Stop Being So Religious

Do sad people have in

It seems
They have all built a shrine
To the past

And often go there
And do a strange wail and

What is the beginning of

It is to stop being
So religious…



– Hafiz

The mosque of this affluent neighborhood is crowded. My father lives here and prays here but is not from here; not of here. His spirit is constantly fleeting southwards towards the mountainous plains of Kerak with its colder nights and simple food; his birthright. Geographic destiny has trapped him in Amman for now.

And so, on such Ramadan nights, upon walking down the hill towards the green-lit minarets, he argues: ‘this mosque is full of regret’.

For while beggars line the gates and the courtyard in search of colored paper, the elderly crawl indoors. Retired and receding, they come here for redemption. Their expensive cars block the streets outside, having been driven the equivalent of a 5 minute walk.

And here, many of them cry during prayers. Here, many of them soak their gray beards, with tears of regret.

And here…I am.

Twenty-four and constantly struggling to lasso my wandering mind during mid-prayer. My eyes in a trance, distracted, and thinking about my next career move. Constantly wondering what’s next, what’s next, what’s next; the future.

Meanwhile, the old men that surround me are tearful with regret of a life surpassed. Their minds distracted, with the past. I am praying for happiness as they continue to search for it.

Trapped in a city life, in a neighbourhood reeking of alienation and the building of tall fences.

Bribing God with tears.

This, they call religion.

And I don’t want to be like that when I’m 60.

Park an expensive car outside the gates.

Soak a beard with regret.

I want to be like my father, who drives far from the city every chance he gets. Who pretends his garden is a farm and our hilltop apartment is unclogged and free from city air.

I want to star gaze every night instead of searching through the haze of city lights for orbiting satellites.

And above all. Above all else.

I do not want to be constantly looking to the past.

I do not want to wail and worship.

I do not want to be as regretful.

I do not want to be religious…

Like that.


  • my favorite for you in a while now. I think there’s nothing more beautiful than a son that admires his father truely, and nothing more comforting than a father proud of his son.

    Regrets eat those people when their greedy souls got tired of their greedy requirements and earthly needs. I will always insist that God doesn’t exist only at prayer times or before eid…

    and I too, do not want to be religioud like that 🙂

  • lubna: thanks for the great comment! 🙂

    salam: I’d start with the two listed in my “reading” section at the bottom of the page. Also try the illuminated rumi. enjoy the journey! 🙂

  • very touching.
    The truth is, i dont agree with you in two points,
    the first: is the whole idiology of hafiz, see, Hafiz if Farisi, and in his eyes, “religion” although sifi-ish, still is inflinced by his surroudnign and enviroment: shea-ism. a core-important part of shea beleif is to cry and wail ove the death of imam hussein, originaly based on a guilt knot that they killed him, or let him get killed, a lot of their faith is rounded around that, hence, they still cry and yijlido anfos.hom with salasil and 7adeed and bleed, enjoy the blood and consider it blessed, in 3ashoora. its 3aqeedat takfeer 3an il thanb.

    but see, that is not islam as we -sonna- recognize, accepting fatih, al 2eeman bil qa`9a2 khayrih o sharrih, is one of the six bases of 2eeman in our creed: il 2eeman billah, mala2ikatih, rosoloh, kotobih, il qa`9a2 khayrih o sharrih.

    you cant object to god’s will. you have to accept it. so in that term, its very un-islamic to go into past to cry tragedies.


    to cry your own mistakes. i think thats a virtue. not mistakes that you did decades ago, but mistakes that you do everyday. let go of the past, and think of your current mistakes. maybe if we all thought of our mistakes, cried our mistakes, we would make sure not to repeat them in the future.

    and who said that crying one’s regrets is sadness? not at all. it genuinly cleans your heart. was your heart with the water of your eyes. nothing can clean it better.

    look into present and future and be hopeful always, but look closely into your heart and cry your mistakes. that is in my eyes what it means to be religious, and i want to be too religious.

    send my best regards to your old man, tell him i said kol 3am o inta bkher, tell him i go to Karak almost everyday, and if he wishes, i would bring him the biggest sidir of mansaf available there 😀

    have a beautiful day bro 🙂

  • oops: list of corrections! :


    il 2eeman billah, mala2ikatih, rosoloh, kotobih, alyawm il akhir, il qa`9a2 khayrih o sharrih*

    wash your heart with the water of your eyes*

  • bambam: if your question is a prelude to me being called a heretic, i think i’ll pass out of the hope that it isn’t.

    salam: hope it helps!

