Burning down the house

Question: I attended your recent hutba where you laid down the principles of Tailorite “True islam”, and your dogma of the Prophet Muhammed’s immaculate pacifism: he shed no physical blood, yielded no physical punishment, etc.

No doubt you have a number of esoteric techniques to extract a Tailorite tafsir of peace and love from even the most difficult verses and narrations. And yet on the point of “harsh and cruel laws”, “exterior appearance of cruelty”, etc, I can’t help coming away with the impression that you’re deluding yourself. Esoterism can only get you so far, surely. There remain many aspects of the sharia that can’t be explained away so easily.

For example (one example amongst many I could give you), there are sound hadiths in which the Prophet says that those who don’t come to pray deserve to have their houses burnt down! This certainly appears to be a “harsh punishment”, if ever there was one, and I puzzle at how this threatening Prophet of his time and culture could possibly be reconciled with your immaculately peaceful image of Prophecy.


The Lord bless you and keep you on you, maintaining you on the sirat al mustaqeem by the cyclical radiance of the Loving Countenance, resonating through the shells of appearance, running outward, seeping inward, the core Truth of your lives and loves.

I certainly agree my efforts hare futile with respect to ever convincing mainstream Islam as practiced down south in the City. I’m preaching to the converted up here in Fuadfordshire — a comfortable, middle class Tailorite elite. Remember, my move to this northern village was forced upon me after I spent a number of years preaching to the wealthy and the poor of the City, efforts that were ineffective and lost to the majority. Even outwardly moderate and progressive Muslims eventually object at what I have to say, once they sit down, really listen and digest its implications.

I despair of the City and don’t for a moment believe that anything I say will convince anyone who hasn’t already had an experience of Allah (in which case they will not need to read what I have to say anyway).

Nevertheless, your hadith example is a good illustration of how I read the outwardly harsh and cruel stuff in Islamic and Judaic revelatory literature.

The hadith is indeed authentic and goes like this:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “No prayer is harder for the hypocrites than the Fajr and the Isha prayers and if they knew the reward for these prayers at their respective times, they would certainly present themselves even if they had to crawl.”

The Prophet added, “Certainly I decided to order the Mu’adh-dhin (call-maker) to pronounce Iqama and order a man to lead the prayer and then take a fire flame to burn all those who had not left their houses so far for the prayer along with their houses. (Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 11, Number 626)

The important point is the nature of what a “house” is in the Qur’an (and Torah, Talmud, Injeel, those scriptures that must be read and understood before engaging completely with Qur’an and Prophetic hadeeth, because the child’s DNA is comprehended by analyzing that of its parents).

When you read the scriptures, know that “house” always means a shell, wherein life dwells. And know that life is Love, life is the breath, the ruh of Allah. And know that shells, houses, occur everywhere: each sign you perceive, word you read before you here, each idea you have had, each action you make, each event that effects you — these are shells, houses, wherein life dwells. Your very notion of selfhood — of who “you” are — is a shell.

And your identity is a house, a shell housing the spirit of your truth, your human soul. Every house has a front door and a back door, and the spirit of a human soul (its ruh) enters from one house to another via these doors.

The process of departing from one house to another — transmigration of this ruh, this spirit, this life — from one set of signs to another, from one identity to another: this is a sanctified cycle. It is sanctified because it is God’s will being done. And it is a cycle because it is like a wheel of Light running through signs by a process of entering and exiting, transferring the Truth from one set of signs to another: transmitting the First Intellect, transmitting Understanding, Gnosis, the Knowledge and Wisdom — the things that the Tailorite Muslims call Love.

This process of departing from one house to another — a cycle of God’s ruh entering the house to dwell and departing and exiting the house to transmit — this process is called Salat — Knowing, Witnessing — God Loving to be to be Known through Love. And Salat is a cycle from Fajr to Isha:

If you have read Qur’an, you might know there is a lot of peculiar shariah relating to when you can enter someone’s house, when you can occupy a house that is left empty (cosmic squatters rights!), etc. These laws are all about the transmigration of the soul between these shells. They are not some eccentric ancient Arabic etiquette guide (though they do define a greater, absolute etiquette).

Now, this process of Salat — this process of entering/exiting — the process of Knowing — this all takes place across metonymies of signs/sign complexes. (Whether we are talking about the ruh moving from one identity/life to another, or the ruh moving from one sentence of this hadith into the tafsir I give now, it’s still the ruh moving from one set of signs to another, from one house to another.)

Signs are linguistic, and language is judgement/perception: to speak is always to make a logical judgement, to perceive is always to make a logical judgement. And “fire” signifies judgement, it signifies speech (“cloven tongues like as of fire” in the Pentecost, etc).

