I wished to remain silent on the recent BBC Panorama programme investigating extremism in UK Islamic schools. Experiments have repeatedly shown that — foolish faqir that I am, Seal of Clowns, tattered topsy-turvy Tailor — I have nothing of value to give the ummah of Islam. And certainly anything I write about this issue will not help the community. I can see it is primarily a cultural/racial/class issue, not one that involves “my” Islam: and so the solutions that people are asking for must involve sociology rather than Sufism.
All the same, I find it difficult to resist commenting on this case, if only because it affords me the opportunity to again argue for just how beautiful things would be if we all focused our attention on what is at stake here (our very souls) and “got” the point (Allah’s will). Panorama obviously missed the point (which is forgivable in a sense, as it was piece of mere sensationalism) but (perhaps less forgivably) the ummah of Islam appears to be failing the test too.
Because there is a test going on here, at least in my scheme of things. So here are some crib notes for that GCSE at the End of Time.
I’m pleased to announce that Fernmind Unilectic Press is open for business. Founded by yours truly under strict Tailorite principles, Fermind is a multimedia publisher whose primary remit is to disseminate propaganda work from the Verandah Vanguard (music, poetry and fiction).
Currently the site is selling an interactive fiction gamebook by a “Herman U. Ticz” who regular readers may remember from previous entries on this site. The book, which is R rated and is therefore not for everyone, makes a particular point about the human relationship with a certain book of Divine Revelation (you know, my favourite book). Both books are related in their use of the second person, a “you” who is situated within the narration, like a player wearing a virtual reality headset. The gamebook examines the levels of meaning and illusion that follow from interacting with such a headset.
I am in discussion with a more “conventional” publisher for my more “conventional” theology book, A Tailor’s Doctrine, fragments of which have been put on show here over the past year. But I expect Fernmind to also be the main venue for the unpublishably dense stuff, like the Ramadan commentary I was running earlier. And their next release will be the Friends of Design album, the Suficore group for which I write the beats and lyrics.
So please check out the site and check back occasionally for further developments.
I was walking with my daughters along the paths of the institute,
Its decaying shells scaffolded and maintained by the construction work which surrounded us.
Along the way we met a priest, who carried an edition of my book,
Who wore an identical suit to mine, and had my haircut, my spectacles duplicated upon his face.
But his face revealed his nature, which was not my nature,
For he had the face of a thief: though he wore my pinstripe, he did not wear my face.
We spoke about reality for a while: his laugh was loud, but dry and hollow
And when I questioned him on his successes, his face turned dark.
And we walked past him, into a valley, within which flowered a fluorescent field of violets, the lawn of Government House stretching out beyond its hills.
We regarded those violets: such strange rich dye, an intensity that seeped outward, to dissipate only at the blank edges of petal, then kiss-crossed four times by delicate crucifixion of yellow.
But I became distressed when I saw the danger to my daughters: that these flowers had been poisoned, so that anyone who touched them would become poisoned too.
The gardener must know that it is in a child’s nature to reach out and touch beauty!
What manner of gardener would poison this beauty with the knowledge that families walk here?
And so I took my daughters away from that poisoned valley.
Eid ul Adha — the Festival of Sacrifice — is one of two important religious festivals in the Muslim calendar (the other being Eid ul Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan). It occurs after the conclusion of the Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca), but its function is to specifically recall the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, in submission to a command he received from Allah.
The story of Ibrahim and his son is related in the Qur’an.
And he (Ibrahim) said “Indeed I am going to my Lord. He will guide me. My Lord, grant me of the righteous.” So We gave him glad tidings of a boy forbearing. Then when the he attained (balagha) the effort/striving/working with him, he said “Oh my son, I have seen in the dream that I am sacrificing you, so look what you see.” He said, “Oh my father, do what you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, amongst the patient.” Then when both of them had submitted (S-L-M, root with connotations of both peace and submission) and he put down him down upon his forehead, and We called out to him that “Oh Ibrahim, certainly you have fulfilled the vision. Indeed, We thus reward the good. Indeed this was sure the clear trial.” We ransomed him with a great sacrifice. And we left for him among the later generations. (37:99-107)
While all Prophets deliver the same warning, each Prophet has a particular prophetic function, what the Quran refers to as their “favours/preferences/degrees”:
These, the Messengers. We preferred (favoured) some of them over others. Allah spoke among them and He raised some of them in degrees. (2:253)
All prophets, and their respective “favours”, relate to each other according to lineages of transmission, (non-linear) lineages defined according to their functional composition. Each prophet is bound to each other prophet according to a skeletal nexus of favours/functional relationships/co-predication/composition, in continual technicolour fluctuating relay. This nexus of relay, taken as an entire network in action, constitutes the primordial Body of Man. Depending on one’s perspective, it is also known as the Tree of Life, the Miraj or the Sa’ee. (Muhammed and Christ have a special, distinguished relationship with entirety of this nexus as we shall shortly intimate.)
Ibrahim’s nature is love/submission: the best form of human love is his Prophetic function. Love as tawhid: absolute adoration/submission/affirmation of the Unity of Love. This form of human love is sometimes called Islam.
My soul, my mercy of many days suggested it, friends:
By my entire existence, I made the city in flux.
So this castle’s incandescent bird is to fly away.
Into the blackness, light’s absence, everyone goes.
Oh my people, hold fast to your good.
My enemies, these munafiq, will find things difficult in their dishonesty.
This man was together with us many years:
Allah himself will judge what to do with him.
All are parts of my body: their mechanism is in such dynamic with the soul,
So that when soul separates from body, these sides shake!
Jubilation of the people at the Judgement of the Almighty!
Honest folk, eternally grateful to Allah.
Khoja Ahmed, your bright bird is taking flight,
Unfortunate one, it’s no longer your decision:
This is the decree of Allah, my friends.
(Koja Ahmed Yasawi was a Sufi Saint from Turkestan, responsible for brining Islam to that land and, consequently, modern day Kazakhstan. This is a translation from his Divan-i-Hikmet by the Tailor and the Matronita Minor.)
Two clowns are we, brought into court as an entertainment,
your tent not so much the shelter, as psychic circus,
and oh, how well we synchronize our silly walk together!
The children laugh and clap their hands,
the King’s amusement, however, is quick to fall away:
now look, regard his countenance,
see how the regal hour-frowns are measured by your zigzag mis-steps and the comedy of my falls,
while we can do nothing but witness his descent into madness, and offer inappropriate yet pithy voodoo witticisms.
Could we have averted any of this, or any of that which is to come?
Playing it as 1980s satire, all alternative socio-political earnestness?
Taken broad physical slapstick to solicit the crowds’ common guffaw?
Or fashioned it as personal hadith, a romantic comedy,
Zellweger unable to choose between Mr. Nice and Mr. Nasty
(I could play both, a mirror split, as I am, between your upper left and right).
But never straight, for we don’t play against type.
So when I stammer out a prophecy of the enemy at the gates,
the threat to our glorious struggle for Truth,
and while you descend, suspended in the air by invisible threads,
and lay down now the rules for a bloody War in the name of Love,
it ought to be obvious to all that we are doing an impression.
But the audiences of this land have no sense of the irony.
and they get carried away with theatre for theatre’s sake.
Look: the men are even dressing as I do and the women are applying their mascara and putting their hair up so, after your style,
and it now appears as though there there are a gaggle of you’s and me’s, staring down blankly upon our act.
Those frightful dopplegangers cannot perceive
That this bluster, these words, these warnings are a pantomime flourish,
That we are not generals, but fools.
Was it ever any different?