The Citadel

The Andalucian citadel lies, obliterated, above the speechless souls of scientists,
assembling, as they do, within the Mayor’s House
for a taste of his wife’s special sangría.

I am tired, and tell my student: “Make a model from your taxonomy of these flight-lines,
and make your measure a line of flight out from that.”
From my monadic laity to my middle yeared plateaus, intemperate weariness
seems to totalize my interaction now, a rift of cynicism rising from the cigarette of the forgotten mujahid.

Oh, to be freed of these increments but for a moment!
To be returned to her comfort, the purity of her mathematics a garland of glory,
the exactitude of her calculation, kisses across my being:
that this doctor of philosophy might heal these Spanish wounds,
within the domain of her sweet hospice.

The World Cup: A Coach’s Story

All life (from going out to buy a bottle of milk, to settling down to watch a movie with the wife, to general religious practice) is an embodied interplay of football teams. Time is measured by the continual nonlinear changes in their composition, the line-up of individual players relative to the collective, the buying out and swapping players for great exchanges of wealth. And the players practice the game without reflection, embodying it in their discipline …

But then there is an exception of no-exception to this understanding of the world. The Children of Seth are the umpires of the match, upholding the Shariah, protectors of the World Cup itself. It’s kind of a badly kept secret.

The players and the umpires are orthogonal concerns inasmuch as I am fond of my tattered taxonomies, though hypocritical in my roleplay … Because is also the third term of imaginary coaches.

For here I am again, broken hearted (soon to be ditched) coach of this weakened English team. The penultimate game commences and my eyes turn white with esoteric (!) tears: preemptive imbalance, mistiming and dreams lead us to a suspension within the very first moments of play. Only 11 players remain on the field. At half time I ask them to play different positions, but it doesn’t avail them, though satisfying a wish in my heart. I can sense now: no doubt it will go to penalties …

WAGs turn away their faces, unable to watch. Then the scene changes, and through my blindness, the belated 12th player returns, bringing me back “here”. And you remind me — all teams are but fragments of an original team. Thus I rejoice: umpires and players meet when a team actually wins the Cup — at the end of every menstrual cycle.

Oh Sufis, it’s world cup fever down in South Africa. So blow your Hu-hu-zelas! I heard the mayor of London complain recently about these “instruments”: that they sound, collectively, like the buzzing of bees in your (inner) ear. So blow, let’s get that Asalic waveform happening within the little stadium.

[That’s enough football conceit (the Tailor only knows Aussie rules anyway) — Ed.]

Being strange

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Islam initiated as something strange, and it would revert to being strange, so good tidings for the stranger. (Sahih Muslim Book 001, Number 270)

What is the most disturbing, freaky, weird aspect of Islam: what is it about Islam that its very practitioners feel so strange as to desire to conceal that nature from the vision of their own souls (upon their backs)?

Continue reading “Being strange”

Ahl al-Qitab

It has been be argued (within certain Sufi circles, specifically, those of the Tailorite disposition) that we (or at least me, most of the time) are hardly ever Muslims but are, instead, “merely” Ahl al-Qitab. Embodying (albeit faithfully, sincerely, beautifully) the rules, carrying the signs of God upon our backs: but not yet reflecting, not yet reading. When the Books of God are carried upon our backs, we are as holy donkeys following a particular path, “we” cannot read them, so do not know what they signify, but, nevertheless, we carry them forward into the “future”. Perhaps, at a later date, others might take from what the donkey carries and carry it through reading the script.

In other words, Prophecy is still going on right now, and the goal of the journey is that we recover Islam, we, the embodiers of a practice of Islam, we the people of the Book, awaiting his entrance into the Medina of our heart.

Those who were entrusted with the Torah but then did not carry are of a likeness to the donkey (HMR) who carries books. (62:5)

This is not a verse meant to enjoin a sense of smug religious superiority upon Muslims. It is a universal cosmological reading of the relationship between the (collective and individual) soul, its journey and self-awareness.

