Threats to national security

From the perspective of humanist politics, you can say what you like about Osama bin Laden, about terrorism, about Islamism and the West. You can probably reach quite a nuanced and sensible position that takes all things into account, condemning terrorism in any form but also recognizing prevalent forms of hypocrisy in the actions and focus of the Western powers. Or maybe your concern today is solely with the evil that bin Laden wrought, and you will sleep slightly easier tonight knowing justice has been done. Or perhaps you’re one of the more bloody minded or crazier types.

But from the perspective of Tailorite Sufism, bin Laden’s danger is lethal to the Religion of Reading. For his power is that of Qur’anic illusion, his power a false Qur’an, a Qur’an of blindness, a Qur’an erased, not recited. I’m not talking about the media’s conception of a Salafi (or otherwise) basis, nor of a terrorist’s school of theology: I’m talking about him, the man, the individual agency of bin Laden.

Because he continues to exist, he was not killed, not really. He persists within the micro-fabric of your reading, a constant threat to your prayer, to your recitation, a barrier between you and the command to iqra: there he stands, just out of the the corner of your eye, a silent waxwork Muhammedean simulacrum, a kitch imitation, that bearded face, those faraway eyes that have seen something beyond us (if not God, then what?) and that saintly, sheikh’s smile, and a biography of elite tribes, exile and jihad in such close parallel to the sira of … well, you know who.

But that’s the nature of his illusion, his temporary Qur’an: the infernal plastic surgeon, he constructed his face to appear like Muhammed, he has abused the symbolic field, arranging it according to Stalinist realism, so that an unholy depiction of Prophecy arises, embodied. And this mimesis becomes the ultimate denial, the ultimate erasure of the Qur’anic sentence.

Ah, these innocent, infantalized Muslims, so far from their Roman Catholic maturity: they are virgins to the “Divine” pleasures of garishly painted wooden statues. And bin Laden is nothing but Roman Catholic’s nightmare played out in Bunuel or Fellini, a waxwork Messenger moving within your dreaming head, nothing but a simulacrum: a robot whose mask is imitation of a Messenger’s face, but falls away, revealing nothing behind it …

We do not make a point about theology or political-spiritual groups: we tell you this about him, his individual archetype. He continues to destroy and erase everything that could have been, everything that once was in Islam, replacing it with what “is” Islam. A nuclear fallout of microscopic bin Ladens, filling the air of mosques throughout the world, polluting, blocking, shutting down the channels of Divine Intellect.

His face, that simulacrum: it is a crystallization, an embodied (or countenanced) ontology that is the opposite of recitation, the opposite of reading, reading’s inversion. His face is one of erasure, deletion.

Pharoahs come and go. As the Qur’an informs us, colonization and  power dynamics are the (almost) inescapable nature of our fallen existence, and the ironic secret to its (impossible) transcendence.

But bin Laden’s archetype continues as long as we continue, until the End of Days, the greatest threat to our Nation’s security, to the Truth of Islam, to the Sanctity of Qur’an. There is no greater threat to Islam than that man.


10 thoughts on “Threats to national security

  1. That’s a very nice point about the ‘archetype’. How much do we actually know about the man? Very little, it seems. He was a cypher compared to his image, effaced in celebrity – fana fi’l brand… In many ways it was much the same with Princess Diana: the mass outpourings of grief for someone that the grievers didn’t know at all, someone whose archetype so overpowered their frail personality.

    How appropriate, too, that bin Laden was buried at sea. Surely there must be a tailorite reading of this, given the emphasis you place on water and fire and so forth? The man was but a mere drop compared to this oceanic archetype, and in his death will be subsumed into his own myth.

    But what are these archetypes, Musa? This is where, as an akbari, I can’t go along with your ‘simulacrum’ interpretation. The archetype was vital, and potent, and vast – it was a Divine Name, uncompromising in its disregard of the form it possessed. It was the Mudhill, the Misleader, the Abaser. And it flourished as such a force of evil in the world because – unlike our ancestors – we don’t know how to pay adequate respect to the ‘Dark Side’ of Divinity. If believers had been reverenced the Mudhill within themselves, had accepted the ambiguity of the human condition, they wouldn’t have called into being such a powerful manifestation of this archetype – or fallen into its thrall.

    1. Peace James,

      I’m glad you raise this point — it actually relates to your last comment here which I still mean to get around to replying to.

