Joel Hayward's Poetry

Islamic poetry in English

God’s Blessings


“Are we ok?”

You ask though we are




And you cuddle




Like you did at seven

when you talked about hair

as you still do


You love to wind me up

Hate it when it works


“I haven’t annoyed you, have I?”


“No, not yet.”


Our eyes

the same



You have prattled

a river forever



I drift


Yet I know that one day

as I die

I’ll need you there


… and I’ll live for every word







The Journey Back


In the belly of the whale

I curled as


a not-yet within a mother


shivering with pain I couldn’t feel

and called your name once


through the starless space

of titanic depth


You asked your slate gray friend

to rise as a filling balloon


from the crushing weight

of mistakes grown from knowledge

without experience


and sent me sprawling


I blinked blind in a sun forgotten

that burned some shame off my skin


as I coughed away my drowning

for nine years then three


and looked inland for the meaning

of a second life apparently here


You had heard


You had accompanied me


always inside my shallow breaths


and waited for my groan to climb

a ladder from what felt dead


deep within a broken shell


I heard a call in a windless breeze that bore


my name as a seagull’s caw

and my purpose as a kiss of clarity


And I call yours again: Allah










You owned that second

when I could do



You ruled the world

as the road shrank

in my eyes


You Oh Allah

were my seatbelt

which held


You were the airbag

that loved me

in a flash


You were all and above

when I slid

as nothing


You whispered hush

and steel noise and glass



You oh Allah

took no life there

nor let me


You control the heavens

earth and in-between

and You decide


Can I ever repay

You for a blink

of lasting life?







Holy Qur’an


When I let my eyes







I don’t hear my voice

inside but


an angelic Lily Afshar

playing guitar with her eyes





and singing


note perfect


in the Irish flute voice

of that shaven-headed girl

who tore a photo of

some pope


The dancing of meaning

inside somewhere

changes me like …


nothing I can describe


and I can’t say

what I want except

to be prophetwise

and to gain Your smile


So I read and












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 eight 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







Too Often


Shaytan winks


Within …


a market

a boy

a vest

two wires

a second

a hole

a mistake

a crime




a sin









What possessed me

To sin like that?


Regret sighs

And I look down


I hide my eyes

As a child avoiding dad’s


I can’t turn them from You

You are anywhere


What possessed me

To welcome shame?


I breathe out

After a slow inhale


I try not to focus

And I want my mind to wander


A lead-heavy clarity within

Reminds me that You expect more


What possessed me

To act as though You weren’t here?


You never leave or step further

Than an eyelash fallen on my cheek


I don’t want my end to come

In this moment


How could I face You

And say I did it knowing You saw?







No Despair in Lamentations


You swooped and caught me

Knowing I would trip, stumble and fail


You heard my sorrowful lament

Before my lips formed words


You understood my thoughts

Before I even thought them


From the instant my soul began to groan

Your tender fingers touched my chest


Before defeat could overcome me

You told me I had the hope of triumph


I cupped my hands in prayer

And they were already full of grace


The moment I inhaled for Astagfirullah

You placed peace within my lungs







The Cleft


In a desert midnight no darker than dawn

With cloudless heavens evident and stretching

To the edges of Bedouins’ minds and ours

Where owls govern with Your permission


You plunged a mighty fist deep

Into the heart and gripped a molten rag

And pulled it into a peak of crags

In which the gash You wanted grew


With a rush of wind you shaped that

Tear into a world-sized hollow to shelter

A man and a starfilled future for any who

Might accept what tugged at him that night


You once said Be! and time commenced

But earlier you had chosen from first

Until final a stream of Rusul and You placed

In that cleft the last Rasul alone but never


And in the radiance of a challenging word

Your spirit whose wings dripped pearls

Asked the silent one who sailed in prayer

To revolve the world on a different axis


Running feet across the earth carried him

To the comfort of arms that felt a beating

Chest bursting with ten million truths and her

Assurances trounced the whisperer’s last ditch


Words of mercy flow around us through a gentle

Heart in a stone cavity in the shade of a night

Without shadows beneath a cloudless cover

Which owls rule ... for a shrinking time







Will I Write a Poem about Her and Sin?


Shaytan murmured

Write a poem about her!

I started

Words flowed

And were good


A muse! Such allure!


