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Book Review

Poetry in the Name of Faith

Aasha Mehreen Amin

White Poems
By Zeeshan Khan
Published by: Academic Press and Publishers Library

Poetry is perhaps the most effective language to reach the soul. Stray thoughts that may be strung together to form a story or carefully crafted phrases loaded with double meanings - verses convey an individual's most inner thoughts and visions, much like the canvas of an artist. 'White Poems' by Zeeshan Khan is certainly a personal journey of spiritual awakening that is expressed through simple yet profound verses that run with lyrical nuances.

The poems, read like prayers and are instructions regarding what it means to be a believer, what faith is, and how to recognise truth amidst the adulteration of the material world. The themes dealt in this collection may seem a little too sombre for a poet as young as Khan - he was born in 1977- but they reflect a clarity of spiritual perception that many from far older generations have failed to grasp, let alone preach.

Some may criticise the book as being proselytizing but Khan makes no bones about his feelings about faith and God. His intention is merely to share them with whoever is interested.

The collection's curious title 'White Poems' explains the poet, results from "an attempt to find a purer, cleaner space within my consciousness and was intended to represent something white, clear and spotless". One may wonder why a twenty-something-year old would be so preoccupied with religion Khan says that he wrote about God/morality/spirituality because he felt that there was something universal and permanent about these questions. " That is, whether we know it or not, the basic yearning of almost every soul," says Khan, adding " I felt perhaps I could help to redirect our society towards things that really matter and away from petty and transient concerns of material life, which is the cause of most of our unhappiness."

Khan's poetry may not be termed clever but they contain a boldness and simplicity that engulfs the reader and refuses to be ignored.

'Mummy', one of the most inspirational poems in the book, scorns the human tenacity to all that is worldly and shallow:

Why would we rather be
a stuck and strangled mummy?
Vainly preserving that of us which is earthly
Confining ourselves in canvas strips
of sensory desires and ego trips
break these binds
and free your soul
from these confines of your own making
that causes your bleeding heart
this earthload of aching

'Silence' on the other hand, is a gentle pleading for people to look into the depths of their being to find that inner peace that is only achieved through introspection and meditation.

In that tiniest of spaces
you will find the Universe
large and limitless
and you will know
that you are only a part
of that One Endless Heart

...And when the storm comes
and it will come
sit perfectly still
in that peaceful place
so that the silence
can fashion for you
a bubble of glass
protecting you
until the violence can pass
and pass it will
if you can be
completely still.

Khan's 'Wake up' has a more contemporary flavour and warns against the surreptitious forces of self-deception:

Have you listened when the ambassadors of darkness go into your sanctuary and defile it with suggestions?
Have you found that one voice in your head more persistent than the others Salesperson, special interest activist Lobbying in your head

Most of the poems seem to be inspired by the Holy Quran and adhere to the basic philosophy of Islam. Some are purely devotional while others advocate devotion. The language is lucid and the messages direct and honest. Khan unreservedly admits that 'White Poems' is meant to be "a religious work, a work in the name of God."



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