The tailor

Radial soul cries, Elohim has dispersed downwards, forming your vowels, your consonants your dark and light syllable materials. But you trend upwards towards the Orb of Love. These are the Words, self-listening. (The Reading 7:21)

Clothing that is naked signs, woven like sex.

There was a man who said  that in later reincarnations, there would be people “who are dressed, yet naked.” Cast your gaze around the city, and see that the time of the later generations is here.

It’s not a good time, nor a bad time. Not a time of awakening, nor of sleep. It’s not religious metaphor, nor is it scientific academia. It’s just the naked truth, tailored.

I am a tailor of nakedness.


Now, just so people don’t mistake my intent, let me remind you that this blog has nothing to do with Judaism, Islam or Christianity, Kabbalah and Sufism. I’ve never been part of these religions or schools of thought, not studied their texts under their teachers nor participated in their embodied traditions. I’ve got a record of posts that refer to their texts, but only in ignorance of these cultures — a style of posting I have since ceased, due to the confusion it brought.

I respect traditional Islam’s responses to these stories. In particular, I remind my Western readers not to pre-judge the Muslims on their usage of the book they carry. And we must be cautious in relating to the Islamic subjectivity of embodied piety — and, when tempted to criticise, must always ask ourselves — for what purpose do we wish to criticise? There’s always a political subtext to any critique, so what’s our politics? And if we can’t answer that sensibly, morally, then it is better to hold our tongue.

So you find in this blog cannot be called “proper” Islam, or even “proper” Sufism. Further, it has no colonial intent to affect or challenge Islam’s multiplicity of practices nor its own communal evolution: it is something completely separate without a political agenda other than to lay down what I believe.

40 thoughts on “The tailor”

  1. What a thought provoking and scholarly blog :) I love coming here.

    Ya Haqq!

  2. 'Abdallah al-Sufi said:

    Some ok stuff, but generally supercilious “goofy sufi” material.

    • tailorofthegoodgarment said:

      As-Salamu Alaykum Abdallah the Sufi,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and provide some feedback. If you have further time, it would be helpful to know approximately where you stand in relation to the Islam (I mean, which scholars and authorities you favour, for example, from Tarik Ramadan to ibn Arabi to ibn Hanbal, or just the Prophet pbuh himself alone) — and what aspects of my blog were particularly “ok”, but which struck you as particularly supercilious.

      Just as a customer feedback exercise, so I know how to improve myself. If you have no time, that’s okay and thanks for the valuable feedback anyway.


      The Tailor

      • The Builder said:

        Salaam all,

        The Builder here. Tailor’s just being charitable, as usual, and tactfully omitted half the verse. The people fail to understand that he is following the True Law in his dealings with customers:

        “But do not give the feeble-minded the property that Allah assigned to you as a means of livelihood. Provide for them therefrom, clothe them and speak kindly to them.” (4:5)

        May the elect amongst the believers be so kind.

        The Builder

  3. 'Abdallah al-Sufi said:

    Wa ‘alaykum as salam wa rahmatullah both,

    The Builder’s response perfectly illustrates the undertones of haughtiness on this blog.

    An equally dismissive comment as mine was made by your self on this blog (a comment not in a post) about someone, a Sufi. I just thought I would see how you would react, own..medicine… taste…

    Actually I don’t think parts of your blog are ok, I love some things you have to say. But the mustard seed I find hard to swallow.

    I’m not from the elect, happy to be counted as among the believers.

    • tailorofthegoodgarment said:

      As-Salamu Alaykum Abdallah the Sufi,

      First, thank you again for reading and for your kind comments. If you wish, I’d be very interested to know where you find the mustard seed within this blog — it would really help me. You (and anyone else reading this, for that matter) can always email me privately if you want (

      In relation to your test about how I felt with your calling my work “supercilious goofy Sufi stuff”, why not just ask me?

      It made me feel hurt. Personally hurt, because this is not just idle speculation and philosophy for me: this is religion. It made me feel disappointed. It made me wonder if I should not code this up more, and keep hidden from the wider family of the Ummah, if they don’t understand it. Every time I get a brother (it is invariably a brother) dismiss my writing, I wonder if I should conceal what I have learnt. What I present here I have been taught by others, who also taught me to conceal it: I break their trust by putting it out in public, and your comment (and others like it) made me question the sense of doing that. What’s the point of sharing your bread if no one is hungry?

      It made me feel … not angry, but something a little like it: Pretty much the same way you might feel if an unthinking Evangelical Christian (who might otherwise be a perfectly lovely human being) would say : “Oh, Islam is just terrorism: nothing good came of it except bloodshed and ignorance” (or something worse, maybe). Unless, of course, your reading embraces terrorism, I guess! But if you love your religion, you love your reading of the religion, and so if someone insults your world view, then you feel hurt. And what I present here is the Religion. From other peoples’ perspectives, it is just an interpretation — but from my perspective, this is my Religion.

      I think this is how most people feel about religion, which is why it is a bad idea to discuss it at dinner tables. And what I present here is my Islam. I am terribly attached to Islam so am hurt if someone jokes around with it.

      Furthermore, I spend a lot of time working quite hard at this, so, from a more personal perspective, of course it is also depressing to hear someone just dismiss it without any reason.

