1. When did you start writing poetry?
The first time I started writing anything was in college. I would scribble in my notebook about how I didn’t want to be in a certain class (calculus for example). I appreciated poetry before but it was limited to reading.
2. How do you encourage others to experiment with and develop their creative talents?
My advice would be to highlight what makes you special and not what makes you ordinary. I’d always be disappointed when I’d hear a Muslim artist talking along the same lines as the non Muslims, about the same superficial things. It’s the syndrome that everyone is talking about how they want to be different but really acting the same. What makes us special is Islam. When we highlight, it we shine because all we’re doing is reflecting off of its light
3. Who are some poets you appreciate?
My favorite poet is Al-Mutanabi. He was a complicated character who could be arrogant and selfish at times but my favorite is when he was introspective. The richness of the language he uses with the depth of meaning makes him stand out for sure. I also like Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, and Abu Nawaas.
4. What do you think about the Islamic legacy of poetry?
Our legacy is very rich in poetry. It has been used by the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) via the talents of his companions in spreading the message, raising their moral, expressing their emotions, and even intimidating enemies in battle, such as done by Ali at the Battle of Khaibar.
5. What is your creative technique? What are some resources you use when writing?
If I’m writing original material in English, I don’t use much. It’s usually as I’m walking or taking the train that verses pop into my head. I used to not write them down until a friend convinced me that “every line is worth saving, you never know when you might use it.” So I became better at saving material. If I’m translating material it’s more of an artificial process, so I’ll use thesaurus.com to find similar words, as well as rhymezone.com to try to figure out how to possibly mold the meaning of the text I am translating into a rhyming scheme in English.
6. Why did you decide to go public with your work? Are you afraid of criticism?
The “Jannah” poem is a poem I wrote almost six years ago. I had written it as a response to a video made by a sister on the same topic. People began to pass it around and enjoyed it. I would recite it at certain events, as well as other poems that I had written. I don’t think fear of criticism was a factor as a person will always be criticized but lack of confidence in that I had something of worth to share. It’s like, “who do you think YOU ARE to…” syndrome.
7. Do you have a favorite poem?
My favorite poem is “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. The rhyme scheme is incredible, especially to keep it going throughout the entire poem. The language is extremely visual and the content shows that the man was crazy! If I ever write anything similar to that poem, I’ll retire insha’Allah.
8. What role do you believe poetry (and to a larger extent, the arts) plays in the Muslim community?
The arts are a tool, like any other, to a means. I believe that they can play a very important role in communicating the message of Islam to the Muslim and non Muslim community alike, as well as humanizing our communities, giving them faces and voices, as captured by our artists.
9. Any final words for the readers?
Jazakum Allah khayran for reading. I hope you enjoy the poem and may Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) allow us to experience what no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, and has not been conjured up by the imagination of any heart.