And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed Allah is, to the people, Kind and Merciful. (2:143)
The direction of prayer is a coincidence between the corporeal body of the supplicant, the geology of the earth and the conduit to the Divine. To put our “face” in this direction is to align our crystalized surface of perception (our little face) in potential mirroring of the Greater Face of the Divine, according to a function of this bio/geo/spiritual synchronization. A face-to-Face conversation, so to speak.
But we need to seek the Greater Face in order for this synchronization to occur (because we constantly deviate from it). Of course, this Face is everywhere:
And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah . Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (2:115)
There is a problem of our own devising when we attempt this face-to-Face meeting: it is fixation on direction, on the conduit rather than the experience of transmission. We fixate on the direction rather than the meeting, on religious tradition rather than spiritual experience.
The qiblah is moved from Jerusalem to al Masjid al Haram.
This movement is ordained as a Divine calibration that relativizes the “direction” of prayer away from a fixation on the absolute valuation of specific (cultural, social, discursive) religious tradition and into an absolute differential of pleasure (al Masjid al Haram), a rupture of religious tradition and practice into a pleasure of direct, face-to-Face communion with the Divine. From tradition and practice to simply loving God.
We have certainly seen the turning of your face, [O Muhammad], toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram (2:144)
That’s the pop summary.
To put it more accurately (but more obscurely) …
And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (2:115)
The Face of Allah, as a felt function of both Bestowal/Contraction, is the owner (as Alterior cause) of the Eastern Prophetic delivery of Light and the owner (as Overflowing Surplus Bestowal) of the immanent Western reception. Allah as transcendent beyond and Allah as immanent presence and grace.
Qibla is a conduit that becomes closed by virtue of a misunderstanding of the qibla’s true purpose: a waveform of our little face, alternating/differentiating between geological (western) and spiritual/prophetic (eastern) predicates, a waveform that is in exact resonance with the the Greater Waveform of the Face (East/West in family resemblance to Contraction/Bestowal). East to Contraction (Alterity) because of Prophecy is both a tie of kinship and slavery to Divine Alterity, and West to Bestowal because the West is speech/perception/logic, and the Greater Face’s Bestowal is felt as presence within signs.
The qiblah is moved from Jerusalem to al Masjid al Haram.
This movement is ordained as a Divine calibration that relativizes the “direction” of prayer away from a fixation to a differentiation of East/West, generating a waveform of the little face between East/West now in resonance with the Greater Face.
To differentiate is to resonate. The differentiation, the movement from Jerusalem to al Masjid al Haram is precisely the face-to-Face meeting. So the Muslim qibla is not a simple geological direction but a waveform between the geological and the prophetic that resonates as the Meeting, along a corporeal axis between our body and the Masjid al Haram.
We observe that the surah goes on to remind us that this notion of direction is present within previous revelation: it is the point of the previous revelation. And this can be seen if we study the treatment of differentiation and resonance between little and Greater Face in, for example, Torah and Tanakh.
Note 2: Human love
And, among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals. They love them as they love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah . And if only they who have wronged would consider when they see the punishment, [that all power belongs to Allah and that Allah is severe in punishment. (2:165)
The verse "They love them as they love Allah" is often mistranslated as "They love them as they should love Allah."
They do love Allah, but love via intermediates which, in turn, obscure from their understanding the true object of their love.
Through "belief" (trusting comprehension) we obtain "strength in love". Within the little face of the human, considered as a geography, Strength is a Northern state of Fire/Deen/Judgement, in diametric relation to the human Love of the South, of Yemen, of Water. Belief yields a mutual co-crowning of Strength by Love and Love by Strength, the infusion of the severity of judgement (differential, symbolic space) with the light of Love (direction within the space).
This co-crowning is achieved by the believers in the here and now.
But for the disbelievers, it exists now only as a potential that they might "see" the severity, encounter the power/punishment/fire. But this potential is immanent to their reference, in fact, though they cannot see it, because they exist (like all creation) within the differentiated symbolic space of Deen.
Everyone moves in journey upon this space, a life of encountering and arranging ayat. And all journeys are toward the Love: all journeys are from North to South.
But because they are not moving in belief, they they are not crowned by the Love. Rather, they are driven by Love through intermediates. And so Love does not completely infuse their perception of the ayat, does not crown their journey. Their fire is not relieved by the water completely, and so there is the threat of burning. They do not experience the immanence of Love and so Deen is felt as a potential for punishment instead of a "strength in love".
