Cowichan Lake, BC, Canada, September 2019
Recently I had the great pleasure of teaching with Reverend Matthew Wright in a retreat on the Divine Feminine wisdom expressed through Mary and Sophia. Much of my teaching felt deeply intimate for myself and the community present, and we have not included it in the weekend recordings. I did wish however to share this piece which I performed that weekend. It is simultaneously a feminist birth narrative, an embodied exegesis of the Qur’anic story of Mary’s birthing Jesus, and an immigrant arrival story. I hope you will listen for the drumming, chanting and singing I offered in performance and the whirling of my dervish sister, Anna, in our midst. May the rustle of her swirling skirts reach you. May the light breath of the Compassionate Rahman animate and illuminate this season. If you have any responses to this piece or any of the retreat, I am glad to receive them at firstname.lastname@example.org. I give gratitude for you all, especially Cynthia and Matthew who have so generously nurtured our Christian- Muslim- Sufi contemplative collaborations over so many years.
The Birth of Aliya Mariam
Seemi Bushra Ghazi
Gracious are the gardens in which in winter
New fruits ripen for every Mary
(Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi)
My lineage goes back to Adam (upon him be peace). In this respect, I am no different than anyone. I read once in a family manuscript, flowing in rivulets of elegant nastaliq script, the threads of imputed origin, Prophets, scholars, pilgrims and holy men, who moved from Yemen to Yathrib (present-day Medina) before the coming of Islam, who hosted the Prophet at their table in Medina, and arrived in India soon after the first Arab merchants. There they dispersed, taught, and preached, and established religious schools or madrasas. When I think of these men in my father’s family as I encountered them in visits to India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, they bore no resemblance to the wildeyed mullahs of CNN with their hateful small-time religion. My “uncles” seemed powerful and delicate, majestic and fluid, with features of perfect Chinese brushwork and the poise of the blue heron on our shoreline at low tide.
The shoreline where my family and I live is the coast of British Columbia, where a renegade tropical current moderates the frigid Pacific as it narrows into the Burrard Inlet entering the city of Vancouver. It is a long way from the steppes of my Central Asian forbears, the dry riverbeds of Yemen, the mustard fields of Haryana. It is far even from the London of my birth, and the Boston and Chicago of my childhood. Mostly it is far from the cities that had always seized my imagination— Damascus, Cairo, Istanbul. I arrived here nine years ago wondering how it came to be that this ancient soul had been flung out onto the furthest rim of the newest world.
Click here to continue reading The Birth of Aliyah Mariam by Seemi Ghazi, 2019