Shamas Nanji: “Abraham” and “Abraham’s Land”

Shamas in Ottawa recently. Photo: Nurin Merchant

Shamas in Ottawa recently. Photo: Nurin Merchant

Shamas Nanji is a poet and writer living in Edmonton, Alberta. Shamas holds post graduate degrees from London and McGill. In 2008, he published his third volume of poetry entitled Meditations on Abraham. In verse and in prose, Shamas is doing his bit to ameliorate the knowledge deficit in Canada about Muslim civilizations as well as about the Canadian past.



Here’s a story of an iconoclast
Living centuries way in the past
In his father’s workshop one day
Destroyed the idols made of clay

An isolated one was left standing
To complete his Lord’s planning
When confronted by his people
Pointed to the remaining idol

It’s got no power, they screamed
You still worship it, he deemed
Burn Abraham, they all cried
Yet it was the fire that died


Abraham’s Land

Snow and Water

Three of your children
They’re battling it out
Each one’s real loud
Claiming to be devout
But every day there’s
A bloody shootout

There’s many children
Who’d love peace
Every day they long
For wars to cease
Please, the screams
Let them decease

Send them snow
So much in Canada
Make them shovels
Give them a comma
Let their sentences
Not drip plasma

You survived the fire
Abraham, hear me
Your land’s soaked
It should be watery
But with the killing
It’s turned so bloody

Water down the hate
God forbid it’s genetic
If love cannot be the
Land’s yardstick
Alter their weather
Send ours, like arctic

Our money’s spent on
Clothing, antifreeze
We fight cabin fever
Drive scenic journeys
Please, let the kids
Read newer stories

Let them have parkas
Rather than weapons
Play with each other
Wander among aspens
Fight with snow balls
Follow altered visions

Deep in their hearts
Let each other forgive
Not hold a prisoner
Nor be taken captive
Hear me Abraham
As I light my votive



Abraham: Most Canadians, especially those of the Abrahamic tradition, will recognise this figure. What may not be familiar is this particular story of the prophet as an iconoclast who is thrown into the fire by his people for protesting the worship of idols. The manner in which he demonstrates the inadequacy of the objects of their worship is amusing as well as educational. The story receives prominence in the Qur’an – for instance Anbiya (21:51-73), Ankabut (29:16-25), and Saffat amongst other verses – but is not found in the Bible.

3 thoughts on “Shamas Nanji: “Abraham” and “Abraham’s Land”

  1. Thank you for the lecture you gave my augustana class. It was prophetic and philosophical, as was the poetry you recited for us. Thank you also for the music, for without music our spirits would surely suffer. You are a wonderful Muslim and a wonderful man.

  2. Our Teachers in Africa taught us well, however I wish they would have also shared such stories. Our pluralistic understanding would have expanded at an early age of innocence. Thank you for your presentation and learning.

    Amir Fazal.

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