They go up and they go down In Arabic, they say: God is great And they call themselves: good Moslems
But they seem consumed With materialism and prejudice With meanness and back-biting
Their attention is fixed on the lives of others Particularly the lower classes and the sinners Those they see as beneath them
Nevertheless they see themselves as upright Moslems And they say no to ham and no to bacon
They wash in the holy way Their hands and feet Their mouth and face But their thoughts are rarely clean They have no respect For their fellow human beings
They go up and they go down In Arabic, they say: there is only one God And they say no to beer and no to wine
So much work for the other world But never learned to live life here They reduce religion To a set of rigid rules A list of commands But make no attempt To make themselves better No attempt to make the world A better place
They do not need to As they build their spiritual homes On rigid structures and dietary laws
But can there be spirituality Without kindness and care for others?
Can we really be religious and spiritual Without opening our hearts and minds to strangers Without cultivating sympathy and gentleness Without a commitment to love and respect others Without being honest, sincere, and fair-minded Without good-will and peace in our hearts?
This poem was first published in Payam-e-Ashena, a Southern California Iranian-American community journal.