The Festival of Conclusion: Notes on the Sunnah


Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Umar: Umar bought a silk cloak from the market, took it to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Take it and adorn yourself with it during the Eid and when the delegations visit you.” Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) replied, “This dress is for those who have no share (in the Hereafter).” After a long period Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) sent to Umar a cloak of silk brocade. Umar came to Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) with the cloak and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! You said that this dress was for those who had no share; yet you have sent me this cloak.” Allah’s Apostle said to him, “Sell it and fulfill your needs by it.” (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 15, Number 69)

The silk cloak is any kind of impure cosmology, any kind of unrighteous system of tafsir. Or rather, a tafsir so weighted in a wealth of a tradition that does not lend itself or bestow any light. A traditional education, a great possession of the syntax of the tradition, weighs down the owner so that no Light is transmitted: circuitry is worn as wealth rather than engaged with (via bestowal). A tafsir that does not enable corrective reading.

Corrective reading releases and unlocks the Prophetic light from the signs of our life. Corrective reading is the very nature of the call, the nature of the prayer, the essence of salat in “standing” position.

All garments are forms of reading, traces of reading. An ostentatious garment that trails below the ankles prevents the “prostration” position (the concluding cycle of submission to that “standing”) is an inadmissible reading. Likewise, a silk garment is a kind of reading that is burdened by the wealth, a wealth that is locked into itself, not given outwards. A wealth that is not enacted nor bestowed, but shut in. It is the kind of garment that is gained through an Imam’s intense study and detailed grasp of Qur’an and shariah, for instance, but that does not recognize or embody or live through (“spend”) the circuitry contained therein. Threads of silk containing, after all, no wool.

The hypothetical Imam has a knowledge of all the books of scripture, all the ins and outs of their religious practice, carries upon himself all the weight, prestige and authority of his religious tradition. But, by virtue of this wealth, fails to spend a moment of his Time reading it all through correctly. A caliphatic Imam, always the spiritual danger to the Caliphate. Hence Prophecy informs the Caliph: there is no share for those who wear it and hence rejects that which was purchased by the Caliph.

But everyone’s got a bit of silk in their garment: it’s inevitable as we aren’t Prophets. We have impurities within our garments, within our interpretations and world views … that prevent us from unlocking the meaning behind it all. Specifically, the wearing of a silk garment prevents us from comprehending what “silk” and a “garment” means within this hadith.

The trick is to reverse order of these signs to unlock the light, even within a garment of silk. Prophecy sends a silk garment downward to the Caliph. Receiving a silk garment from Prophecy is the unlocking of the meaning of the signs of “silk” and “garment”. He is told to sell it, rather than purchase it to wear. Selling is not for selfish profit: to sell the garment is to bestow on others rather than purchase to receive. It is to discard the impurity of closed wealth through Loving corrective recitation: the act of discarding of that garment is its unlocking. The selling of a silk garment is to unlock the Prophetic meaning behind the impurity of that station, behind the misprison of the Caliph’s silk: and so to be released, to become free. The sale of the garment is the recognition and recitation of what the silk is: a recognition and embodiment, a living through (“spending”) the circuitry contained therein. Then our garment becomes one of wool, multicoloured with the rainbow of Sakina, like that of Yusuf.

The Face of Prophecy and Cosmic Dramaturgy

The following well known hadith applies to both Eids, to the festival of conclusion and the festival of ascension/sacrifice:

Narrated Aisha: Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Buath (a story about the war between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Khazraj and the Aus, before Islam). The Prophet (p.b.u.h) lay down and turned his face to the other side. Then Abu Bakr came and spoke to me harshly saying, “Musical instruments of Satan near the Prophet (p.b.u.h) ?” Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) turned his face towards him and said, “Leave them.”

When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I signalled to those girls to go out and they left.

