Question: Your analyses are often muddied beyond repair with intellectual references to psychoanalysts and philosophers like Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault and the like. But Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari and Foucault were not Sufis. This so called “Tailor’s Doctrine” of pseudo-Sufism is mere speculative application of the relativist values of a temporary, but currently fashionable, academic paradigm. I come from a long line of traditional Sufis — my father is a Sheikh in a major Sufi order — and I know he would say that your intellectual analyses are blinding you from progression.
You need to abandon all these complicated words and instead feel and experience the Haq! And the only way you can achieve this is through discipleship to a true teacher, such as my father. You might be doing some real danger by continuing with this blog — because a casual reader might assume you to be a genuine Sufi teacher — and you would then be, at best, spreading confusion about what Sufism is and, at worst, leading people away from their heart of feeling and into cold fashions and intellectual words.
My father has said: “To really get an understanding of the chaos around you perhaps you need to untangle yourself from the web of intellectualism which has succeeded in masking itself as your hands.” In exchange you will no doubt lose a lot of your analytic impressiveness, but you will then gain intellectual and spiritual independence and, who knows, perhaps that will be the start of true Sufism for you.
The Tailor: Two points, about me and about you.
First point, about me.
You are, of course, correct to an extent. I am obfuscating my Truth with contemporary academic references. But obfuscation is hijab, and hijab is commanded.
My academic references are poetic gestures, first and foremost, ironic, cross dressing acts of high drama. Of course, you must be into musical theatre if you are to get anything from going to a West End show — you must understand the shorthand and the conceits. So your statement is not so much factually incorrect as a cultural misunderstanding. I am, in fact, adopting a poetic conceit that parallels (though inverts) that of Ahmed Bukhatir within this nasheed:
He is posing as a woman, singing the praises of the hijab — “This is my hijab, I never will remove”. But clearly he isn’t a woman: he is instead employing a dramatic position (particularly important in a context where the permissibility of public female nasheed singers is still contentious) to make a point about women and hijabs. If you have a western or non-Islamist background, such a position might seem very funny (in the same way that seeing a man playing a woman in Shakespeare’s time might be peculiar for us) or perhaps even offensive (because you might view it as suggestive of a regressive view of the world, where a man speaks on behalf of women literally, as a woman).
Now, within this blog, I also pose as a masculine academic, apparently brandishing my massive Lacanian phallus around the lecture theatre. And my blog, as the previous statement demonstrates, is probably offensive at a number of levels, if you read it from your Sufist, non-Lacanian background: you might be amused at (a perceived self-indulgent, egoistic) overuse of circular references to myself making statements about myself but also perhaps offended at — or at least object to — my citing “Lacan” and his external, non-indigenous, non-Sufic, academic concept of the “phallus” in what ought to be a “pure” Sufist discussion.
But if you inspect my words carefully, from within my habitus, my practice, my culture of culturality (and again, there is no compulsion here): you will see that just as Ahmed is a man pretending to be a woman speaking about hijab, I am a hijab pretending to be a Man speaking/becoming Woman. “This is my hijab, I never will remove.”
Now, in behaving according to such a fashion, up to and including the previous paragraph’s culturally coded self-recognition of this state of affairs, I am following the sunnah of Prophecy to the letter. I am being Prophetic.
My second point concerns you, specifically.
Sufi teachers have, particularly in the 20th century, used the term “intellect” and “intellectual” in an apparently negative sense, as something undesirable to progress. But negativity and positivity, desirability and undesirability are not the point being made, they are not the sense of such statements. The actual sense in which these terms are used is often (initially) lost on the student. The teacher is not talking about some irritating experience you might have had having to study some boring theorist at university. Or some bookish Nowhere Man figure. Or some emotional distinction between the ecstatic whirling dervish, not using words, contrasted with a dry academic reading Chittick translations of ibn Arabi at conferences.
The “intellectual approach” spoken about here is much deeper (more personal) than those cultural problems and refers, in fact, to the your very act of listening to the teacher.
Let me explain.
I would like to warn you that is can be dangerous to fixate upon the notion of the “intellect”/”intellectual approach” as strawmen that need to be overcome and “ascend” along some imaginary “true” Sufi path.
The danger is that you will begin to hallucinate a value system of ranks and stations. You will imagine the demon of “intellectualism” everywhere — projecting it onto others — as a means to a blanket generalisation — without listening carefully to what they have to say as individuals. And the danger of that, from a Sufi perspective, is that a particular identity will emerge from the crutches of these terms, an identity defined in need of these enemy terms as crutches, a prideful, imaginary self that defines itself as (somehow) in touch with a heart of emotion, released from slavery to the intellect. A self/ego that can offer others advice/da’wah about how they should follow your sunnah.
But just as there is no real, universal fundamentalism — there is also no real, universal intellectual approach. There are only individual voices — which are intelligible, unintelligible, offensive, truthful sounding or funny. Comprehending this — and treating everyone with this knowledge — is the meaning of the saying that “Muhammed’s nature was shyness”. Of course, I fail in this regularly myself — but right now I am being serious, loving and shy towards you at the same time.
If you were to abandon your attachment to the notion of some “intellectual way” as your enemy, you’ll find it was just a temporary phantom invented to define “you” as a seeker … and your search will become unblocked and will continue. It will not ascend vertically, but it will continue to unfold. This will involve some loss of pride in your current station, as well as a loss of something that you have become attached to as yourself , but the reward is Infinite Pleasure! In particular, you will find qalb accessible, the heart beating with a Love that overflows always in surplus across any hijab you touch, so that the Body becomes Known through its adornment.