Quick tafsir: The donkey is what we normally think of as selfhood, as subjectivity — secular or religious, it doesn’t matter at this point. Sufis call it the nafs. It carries “books” but without really carrying, without reading what “books” are. The “books” are, in fact, the autobiographical inscription of the donkey’s own journey, rendered through the qalbic prism of self-awareness, the purification of meta-reflection: it carries as a donkey because it is not yet able to carry Torah as a Submitter whose selfhood has been illuminated to rise above the “everyday” realm of the donkey and into the realm of the rider who knows what the donkey and its journey constitute and can carry the books of autobiography in this knowledge into the qalbic realm of Malakut/Yetzirah.

When we realise this, we understand that we have been entrusted with revelation.

As the collective soul (broken into individual souls) of the ummah, we embody it, we carry it but do not carry it, we carry it upon the back of our water-body nafs, but we do not see it for what it is, we do not carry it, because the collective soul has not been awoken. Instead we embody it, a walking text, for future generations of the collective to, eventually, comprehend.

To hasten this process, if not collectively, then individually (the individual soul still being a microcosm for the ummah) we should ask ourselves, what must be done to find ourselves as riders, so that we may read and carry the book as riders.

Long aside on donkeys: God treats donkeys in various ways in his Books.

In (74:49-50) Allah describes those who turn away from the truth as like donkeys running from a lion. In (31:19) Hu says “the harshest of all sounds is the voice of the donkeys.” And yet, in (16:8) the donkeys are described as a gift to us from the creator, granting us transport and adornment. So donkeys, that part of us that carries us, is also an adornment to our being. Then there is the famous talking donkey of Balaam, the false prophet, in B’midbar/Numbers — the donkey resists his movement along a particular path, though the rider (granted access to the higher realm, but abusing this access) mistreats it.

A donkey in Torah and Islam always stands for a “lower” aspect of selfhood, that shell which carries our higher selfhood — the orders of our soul — upon the journey. It is interesting that the Arabic for “books” here, asfaran, has SFR as its root, from which we also get a meaning of inscription and journeying.

Thus, while they do not carry the Torah as a rider carries — in the sense of coping and reading its signs — their donkey, the journeying, inscriptive, textual subjectivity, navigating the space of discourse — still carries the signs upon itself — as a simultaneous book and journey/self-inscription.

That is, by realising we are not Submitters at all, but in fact still Ahl al-Qitab existing within the lived space of Nasut, it is our paradoxical, contradictory station to carry the journey/books/autobiography upon our nafs, precisely by virtue of the fact that we cannot yet carry/comprehend the nature of the Book as autobiography of our journey as a donkey!

The Fiqh of Menstruation

1. Cycles of reading

They ask you concerning menstruation (mahid) Say: it is a hurt (adha). Therefore keep away from them during their menstruation and go not unto them until they have become clean (tahara) and when they have cleansed (tatahhara) then go to them as Allah has ordained for you. (2:222)

What if we were to say that, in this instance, the Qur’an is a woman? A woman that we relate to according to a cycle of reading/revelation/understanding. It is recommended to complete a cycle of reading of Qur’an every month. This reading should not be stagnant, static, unthinking. It should follow a revelatory, generative cycle of ascent.

Thus within this verse we find the universal, spiritual aspect to the sign of the Feminine’s purification/renewal, transcending her constitution within the multiplicity of systems within which she finds herself momentarily captured.

We normally consider only the socio-biological reality of a woman’s cycle, limiting the Feminine by definition of her constitution. Biology defines what a woman is (and what menstruation is) according to a constitution of the womb, of linear temporal measure, of sexual organs, hormones, blood, etc. Cultures, religious traditions, societies have a related — but separate — notion of what a woman is, including an understanding of her menstrual cycle — these understandings are somewhat more amorphous and entail all kinds of often widely different feminine subjectivities: in some cultures, menstruation (and having a womb) is taken as a key mark of difference between a woman’s capabilities and social function and those of a man, in some traditions, menstruation is considered to be a form of purification, in other societies (such as our own), it is played down as a slight inconvenience (but one that is slightly taboo to mention in polite conversation) and becomes linked (curiously) to a capitalist industry of feminine hygiene, linked in with a media of advertisements that configure a particular feminine subjectivity. In all cases,  “woman” and “menstrual cycle” are signs that figure within systems of power, systems of constructed sexuality.