It was the day of Eid, and the Habesha people were playing with shields and spears; so either I requested the Prophet (p.b.u.h) or he asked me whether I would like to see the display. I replied in the affirmative. Then the Prophet (p.b.u.h) made me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek and he was saying, “Carry on! O Bani Arfida,” till I got tired. The Prophet (p.b.u.h) asked me, “Are you satisfied (Is that sufficient for you)?” I replied in the affirmative and he told me to leave. (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 15, Number 70)

Aisha is the Wife of Deen, the Medinan Wife of Judgement (as opposed to the Meccan Wife of Love). She is the daughter of the Caliph. She is the Wife of Shariah: she is Shariah in a sense.

The two girls begin to implement Cosmic Dramaturgy (that continues on when the Habesha people are putting on their display of warfare). This is the representation of warfare: a subversive poetics of warfare. Shields and spears and poetry: all incorporeally transformative acts, but incorporeally transformative in their taboo-breaking representation of incorporeal transformation (the game of jihad). We know that the archetype of the trickster or clown is like that of the actor or travelling poet, the ironic players of the Cosmic Dramaturgy: the archetype of subversive momentary intoxication, of reflective excess. This is what is permitted by Prophecy at the Festival of Conclusion, at the end of a cycle of fasting or sacrifice. The girls and the Habesha are pure release in conclusion: pure festival.

Her father (the father of Judgement) is contained by Prophecy, but speaks shariah (he “speaks Aisha” rather than “to Aisha”) harshly and without comprehension of the Cosmic Dramaturgy — lacking the understanding of his own role in the Dramaturgy. He necessarily lacks a comprehension of his own position an archetype within the hadith itself — as hadeeth are Dramaturgy in their conclusion, while Shariah in their recitation/reading. That conclusion is the subversion because Dramaturgy subverts Shariah. And so the “role” for the Caliph in the narrations is always played out in tension to the Caliphate that is constituted by Shariah’s reading (poets always exist, after all, in tension to command because to represent is to subvert command and yet to command is to represent in an illocutionary fashion).

But all of this is contained within Prophecy, perfectly. The tension is balanced tension, not contradiction. The girls are playing music while Prophecy is laying on his side (a metonymic position as we have noted in our recent exercise Qur’anic tafsir, a position allowing signs be composed horizontally, for disjunctions to be formed, for “if-then-else” conditionals of Shariah to be manifest). His “face” is positioned away from the girls: a position of irony to Dramaturgy and at the same time illumination (because his face is resonant with the Face). When the Caliph comes to protest, Prophecy’s face then turns to him: he becomes aligned with the Light and his harshness is balanced (Aisha emerges from this as the Shariah, the Prophetic Wife balanced with the tension now, not harsh but embracing the “excess”, guided still in righteousness, protected by Prophecy’s totalization).

There are two singing girls because all feminine archetypes, including that of subversion, has an upper and a lower, a top, closer to the light and a bottom, closer to “matter”: but as we have explained, they are a single feminine plateau. There is a conflict of harshness between the Caliph and subversion (a misprison of silk), but this is resolved through Prophecy’s Wife (the daughter of the Caliph, the profit of silk’s sale).

Thus the Caliph becomes “inattentive”, distracted. He, and his pairing with the singing-in-archetype, fade — they are resolved — and what remains is Prophecy and his Wife. The festival — as a subversion, as release — now dissipates into the air, molecular Ethiopians creating a a world-stage of swords and shields, the subversion, the Dramaturgy taking the character of cartoon stylization, like a Wayang Kulit. Molecular, imbibed subversion (harshness resolved, the party now fully “kicking in”) under the gaze of the Prophetic-Shariaic complex.

The generated Shariah and Prophecy then take a particular formation. She is behind him, facing him: yet he still has his back to her.

So it is not a full engagement, it is not a transmission or engendering, it is not a reading of Law or reflection of Light in Logic, as the process of Qur’anic engagement is. Instead, these two poles of the month’s reading are positioned together, side-by-side.

He stands in front, rather than face-to-face. But, importantly, she places her face close to his (from behind, as in an embrace from behind), so that Prophecy’s face and the face of the Wife of Judgement are metonymic, side-by-side, cheek-to-cheek but with Prophecy first and the Wife behind.