      On the other hand, it gets tricky, because if I believe in what I am expounding is the nature of Islam — and, mistaken though I might be, I really believe this — then I am also likely to hurt others who disagree with me. As you can see from this reply, I am not one to write short cutting dismissals — I am more likely to write a long, meandering dismissal. But a dismissal, nonetheless, and one that might well hurt another person, just as much as you hurt me with yours!

      So that’s the paradox of any religious zealot. He is hurt when a pagan laughs at his god, but hurts the pagans when he wages his war against them. This is why the Buddha is potentially a very good role model: but unfortunately I cannot follow his example and am embroiled in the paradox. Oh well, let the paradox be, let people dismiss me and let me dismiss them — except at dinner parties — and let Allah decide in the end.

      So regarding your perceived undertone of this blog: guilty as charged, I’m afraid.

      I certainly am as self-righteous and “naf-sy” as, for instance, any Salafi: anyone is correct if they assess my character as being rather highbrow and elitist. This is mainly because, like your typical Salafi, I believe in a right and a wrong, and happen to be convinced that I am right, that I am reading the signs as they are meant to be read. Astaghfirullah.

      If anyone comes here looking for a no-ego zone, Sidharta Buddha, or even postmodern Deleuzian relativism, this is the wrong place (although I draw upon my knowledge of egos, Buddhism and Deleuze when it suits me).

      Of course, perhaps unlike your typical religious fundamentalists, I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. I just happen to believe they are in error: and, if there is some value to be got from the exchange, I will joust with them. Jihad against another city inevitably makes the warriors look self-righteous, unfortunately. But even though we hate it, it is prescribed.

      I am, of course, constantly and always open to peaceful discussion and queries with brothers and sisters from within my city.

      Anyway, in no way do I condone the Builder’s response, which is quite out of order, given he doesn’t know who you are or what is in your heart. He happens to be a good friend of mine (yes, the character of the Builder in this blog is based upon him!) so I’ll have a private chat. He’s just a little zealous about this project, I guess …

      What the Builder forgot was his adab, and descended into : even if you were absolutely “feeble minded” in your dismissive quote, by definition, quoting the appropriate Qur’anic verse would defeat its implementation, as that is about as unkind as it gets!

      Nevertheless, I won’t delete it — unless, of course, you insist: generally there comments written here are quite pleasant, but if you search around there are also negative stuff directed at me, which I retain for the record, because all disputes have some kind of value. And anyway, readers will need it there to trace your response. I only delete the spam or sexist/racist stuff, on principle.

      Anyway, thanks for coming back and clarifying a bit what you don’t enjoy about the blog — more clarification would be helpful, but of course only if you want to volunteer it!

      Ramadan Mubarak,

      The Tailor

      • serap avanoglu said:

        Dear Tailor, Salam!
        I found your blog when I was searching if there was anybody who related Deleuze’s ideas with Sufism, because I find a Sufi reading of Deleuze would be fruitful.
        Although we (let’s call us “Sufi admirers”) are not “zero-ego” people, it is worth remembering that it is the goal. This discussion reminded me of Yunus Emre’s poem:

        Dervishood tells me, you cannot become a dervish
        So what can I tell you? You cannot become a dervish.

        A dervish needs a wounded heart and eyes full of tears.
        He needs to be as easy going as a sheep.
        You can’t be a dervish.

        He must be without hands when someone hits him.
        He must be tongueless when cursed.
        A dervish needs to be without any desire.
        You can’t be a dervish.

        You make a lot of sounds with your tongue, meaningful things.
        You get angry about this and that.
        You can’t be a dervish.

        If it were all right to be angry on this path,
        Muhammad himself would have gotten angry.
        Because of your anger, you can’t be a dervish.

        Unless you find a real path, unless you find a guide,
        unless Truth grants you your portion,
        you can’t be a dervish.

        Therefore, dervish Yunus, come,
        dive into the ocean now and then.
        Unless you dive in the ocean, you cannot be a dervish.

        best love,

        • Hi Serap,

          Nice to hear from you. I haven’t done a lot of Deleuze-Sufism recently, explicitly here. But there’s a lot of material around that from the blog posts in 2010. That material was collated into a book, a draft of which is available for download here:

          There’s even a film, playing on the Line of Flight and Sign Regime ideas from a Thousand Plateaus.

          Thanks for the poem.


          The Tailor

  4. 'Abdallah al-Sufi said:

    Wa ‘alaykum as salam wa Ramadan kareem. Thank you for your reply, my apologies for not explaining myself properly.

    What troubled me specifically was a comment in the post “The Historical”. In the conversation between you and ‘stumblingmystic’ about Sunni orthodox interpretations of ibn Arabi.

    You said:

    “Well, of course Nuh Ha Mim Keller is basically a Traditionalist Catholic at heart so we can discount his readings.”

    Sheikh Nuh is a respected sheikh of Tariqa, to see his name flippantly dismissed like this without any explanation and on an open blog viewable by all, is irresponsible and from my perspective arrogant.

