The Birth of Aliya Mariam by Seemi Bushra Ghazi

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  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

12 replies
  1. Cindy Thomas
    Cindy Thomas says:

    Spirit led me to find your post on December 18. I savored your beautiful expression, your rich story, and realized I was with you in the actual time of your labor and birth to Aliyah on December 19. I just read your story again and my heart is cracked open even more. I just finished the Consent of Advent virtual retreat with Bill Redfield. This story and Bill’s sharings about birth and death, death and birth, intertwined, and as passageways of the Divine, continue to percolate within my heart.
    Much gratitude and many blessings to you Seemi for sharing this sacred birth story.

    • Administrator
      Administrator says:

      Hi Jeannie: I’m glad you found the link and hope you enjoyed the reading! It’s great when people let me know that there is a problem so that I can (hopefully) fix it.

    • Administrator
      Administrator says:

      Hi Jan: The link is right below the second paragraph of Seemi’s essay. I’ve made the link a little bigger and changed the colour, so hopefully it will be more obvious.
      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Pete Squire
    Pete Squire says:

    How do I actually open, what I presume, is the film/video clip of the “Birth of Aliya Mariam. Lots of narrative but no film as implied.
    Your Friend
    Pete Squire
    UK but relatives in Fraser Valley

    • Administrator
      Administrator says:

      Hi Pete: Sorry for the misunderstanding – Seemi’s presentation was not filmed, and we are not making the recording available, as it was a deeply emotional experience for all involved. She has shared the written essay, however, which is the linked PDF.

  3. Courtney callahan
    Courtney callahan says:

    This looks so amazing! Somehow the link is not working for me. Would love to read these beautiful verses.
    Love courtney

    • Administrator
      Administrator says:

      Hi Courteny: Thanks again for letting me know about the link – hopefully everything is working now!

Comments are closed.