Michael Sugich pays tribute to a much loved American Muslim poet, Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore, who passed away this week after a battle with cancer.
My friend Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore died yesterday. He had been battling cancer for 5 years. After giving up on conventional treatments his doctor prescribed a combination of hemp oil, zamzam water and hadra. (Interesting physician!) For the last two years I would replenish his supply of zamzam from Saudi Arabia. Abdal Hayy thrived on the treatment. When I last visited his home in Philadelphia, in 2015 he met me at the door and launched into a spontaneous and joyous hadra. I joined him and we invoked The Living (“Al Hayy”) for a few ineffably blissful moments I will never forget. With the shadow of death hanging over him Abdal Hayy became increasingly light and, on the surface at least, his already beautiful nature sweetened. Death is a serious prospect. Our destinies hang in the balance. We don’t know for certain our place with God. My friend was given the gift of 5 years to reflect upon his inevitable passing and this was frequently reflected in his poetry.
Typically Bemused and Detached
Daniel Moore was a distinguished poet and most people who know of him know him through his poetry. He was a protégé of the American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and of Alan Ginsberg, among other City Lights celebrities. He was an outrageous character before he entered Islam in about 1970. He had a mane of hair and drove around Berkeley, California in a fur car, sitting on a toadstool. At the time he was a local celebrity, a theatrical figure in the 1960s, having written, produced, directed and starred in “Bliss Apocalypse, a spectacular, surrealistic anti-Viet Nam War theatrical event, which was a counter-culture sensation in Berkeley. We strongly suspect that Francis Ford Coppola lifted both the tribal aesthetic and the title of Daniel’s play for his film “Apocalypse Now”. We saw the Coppola film together when it came out and Daniel was typically bemused and detached.
Poetry Poured Out Of Him
After a poetic hiatus of many years – a time he devoted to the remembrance of Allah on the Sufi Path – Abdal Hayy returned to poetry, this time not as a beatnik/hippy freak but as a rather bookish, impish, owlish sage on a Sufi Path. From that point on his life was permeated with poetry. He was the most prolific poet I have ever known or heard of. He would write a poem every day. Poetry poured out of him. I’m not sure if this is true but I would like to think that his soul mate, his wife Malika Moore, was his muse. I have never known a more perfectly matched couple. Malika and I became Muslims at the same time. She is a great, generous soul with a huge sincere heart and wonderful sense of humor. I love them both.
Staying with Abdal Hayy and Malika was a great pleasure, not only for their beautiful company but also because Abdal Hayy let me sleep in the best bedroom ever, his basement room crammed with books. He was a bibliophile who seemed to have collected every book under the sun and stuffed them into every part of his intellectual man cave. I was always reminded of this wonderful space when we did our periodic Skype sessions.
A Sincere Seeker
But I knew Abdal Hayy, not as a poet but as a man of the path. We had many adventures together, in various parts of America, in England (even in Iceland) and in Morocco. We laughed our heads off at some of the absurdities we went through in our younger days. I loved spending time with him, not only for his wonderful wit, but because of his deep sincerity. He was one of the most sincere seekers I have ever known. He was one of the Salihin. When I knew that he was terminally ill, my one prayer was for him to experience the highest Opening with Allah before he passed away from this earth. My beloved shaykh and mentor Sayyid Omar Abdallah, may Allah be well pleased with him, told me that God is so Generous that he gives his servant everything he wants, even if it is only seconds before his death. With that knowledge I prayed for the Opening for Hajj Abdal Hayy. And now I pray that his grave is an expansive sea of light and ecstasy, that he is raised among Allah’s Friends in close proximity to our Messenger, Sayyidina Muhammad, peace be upon him, and that he is given nearness to our Lord.
Last year I wasn’t able to make my usual Umrah and pick up Zamzam for my friend but my wife Randa Fahmy traveled to Saudi Arabia on business and I asked her to pick up a large bottle of Zamzam at the airport, which she brought to Philadelphia on a subsequent visit (God bless her). Abdal Hayy was ecstatic and left a wonderful, effusive message on my answer machine.
A Sign From Allah
When I learned that his health had worsened and that he was in his final illness, I immediately called him. He was buoyant and in high spirits. He confided that the bottle of Zamzam had tipped over and the contents spilled out all over the floor. He saw that as a sign from Allah that he could no longer stave off his inevitable end. I wept. We exchanged expressions of love. My heart ached that I wasn’t there beside him but both he and Malika assured me that my presence was with them.
The second time I called, I mostly spoke to Malika because Abdal Hayy’s condition had worsened and he was weak and drifting in and out of sleep. But we spoke briefly before he excused himself and drifted off.
Yesterday, all day, as I was negotiating my way through Istanbul’s heavy traffic, I was scheming to see how I could hop a plane to visit my dear friend. I attended an evening of dhikrullah at the Jerrahi Dargah, not far from the Fatih Mosque and arrived home at 1:30 am. I checked my email and found a message from my friend Peter Sanders that Abdal Hayy had passed. We were prepared for this inevitability, as was he. But he was my elder brother and I will miss him. I will miss him.
May Allah be well pleased with him.
Michael Sugich (Haroon)
19 April 2016