Biographical background for Sam Hamod: born in Gary, Indiana, to a family of Lebanese-Muslim descent that helped build a mosque there.
Undergraduate and graduate degrees at Northwestern University; Ph.D. from Iowa Writers' Workship
Taught at Princeton, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Howard, and Valparaiso Universities.
Numerous poetry collections include Just Love Poems for You (2006), The Arab Poems, The Muslim Poems (2000), which won the Ethnic Prize in Poetry, and Dying with the Wrong Name: New and Selected Poems 1968–1980 (1980), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
As a young man he helped form the Federation of Islamic Associations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was Director of The Islamic Center in Washington, DC.
"I've always mixed Arabic with English in my poems," he says. "Certain things have more power in other languages."
Sources: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/sam-hamod; http://www.opednews.com/author/author51135.html; http://contemporaryworldliterature.com/blog/literary-non-fiction/growing-up-muslim-lebanese-in-america/; and http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/199004/poetry.in.the.blood.htm, the last of which reviews a recent anthology of Arab-American poetry in the past century.
Instructor's note: poem used by permission of author; prayer translations by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1872-1953) at www.quran.com.
Background: "Sullee," a.k.a. "Salah" ("Muslim prayer") is observed by Muslims five times a day at prescribed hours, preceded by ablution or ritual cleansing.
3. What position or status does religion or religious expression have in modern America? How do immigrants in the poem and elsewhere resist or accommodate assimilation in terms of their religious practices?
After the Funeral of Assam Hamady
FOR MY MOTHER, DAVID AND LAURA
[Author's note:] The Muslim prayer in this poem is analogous to The Lord's Prayer.
middle of South Dakota
the 1950 Lincoln
"It's time to pray"—the
"It's time to pray, sullee [sullee
= the prayer]
my Father and Sine Hussin follow
car lights scream by
the Hajj spreads the blanket
after a few minutes it's decided
they face their East, then notice
"Hamode! get over here, to pray!"
No, I'll watch
"Guard from what—get over here!" 40
I get out of the car
My father says to the others:
they rub their hands
Three old men
["God is great"]
Ash haduu n lah illah
illiliawhh [I bear witness that there is none
worthy of worship except Allah]
Muhammed rasoul illawh" [And I bear witness that Muhammed is the messenger of Allah]
in high strained voices they cant [cant = chant]
[in the name of Allah]
more cars flash by 65
"malik a youm a deen
[Master of the Day of Judgment]
I'm embarrassed to be with them
"en umta ailiy him
[on whom Thou has bestowed]
people stream by, an old woman strains a gawk at them
[and who go not astray]
I'm standing guard now 75
"a rah'maneel raheem
[most merciful, most gracious]]
They're chanting with more vigor now
[Allah, the eternal, the absolute]
striped across his chest, with green [green = traditional color of Islam, assoc. w/ paradise]
"Walum yankun a kuf one uhud
[Nor is there any like unto Him]
his head in white, his gray mustache still
"Ameen . . . " [Amen] 90
I hear them still singing
as if the pain behind my eyes could be absolution [absolution = cleansing or, metaphorically, forgiveness of sins]