    Keller’s teacher was the late Sheikh Abdur Rahman al-Shaghouri, who gave the famous durus on the futuhat in Damascus (presumably then this is where Sheikh Nuh’s understanding of ibn Arabi comes from). The durus were initiated I have been told to clarify the tradtional sunni understanding of ibn ‘Arabi’s work, to defend him from the Salafis and also to claim him back from the perennialists. The dars was famous for the elucidation of the high ‘Arabic of Shaykh al-Akbar’s works, secular Arab professors attended the durus just to take lessons on the Arabic. I doubt this ‘stumblingmystic’ character has even read any of ibn Arabi’s works (original texts), let alone actually understand the great Shaykh’s teachings.
    I guess my initial reaction was you were pandering to this ‘stumblingmystic, who (let’s call a spade a spade), admits is a murtad.

    The path to Haqiqa is only through the Shariah and Tariqa, that ‘stumbler’ isn’t going to taste a drop of the Ma’rifah of Allah if he remains in that state (kufr). Or maybe you believe otherwise? Why I made the “goofy sufi” comment, sure it was a belittling thing to say, but any more so say than your comment?

    I hope my words don’t cause you any more hurt and for what it’s worth I take back the supercillious comment. You’re right, we believe what we do because we think it is right, in defending our position we may come across arrogant. I’m sure some would perceive my above comments as arrogant too.


    • stumblingmystic said:


      This comment is a great illustration of why I am a) not a Muslim anymore; b) disappointed in Sufism; and c) a happy neo-Vedantist and Sanatana Dharmi who doesn’t have to carry out ridiculous mental gymnastics anymore to believe that my path is tolerant, rational and loving.

    • stumblingmystic said:

      P.S. I’m a woman.

  5. tailorofthegoodgarment said:

    As-Salamu Alaykum Abdallah the Sufi,

    Thank you for your clarification — finally, all is clear!

    You are absolutely correct: I was “pandering” to Stumbling Mystic with that comment. Precisely because I was (and am still, if she is reading) trying to bring her over to my side!

    But of course that doesn’t excuse offending potentially followers of Sheikh Nuh Ha Min Keller — you are correct, it hadn’t occur to me that any of those folk would be reading my blog. I am not sure if you are one of them, but I do know that his followers are very much amongst the Elite (more than I am, for example). And I also know that they would give the world for the Sheikh, and love him more than themselves: so I can see how the comment could potentially really upset some people who don’t deserve that. So … I’ve edited out the negative reference in comment, as it is sort of equivalent in offense to anything sexist or racist. If you ARE a follower, my sincere apologies.

    I believe that many of the established tariqas are very much a valid set of paths to gnosis. This is particularly true for the Shadhili order.

    Not by way of excuse, but for the purposes of discussion, I can elaborate on my (certainly thoughtless) “dismissal” of Sheikh Keller’s approach.

    For a while, I was spending a bit of time with Muslim apostates, which is how I met Stumbling Mystic. The thing I found most fascinating was that the majority were once very committed rationalist “literalist” types, who really knew their Shariah etc. Most eventually employed their rationalism to destroy their faith, and I was fascinated with the idea that these men and women were, in fact, very close to state of the Ummah today — in fact, depressingly, represented a possible end game for the various Salafi/progressive/[insert whatever approach] movements out there.

    Stumbling Mystic was amongst the few there that had found meaning in other expressions of religion. It might be argued that she was there to make a darwa of sorts, from her heterogeneous religious perspective. Given that I have a lot of experience with these other forms, I can speak her language.

    Her beef was with mystical Islam: in that she believes, while Sufism has a lot of spiritual benefit, it is essentially a genuine enlightenment “inauthentically tacked onto” nothing more than a social regime’s Shariah designed to regulate life according to the principles of a much harsher time (7th century Arabia). Mystical Sufism is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, so to speak.

    Basically, she views Sufism as something like reading higher spirituality into the Magna Carta. The spirituality bit is fine, but the Magna Carta is a purely social document. So it’s an inauthentic addition. She had no problem with the sheep’s clothing, just the wolf underneath.

    Now, she asserts that Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller is, effectively, the perfect example of “true” Islamic Sufism. Essentially because he truly defends and upholds the traditional understanding of the Shariah — with more knowledge and authority than any Salafi sheikh in fact.

    I think you might actually agree with her on that point. He DOES uphold the Shariah, and is extremely severe and rigid about its implementation — but with a serious wealth of understanding and knowledge. He “out Salafis” the Salafis, so to speak.

    But obviously he considers the Shariah is necessary for personal development and purification, prior to entry into, as you say, Ma’rifah. And clearly he possesses secrets of deeper indication contained within the Holy Book, that have been handed down through the chains of transmission over the ages.

    My position? I agree that the Shariah is necessary to gain Ma’rifah. I also believe that, working within the one framework — and it is a SINGLE framework — of, for example, Sheikh Keller’s version of the Shadhili order will take you very far, and keep you safe. If, for example, we just read ibn Arabi and tried to follow him randomly as a religious practice, we could be led into all kinds of bad things …

    Its the same logic the Hasidic Jews employ to justify their adherence to a strict shariah of their own, as a preparation and purification of themselves before they are permitted to even read the “esoteric” aspects of their faith.

