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A Faith Lived Out in Poetry and Prayer

Adnan Onart is a Turkish Muslim living in Boston. He’s an active member of a Unitarian-Universalist congregation where, he says, he can best live out his Muslim faith. Poetry was his response to our invitation for expressions of Muslim identity. He first submitted “Morning Prayer,” which he wrote as he was coming out of a deep depression:

“Morning Prayer”

In a poor Istanbul neighborhood,
At the ground floor of our house,
My great-grandmother says:
It is time for morning prayer.

If you pray, she says, pure as a child,
From this corner of the room,
An angel will appear.

I am five years old closing my eyes.
Allahü Ekber.

Essallamü alleyküm ve rahmetullah.
I am fifty opening my eyes.

In Boston, Massachusetts,
In a not so poor neighborhood
At the top floor of our house
Praying my morning prayer.

From that corner of the room,
My great-grandmother appears.

Adnan Adam Onart
Boston MA, 1997

Although he is Turkish, his name is Arabic, after his great-grandfather’s name. Following 9/11, the name, “Adnan,” was added to the FBI’s most-wanted list and his name began to carry a different association in peoples’ minds. His poem “Ramadan in Dunkin’ Donuts” grew out of this awareness:

“Ramadan in Dunkin’ Donuts”

From his asking about the time
and double-checking his watch,
I understood:
he was about to break his fast.

Selamün Aleyküm, I said,
the only Arabic I knew
for all practical purposes.
Aleyküm Selam, he replied.
He was setting his table:
two donuts, one Chocolate Glazed,
the other Boston Kreme
and a thick lentil soup
he had apparently brought
from the grocery store
across the street.
Do you want to sit down
and share?
I thanked him, no.
Aren’t you fasting?
I explained:
my high blood pressure,
my medication.
He pointed to one of the donuts:
Still, he said, let’s share.
The collapsing Twin Towers,
the beheaded hostages,
and the jumpy look on people’s faces
hearing my name.
We already do, I said.

We received so many wonderful Ramadan stories from Muslims around the world. Some of them are captured on this playlist of 30 voices — one story per day for each day of Ramadan:

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