For Prophecy to suggest the burning of the houses means two things:
1) it is an ironically self-reflexive statement (all statements are burning houses, built as they are of signs/shells arranged),
2) it is a piece of Cosmic Shariah — to discard the shells via burning is a process of Reading (from the right of water to the left of fire), of annihilation of shells — but an anhilatory Reading that unlocks and frees the spirit to passes freely back into the cycle of Salat.

The Cosmic Shariah is in place at all times: to Read is the burn away shells (one axis) but also to transmit (the other axis of entrace/exit to Salat).

But the Shariah also applies to a pathological case: fascism of the kind located in the City. Within the City you will find some houses have doors that cannot let the spirit freely pass in and out — some houses act like prisons to the Divine soul, keeping it sealed and locked in, unable to participate in the greater Cosmic Prayer cycles of Loving God. Those houses are burnt away violently, so to speak (though not a physical violence) — like chaff separated from wheat, their burning will free the pure spirit of the human soul, facilitating its release from the burden of its shell of appearance and speculation, moving forward towards realising the goal of the nation, the Mind’s emanation, the transmission of First Intellect.

Sufis like ibn Arabi repeated this understanding — as did the Christian Gnostics and Jewish Kabbalists. But the tropes are aeons old, from an historical perspective, long predating their occurrence in hadeeth and Qur’an.

Standing in witness to the certainty that Allah is Love, I am prevented from reading Qur’an and hadeeth in any other way mode. But I don’t anticipate anyone to follow my reading or be convinced by my understanding of these texts. I might be mad, but I’m not crazy.


13 thoughts on “Burning down the house

  1. The hadith is indeed authentic and goes like this: …Narrated Abu Huraira

    As I’m sure you know, for Shi’ahs and Alevis alike those two statements don’t necessarily belong together. I’m by no means convinced, either, that the father of the little kitten was always a reliable source. How exactly does the burning down of homes square with ‘no compulsion in religion’? Abu Huraira’s reliability aside, I also wonder whether some of the collectors of traditions knew when the Prophet was being ironic…

    1. But of course, having left the City to its peculiar urban vernacular, by “authentic”, I mean here “authentic within the Definitive Canon of Tailorite Islam”.

      When I pronounce something authentic, I mean — I can accommodate it. I am my own Ecumenical Council, my own Great Assembly, deciding what narrations are canonical and what are not.

      Generally speaking, I find almost all of Abu Huraira is “in”, particularly at his most provocative — whereas the more obvious things — like the hadith about the woman who threw rubbish on the Prophet every day but then, when she fell ill, was visited by him out of care and consideration — they get the chop. My assessment is based primarily on strength, in the Bloomean sense of poetic fecundity, rather than morality (because given that Allah is Love, the morality of it all ought to be pretty obvious to all but the mentally ill and I’ve left them behind in the City).

      A lot of Shia stuff goes into my canon as well — all of the Naj al Balagha for example. I’m quite fond of the “fundamentalist” Shia (intended to be negative, anti-Semitic) stories about Abu Huraira being a Yemenite Jew, deliberately “polluting” the narrations with weird Jewish — Talmudic — concepts that the Qur’an apparently was meant to negate. I’d certainly say Kabbalah is often most obvious in his hadeeth — so there might be a grain of truth in their propaganda (but in a good way).

      That said, I recognize the battle has been fought and lost many times over: I guess everyone needs to be their own Ecumenical Council/Great Assembly/Bukhari and mix and match as their relationship to the Author suits (even if that means deleting whole chunks of stuff that I have retained/redacted).

      I am unsure about the collectors of course. Again, there are anti-Bukhari stories circulating that he was a Bukharan Jew with a Talmudic/Kabbalic agenda: such propaganda is of course more appealing to me than the idea that he had no idea about what these stories really meant. (Bukhara was indeed a seedbed of Central Asian shamanism and Eastern Judaic mysticism, and that region set the scene for some exciting developments in Islamic mysticism over the centuries that followed the Final Revelation.)

      But I’d also be content to assume the collectors didn’t grasp what they carried.

      In fact, I’d be content if I was told that my collection of Bukhari was invented by the Saudi Government 50 years ago as a piece of Wahabi propaganda — and I’ve just been reading my own craziness into it — it’s my Reading that counts, keeping my personal Ecumenical Council in good aesthetic order that is my intention πŸ™‚

      1. Oh — and regarding squaring with “no compulsion” — the point is that there is no compulsion. Houses are burnt down all the time: and people don’t notice, they are not compelled to notice this.

        But once you enter into Islam (Tailorite Islam) — you open yourself up to the possibility that you might smell the smoke. Reading each ayat of Qur’an, from right to left, is an array of houses (each letter a house) set alight by the caller. And (at right angles to this reading), there are scores of ant like, micro-Muslims (your inner flock), running out of their houses, to pray fajr, to pray isha, to participate in the wheel of remembrance that we call prayer, but that most call life.