    Isam: thanks for reading buddy!

    khalid: i think you misunderstood the point. this post isn’t about sufism or hafiz or poetry. you don’t have to be sufi to believe in various principles of sufism that are a common thread all across the board in Islam. spirituality, love for God, etc. that is undeniable. to take it a step further (to illustrate my point) if i had quoted a Buddhist saying as a prologue to this post it would not mean i’m a believer in the religion, but rather that i’ve found wisdom in the saying. Sunnah Islam does not have a monopoly on that.

    as for crying out of regret for mistakes. this too was not my exact point as i have no problem with that. there is however something odd about being constantly regretful. it indicates something. moreover, there is also something to be said about constantly looking to the past and reviewing those mistakes over and over again. this is something even the Prophet pbuh told people not to do because it borders on questioning God’s will. In other words, what happened happened, if you regret it then do so and move on. This is exactly what you pointed out about crying over tragedies.

    Now put this all together and you get elderly individuals whose ways are not completely changed but see the mosque as a sanctuary of “cleansing” their record (this keeping in mind that i see these people almost everyday now).

    They are stuck in that vicious circle. And that’s not what Islam is about, nor does it represent its path towards happiness.

    (this is my opinion)

    p.s. wa inta bi alf 5eir inshallah! i’ll pass the offer along! 🙂

  • Salaam ‘Alaikum

    Very nice. No need to bring the three “S” words into it either. What you speak of is, in many ways, about the human condition… not just Arabs or Muslims or even men. 😉

  • me calling someone a heretic ? highly unlikely.
    am just curious since about 6 months or so i notice u getting into it and from what i see in references in ur post i think you formed an opinion about so just asking thats all

    heretics have pets too 😛

  • ahmad: you know what they say, if you cant say something nice about someone, dont say anything at all 😉

    UmmZaid: that’s very true!

    bambam: i’ve been a fan of rumi, hafiz and other sufi poets for several years now. my latest fixation has to do with having bought two new books to add to the collection.

  • 2 thoughts: firstly, i do agree that many mosques are filled with oldies trying to ‘make amends’ in some way for their past sins or regrets. it seems that most of them assume that life ends at 65 so by the age of 60 they start preparing to die! very sad especially that islam is about enhancing your life and others around you. the prophet pbuh said (meaning) ‘if judgement day starts and one of you has a plant in his hand, he should try to plant it’ i.e work to the very end.
    secondly, going to taraweeh should be refilling your batteries, giving you spiritual energy. if you find your mind wondering & you can’t focus, may be you should change the mosque.
    anyway, ramadan kareem 🙂

  • If you find yourself unable to concentrate in prayer and thinking of those who don’t have this affliction, maybe you should try and be more like them?

    Why would an old man abandon his car?

  • Hello black iris, I’m asma, relatively new to the blog world and I think this is the first time I’m comenting on one of your posts.

    I kind of share mona’s viepoint here, I’m not sure why you’re equating those old men crying in the masjid as being tears of regret, some people cry out of frea of allah, some people cry when in prayer when they’re having an “iman rush” for lack of a better word, even if it was tears of regret that’s not a bad thing considering noone’s perfect and everyone makes mistakes!

  • asoom: welcome to my blog then and thanks for your comment 🙂

    there are two things i need to point out, this is meant to be a poetic post about an abstract thought. it’s based on observation. of course only God knows what exists in people’s hearts but human beings are endowed with powers of observation that let us pick up on things quite easily. this is one of those things. it’s one of those ‘you have to be there’ things that’s hard to describe it…which is why i didn’t want to try and describe it as a normally written post full with prose and a matter-of-fact attitude.

    the downside of choosing to write it this way is that its open to (mis)interpretation, but its a good risk to take in my opinion.

    thanks again 🙂

  • what maakes u look down to them,?

    there is nothing greater than a man being so humble and regreting his reckless youht…
    who r u to judge how a man is connected to god?
    everyone has his/her own way of showng his appreciation to god
    of which crying and begging is one..
    there’s no hamr in crying and begging to ur creator
    i hope u don’t have to suck people up whileu’re climbing i selam il watheeefe

  • X: sigh… very careful attention. i’m not looking down on anyone nor am i referring to the common regret everyone feels about just about anything. this is a specific situation that i’m describing. please make a solid attempt at comprehending that before flying off the handle at me.

  • that’s quite upclose to the personal bit of you Naseem! seriously a really well-written post, what gives you the drive? is it the fabricated Ramadan spirit you mentioned earlier? hehe

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