Joel Hayward's Poetry

Islamic poetry in English

Splitting the Moon


Quraysh greybeards greysouls

Heartspots black enlarging

Ears not hearing sired confessions

Jealous eyes clouding the moonsplit,

Here there in the early dark low

Trickery – bitter thoughts reason – jealous

As the mummy-king was at Musa’s snakestick


“Behold” said the one knowing

That the open-handed offering –

Glad tidings, warnings, al-Furqan –

Would split the worlds of which One ruled

Like Isa’s sword of mysterious portent

While the greybeards’ necks craned

Disbelief reined, Greatsoul’s heart pained


Shamed later seeing and knowing

Greysouls scorched yet forgiven

Remembered the whitelight as two

Their mocking over but trickling regret

Their unseen great son whispering

Grace undeserved, the smile unreserved

All knees agreed beneath radiance untorn







The Knees of the Revert


Nose, eyebrows, breath on woven warmth

Weight on wrists and not in heart

Eyes sensing lids black with glowing focus

Thoughts emptying, spilling purer and

Matching wet arms, ankles, washed

With mumbled clarity in rhymes

Pushed from lips that love and want

Closer closeness than the vein of thoughts


The Creator seeing spine, shoulders, soul

Then palms on knees, chin on chest

The Creation feeling aching inexperience

Not sat thus since the days of chalk

When the Lover of Innocence touched

The imagination greenwood growing with

Castles, cowboys, kings and then whispered

Don’t stop hearing as years grab tight


With words forgotten age brings pain

Feet tucked and knees stretched

The ache of joints and remembered sins

Allahu Akbar freedom gained from

Pressed low face and plaintive heart

Repentant prayer and Great Lord here







Lord of the Worlds


I swallow time

in swigs

and think of You

I blink blue, sore

and see forever

but in shards

as thick-skinned coffee

and oft-thumbed diary

pages within this mind

slide, thrice

over palms and feet


I feel time touch

yet suffer sneers

and claws that etch my face

as a postman's

while You tumble through

and share

apple-breath breezes

with children old and new


You kept my trophy

safe and somewhere

aglow with lustre

while I walked on water

and sank

within friends' laughter

as You kept a garden

and plucked hope and purpose

to sate our weak


Voices in the hallway

murmur He is One

through a door of lacy

black widows' spinning

and this heart races

to drum a cadence

in concrete as a dance


Tip a cathedral downside up

and watch priests' gowns

fall over surprise

as an owl flies in day's gold

and stares into waters

rippling with an unseen splash

spreading from Your hand extended







The Prophets


You could

I would


You, common good

Me, Robin Hood


You love

I shove


You, heart of gold

Me, can't be told


You share

I scare


You, candle light

Me, don't invite



You rest

I quest


You, wisdom earned

Me, fingers burned


You trust

I must









I filled my heart to overflowing

It spilled and pooled without me knowing


Regret upon awareness grew

With hope that rug can stay as new


This mad recluse's clumsy hands

Delight at prayer mat’s soothing strands









What is true?

What the eyes can see,

the heart can feel or the mind imagine?