  2. “In fact, I’d be content if I was told that my collection of Bukhari was invented by the Saudi Government 50 years ago as a piece of Wahabi propaganda β€” and I’ve just been reading my own craziness into it β€” it’s my Reading that counts, keeping my personal Ecumenical Council in good aesthetic order that is my intention ”

    This reminds me of Corbin’s thoughts on the imaginal. I suppose it is the only way to “read” reality (and what I would like to cultivate) if you take a fundamentally non-absolutist position on all truth claims.

    ps. It seems an oxymoron to be a fundamentalist against fundamentalist systems – a bit like the oxymoron involved in your “hyper-salafism” πŸ˜‰

    1. I hadn’t connected my statement to Corbin’s understanding of the imaginal, but I think you have a point there πŸ™‚ Will email you privately regarding those references iA …

  3. Looking through Bukhari on this subject, what is interesting is that the fire seems to have come from a range of options (which also included the use of a bell) for signalling the fajr prayer before the adhan was instituted. The lighting of a fire was as a beacon, which (according to the first hadith in this chapter, narrated by Anas) appears to have been a Jewish custom. The most interesting hadith on this subject is 617, also from Abu Huraira.

    Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is I was about to order for collecting fire-wood (fuel) and then order Someone to pronounce the Adhan for the prayer and then order someone to lead the prayer then I would go from behind and burn the houses of men who did not present themselves for the (compulsory congregational) prayer. By Him, in Whose Hands my soul is, if anyone of them had known that he would get a bone covered with good meat or two (small) pieces of meat present in between two ribs, he would have turned up for the ‘Isha’ prayer.’

    “I was about…” sounds like the Prophet was making a point, rather than seriously suggesting burning people’s houses. I’m also puzzled by the last part – does he mean that if they thought there was free food, they would have turned up, or is he talking about the heart?

    1. Nauruz Mubarak James: I’m sure you’re right about it being a threat rather than something enacted.

      But my point is that the threat is intrinsic to the performance of reading. If the element of the right is (absolute) water and the element of the left is (absolute) fire, then reading (Hebrew/Arabic) is always a movement from right to left … though the reading never stops, it never terminates finally in the fire, in and of itself (there are only temporary full stops) … This is Lacan’s notion of metonymy in dreams and in language/perception, a stream of consciousness, signs connected to signs ad infinitum.

      There is an absolute “stop”, but this is a kind of limit, in the sense of a limit in differential calculus (and the reason why Zeno’s Paradox isn’t really a paradox) — that “stop” is the threat of actual (total) burning. It’s never achieved, but represents an absolute left pole that “drives” the reading.

      Thus the Prophet’s threat of the left drives the reading of salat from right to left (or south to north, mapping the body to a compass), and this reading opens us up into entry into the cycles from fajr to maghrib (east/prophecy/transcendence to west/becoming/immanence).

      Regarding the other hadith … actually, I’ve seriously heard it used to in relation to greediness and gluttony in the mosque (particularly in relation to Ramadan, where a lot more people do show up to prayer, and where there is food often going round, but in universities such as mine, sometimes unhealthy things along the KFC line of business). I find this cute rather than anything offensive or shallow.

      But regarding “meat present between two ribs” … that’s pure Bukhara gold, as far as I’m concerned!

  4. Greetings Musa … Talking of fires … I’m reminded of the time Nasrudin summoned his doctor, explaining to him that his temperature was over 110. “You don’t need me,” said the doctor, “what you actually need is a fire engine.” πŸ™‚

      1. Dearest Musa,

        Indeed, spring is in the air …

        Long time lurker, first time poster, blame it on the SupermMoon … thank you for your kind welcome.

        It is nice to see that some are still putting the fires out.

        Mabaruk bashad!

    1. … The doctor’s fire engine would act very much as the She Camel of Thamud, carrying the waters (like an inverted Ark) across the sands of materialist trascendentalism. In a way the engine would act as an antidote to the Prophetic threat of fire (see recent discussion with James above) — and again its movement would be one of reading, of movement from the right of water into the left of fire. But a kind of mythical, ghostly movement — one to scare the cattle away with its giant impossibility, emerging as it does from the mountains of Thamud — because it would form an archetype for all decent minded reading (because all decent minded readings carry, firemen with a hose, the waters of Mercy onto the — always harsh — Irony of human Revelation, that the Unity breathes Truth into the Fractured Differentiation of the Text).

        1. Dearest Musa,

          You bring tears of joy to my eyes with such compliments! Enough to put any fire out … πŸ™‚

          I am honoured by your words and we are all honoured by all that you write in the name of our Lord.

          Peace be with you.

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