Note 3: Dietary laws
Verses (2:168-174) concern dietary laws (and the surah later follows these up with injunctions concerning fasting):
O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. (2:168)
People often take the following verse purely literally, in the sense of a biological interpretation of what “dead animals”, “blood” and “swine” signify:
He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah . But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (2:173)
It is a mistake to consider the dietary law verses in this way and it overlooks a very obvious point: the very next verse is specified after the injunction on diet to make us question our very assumptions regarding what constitutes “consumption”.
Indeed, they who conceal what Allah has sent down of the Book and exchange it for a small price – those consume not into their bellies except the Fire. And Allah will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them. And they will have a painful punishment. (2:174)
Consumption is, in the context of this part of the surah, exactly either concealing (for a price) or revealing what has been revealed of the Book. To eat swine flesh is to consume Fire, is to conceal the revelation of the Book including (self-referentially) any attempt to conceal what the true nature of swine flesh is by delimiting it to just a kind of physical meat! Swine flesh runs through all systems, not just physical. Wherever part of us wishes to conceal some Light, then that part of us is eating swine flesh.
It is difficult to avoid, in fact: hence the forgiveness of the last part of (2:173).
Note 4: Retribution
We have written about this extensively before.
O you who have believed, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered – the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But whoever overlooks from his brother anything, then there should be a suitable follow-up and payment to him with good conduct. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. But whoever transgresses after that will have a painful punishment.
The verses concerning qisas essentially lay out a metaphysics of “karmic” cause-and-effect between this life and the next. Each crime and violation upon the body (our body or a collective body of people) is mapped isomorphically to the next, according to the record of deeds. However, forgiveness in Love is a means of restitution, it removes the sin from the criminal (repairing their book of deeds) and adding wealth to the victim.
What is the wealth given to the forgiver? It is understanding, gnosis, enlightenment.
The nature of retribution is a causal relationship between this world and the Second Life. Qisas is not about this world “of the dead” but of the next world of the Living. Hence:
And in legal retribution there is for you life, O you of understanding, that you may become righteous.
Note 5: Houses and fighting
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, “They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj.” And it is not righteousness to enter houses from the back, but righteousness is [in] one who fears Allah. And enter houses from their doors. And fear Allah that you may succeed. (2:189)
This verse concerns the House of Kaaba (at one level). At a related level it concerns a kind of transmigration of the soul (or, rather, an aspect of the soul called the breath or ruh), between “houses” or shells of containment for the ruh. The ruh exists at the level wine, above the levels of milk and water. (In mathematical terminology, it is that aspect of our being that is projected upon the meta-metamodel, that witnesses our journey according to movements between languages that structure languages of movements. An awareness of self-awareness.) The ruh passes between houses, between shells of existence: but it is not permitted to enter from the back of houses, only through their doors. (This is later refined in terms of invited entry.)
Jihad is nothing more nor less than ruhanic transmission, than lines of flight from one structuring language (one house) to another, from one world view to another world view. This is the nature of transmigration.
It is thus nature that the verse concerning pilgrimage (which is a ruhanic transmission), the entry of houses should also be followed by a set of verses concerning the injunction to fight:
Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors. (2:190)
Pilgrimage and jihad are specific and general forms of soul transmigration, are lines of flght from one language game to another, from one shell of being to another. The Hajj is a specific line of flight (the line of flight par excellence) that relates to Ibrahim and Hajar, specifically as a coincidence with Hajar’s line of flight and ascent/birth of our Nation by the 4×7. The jihad “to defend the Kabaa” is a general form of transmigration/line of flight that is necessary and enjoined on us to restore the fragments of the soul by moving between houses, ultimately rendering possible this prime Islamic line of flight in recollection of the Ibrahmic/Hajaric origin.
Note 6: Wine and gambling
The verse on wine and gambling appears to be a peculiar jump from the verses on fighting, pilgrimage and emigration:
Indeed, those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah – those expect the mercy of Allah . And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” And they ask you what they should spend. Say, “The excess [beyond needs].” Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought. (2:219-220)
The relation is that jihad, pilgrimage and the emigration itself are all ruhanic movements from one city to another (and back to the original city), or the besieging of a city to prepare a clear path for this (removing fitnah). The ruhanic movement is transmigration, in essense, and takes place in the fourth aeon of wine. This aeon is a dangerous space — the danger being one of intoxication of its application to our cities.
