The Tailor was visiting his mother at her apartment in Kazakhstan (she works in that land teaching English at a primary school). Over a nice dry Georgian red, they got to talking about surahs Ya Sin and Al Anfal — and how necks are treated therein.

We have put yokes round their necks right up to their chins, so that their heads are forced up. (36:8)

Remember the Lord inspired the angels: “I am with you. Give firmness to the Believers. I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers. Strike above their necks and strike all their finger-tips off them.” (8:12)

The Tailor said:

Our real selfhood is nothing more than a face — a surface of significance that reflects the Face of God. This face can be understood as a skull or a head, when the surface folds upon itself as part of the necessary interior/exterior crystallization of our sign universe.

Now, these heads can swap — or “hop between” — bodies, attaching, disengaging and re-attaching to different necks. We don’t notice this and suppose that the necks and bodies are constants. When this happens, we find ourselves in an undesirable position of having a head stuck to a neck of disbelief.

Prophecy brings us — you, me, the friends — the Sword of Truth to dislodge heads from necks of disbelief. The heads can then either float around in perfect reflection or else hop over to another corporeal body of belief.

What about the Battle of Badr, which is understood as the historical context for 8:12?

I believe that this form of disengagement of selfhood from the neck is what happened at Badr — nothing more, nothing less. In terms of implications for radical reform: this means that what we have been taught about that battle is, self-reflexively, itself a neck of disbelief that needs striking. Let the heads roam free!

Generally speaking, we have been taught nothing but lies regarding that key instance of jihad. I am actually all for physical wars in self defense and so on, and even wars for straight out empire building, deterritorialization and reterritoralization — but God is not a general at any level. God is above such an attribution!

And ibn Arabi said:

I spent the day in Cordoba at the house of Abu al-Walid Ibn Rushd. He had expressed a desire to meet me in person, since he had heard of certain revelations I had received while in retreat and had shown considerable astonishment concerning them. In consequence my father, who was one of his closest friends, took me with him on the pretext of business, in order to give Ibn Rushd the opportunity of making my acquaintance.

I was at the time a beardless youth. As I entered the house, the philosopher rose to greet me with all the signs of friendliness and affection, and embraced me. Then he said to me “Yes”, and showed pleasure on seeing that I had understood him. I, on the other hand, being aware of the motive for his pleasure, replied “No”. Upon this Ibn Rushd drew back from me, his colour changed and he seemed to doubt what he had thought of me. He then put to me the following question, “What solution have you found as a result of mystical illumination and divine inspiration? Does it coincide with what is arrived at by speculative thought?” I replied “Yes and no. Between the Yea and the Nay the spirits take their flight beyond matter, and the necks detach themselves from their bodies.

At this Ibn Rushd became pale, and I saw him tremble as he muttered the formula ‘there is no power save from God’.

(Sufis of Andalusia transl. by R. W. J. Austin, 1971. Reprint Beshara Publications, 1988. p23)


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