      Regarding Names and the Dark Side of Divinity … I believe I get where you’re coming from with this. And I don’t believe I’m particularly far from that — however, the simulacrum is kind of key for me still …

      If you don’t mind, I will restate “your” position very crudely — not accurately because we’ve had enough conversations here for me to get the finer nuances of what you are saying, which I think is probably best described as Beethoven Sufism (to my Mahler, perhaps). This is purely as an excuse to elaborate a bit on my views regarding the Names and on evil.

      The Classical position here might be phrased:

      That there is nothing but Divinity, there are True Names that make up reality and, more specifically, constitute the human condition and that, as a consequence, any “evil” we find is due to a kind of fixation or imbalance or not knowing how to know/recognize that all the Names entail balance, that they are a harmony which indicates, signifies the Single Unity.

      That the Mudhill is a Name of God, God is the Abaser just as much as God is Justice or God is Mercy: but when we do not recognize the harmony of these names, we exist as a temporary imbalance, an imperfect emphasis — in contrast to an eternal balance and harmony (which could have been achieved, or at least corrected, via dhikr of the Names, of the harmony).

      I’m sympathetic as you know, but rather too Derridean/Lurianic/Gnostic to phrase things this way.

      In particular, I do not believe that the evil we encounter (particularly the evil of a bin Laden style misreading of Qur’an) is, strictly speaking, a direct theophanic emphasis on the Mudhill. This is a corollary of my belief in the linguistic impossibility of a direct theophanic encounter with any of the Names.

      That, instead, we exist within a prison of constructed from a fabric of broken Names. This fabric is known as the ayat/signs of Allah. The signs are not the Names: signs are are reality, the Names are (from our current thrown state) a kind of benevolently Freudian primal scene. The Names taught to (the pre-Prophetic) Adam are not immediately accessible to his descendants (whose linage begins after Adam fell and was forgiven, their lineage being exactly what Prophecy means).

      The implication is that the 99 Names, for example, are part of that prison, a particular, culturally Islamic construct, a regime of signs assembled from that fabric. They come with their own historical baggage and traces — they are, in particular, a machine for generating theological meaning (and power, signification). Their machine ultimately seems to draw its power from a Face of God battery, which is nothing more than a “begging the question” on the part of the Names and their desire for power within theological discourse. The Face of God here is a theophany-theology production machine. Other religious cosmologies (say, Aztec Indian or bin Laden’s particular version of Islam) will have a different set of power systems running, operated by other Divine batteries, but they are still machines, regimes, meaning production factories.

      Now, this is a pretty sorry state of play because it means theophanic encounters with Names are — not so much meaningless or impossible — but are a self-fulfilling theological currency necessitated/fictionalized by the “99 Name” regime/factory to power its state and keep its workers happy and well fed. Which would basically place it on the same level as bin Laden’s regime or the Aztec regime or whatever: all a schizophrenic multiplicity of parallel theologico-social-experiential capitalisms. Each offering meanings, experiences, perceptions, modes of embodiment and disembodiment that are self contained to their own means of production.

      But with one exception.

      The 99 Name regime recognizes this state of affairs and so constitutes itself as a series of ironic gestures (ironic trades of capital) that indirectly informs us somewhere, or nowhere, impossibly, some One “out” there Loves us. Two key self-referential gestures here are relevant to the question of evil and the Names: that of the Mudhill (the Abaser) and that of the Muizz (the Glorifier).

      Besides being a theological capitalism just like any other, the 99 Name regime also expresses the tension inherent within all sign regimes, expresses the tension between disassembly/abasement/broken fabric of signs and the the glory of their impossible reassembly/reformation … A tension inherent to all regimes, including the 99 Name regime itself (a tension that invites a creative revolution, along the lines I am myself self-referentially attempting to intimate in this reply). These two Names are the tension behind the entire capitalism of theological speculation and dictate how one system can carry Truth, implode and wither away, but with Truth carrying on into another (like a Vine carried between Trees over ages) … (Carrying = abasement into glory and glory into abasement ad infinitum)

      Anyway, for these reason, I can’t see bin Laden’s archetype as the Mudhill. Because there is nothing “dark” (not in the sense of bin Laden’s darkness) to the Mudhill — because an ironic gesture is not like that — its “darkness” is really just Love, on Her visiting rights to us in the prison of our own (thrown) sign regime. In contrast, the simulacrum of bin Laden is entrapment within the sign regime. Which is a completely different darkness, and an archetype trapped in a regime, an archetype devoid of literary irony … that’s a simulacrum.