The jihadist, working within a space of transmigration between shells, lines of flight out from one city/language to another city/language, from one life-game to another life-game … can become drunk on this possibility and consequently fall into sin.
The hadiths relate a story of how the greater sin of wine outweighs its (necessary) benefit in the vinological space of jihad, noting that Hamza was one of the greatest holy warriors:
Narrated Ali: I got a she-camel in my share of the war booty on the day (of the battle) of Badr, and the Prophet had given me a she-camel from the Khumus. When I intended to marry Fatima, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle, I had an appointment with a goldsmith from the tribe of Bani Qainuqa’ to go with me to bring Idhkhir (i.e. grass of pleasant smell) and sell it to the goldsmiths and spend its price on my wedding party. I was collecting for my she-camels equipment of saddles, sacks and ropes while my two she-camels were kneeling down beside the room of an Ansari man. I returned after collecting whatever I collected, to see the humps of my two she-camels cut off and their flanks cut open and some portion of their livers was taken out. When I saw that state of my two she-camels, I could not help weeping. I asked, “Who has done this?” The people replied, “Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib who is staying with some Ansari drunks in this house.” I went away till I reached the Prophet and Zaid bin Haritha was with him. The Prophet noticed on my face the effect of what I had suffered, so the Prophet asked. “What is wrong with you.” I replied, “O Allah’s Apostle! I have never seen such a day as today. Hamza attacked my two she-camels, cut off their humps, and ripped open their flanks, and he is sitting there in a house in the company of some drunks.” The Prophet then asked for his covering sheet, put it on, and set out walking followed by me and Zaid bin Haritha till he came to the house where Hamza was. He asked permission to enter, and they allowed him, and they were drunk. Allah’s Apostle started rebuking Hamza for what he had done, but Hamza was drunk and his eyes were red. Hamza looked at Allah’s Apostle and then he raised his eyes, looking at his knees, then he raised up his eyes looking at his umbilicus, and again he raised up his eyes look in at his face. Hamza then said, “Aren’t you but the slaves of my father?” Allah’s Apostle realized that he was drunk, so Allah’s Apostle retreated, and we went out with him. (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 53, Number 324)
In another version of this narration, Hamza is committing this act in the presence of a dancing girl: she is Lilith. In the space of unlimited possibility of breakage and reformation, he becomes caught up with Lilith, blaspheming against the Camel as the sign of the miraculous journey, the straight path.
Hamza speaks the truth in his state of drunkenness but has become drunk on the free movement open to the ruh, the freedom of ruhanic transmission between arbitrary houses/cities/shells. It is like he has become stuck in a kind of Bardo by failing to contain the benefit of the vinological space of jihad.
Note 7: Menstruation
We have written about the verses concerning menstruation recently. They concern the relationship the reader (as a male gaze) has with the Qur’an itself (as female generative reception to the gaze).
The cycles of the feminine are the cycles of our reading (particularly, our monthly reading of the book itself).
There are also striking resonances with respect to the meaning of the moon sighting, used to measure the pilgrimage mentioned earlier in the surah. Male and female here as East and West and we have already mentioned how their union is in resonance with the waveform of the Greater Face.
The later verses on divorce and surrogate mothers concern the finite, limited nature of what we can “read”, what can be “produced” from our reading and the problems of achieving an East/West resonance: effectively they concern the the moments between prayer, the moments of turning away, and how to achieve a turning away without losing the way!
Note 8: Breastfeeding
Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mothers’ provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. And upon the [father's] heir is [a duty] like that [of the father]. And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them. And if you wish to have your children nursed by a substitute, there is no blame upon you as long as you give payment according to what is acceptable. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Seeing of what you do. (2:233)
Still within the context of potential divorce, this verse concerns the emergence of the “legs” of the human self-as-productivity — these take two years to form and stand. They constitute a diamond dialectic between martyrdom/submission and victory/messaging, as experienced within the immanent space of differentiation (their negotiation are the means by which reception of the wife can be married to the light of the husband). Their emergence is dependent on the milk of wisdom, which is sourced from the womb of the mother (absolute alterity, absence, withdrawal). Surrogate mothers are permitted here — not in idolatry but because that desired “lack” of the mother is, within each life, ultimately a multiplicity of substitution.