With photo old I stretch this heart

a thousand leagues to haul faith here with

stalwart sinews of recognition fascination

transcending mislaid decades


I've tidied your room in castle ruins

and placed flora astounding

in papier-mâché urns of grinning fragrance

near an umbrella waiting for porcelain touch

and taped 99 Names on a door closed gently

to a crack from which famished light cascades

and all years wither yet holler happy







What You Do


I flew a kite with a key

so You could light the sky

and flick a bounding bolt

towards my darkened home


You drew a storm from the sea

and rattled window panes

with gusts of supremacy that flung

my back door from its jam


Spiralling allure stings these eyes

which watch through squints while

tempests tear comfort from my chair

and split my mirror into slivers







Master and Servant


He smiled and he burned

and died and lived


and gasped and grasped

and loved



He laughed and he knew

and spoke and choked


and rejoiced with no voice

and loved



He touched and he soared

and grew and flew


and raced to embrace

and loved emphatically





Faizan-e-Madina Mosque


Italian boots point among trainers sandals scattered

Socks cat-pawing sponge carpets peaceful

Brown, black, blue soul-windows open

Casting light white from other to each

Curiosity satisfaction no suspicion

Shoulders together not soldiers ever

Wars unwanted save self, sin, him

White amidst not, colourless, covered and copying

Noses foreheads submission breathing pressing

Cube black facing consciences confessing

Oneness greatness Allah







The Certainty of Not Knowing


I die more each day and no-one notices but You

And those who find me in print from time to time

Those close see the same except for hair length

Or a pound or two or tiredness and shadows

Yet its truth sighs in the mirror though it has no feel

As it comes at night when I cannot care


I die more each day and no-one causes it but You

Though You let me quicken or slow it with choices

That You know I'll make and which I call freedom

Or foolishness or wisdom or experience

And I don't know which pulls the end nearer

Or keeps it unknown as a distant dark gulp


I live more each day as you prepare me for You

And flick away specks and teach me to sweep

With a broom made from pain, Astagfirullah

And I don't want those I love to hear words

That will forever sound louder as a legacy

Than the soft and wise when I leave for home


I live more each day as I gather truths from You

Walking the path You waited for me to reach

After so long in shoes too big yet so tight

With my eyes down in books without pages

While You held out one with orchestral words

That now play warmly as I hope for sunrise







The Office


My car windscreen grill too full of nature

Collects blossoms pink from a shadowless tree

The shortest of brothers shoulder to shoulder

Where I park in the mornings and prepare

For my day with unspoken prayer and a glance

In the mirror from which deep blue and gold

Hangs a pendant with two names in glass

Yours and his and a blizzard-blue tassel

Almighty and Prophet etched in elegance

Meaning known to me and no other parkers

My symbol of belonging, for me not for them


My thoughts walk from my car to my office

With the day and the names two steps ahead

And I sit at my desk and gaze at the book

Words climb from two flower-framed pages

Politely letting a black ribbon rest for the day

While they nudge each other from right to left

And I lift my eyes from Your gift to us all

Through glass still wearing winter’s stains

To where pink popcorn droops above the car

A sweet taste of the creation made in six days


Planned wisdom fills my mind in the morning

Yet drips wasted from my mouth as a leak

I sigh prayers to replace it whenever I notice

My humanity and the whisperer darkening

Dreams of Jannah in all-year blossom

And I walk at the end with smaller thoughts

To the car bursting with names (and a tassel)

And drive to where they ask what I did

The reply, oh you know, same as always,

Is truer than they could possibly know







Empty One


Whisperer oh whisperer

You have power in another world

That of crosses and doors into souls you can enter


Whisperer oh whisperer

You frighten them or take the blame

For what their own lust entices them to do


Flame without smoke

You cannot burn me for a second

Or brand my skin with a hiss to pretend I belong


Flame without smoke

You murmur and gossip too much

But I know your silent voice speaks like mine


Clay-hating shadow

I hear you as me almost all day

Yet I don’t bother listening as often as I did


Clay-hating shadow

You choose your words carefully

Whispering sweet things you hope will work


Jinn named as shame

You have succeeded only rarely

When I let judgement slip as sand through fingers


Jinn named as shame

You hold no sway and cannot smile here

On this path your words stick as dust in your throat


Enticer going

Cringing as the day approaches

When the One will beckon while you wither and fade


Enticer gone

Heat extinguished by under-flowing waters

Thrown worthless into an undying death that chars







All in Their Eyes


You lower your eyes

Lashes shading secrets

Your hair unseen

And lips ― are they smiling

Or pursed in sadness

Beneath a veil wrapped tight?


