clay

In an arched chest held tight by rust

And a lock forgotten by its long-lost key


Oh Great Lord end my years of poverty

I pray insha’Allah for a transformed life

Enriched by the contents of that box

Make me wealthy with its glinting bounty

I feel greedy for it but want to share

Let me spread fortune to those like me

Who have seldom held a single piece


Give my arms strength sufficient

To lever ajar that unearthed casket

To plunge my fingers into the wealth

That I crave and You hid but let me find

Through driving desire and a brow of sweat

A strongbox full only of my heart’s desire:

Not coins or jewels or gold or silver but

Wisdom wisdom wisdom wisdom







Today’s World


What will you think when you learn

That I have been bowing low like

Those who pulled down the brothers?


What will you think when you learn

That with hands by ears each day

I whisper the phrase of the cockpit?


What will you think when you learn

That I discover truth in the book

Found in lost luggage?


What will you think when you learn

That I have chosen the same faith

As the one in the cave?


How will you know

That I would never let my elbows

Touch theirs on the floor?


How will you know

That I have reclaimed the words

Stolen by the devil in the pilot seat?


How will you know

That I read the same book

But cannot see the same words?


How will you know

That I would not share his path

Or enter the wasted air of his cave?







You know My Life


My petrol tank’s half empty

I know it, keep looking

Monitoring the gauge

Often, aware, acutely

Snaking roads winding

Crawling mountain passes

Straining, that noisiest gear

First, revving, pulling, working

Often lost and u-turning

Detours annoying, consuming

Too many times, with time wasted

My satnav in glovebox sat

But used? Seldom bothered,

Knew better (that’s me, though)

You had pumped my fuel: full!

You were clear with directions,

Gave me your satnav, that gift

A map of roads, a great book

You watch me driving (too slowly?)

To your chosen location knowing

What I don’t and find

Anxiety-aching, vehicle ageing:

When my tank will run dry

And my engine will die









You ride on a train

And create sideways glances


In a beard they see an outsider




I pray in a mosque

Full of sideways glances


In a shaven jaw they see an outsider




            Nothing to fear?


            Bit unfair?







I think of the Prophet


A little oil in the lamp

Bronze, Aladdin-esque

Light wisps and whispers

As it swims from its prison

Up golden blue an inch rich

And blinks and shrinks the room

Creates a curved darkness

That hides walls upon which

Your words hang on nails

In letters I cannot read

At least not well yet

Still better than He

Who recited in shakes

When lampless light spoke

And broke solitude’s hold

And said that the Almighty

Had a goal a role for that great soul

To breathe truth upon those

Who had blocked their ears

Walked astray without fears

And the cave world-sized small

The heart bigger still the birth

Of the mankind-wide Call to

Forget wealth self and to bow

Face paper-flat down and in awe

On the floor while the soul

To Him soars with adoration full







Not for Himself


Blistering chipped woodworker’s fingers

Grip a chisel while his mallet-tapping

Heart pushes spirit-filled meek purity

Through stretched veins work-swollen

And raised on skin which the sun esteems

With glistening sweat salt-silver drops and

Grips God’s Musa-bellowed words oh far

Tighter and with eyes of sad happiness

Welcoming the God-gratitude of the

Poor and poorly, guileless and guilty


Sweet steel words highly honed

Slide from his lips between prayers to

Sharply shave away seven peeling slivers

From the worm-rotten wood of a Deen

Stolen, ruined and chewed for so long

By those spitting out God’s truth

Bitter to their tasteless tongues


Others – the faithful few true –

Saw the builder’s blunt words

As a sword whetstone-sharpened

Along edges twinned to the point and

High swung sun-lustrous in battle

Against the hiss-whisperers who lingered

Hidden in shadows behind those doors

Which open from thoughts unto words


Thus a trust in The One swelled in the few

Their ears hearing “Of Him” never “Of Me”

Over and always the message no other

From the one working wood with miracles

And knuckle-cut bleeding and weeping

The fasting praying whip-wielding man

Who kicked over tables enmity-making

And said with heart, mind, soul and strength

Love the Lord your God with all those and more







Chosen One


You never felt snow tighten your skin with a sting

You never searched for the shore from the crest of a wave

You never grinned at the gait of a penguin

You never saw a whale’s grey fluke sink after rising

You never breathed in coffee’s warm rich aroma

You never heard the clearing of a smoker’s throat

You never saw headlights peer through dawn fog

You never smiled at an American accent

You never waited in a queue at the bank

You never cringed at the words of a driving instructor

You never sat and failed a biology test

You never kicked a football across the road

You never changed batteries in a tv remote

You never emptied a lawn-mower’s grasscatcher

You never rushed to catch a bus then missed it

Yet exulted He chose you

Praise and glory to Him

Picked you from this world

And for it

The last in the line

The path straight to follow

To Him high above all