      That’s not to say we don’t fall into real problems when we fail to recognize a bin Laden is always a threat within our own selfhood — this is clear. But I wouldn’t call this a dhikr: I’d call it being a Blade Runner (rather than a Navy Seal!). Or perhaps, more specifically, “being Deckard”. Deckard in the book and film is a special officer paid to eliminate simulacra (android replicants). There is a doubt in the book that he himself might be a simulacrum. Of course I favour the original movie, where his love for the replicant Rachel (and the leader of the renegate simulacra Roy Batty’s final act of mercy toward Deckard) “transcends”/evades the whole crime-and-punishment machine (motivated by its own ontological engines, including the Turing Test like Voight-Kampff machine whose currency is the determination of what constitutes humanity) …

  2. Insightful post and very interesting discussion. I wonder if the Tailorite ‘archetypes’ coincide with the Abkabri ‘archetypes’ – which latter, more correctly are called ‘haqaiq’, and are the non-manifest realities of manifested physical contingencies. They are not, therefore, the Names of God, but come into being as a consequence of the Names. It could be said that, as a result of God’s infinite mercy (ar_Rahman), the infinite all-possibilities of the haqaiq come into being, and these haqaiq include the possibilities of that which is not God, that which is not the path to Islam, that which is not Islam. Hence, I would agree with the Tailor – in that the archetype of Osama certainly does not lie in the Jalali Names of Allah, but rather the archetype of Osama is closer to the the reality of “not God” which God, in His infinite Mercy, makes manifest – in the very same way that “evil”, per se, does not have a reality in itself but is rather a privation of Good. Thus, the word ‘simulacra’ is very apt.

    1. @James and Nasser: when Nasser puts things that way, I’m very amenable. Thanks very much for your comments! (Like Mahler, there’s quite of lot of Beethoven swishing around still within me, more than I probably anticipate.)

      You say the haqaiq are “consequences” of the Names, I’d like to equate the “consequence” with something like the Christian concept of the fall (into language), or Kabbalic understanding of the shevirah (the shattering of the vessels of the Names of God), one in which actually a multiplicity of “Divine name games” arise (including ones — ironically — involving discussions about consequence, fantasizing about the originary Divine names, regarding the haqaiq and the shevirah).

      I guess I should clarify that I am using the word simulacra in an approximately Baudrillardian sense. Which is as a closed system. Abuse of the sunnah is a good example of such a thing: a bin Ladenesque abuse is to take a Muhammedean sign system but fails to acknowledge the irony of light embedded within the signs of the sunnah and, instead, close the loop so as to attempt to admit no passage toward reconstruction of the Names from the signs. Where reconstruction always flows from irony, not from the belief in an absolute semantics to govern and rule the regime (that’s just another part of a closed loop). Abuse of sunnah is to admit no Reading of sunnah. No irony = no iqra = closed loop = simulacrum.

      The Qur’anic term for “closed loop” is the sealing of hearts, as in

      “Allah has sealed their hearts and their hearing, and over their eyes is a veil and awesome suffering awaits them. (2:7)”

      I believe James is more well acquainted with the haqaiq than I am — my earlier reply ignored what I acknowledge to be the “nuances” of his learned understading — I’d be interested to hear his feedback on this discussion.

  3. i like the image of nuclear fall out.

    however, im not sure if he’s the greatest threat and the embodiment of practically everything that is wrong. maybe he’s interlinked with some of the top five on an ummahtic threat register.

    which do you prefer brother, radiation suit, time machine or nur hose?