But the menstrual cycle — like everything in life, everything in all systems — is also a Divine sign that indicates something that exceeds biology, society and culture: and the Qur’anic verse, read correctly, leads us to the realisation of what “she” really is, what a woman really is, beyond those familiar symbolic power-systems of society and biology.

Those who engage with Qur’an (and those men who love their wives and those women who love their husbands) know that repeated reading brings boundless reward. Each cycle of re-reading elicits new facets, nuances, depths, beauty. And her cycles are necessary to purify and renew all those family members within her house. It is she — the spoken revelation of God — that is signed by the “woman” and by “cycle” within the systems. The woman is the sign of the Qur’an and, bidirectionally, for the biologically/socially/traditionally situated female seeker, the Qur’an is the sign system that leads her to understand what a woman truly is, what she is, beyond her particular symbolic situation.

And she is a shariah that dictates, herself, that this engagement — this understanding — is not continual. There are moments when we abstain from revelation, do not have it face-to-face but, instead, must keep distance from it. This is a movement of turning face-to-face, productive reading, followed by abstinence, withdrawal, hardship. Why is this dictated by shariah? Because this cyclical movement is exactly what constitutes renewal, the Qur’an as a womb/birthing, if renewal is the womb. The process of engagement, the process of understanding is driven by the seasons of our journey with her: of co-garmenting masculine/feminine negotiation of signs. Without this cycle of abstinence and return, new meanings, new depths of understanding would not be possible for us to gain in our engagement with her, in our engagement with the Qur’an.

Continue reading “The Fiqh of Menstruation”

Tailorite assumptions: a self critique

The Tailor: Currently, most Muslims accept (or aim to accept) the shariah of Allah unconditionally, because unconditional submission to Allah’s will is the nature of our religion.  This acceptance takes the form of embodiment, the physical living practice of religious piety (as opposed to a theological/philosophical hermeneutical negotiation). A good example is dietary and clothing laws: Muslims follow these laws by physically embodying them, without doubt or question or rationalization. They embody the law, simply because Allah lays down verses that command this in the Qur’an.

But the time has come for this embodiment to become something more, to become self-aware of the Body that is performing the embodying.

Q: Hmmm … I think I have a problem with the implications of that statement. Are you devaluing the worth of Muslims’ common form of unconditional acceptance of the Will, merely by virtue of the fact they are not utilizing your particular form of reading? Acceptance/submission (without question) to the Will — without the kind of quasi-cognitive content that many Sufis require — is surely a true modality of comportment towards God.

Continue reading “Tailorite assumptions: a self critique”

Commingling of sexes at jummah (again)

Q: What do you think of commingling of sexes at jummah, and women leading the prayer?

The Tailor [assuming cryptic, holier than thou tone]: The women should be either behind a curtain or else positioned at the back of the Mosque, because it is at the back of the Mosque that the impossible possibility of pure differentiation can sublimely manifest herself as the Real Muslima and receive/reflect/manifest the Nur of Submission within her perception/speech. This sublime manifestation is induced via the poetic misprison of the absolute myth that men even exist within a mosque, a myth that is embodied by the group prayer as a whole. It’s very straightforward.

Another way of saying this is: the issue is not whether a woman can lead a prayer in place of a man, but whether man exists at all in the space of prayer.

Q: Ah, but I see you mean this symbolically. You are saying that all Muslims, men and women, are “symbolically” female, in the sense that our perception is receptive to the Nur of Allah. Only a prophet is symbolically masculine, in this sense, because he is the conduit for the light to enter into our space of reading, via the Qur’an. And you are saying that, within the prayer, the women behind the veil or st the back of the mosque symbolise the position of the entire group.

I get the idea of reading traditional arrangement of prayer symbolically, but what are the practical implications of this? If the tradition regarding position of women in a mosque is symbolic, then what about the actual, physical way we are to perform group prayer? What does your symbolic reading have to say about that?

Continue reading “Commingling of sexes at jummah (again)”