    Anyway, I suppose I disagree (quite a lot) with the understanding of the shariah Sheikh Keller expounds (publicly, at least). This puts me at odds with a lot of others. Because his view of the shariah is, first and foremost, a socio-physical discipline — a single framework — that prepares the seeker for higher truth. In contrast, I believe that the technology for moving safely between frameworks is, in fact, provided for us by the shariah. In essence, I believe the only path to God is through shariah: that shariah is the beginning and end of gnosis, rather than a preparatory discipline.

    This is why I am sometimes known as a Hyper-Salafi: I believe in that Truth is found purely in the sunnah and shariah, not in an imagined “higher” gnosis beyond shariah. Like the Salafis, I prefer not to cite Sufi scholars and saints (although I have a lot of respect and have myself learnt from them): I try my best to stick solely to the Qur’an itself and the Sahih Bukhari. This is essentially all we need to find Truth, if we hold the keys.

    For example, I believe that verse (4:176) has a vital connection with the verses that immediate preceded it. When this is understood, suddenly we really have to rethink what it means to follow shariah (at all levels of existence). It is this act of rethinking that itself leads to gnosis.

    That said, these issues need not be considered (at least at the beginning) of a really solid programme of study, which I (hope) Sheikh Keller provides his students.

    But for those not on a programme of study, and for the apostates, my attitude is: why not just make this public knowledge and see what happens.


    The Tailor

    • stumblingmystic said:

      “You are absolutely correct: I was “pandering” to Stumbling Mystic with that comment. Precisely because I was (and am still, if she is reading) trying to bring her over to my side!”

      What’s your “side”? I’m only on the Truth’s side, which happens to be so multi-facted and many-sided that no human intelligence can ever grasp it, let alone express it.

      Thankfully I belong to a non-proselytizing tradition now and have not even the slightest interest in converting anyone to my way of approaching the Divine. I believe one hears an “inner call” to practice a path depending on the vibratory quality or “resonance” of one’s soul, and once one has heard that “inner call” one must obey one’s heart regardless of what anyone else says.

      If someone who was born a Hindu hears an inner call to practice a Sufi path (as many of my Hindu friends have), I would neither be offended nor feel any desire to “convert” them back to the Hindu traditions. This is a key difference between the triumphalist monotheisms and the much more pluralistic monistic/panentheistic Eastern traditions.

    • stumblingmystic said:

      “Sheikh Keller’s version of the Shadhili order will take you very far, and keep you safe.”

      I know some ex-Keller disciples btw. Gnosis shmosis. The man is running a cult, for God’s sake. It’s pretty obvious when you listen to his teachings that he is inflated and arrogant. Stop apologizing for charlatans.

      Oh, and he’s a creationist btw, and has ridiculous ideas about genetics.

      At this rate, even I with my meager knowledge of inner realities could set myself up as a spiritual teacher. Given how stupid humanity is, I’m sure I could attract gullible followers if I marketed myself the right way. ;-)

      • tailorofthegoodgarment said:

        Okay, let’s be careful here. I prefer to reserve judgements about people’s teachers. I’ve also heard some pretty disturbing things — but I have not met him, and I know that people love him, just as much as you love your teachers, so I would prefer to keep adab here.

        I’ve also heard people say bad stuff about Vedanta and your guys — but you seem pretty blissed out on it, so I would never want to repeat their words, because it would simply be offensive and nonconstructive.

        For example, I would be happy to let loose on a guru/teacher that I am sure no one near would feel emotional about. E.g., ibn Tamiyah or Harun Yahya :P

        But — for example — even if I thought a friend had a bad boyfriend/girlfriend, but one they clearly loved — and who might be lousy in my view, but not of immediate physical danger — I wouldn’t directly insult the boyfriend/girlfriend to their face as that’s just bad manners, no? Same deal for teachers. Unless the boyfriend/girlfriend might end up killing them or something dangerous …

        I know I contradict myself later because you can see (in another recent post) I got into a minor scuffle with someone who digs on Harun Yahya — but I got the impression he didn’t LOVE him, not in the same way that some Sufis and so on adore their teachers, so I guess I’m ok there …

        If people want to email me privately for my genuine personal opinion: no problem, I always reply honestly on such matters when doors as closed and I am sure no one will be personally hurt or too deeply offended.

  6. james souttar said:

    “the Shariah is necessary to gain Ma’rifah”

    Yes, but what one understands by ‘Shariah’ – especially in this time – may be at variance with traditional or even ‘normative’ definitions.

    In his ‘Book of the Quintessence’, the Shaykh al-Akbar famously says:

    ‘Now you must know that if a human being (al-insan) renounces their (own personal) aims, takes a loathing to their animal self (nafs) and instead prefers their Sustainer/Teacher (rabb), then the Real will give (that human being) a form of divine guidance in exchange for the form of their carnal self… so that they walk in garments of Light. And (this form) is the Sharia of their prophet and the Message of their messenger. Thus that (human being) receives from their Lord what contains their happiness. And some people see (this divine guidance) in the form of their prophet, while some see it in the form of their (spiritual) state.

