Faith Through a Fidelity to the World


And somehow, we're nearing the final week of Ramadan. I don't watch the moon as intently as I did last year [nor do I write as much as I did, see here and here and here], but when it was full I watched it with the comfortable certainty that the world would stay this full forever. The moon shrinks, of course, and with it my time in Istanbul. Fasting this year has been a different experience –– at once more normal and more onerous. I stumbled across an interesting observation recently, in which someone recounted her experience with trying to fast. She framed it in broader terms, not only as a withdrawal from food and drink during the day, but also a withdrawal from the kinds of objects which normally fill her life on a daily basis. She writes of a telephone, but it might as easily be an iPad, a computer, Facebook, the television. Many of my friends and interlocutors in Eyüp talk of not just living Ramadan but bringing it to life –– in the characteristically lovely way that Turkish forms causative verbs, Ramazan'ı yaşamak değil, Ramazan'ı yaşatmak –– and I think my frustration with my own fasting has been with taking the month as an opportunity to engage my own habits, my own nefs.

Eyüp Sultan before morning prayers, Sunday 28 July; the mahya read "Prayer is the essence of worship"

Before the beginning of my Ottoman class the other day, I started talking with some of the women there. By now, I've developed a brief script introducing myself, where I'm from, what I'm doing. One turned to me and asked, "Are you Muslim?" I smiled.

Looking towards Galata and the Haliç Tersanesi, 28 July 2013

By the time I left Eyüp after the dawn prayer, the sky was beginning to lighten. Somewhere between Fener and Ayakapı I stopped to scribble a few notes:
walking home at dawn,
gulls picking through the trash
a few murders of crows
lazy pigeons tacking awkwardly
one behind the other.
Up above, the high trill of
swallows (starlings?) hunting in
the lightening sky. The waning
moon above, suddenly released
from the weight of the world.
The moon tells us a story of beginnings and ends, a wax and wane that carries us through the stations of our lives. Yet what lingers between that first crescent and the last is a world that doesn't answer our questions with a yes or no. It gives us a tangle of things that ask to be named –– And He imparted unto Adam the names of all things; then He brought them within the ken of the angels and said: 'Declare unto Me the names of these (things), if what you say is true. (Surah al-Baqara: 31) –– and we make our faith through a fidelity to the world.


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