Peace, one and all…
Welcome to Abdur Rahman’s Corner, my little corner of cyberspace.
Introducing Abdur Rahman
I’m an English Muslim, and originally from Hackney in the East End of London (UK). Although I’ve spent most of the last 20 years living in northern England and various parts of Wales, I recently returned to London. I now live in West London, with my wife and children.
I officially converted to Islam in 1998, though I’ve been exploring all things Islamic since the early ’90s. I’m deeply fascinated by the religious traditions of the world in general, and by the many shades of Islam in particular. Like most converts, during my time in the House of Islam, I’ve moved through a whole range of different groups and perspectives. In short, I’ve come to realise that what I love most about the Islamic tradition is its diversity, and also that I abhor narrow-mindedness and bigotry.
As we struggle to make our faith a lived, and living reality, we cross boundaries, usually other peoples. As such, labels can be as limiting as they are helpful. I believe that religion exists to help us become more fully human beings, and human beings defy easy description. Thus, a part of being human is acknowledging where we have come from and where we now find ourselves, with gratitude. These days, when describing myself to others, I usually say I am simply a Muslim, and a part of the Mevlevi path (through the Threshold Society). Through God’s grace, this poor one has been a Mevlevi dervish for the last 10 years or so. I come from a Sunni background, though as a lover of the Ahl al-Bayt, I have a deep love for the Shi`a tradition. I believe that both forms are equally valid and equally orthodox.
My aim in writing this blog is to learn: about God, about myself and about this strange thing called life. As intention is fundamental to any spiritual growth, I’ve written some thoughts on this topic.
Abdur Rahman (which, incidentally, means ‘Servant of the Merciful’) is the name I chose when I became a Muslim. Although name changes are a common feature of conversion, it is not a necessary requirement. In my own case, my choice of this particular name is purely aspirational; I would like to one day become a true servant of God.
I love music of all different kinds. Some Muslims avoid music, believing it to be forbidden. I do not, however. For me, music can be a powerful aid to spiritual contemplation. I love poetry, and write some of my own. I also love art, especially Islamic calligraphy.
My path to Islam was, by any stretch of the imagination, a gradual affair. In any case, my Islam was the result of a growing realisation of the centrality of God. Or, in rather less grandiose language, my eventual understanding of what Allah had always been trying to tell me! Or, once again, it was my awareness that I wanted God to be central to my life: the steering wheel and not just the spare tyre (as Arrested Development once sang)!
Although I took my time to investigate the teachings of Islam, I don’t think there was really any competition. Somehow, I think I always knew that I would eventually become a Muslim! Coming from the East End of London, I’ve always known Muslims (probably even before I was aware of what Islam was) and of these, some have been especially influential. As I learned more, I was always struck by the ennobling qualities of Islam: wherever Islam has put down roots, it has produced generous, warm, just and committed individuals.
Theologically, Islam just spoke directly to me. It is simple to understand in its essentials, but not simplistic. Its understanding of God has clarity, depth and profundity, and although some feel that the God of the Quran is so high as to be utterly distant, this is definitely not how I have experienced it. The role and function of Muhammad (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is also clear and easy to understand within Islam. Though a Prophet of God, he is indelibly human.
Islam has always struck me as radically life-affirming: there is no compulsion in faith; the middle path of tolerance, compassion and understanding is the only sane way to navigate the paths of this world. I try to embody the teachings of Islam in my life, though I am a faulty human being and I often make mistakes.
And to God return all things…
In closing, let me offer this beautiful prayer of the Mevlevi Order, entitled The Rose Prayer:
‘May this moment be blessed. May goodness be opened and may evil be dispelled. May our humble plea be accepted in the Court of Honour; May the Most Glorious God purify and fill our hearts with the Light of His Greatest Name. May the hearts of the lovers be opened. By the breath of our master Mevlana, by the secret of Shams and Weled, by the holy light of Muhammad, by the generosity of Imam Ali, and the intercession of Muhammad, the unlettered prophet, mercy to all the worlds. May we say Hu, Huuu…’
And our last prayer is in praise of God, Lord of all the Worlds.
Ask olsun! May love increase!