    1. SLM Fugstar,

      In terms of threat level, he has got to be the worst to Islam as a religion based upon the reading of Qur’an, because his threat is internal, it’s a shut down of the command to iqra (see comments above), a command that initiates Islam and the Reading itself. The purest shutdown, we might say. You can have external forces up against the necks of the ummah, you can have slavery, corruption, poverty of spirit and love — but the salvation from all of those threats is the Reading/Qur’an itself. But bin Laden (the archetype/simulacrum) is a closed loop whose meaning is to shut down the Reading. No more lines of hijrah, no more redoing/undoing/redoing, no more jihad — just a fixed infernal city of his most despotic sunnah. As the Reading says,

      “They will have no food but of thorns, neither nourishing nor satisfying hunger. (88:6-7)”

      Deprivation and greed is one thing. But that food is something else! And it’s on the menu a lot of “halal” butchers as I can see …

      That’s not to say the other external threats aren’t just as important. They might well be MORE important at this moment in time. Just not from a Qur’anic perspective. People can exist without the Qur’an, without really Reading it, not to the point where it drives them mad with Love — in fact, not Reading it — or at least keeping it at arm’s length and focusing on something else — would solve the immediate bin Laden problem.

      Anyhow, being a tailor and not a miracle worker, the only thing I can provide is a radiation suit (for myself and my family at least).

      On an academic note, the nuclear fall out — or rather, the idea of micro bin Ladens, breathed in and out (we breath in recitation) — is a cut-up job from Deleuze and Guattari:

      Another perspective on the simulacrum of bin Laden is that he (as experienced within the media machine — any media machine) is a molar weight of something that exists at a molecular level. Something sinister (I like to think of the tiny old folk in David Lynch’s movie “Mullholland Drive”). Molecularity is the means to “become” — we “become” through passing through this molecular thing, through taking it on at the molar level (like how a crystal reflects its molecular encoding at a visible scale). Or like a wormhole that allows us to shift dimensions.

      There’s not only a molecular bin Laden, for example — in my para-phrased reading of Deleuze and Goddard, there’s also a molecular Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), and we must all “become” her in order to become woman, in order to become relativistic, in order to become decent Muslims.

      And of course there is a molecular Muhammed (pbuh). Which is the exact opposite of nuclear fallout.

  4. I think you are using him as a device. im not aware of him when i read, nor are most i suspect.

    There’s a battle over custody of the wife of bin laden, perhaps a bit mundane but interesting to see what those imperial bastard scumbags do now.

    2001-11 can be framed by the new york and abbotobad incidents. have we got any better in the meantime? how can we tell?

    1. think you are using him as a device.

      But that’s my whole point: I’m not using him as a device — he (the guy that we are all talking about, we aren’t talking about anything else) is a device. The ultimate device.

      im not aware of him when i read, nor are most i suspect.

      That’s my other point, though it is a personal one — not being a Muslim in any normative sense, when I say “ummah” I can only talk about “my” ummah, not about any other. So it’s a personal thing — other ummahs might be completely free of him.

      I’ve certainly encountered him astrally — in dreams and visions — but most particularly at the microscopic level in mosques over here — and can confirm that “he” does “exist” — at least inasmuch as a micro-wink of the eye is a manifest reality … see David’s du’a “Let not those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; let not those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye” (Psalm 35:19).

      There’s a battle over custody of the wife of bin laden, perhaps a bit mundane but interesting to see what those imperial bastard scumbags do now.

      Regarding the mundane practicalities of this: of course it is Islamically wrong to kill the man bin Laden. But the people who did it weren’t Muslims, so it’s a moot point. It’s Islamically wrong to kill anyone, even in self defense!

      This is because “my” Islam is one in which no one ever gets killed in the physical sense. A Muslim is forbidden from any kind of physical warfare. Muhammed’s sunnah was to not kill anyone with a physical sword and he never shed a single physical drop of blood. When we read hadeeth or sira that refer to “battles”, particularly to cases in which people were “killed”, what is going on there was a theophanic martyrdom, a group fana. In a world in which Jesus can awaken the dead, Moses can invoke the plagues and part the sea, Muhammed had that kind of power. His Kingdom involved other souls, but was forged purely by his Reading, by his recitation — words conquered and transformed.

      No one got killed within (or during the formation of) the Muhammedean Kingdom. Not a single drop of blood was shed. Until he faded away (and then I become a little bit shia but not completely).

      Given that the above is an unshakable part of my iman , and that I therefore stand quite far from the ijma on the issue of inflicting death — it is little wonder that I would blame simulacra of illusion from corrupting and confusing the established Reading with their “spirit” of materialism.

      But again, I accept that “proper” or “real” Islam (the one that exists outside of my mind and the pages of this blog) has a right to maintain its boundaries according to the democratic will of its (largely beautiful) people and that there’s nothing inherently flawed with its diverse range of negotiated, culturally evolved approaches to reading the Qur’an. In fact, from a Sufic point of view, even what I see as corrupted, materialist readings (ones in which Muhammed actually used a physical sword and commanded physical armies that shed physical blood) — are actually perfect , vehicles and carriers of the Qur’an’s deeper message (to future generations).