    ‘That (form) is the inner reality of that prophet and his spirit, or the form of an angel like him, (who) knows his sharia from God…. And we ourselves have often received in this way the form of many things among the divinely revealed judgments (ahkam shar’iya) which we had not learned about from the learned or from books. For if the form is not that of (that person’s) prophet, then it still necessarily refers to their spiritual state or to the stage of the shar’ with regard to that moment and that (particular) situation in which (that person) saw that vision….’

    And even in that instance, ‘apart from what is forbidden or enjoined (by the Sharia), there is no restriction on what (that person) accepts from (that vision), whether with regard to beliefs or other things-for God’s Presence includes the totality of beliefs (jami’ al-‘aqa’id).’

  7. james souttar said:

    “that ’stumbler’ isn’t going to taste a drop of the Ma’rifah of Allah if he remains in that state (kufr).”

    Since when did this depend on the judgment of human beings, though? Surely whether or not a person ‘taste’s a drop of the Ma’rifah of Allah’ depends upon Allah alone. And I wasn’t under the impression that Allah was under contract with humanity to do only what was expected by the Ummah on the basis of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

    Bi yadika al-khayr, innaka ‘ala kulli shay’in qadir

    • tailorofthegoodgarment said:

      Very nice James — I think you’ve deposited some real Wealth in the Tailor’s Bank. Thank you for entrusting it to me and the readers!

      Love and Light,

      Mu the T

    • stumblingmystic said:

      “that ’stumbler’ isn’t going to taste a drop of the Ma’rifah of Allah if he remains in that state (kufr).”

      Lol. When I experience another descent of Ananda (divine ecstasy), I’ll inform God that some arrogant Sufi Muslim thinks Her Judgment (yes, as a Vedanto-Tantric mystic I prefer to address the Divine as the Mother) is incorrect.

      Seriously, I’ve even had Sufis coming up to me and saying that Vedanta has already been superceded by Islam and that I ought to abandon it (what I consider a vastly superior philosophy) and come back to Islamic Sufism. Never mind the incredible spiritual work done by the neo-Vedantists of the 19th and 20th centuries, which such Sufis have probably never read, even!

      And yet despite that, my own Guru, Sri Aurobindo, had the courage and humility to say this to one of his Muslim disciples about his own yoga and how it different from traditional Hinduism:

      “What is kept of Hinduism is Vedanta and Yoga in which Hinduism is one with Sufism of Islam and with the Christian mystics. But even here it is not Vedanta and Yoga in their traditional limits (their past), but widened and rid of many ideas that are peculiar to the Hindus. If I have used Sanskrit terms and figures, it is because I know them and do not know Persian and Arabic. I have not the slightest objection to anyone here drawing inspiration from Islamic sources if they agree with the Truth as Sufism agrees with it. On the other hand I have not the slightest objection to Hinduism being broken to pieces and disappearing from the face of the earth, if that is the Divine will. I have no attachment to past forms; what is Truth will always remain; the Truth alone matters.

      When an Islamic Sufi has the courage to say the same thing to a Hindu or other disciple, that’ll be the day when I can consider Islamic Sufism to be on par with Vedanta. Right now it is obvious to me which is the superior spiritual philosophy (though I must admit that the Universal Sufis are very much my cup of tea as well).

    • stumblingmystic said:

      P.S. I have no problems with admitting that I stumble and fall every single day, but I remain faithful that “the Spirit rises mightier by defeat” (Sri Aurobindo).

    • Marlin (Abdu'llah) said:

      Amin James! “human” interpretations of Shariah put the Ummah (whatever the hell that is in REALITY) in the position of ultimate shirk…playing Allah though NOT Allah – sounds quite a bit like Judeo/Christian mimickers…

  8. stumblingmystic said:

    Tailor, sorry to be commenting so much but I really do disagree with much of what you’re saying and I really have to wonder what spirituality you are practicing if you say things like this …

    “that shariah is the beginning and end of gnosis, rather than a preparatory discipline”

    What on earth does this mean? Can God be contained by mental formulations, rules, laws, rituals, forms? Surely not even the highest intellectual philosophy can express more than a fraction of the Divine Truth. Even the greatest forms, the greatest mantras, the greatest philosophies, are and always will be *temporal*, superceded when a greater experience is revealed to the spiritual seeker.

    Do you know that Sri Aurobindo re-wrote his magnificent epic poem, Savitri (for which he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature), many, many times precisely for this reason? Every single time he scaled a new level of consciousness, he re-wrote his poem from that new vantage point.

    Can you imagine the sacrifice? Letting go of the past form, however luminous and beautiful, purely to come closer to the Divine?

    This is why the seeker must be ready to let go of everything at all times in order to move on to the next stage, if one is serious about spiritual growth. Otherwise people become so encrusted in their mental and emotional formations that they imprison their souls in a cage of their own making and never make any progress (and are sadly oblivious to this, even).

    The equivalent word for Shariah in the Hindu traditions is “Shastra”. The shastra is indeed a preparatory discipline which is transcended as spiritual purification proceeds. This is also why the shastra changes from time to time and culture to culture, and isn’t frozen in 7th century tribal Arabia as Shariah is. As far as neo-Vedanta is concerned, the seeker is free to discard inapplicable or irrational shastras. This is why you will never catch a neo-Vedantist trying to apologize for the caste system or claiming it is or was necessary for spiritual salvation. On the contrary we happily admit the defects in traditional Vedanta and criticize the caste system for the barbarism it was and is. Why Sufi Muslims cannot do the same for Shariah is something which has always baffled me. As Sri Aurobindo puts it:

    “By which standard shall I walk, the word that God speaks to me, saying ‘This is My will, O my servant,’ or the rules that men who are dead, have written? Nay, if I have to fear & obey any, I will fear & obey God rather & not the pages of a book or the frown of a Pandit.”