“You came and stood close

And I so wished my eyes

Weren’t red

From writing

My lecture

Late at night”


Allah said

Don’t type any more


So I didn’t


It wasn’t good


I dragged the cursor

Across the rest

With restraint and


Then tapped









Regret in Cashmere


A stubbled beggar with a faded mutt

Pressing tight and a hungry brown hat

I think holding coins three of four

In winter’s pain of frozen lungs

And a running nose wiped on

A sleeve said “Your coat looks warm”

While I walked wrapped smiling in

Cashmere black and warm except

My heart which pushed flippant words

“So does yours” from lips that

Still tasted of red sweets from

The cinema but the stabbing lance

Of conscience that pierced my side

Told me like a nana’s sermon that I had

Ignored Allah’s words and walked too

Far in a coat meant for the one who could

Not buy what I could: another







In Different Rooms


I choose solitude


They watch television



I bend as they recline


I place my mind on a mat

While theirs slip through adverts

About cat food and sofas


I whisper to You of truth and grace

While they discuss invented worlds

And cockney characters


Seclusion is never forlorn

We are together


As they are



And I love them







The World is an Asian Intersection


Holding out

An empty baby



Two months old or nine

Dusty, limp and sun-dried


A desiccated mother

Large teeth missing

Appears at the window

With a bonelike hand cupped

Within the opportune moment

Offered by a red light and begs

For her God’s provision


A fully-toothed driver

Eased by his creator

And the tired air-con

Warns the torn and shocked

Who shrinks in comfort

In the cream leather back

About the fine he’d pay if he

Slipped her a note of

No known value

To lengthen life

And please the lover

Of mothers







Such Power


She acted her iman in forty-one

Covered Facebook photos for 2,431

Friends and she looked like a Muslima

Should and built a wall of pious bricks


But after burning all Israelis

With kerosene-soaked words


And when she graffitied

“I f---ing hate that b--ch Lady Gaga!!!”

On her wall


And seven bearded friends liked it and

Weighed in with their own

Hard-knuckled violence


Another pulled his lips tight and made her

Extinct with a single press and

Now he can’t even remember

His friend’s angry name









You have ninety-nine names of splendour

I am Abdullah


You are greater than all universes and anything beyond

I stand five foot seven


You are infinite and time fits within Your palm

While my hair grows grey


You are magnificent and ever so flawless

My feet get too hot in summer


And I sometimes snore (so I’m told)


You see everything always

My eyes get red from too much reading


But I study Your book ― religiously


You understand far more than all knowledge

I don’t even know where Moldova is


Without searching Wikipedia


You parted the sea and split the moon

While I get tired carrying groceries


You answer millions of prayers ― billions? ― at once

Yet I can’t follow television when my daughter chatters


But I listen to Shoshana (usually)


You created her and Michaela

I am merely their adoring father


I am Abdullah

You are everything

I am happy







At the Office on Thursday


The Ambassador and I

spoke Arabic and I

led him in


Nearly all I knew lasted the

feeling of a rushed breath

but was more


It was a lot to one who had

not talked easily

all day


His grin stretched when

he heard Ana Muslim



The Undersecretary of

State’s astonishment



Two shared as brothers

while a Lord in

pinstripes smiled


The Ambassador’s state

of rocks and sand loved

by three grew


Two Muslims and

a wide-eyed mandarin

pulled lands together


My office glowed with a

Surah’s truth ― 49:13 ―

and I thanked You









Susurrating grass, the sway of pliant poplars and nodding

Leaves on a creeper which presses against the window

Whisper something sweet that exists in every single thing


A cracked mountain’s exhaust pumps like a dying

Chevrolet something eternal into an unloving

Cloud of ash through which birds won’t fly


A silver school twisting like a ribbon or a bed-sheet

Deep yet where light rays illuminate its movement

Lives to tell oceans about something exalted


Sparrows fluttering nervously up and back from the

Old bread left near the clothesline by a grandmother

Blink a message in beady eyes like Morse code


Something perfect comes as a reply from the wings

Of locusts that steal almost all life from fields of hope

Sown by those whose children emerge without sin


And the slow drip of bluish water from a frozen point

Within a glacial cave creates a cadence that beats

Something healing at the pace of a whale’s heart


The too-often cough of a smoking uncle holds the purity

Of something living that swirls then vanishes

As it holds aloft the vitalising glory of its owner


Even evil flying from an assassin’s rifle can’t sully the

Perfection of The Name carried with the prior knowledge

Of the One who will roll up time with justice read from a book