Noble Brother: Poetically Prophetic

Noble Brother: The Story of the Last Prophet in Poetry by Hesham A. Hassaballa

In summing up the book, Muslim blogger Aziz Poonawalla put it best: ''This is not a book to be read in one sitting, but to be savored in small pieces at a time.''

I totally agree with that.

Noble Brother is an admirable attempt to distill and disseminate the story of Prophet Muhammad through poetic verse. For anyone who’s ever struggled to get through the myriad of thick, sometimes dense, books detailing the life of one of the world’s most influential people, it would probably be refreshing to pick up a copy of this light paperback– 54 pages, plus 30 pages for notes. For those who are familiar with the tradition, it will be an easy read. For those just getting to know the Prophet, the notes will offer some necessary clarifications to accompany this glimpse at his life.

Hassabala is a capable writer, confidently plucking words and placing them within a larger puzzle that details the most significant events of the Prophet’s existence. A medical doctor, writer and blogger based in Chicago, Hassabala is clearly passionate about the subject matter. As traditional poets before him, he pays tribute to a man he clearly loves and respects.

''A sacred union was ordained from Above
Two souls joined in dignity and love
A child was conceived by the blessed pair
But father passed away before he could see his hei''

The poetry isn’t sophisticated and yet its simplicity makes it accessible to a variety of readers, even those like me who aren’t used to reading in rhyming couplets (and who can easily tire of the style).

In fact, I kept thinking this book would be great for Muslim middle school and high school students who’d like something a bit quick and easy to get through on the life of the Prophet. Islamic school teachers, take note!

''The darkness of the times suffocated his heart
And the stench of iniquity pushed him far apart
And so he would forsake warm home and loving spouse
To contemplate on mount and in cave, in view of Holy House

And while the tempo varies little, at times making the reading feel a bit sluggish, gems found along the way brighten up the whole and make reading on worthwhile.

''And it came once upon a powerful night
When, in the blink of an eye, darkness turned to light
And one who was alone on mount and in cave
Felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, and this message it gave:
‘Read!'''

It’s about time that Western Muslim writers contribute a variety of texts and treatises exploring Islamic history and thought, through all manners of story-telling. As many activists, artists and appraisers of culture have remarked, if we don’t tell our own stories, others will tell them for us – often with far less poetic spirit.