    Rather than doing the sort of mental gymnastics you’re doing and playing symbol-games, for me yoga and spirituality are much more based on seeking *direct transformational experiences*. In fact, following Sri Aurobindo’s advice, whenever I have an experience, I trust the experience, but *never* trust my mental formulation of it, knowing full well how relative such formulations are and how they can never do justice to the full phenomenology of the spiritual experience. Constant mentalization is no substitute for spiritual transformation (in fact in my experience, it is a huge distraction from it).

    In the end I can only leave you with Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s words that I think should put this whole Shariah/shastra debate to an end, at least for those with open hearts and minds. Humanity is far too intelligent and rational now to be following rules that seem meaningless, prejudiced, or make no sense.

    “Law cannot save the world, therefore Moses’ ordinances are dead for humanity & the Shastra of the Brahmins is corrupt & dying. Law released into Freedom is the liberator. Not the Pandit, but the Yogin; not monasticism, but the inner renunciation of desire and ignorance & egoism.”
    — Sri Aurobindo

    “Truth cannot be expressed in words, but it can be lived provided one is pure and plastic enough.”
    — The Mother

    You can delete this comment if you want but I had to say this, as I’ve had about enough of self-righteous Sufis telling me I’m a kaafir and such nonsense, when I have never been closer to the Divine than where I am now. May the Divine Mother guide all her children.

    • tailorofthegoodgarment said:

      Peace Ned,

      I’ll respond properly later. But I consider any collection of linguistic statements to constitute a shariah. Language is shariah.

      To see that language is law, consider this statement that you are reading right now. It is constituted according to the shariah of English grammar. It has the property of referring to itself, which is significant.

      Now consider:

      askjdskdsakjfsdlkfcvxnbwebewrerw asdnsdjhwerksdffds

      That was a random statement that did not follow the shariah of English grammar.

      Now consider the statement: “All cats must sit on mats”. This statement also follows the shariah of English grammar, but does not refer to itself (unless I interpret cats to represent sentences and ‘must’ to mean conforming to shariahs … but let’s leave that for the moment).

      Now, the following statement (whether I abide by it or not), also forms part of a shariah.
      “Law cannot save the world, therefore Moses’ ordinances are dead for humanity & the Shastra of the Brahmins is corrupt & dying. Law released into Freedom is the liberator. Not the Pandit, but the Yogin; not monasticism, but the inner renunciation of desire and ignorance & egoism.”

      You can have a shariah that tells you not to follow shariahs (just as you have have statements that claim not to be statements — or sets that claim not to be sets, in math). Such self-reflexive shariahs are kind of key to my point regarding gnosis.

      If I were to be sympathetic to the Mother (and similar statements made by Zen like teachers) I contend that when someone says “Truth cannot be expressed in words, but it can be lived provided one is pure and plastic enough”, they are STILL expressing Truth in words, precisely through claiming otherwise. No?



      • stumblingmystic said:

        You’re missing the point entirely … many sages have written thousands and thousands of pages while acknowledging the relativity and temporality of everything they have written, and knowing and trying to explain to their disciples that the words must never be turned into dogmas. They are never attached to the language, and therefore have the freedom to change it, drop it, improve it, or go silent at any point.

        Sages are not bound by words — the words are the *instruments* of a higher supramental consciousness manifesting itself through them. They use words because human beings are primarily mental animals, and for ordinary humanity language is the only means of communication. Of course once the disciple’s heart is opened, there are *other* nonlinguistic and nonrational means of communication as well — sages transmit knowledge in silence, through heart-level experiences, through different sorts of energies and vibrations, through what we in Indian spirituality call “shaktipat”, through inner union and identification, and so on and so forth.

        My point is that the sage only uses words as an instrument, as a means to an end, not an end in itself, and always remaining completely detached from the words. In India even the actual meaning of words has not been as important as the sound, the vibratory or mantric effect of it on the disciple’s heart.

        Conventional religion NEVER teaches that words and language must not be turned into dogmas or that we must maintain inner detachment from the thoughts and linguistic formations in our minds. On the contrary religion is the idolatory of ritual, dogma, language, etc. etc., which would explain why all the world’s religions are so morally and spiritually bankrupt today, with the exception of a few pockets of genuinely mystical schools here and there.

      • stumblingmystic said:

        As far as Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are concerned, they believed in the possibility of ultimately transcending language altogether through a radical change of consciousness in humanity. But that’s another discussion for another day. I was merely trying to say that gnosis by definition transcends language.

        Sages are only forced to use language to express their gnosis because man is a mental and linguistic animal, and at least until deeper faculties have been awoken and stabilized in the human collective, language is here to stay for a while and it is a worthwhile project to try to build some bridges between the rational and the suprarational to aid humanity’s ascent to the Divine.

