A Poetic Series:
Words by Shameelah Khan
Photographs by Luthfiyyah Rahman


The athaan
In the early hours of the morning
Pulsating through the misty windows
Of my mother’s house
I cry
Knowing the Gold Mosque
Where so many tears were shed
Where my childhood rests
And memories
Never fade-
Has come to hold me

I am reminded
Of the Bo Kaap hill tops
How the athaan
Would echo
And Cross paths
From many
Of the masaajid
And from my favourite one
Where songbirds live
On Thursday Nights
And the light
Of community
skin to skin


Rage and sorrow

Rests now
In my dreams
Where I am screaming

Running away from
Running away to

The empty mosques
That have built homes in my heart
I come and go
Neither here, nor there

I am in Masjidul Haram
Recalling the night
When I looked up and the roof opened up

And the sky greeted the earth

We stargazed
We moon bathed

I am in Masjidun Nabawi
In the fruit market
Where the Bedouin sang a song
About a hand and a gift of love
Where a lady Miriam touched my arm
After the prayer
And sang Qawwali
Under her breath

I am in the Mosque in Kobe
With my friend Feeya,
It was confiscated
by the Japanese military once
We crossed the road and met
A Malaysian Father and his daughter
Who sold things
That Feeya and I knew from home.
But more so,
This man and his daughter
And how they secretly crept into our hearts
From their little shop
Across from their local Japanese mosque

I am in Singapore
In Little India
Where a khutbah was delivered in Urdu
And the sweaty men
Overwhelmed in Atr and Oud
Stared a little bit too long
At a foreign woman in their home

I am in Granada
At my Sheikh’s Grand mosque
I cry
At the structure
How every tile is ornamented marble

How if one looks out

A marvel – the Alhambra
Outstretched and painting in front
Of my Sheikhs masjid
Where tourists are welcome
And children roam free
In front of lush gardens
And outstretched trees

I am in a tucked away mountain
In the middle of Spain
I cry
As the green turbans swirl around me
In thikr
And a dream of held together salawats
Where some things have no beginning
And no end
But the bending of hearts
And lullaby chants

I am in the Sheikh Zayd mosque
A walk within art
I am afraid to step too hard
Everything felt like glass
I am in awe
Of a mosque so grand
It’s magnificent prowess
On a very contradictory land

I am in Finland
Searching for my friend Maria
I catch a glimpse of her dimple smile
And we twirl against the sounds of
To her local Finnish masjid
Hand in hand

Make pretend 

I am in Egypt. On the Nile
I wake to the sound of athaan

Like pebbles on the cold waters 


My body like ice
A fisherman hands me some Arabic Coffee
And I breathe it into my skin
We are on the river bank
And a land
So broken,
So brittle
With Youth in pain
Raised hands
And in the frigid pangs of morning
Sand became mosque

I am in Zanzibar
Where a man leads the way
He says “this is the shiah sunni mosque”
I ask… “come again”
He smiled “correct”
I step in

I fly away

I am at the Jumuah Mosque
It is the Mousseum
I can hardly breathe
A space
Where languages 

Are spoken a ton
Here race unfolds and hearts are told
The secrets of

I am a child
In Eldorado Park
And my grandfather takes my hand
we walk to the Green Masjid
Where the cracks have woven
And the Imaam knows
An entire congregation by name

I remember falling asleep sometimes
When Taraweeh felt too long
But every time
My papa said
Mosque time
I trotted along

Because in the mosque
Is where we
all find a place to rest
A place where
We could
A place of sorrow
A place of hearts
And Quraan

A place to sit
And stand
Be seen

“Shoulder to shoulder”
No room in between