Your eyes open upwards

Darkened mines

Leading to a sacred place

For those needing peace

Where you sing to

Ease aches in old men


Your tears of blood

Don’t fall when you blink

Or close tight for darkness

And strangers pass

Without stopping

To ask if you are lost


Black tears then flow

And you groan

As they form trails

On pale cheeks


By the sun for years


Now they come to woo

Having seen you cry

And want to take you

As a lover although

You have covered and

Never shown your arms


I kiss my fingertips

Without sound

And yearn

To dab your face

Which I’ve known

As a guess in my mind


Oh Ummah my lady

They will bruise you

And lay you bare

While an unkind sun stings

Your beauty and steals

Such rare purity


Lower your gaze

Be true and hold fast

To your brothers and sons

As a cold wind calls them

To leave your home

And live among others


Oh Ummah beloved

Smile at your strength

Modesty shrouded

And don’t let them know

The mysteries buried

In a heart cherished by God







Can’t Quite Close the Door


I do not notice you

I’m busy



Eyes shut gently

Reciting faster

Keeps you out


But empties

And I want it full

Slow is deep


I know you like it here

But I don’t like you

You shouldn’t come



Homeless sneak

Lifting my prayer


I know your favourite time

When my knees hurt

Assalamu alaina


You nudge in

Wa ala ibadil … ohhhh

You appear


Lahis saliheen

You drift with me

A short voyage


On my knees

Index finger poised

Ready to flick you


And it does

I reclaim words

And return


Ashhadu alla ilaha

Focus tight

Musicality back


Illallahu … Victory!


I vanquish you

And finish

Shahadah sweet


As I arise

My triumph wilts

You are back


You sneak in

And we drift



Too human

Oh Allah

This weak mind


Can’t manage

To keep out








From a Hadith


Two sat

Beneath the sun

In shade running off

An ageless wall

While all else



He searched

The face of history

Saw worlds and between

In eyes that blinked



He saw himself

Mirrored alone

His cheeks burned

He shrank and looked



The other

Raised an eyebrow

As a question

An invitation



He stuttered


Asking for meaning

For the way to be



His life appeared

And galloped, flawed

Failing and struggling

Swallowing he looked



Words came

From the other

Above a whisper

But not much and



Do not,

Said the wise,

Become angry

The path to wisdom

Lies in peace


He asked again

His meaning lost?

The four words repeated

Were not to him



Do not,

Said the serene,

Become angry

The straight path

Is paved in patience


The first asked

With different words

The same a third time

Confused mind and ears



Do not,

Said the unwearied,

Become angry

The way to Jannah

Is for the gentle


Let it be for you







Ahl al-Kitāb


Living waters sprang in widening rings

From Allah’s word “Be!” and flowed

Through the words of a wanderer

Who broke idols which refused to speak

Nile-wide and diamond pure it flowed

Allah smiled and named the son Father

And friend – Khalil-Ullah ― the source

Of a swirling breathing river of blood

That carved canyons in time before

It forked


Down rapids one parted river ran

Carrying nations and prophets

Drowning rogues and doubters

Holding afloat a bobbing truth

Shema Yisrael God our Lord is One

Which reached and wet the ankles of

The anointed who agreed with thanks

And for three years past thirty proclaimed

After cupping his hands and drinking

Shema Yisrael God our Lord is One


Peace-sleeping stopped him seeing

The dirtying of that flow of silver life

As a brook from another source

touched and joined and weakened

The truth which survived but struggled

Slipping under and seldom rising

As time pulled colour from the final word

And left the meaning faint and faded

Seen only by those who truly searched


From the fork the other branch flowed

Unnoticed by a world no longer caring

Until it reached the city of the blind

And lapped around that black cube

With a sound heard by one praying

Alone in a cave who descended

Drank and scooped to safety

The fragile truth which loving lips

Recited on command as a pleasure


The two are running closely apart to

The Day when they will slip beneath

Jannah’s jade carpet and cool shade

And one will arise as bubbling springs

Where the final word Ehad, One, Ahad

Lights the sky as seven swollen suns

He smiles at those who stayed clean

With hands and hearts washed daily

By purity flowing around bent knees