      • stumblingmystic said:

        Btw, I should make it clear that I find your project of liberating Islamic language from its past trappings — to breathe new meanings into it — to be a laudable one despite my disagreements with your methodology. But why even bother explaining it to the orthodox Sufis, and in the process compromising on your spiritual integrity by conceding to their silly dogmas?

        Yes, as Abdallah accused you of pandering to a heretic/apostate, I am now accusing you of pandering to the idolatory of orthodoxy. Now how will you get out of this bind? ;-)

        • tailorofthegoodgarment said:

          Peace Ned,

          Okay, you have now made it clear that you understand gnosis to transcend language. Having tasted this “transcendence” myself, I know what you mean. But for me, it is only part of the picture. By this I don’t mean to belittle that station or deny its direct line to the Divine. For I believe you are talking about a line of kinship to the Womb, to the Mother, as it is understood in the Qur’an. You are careful not to sever this line of kinship, and it provides you with the nourishment of milk that sustains you. When you speak about vibrations and silent communication, etc, you are talking about this milk, this line of kinship from the Womb. If you are really receiving it, then may you receive it for the full 2 years, as decreed (Quran 31:14)!

          This milk will keep you safe and take you far :) To stay fed by this type of milk forever is also a direct line to the Divine, so if this is your permanent station, then you are truly blessed. (In terms of the journey though, I would like to remind that baby’s eventually grow legs to walk with from this. One leg for Aaron and one for Moses.)

          I cannot see into your place, so do not know if you are a child fed by a surrogate mother or by the Mother — but nevertheless, according to my Shariah, both are permitted. As such, the station you occupy is of a momma’s boy. You are very close to the Mother, and it is through being close to the Mother that we move “beyond words” and “transcend” language, because, as understood most recently in the West by Freud and Lacan, the Mother is that which is (m)Other to all that is linguistic/perceived.

          To stay a transcendent momma’s boy is a privilege and a real connection to the Divine, so may you remain so. In a way, it is the easiest, most secure of spiritual practices, because you don’t have to worry about the stuff that I am concerned with … You are carried by the Womb, whereas folk like me have to go walkabout in Dreamland …

          Because I see Abdallah with his unfortunate harsh words for you (the not the first uttered in my shop and not the last, the problem of opening my place up to the world) — as also on a genuine spiritual path, albeit one antithetically different from yours. Again, I do not know if he is an orphan who is the ward of a man or whether he is the son of the Father. But either way, his hard words for you, and his (current) understanding of the Shariah derives from the words of the Father, that were whispered to your Mother, that came down to us and form Law, which, when not conjoined to the Mother, will sometimes be like a cold and difficult lover, her back turned.

          But that daughter of Law is still a spiritual station, and I believe the Abdallah also relates to the Divine through his femininization. This is why your typical “orthodox” Sufi might be strict and harsh at times, but they are trully feminine, in the sense that they derive their Nur through a Sheikh who substitutes himself for the Father/words of Father, who engenders something in them. I cannot deny that is a path and a genuine station, like yours is a path and genuine station — even though, arrogantly perhaps, I see myself as occupying a space that understands the significance of both and unifies them.

          The momma’s boy and the difficult lover need to come face to face in order for there to be Gnosis, as I understand it. At this point, it is understood that the Mother and Father (or the surrogates that we related to) are in fact the two eyes of the Face of God. And wherever we turn, there is the Face of God. Face in the sense of a surface — not God, of course, astagfirullah.

          Which is what I try to do — which is why I seem to “pander” to both sides — a Vedantic son who is warm-heresy-at-the-tit and a Orthodox daughter who is coldness-of-fathers-words. When they turn face to face and kiss to mirror the actual kissing that was going on all along between the Real Mother and Father, then the Kingdom of Heaven will be upon us. Ned the Masculine archetype and Abdallah the Feminine, hand in hand, transcendence married to law and law thawed by milk: with the Tailor as matchmaker.

          There are also orphans, which my Shariah dictates I must give charity to: I don’t see you as an orphan, nor Abdallah — but I also try to give what money I can spare to them.

          This is why I try to explain myself to everyone, to be a friend to everyone, even if this means I “descending” to the level of apparent pandering. It is the ultimate proof of my foolishness — and a possible messiah complex — b/c as you might imagine, this is totally Quixotic and probably very clumsy from an objective point of view. I don’t deny the foolishness or clumsiness: but this is simply my understanding of the Sunnah, which again I try to follow sincerely.

          Love and Light,


  9. tailorofthegoodgarment said:

    Regarding mutability of the expression of shariah: I have no problem with rephrasing it into a different cultural context. For example, Idris Shah has done a good job of that. But I don’t believe the shariah itself changes in such a process. The laws of the game are still all an eye-for-an-eye, etc. But you know by now that I don’t read the laws in the incorrect (common) way, but I read them as a qualified lawyer.

  10. assalaamalykum my friend Tailor,

    Long time no see. I have been away from groups for a while and just passed by your shop to see what has been happening in Sufi/Salafi world. Looks like I missed alot!

