Three years ago, I published some notes on the hadith of Umm Waraqah.
The brief commentary was an opening into a revision of Islamic tafsir – through a cousin mysticism, that of Judaism and Kabbalah. Umm Waraqah, the woman who leads the prayer, whose house is visited by Muhammed and his disciples every Friday : she is equated with the Shekhina, she who is sought on sabbath, whose house is the temple, the feminine, receptive, immanent aspect of God, God as presence, God as perception-filling tranquility. (Her slaves are the reflection of the material Adam and Eve, fallen, with Shekhina/Waraqah as the tree of life.)
It’s an equation that is still pleasing to me: I prefer the hadith read in this fashion.
But what lies beneath this reading? The traditional Islamic readings of the hadith are generally legislative and materialist: for example, it is cited as a legal precedent for women (in certain circumstances) to lead the prayer and always understood literally as an historical.
What motivated me, then, to plug the Kabbalah-metaphoric machine into the Islamic-materialist machine? Irrespective of whether the original writer of the hadith was a Kabbalist or not, it is a fact that a Kabbalic imposition is alien to the Islamic reading.
When I proposed the re-reading to Muslims, the response was generally negative — “I don’t need Jewish mysticism to understand my own text!” Given the current ethnic tensions between the two races, of course it ought to be anticipated that a Zoharic-Quranic conjunction would meet with resistance and, from the Islamic perspective, would touch a number of raw nerves. (Noting that the inferiority/corruption of precedent, father-mother texts is the perennially Oedipal subject of Islamic TV, within the mosques and in discussion groups. The murder of parental scripture is ingrained as a constant Oedipal tension within the Islamic culture.)
I’m not a Muslim and never have been. Islam is a pure race, an embodied, local, indigenous tradition — while my body is mixed race, globalized, identity-less. Of course I had exposure to the Islamic understanding of precedent scripture (including deviant mysticism), thanks to my genetic experiments. My attempts to become Muslim, physically, to replace my body with an Islamic, ummatic body.
I think that the Judaic machine is invoked here as an interruption to my becoming Muslim — but not a cessation — it is proposed as a short cut — a Shekhinic short cut — to an alternative, truer, fantasy Muslim body. A fantasy Muslim body whose nature is short cuts, whose nature is Shekhinic substitution — the substitutive act itself is central here. In other words, the Kabbalic machine short circuits the literalist Muslim body, injecting it with a Shekhinic virus that takes over the hardware, leaving only software, each line of code now spelling out the unnamable Name of God.
This fantasy body becomes fetishized — and is what I named Prophecy. It is a totem that offers me satisfaction and power, because I am no longer — seemingly — dependent upon the literalist machine (exterior authority of interpretation). But what is the machine itself a symptom of? Desire for the Islamic body. And what is the Kabbalic interruption offering? A substitution for that body — but a substitution that gives pleasure in its self-recognition of itself as substitutive, immanent, fetish. The Islamic body can therefore be short circuited, apparently — we ignore the “real” historical Umm Waraqah, the legal precedent Umm Waraqah — and in her place, substitution, transcendent joussance through immanent metonymy. And yet — she’s there still — repressed, desired as a lack, needed to be possessed to complete me, racially, culturally. Lack of an Islamic body, desire for Islamic bodies — these still drive the connection, the substitutive act. Racial lack is what motivates the (frowned upon) fetish of substituting Kabbalic, exiled transcendence for Islamic, aboriginal belonging, legislation.