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Poems from the Straight Path reflects, chronicles and tries to make sense of Joel Hayward's conversion to Islam after two decades as a fish-out-of-water Unitarian within trinitarian Christianity. The realization that the God to whom he prayed was one, not three, and that Islam was the way for him to worship the God of Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus. His conversion was a life-transforming journey that led Hayward, at almost forty, finally to bow his face to the ground before God for the first time. Despite being religious for twenty years he had never bowed as a man should; as low to the earth as the human spine will allow.
The process of learning Islam is more profoundly complex and confusing, yet stimulating and satisfying, than for those who were raised in Islamic families or communities can possibly imagine. Everything needs to be learned. But first everything needs to be unlearned. Hayward's journey of exploration, transformation and illumination forms the beating heart of this moving collection of poetry. Yet my poems deal not only with my own reversion and other spiritual experiences, but, more importantly, also with the everyday challenges and hopes of western Muslims who wrestle to understand their gone-astray society and its encroaching pressures. A timely and important work that reveals the struggle and profound insights of someone bridging cultures and faith traditions.
Joel Hayward is a scholar specializing in international politics, Just War theory, and the ethics of modern conflict serving as Chair and Director of departments at Khalifa University, UAE. He is a Fellow at Royal Society of Arts and Royal Historical Society.