      And because the vast majority of Muslims are humans, they have negotiated an indigenous relationship to the Muhammedean sira and with the Qur’an — one to which their intrinsic goodness as humans has been adapted in a decent fashion to defuse the ticking bomb of bin Ladenesque materialist discourse — we can say that things are basically a-okay with the majority. And that they are, inshallah, getting better all the time.

  5. It’s certainly true that, in considering Ibn al-‘Arabi’s work, the fixed potentialities (al ayan ath thabitah) – which fall into the category of haqaiq, ‘realities’ – are often described as ‘archetypes’. However, what the Shaykh says of these potentialities or ‘essences’ is very interesting in this respect. Because the ayan remain unmanifested, and ‘never sniff the breath of existence’. Instead, their reflections are existentiated in the created world through the Divine Names.

    And to my mind it is actually more accurate to describe the Names as archetypes since – like the true archetype – they can be manifested in an infinite variety of ways, through different individuals. The ayan, on the other hand, can better be seen as ‘limit conditions’ which provide the specificity to this manifestation – the manifestation of Al Mudhill (in my example) as Bin Laden, and not (for instance) as Joseph Stalin or (whimsically) Penn and Teller, or (mudanely) the woman who took £20 off me with the (apparently classic) ‘gas scam’.

    This point is important too when we come to considering the difference between ‘archetypes’ and ‘signs’ (and this returns to an old, well worn theme of mine here, which is the inability of contemporary semiotics to differentiate between a sign and a symbol). Signs are a social and cultural construction, coming with “their own historical baggage and traces”. But archetypes exist beyond culture – manifesting in different cultures and times in forms that, whilst they might appear outwardly conditioned by those times and cultures, are nonetheless characteristic. Of course, the Names can be turned into signs – especially by a Theology that refuses to recognise in them anything more than scriptural conventions.

    It’s Rumi’s point about not being able to reach the milk through the cheese – signs are existentiated through the Divine Names (in the same way that I’m suggesting the inauthentic ‘Bin Laden Brand’ is nonetheless an expression of a deeply authentic archetype), but the Names will always be greater than attempts to ‘capture them’ in signification.

    If one sees the Names as Ibn al-‘Arabi does – as not removed from ‘reality’, but rather as its very tangible fabric – it is rather the case that the whole of human experience reveals itself as theophanic. For instance, the name al Hayy – The Living – can be seen as an attribute of a remote and abstract God. Or it can be seen as the very quality of Life that animates every living thing (which for the Shaykh includes everything, since he considers that there is nothing that is inanimate). Yet it is not limited by any familiar experience of ‘livingness’. So, for instance, forms of life that we cannot presently conceive – which are theoretically infinite – are equally determined by this ‘Name’ as forms that are familiar (such as the life of the hamster in its cage in the kitchen).

    The Names really are equivalent to the ancient pagan gods, which are the bases of all our archetypes. Indeed they are perhaps a characteristically iconoclastic Islamic way of talking about the same thing – the same thing that appears in Judaism as angels, and in Christianity as the powers and attributes of the saints. So, for instance, St Peter with his keys to the Kingdom is another way of expressing the Name al fattah, The Opener. Or Aphrodite/Venus is expressed in the Kabbalah through the archangel Haniel, and by the Sufis through the Names al Jamal and al wadud. But Aphrodite is not an abstraction: she is every person who is ‘ridden’ by this archetype, and also beyond all of them. Just as life is expressed in every living thing, but is beyond the way it is expressed in any particular living thing.

    What I was suggested was that Bin Laden was ‘ridden’ in the same way by the Name al mudhill, ‘The Misleader’ – which, in another expression, is Hermes (in his form of The Trickster). Bin Laden the individuality is really the abstraction – the ayn that determines the particularity of manifestation, but is never itself manifested. What is ‘real’ about him is the Name that existentiated the refection of this ayn as the historical Bin Laden. This is in keeping with Ibn al-‘Arabi’s observation that whilst conventional thinking sees God as a concept, and the world as a percept, in Reality God is the percept, while ‘the world’ is merely a concept.

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