The Spiritual Lives of Queer Afrofabulists


Diriye Osman

Beloved reader,


It might seem prosaic to have an earth-deep spiritualized interiority in the digital age, but I would argue that technology is practically a deity at this point; one that alternately punishes and praises us at a velocity that might make any Abrahamic or new age or ancestral spirit balk.


We are the technology. It is in the thumb print which has unlocked the device I'm using to write this meditation. It is in the tweet or text or TikTok notification that disrupts any fantasy we might have of defined rest. It is the blue light that illuminates the darkest nooks of our imaginations.


But if technology has become so powerful as to dictate almost every aspect of our personhood, what does this mean for our spiritual health? Like all faith systems, it means everything and nothing.


Darling reader, this is one of the many things I explore in my latest book, 'The Butterfly Jungle'. The protagonist, Migil, comes from a Muslim family who happens to be all-queer; a Muslim family that is comprised almost exclusively of British-Somalis who approach their allegiance to Islam with an elastic robustness.


With the exception of Migil's stepmum, Habo Fahma, a genderqueer gardener who places her faith firmly in the heart-expanding teachings of sangomas, this is a family that is decidedly Afrofabulist in their approach to their spiritual practice as Muslims. Migil's parents delight in the thrill and vigour and whimsy of their faith, which is anchored by a sense of cheekiness and lived-in pleasure. They do not see Islam as a spiritual practice that has excluded any of them. They see Islam as an expansive, vibrant lushness that can accommodate all of their quirks and fears and joy.


This is a group of characters for whom Islam is as malleable as melted gold. It is a universe shorn of the judgement of overly pious Pollyannas or petty-minded cynicism. My characters, whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian or atheist, see their belief systems as living organisms attuned to the rigours of love in the time of technology.


This is not an either/ or argument. It is a position that finds the hypersurreal plurality of modern life a dazzling — and discombobulating — experience. It is a 'get in where you fit in' nexus point.


So where does that leave you, darling reader? The glorious thing is you get to decide. I've said this before, but if my first book, 'Fairytales for Lost Children', explored the desire to attain freedom from the tyranny of doublethink and oppression, 'The Butterfly Jungle' simply asks, 'What now? What does one do with all this newfound freedom?'


We keep moving, beloved reader.


After all, freedom doesn't mean a damn thing unless one flexes that muscle.


May you always have the freedom to rock to your own riddim.


With love,


Diriye


DIRIYE OSMAN'S new book, The Butterfly Jungle, is out now and can be ordered via these global retailers: https://bit.ly/3L9SLR4


Song of the moment: 'On God' by TIANA MAJOR9.