What is strange about this configuration? It is one in which that is of Cosmic Dramaturgy itself. Before our reading was an embodiment of this, a living through of these faces in alignment. But at this moment, this festival moment, they are now externalized masks of a gaze directed at us, we are the performers with sword and shield. They are, so positioned, exactly an external cosmology (they are Prophecy and Bride, Light and Logic placed down on a piece of paper, the cosmology drawn down). During the cycles of reading, we entered this, the circuit model became the circuit of existence through its meditation.

But now, in a moment of subversion, we are cast suddenly outside the model and confronted again with the mandala itself as a pictured mandala. That is, we suddenly see the external cosmology as it is normally represented within our living of the sunnah: a picture of “Prophecy” next to a picture of “Law” — this side-by-side picturing somehow finding itself in the unseen circuitry of the lived sunnah.

This casting out is profoundly subversive and delightful. It is where the Dramaturgy of these mechanisms itself becomes a form of Delight, a Divine gift of release, of absolute release-from-the-meditation as the meditation.

To those who did not fast, did not read Qur’an, it is a normal state of ignorance. But to those who fasted, to those who engaged, who lived through that circuit: this casting out is a humorous piece of archetype externalization — humorous because it forms a new circuit of festival, the hadith becoming a circuit of externalization of circuitry. That is subversion, that is the principle of poetic release (located in any festival), that is Delight, that is the party principle.

Why is this principle of release necessary at the conclusion of the month or the apex of the sacrifice/ascension of the son? Why is there a party at conclusion? Because such a delight is pure jubilation, jubilation in conclusion. The conclusion of a cycle is jubilation. The face of the Wife becomes satisfied from this. The Law becomes fulfilled. And the fulfillment of the Law is the Logos as we know from the Gospel. (And recall that the Logos is often subversive/humorous in character.)

Thus the two festivals are micro-Messianic return according to this particular configuration. This point — the relationship between the is made more explicit in the relationship between dates and the festival supplication …

The importance of eating an odd number of dates prior to the Eid supplication

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle never proceeded (for the prayer) on the Day of Eid-ul-Fitr unless he had eaten some dates. Anas also narrated: The Prophet used to eat odd number of dates. (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 15, Number 73)

Why an odd number of dates before calling and submitting? Because an even number is balance. Balance is the perfectly transcendental (lesser) face of the human. The “+1” is the plane of immanence (our own Feminine consciousness) into which this balance is received/generated.

Dates flow down to Mariam (the “+1”) — the theophany of this process of reception/generation — as the sign of the (re-)emergence of the sublimated Logos, of the Christ (the ultimate balance of Names, always an even conception).

So she (Mariam) conceived him (the Christ), and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.” But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. (19:22-25)


One thought on “The Festival of Conclusion: Notes on the Sunnah

  1. Here is a slightly different reading of this hadith (which undoubtedly exemplifies the jawami al kalim – many layers of meaning implicit in few words).

    The English word ‘silk’ comes from the Arabic sulk, meaning cable or thread (literally ‘that which is threaded’) – from a root that also gives us salik, a ‘seeker’ (as in salik al haqq, ‘seeker after Truth’), maslak, a way (as in English, either a thoroughfare or a way of doing things), and suluk, behaviour, comportment, attitude.

    The second line of the first poem of Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Tarjuman al Ashwaq reads: Wa fu’adiyy laww daraa ayya shi’bin salaku “And would that my heart knew what mountain pass they threaded!”

    When ‘Umar offers the Prophet a robe of silk, he offers him the garment of ‘seeking’. Muhammad gently points out to him with his comment that this is inappropriate for him, since a Prophet does not seek but is sought. His share of the hereafter is assured, so the appropriate garment for him is wool (suf, ‘purity’, the garment of those who have been brought close).

    But when the Prophet offers a silk garment to ‘Umar – a garment that does reflect his condition – he arrogates to himself the Prophet’s answer. Seeing that ‘Umar has failed to grasp the nature of the gift he has been given, the Prophet suggests he sell it, and ‘fulfill your needs by it’. ‘Umar shows himself to have no aptitude for, nor understanding of, ‘seeking’ – he cannot read this sign – and that is why no tariqa derives from him.

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