    This was quite a long match (above) so forgive if my comments seem random…they are :)

    First Shaykh al Akbar Ibn Arabi…I had a small brush with his teaching (3 years, Fusus al Hikam, one line at a time) and that small scent (not even taste) illustrated for me the magnitutude of the mind and soul which was “al Akbar”. I might even say that any further study (by me) is fruitless since the intellect that produced that wisdom is so vast that I really am “wasting my time” trying to approach it LOL

    At the other end of the range is Hezrat Molana (Rumi). The Mathnavi and Shams e Tabrizi are also towering works of Teaching. But because they are articulated poeticly rather then intellectually, I can labor under the illusion that I “understand” more. The only thing that prevents me from complete arragance in this delusion is my brief scent of Ibn Arabi. Seeing the vastness of Arabi makes me walk carefully in the works and teachings of other Shaykhs.

    As for pandering and such…it will always be an accusation against those who “truely” strive for the Din of Islam. Tanzih and tashbih, the essential paradox if we want to try to boil it all down. Or said differently, lailaheillallah Muhammedur Resullullah. One of the nicest things about Islam, a few words will work or a few million :) LOL

    To my mind, one of the greatest tests in Islam is this whole business of mystical states and such. Each station “feels” like the “end”. The height, the best, whatever. And there is essentially no way to know that it is not the end unless you have a Guide who gives you a tap and says “no no no no, you need to keep moving cause you’re going to get stuck here”. LOL Even then, even with trust in the Guide and knowing intellectually that he/she is right, there is STILL the temptatation to stay. For the baby, apple sauce is the BESTEST dessert ever….until he becomes and adult and has real Tiramisu. How does the baby know he is a baby, how does the adult know he is an adult?? A central question for me and one that I no longer even try to discuss with others.

    In closing (alhamdulillah!), I would ask you to keep doing what you are doing and keep in mind it is never going to get easier. Your intellect makes you “borderline” inapproachable/incomprehensible (I think I may have mentioned this to you before?). What that means is that you will always be explaining yourself clearly, but you will sound like you are singing underwater to most other people. Publish a book of poetry and you will get great popular support, but it won’t be because your poems mean to others what they mean to you. Is there a way to win? I think not. This is why the elevated Mystics/Teachers in Islamic Sufism have gone to such great lengths to tell us that this is not an “interpretative” science. There may be successive stages of understanding (which some people might confuse with interpretation) or layers of revealment, but there is only one Truth and only one true way of understanding the various stages on the way to that Truth.

    And Allah knows best…

    Inshahallah your Service will be blessed and illuminated by the Holy Prophet who is our most perfect Guide.


    • tailorofthegoodgarment said:

      My dearest sister Malihe!

      So nice to see my shop graced momentarily by your travelling soul. Its been about a year or so since I began peddling these obscure objects, under the auspices of your marketplace. Since then I have established this boutique engaged in various excursions (most recently a peculiar episode of telemarketing). But I doubt these attempts at e-commerce would have been pursued had it not been for the gnosis, encouragement and faith I encountered through you and those friends.

      Regarding the conversation above, all praise to Allah for providing us with family resemblances, reinforced ties of kinship and resonances with the Real through our intersubjective dialectic. For my sister and brother above, though living individual spiritual journeys, equal in validity under God’s Face, have, in their words intertwined, somehow become transmuted into a logic of escape.

      There are of course signs in everything. But I found that particular discussion particularly miraculous in the Islamic sense, identifying as it did a particular tensions within my religion and, through the negotiation implied, a means of resolution. Not through agreement, but one day, opponents will all turn face-to-face and then raise up in reflection of permanent tawhid.

      I thank you again for your clever analogies and (de)lightful insight, which I’ve missed very much from the old forum :)

      Love and Light,

      The Tailor

  11. Wise Tailor:

    I would like to start by expressing my respect for the various Sufi paths and their mystical approach to truth, while also respecting believers Sufi and Orthodox as well as the various Middle Eastern traditions, Muslim and otherwise, and their paths which have led them to the present. Indeed I also respect the personal and public faith that so many have in the Noble Qur’aan and its interweaving in the historical narratives of so many people and peoples.

    My question is a sensitive one, and it is this: To what extent do you feel that approving the dogma that the Qur’aan is a direct communication from the Divine to the believer enables later literal interpretation? To say that its true meaning can only be revealed with broader study is wise… but for the neophyte engaged in the narrow study of the actual Qur’aanic text and the basic events of the early Ummah, the literal meaning clearly suggests itself.

    What would be the real disadvantage of a rational interpretation of the life of the Prophet, of his revelation as received and transmitted, and the mode through which this revelation came to be reproduced in a canonical book? The importance and worthiness of the Message and the traditions which have followed it are clear in and of themselves. Must such a great set of traditions stand forever in opposition to the most modern tools of analysis?

    My practical concern, again, is that the current sacred dogma of the Qur’aan’s nature may exert a certain logical pressure on the believer to interpret it literally, a pressure which may be felt most strongly by the young.

  12. tailorofthegoodgarment said:

    Peace Maitham,

    Thank you for reading and for sharing your balanced perspective and raising this sensitive question!

    I suppose I could take a further step back, outside the boundaries of the Islamic Ummah, and answer a more general form of your question first.

    I believe that the entire world is a direct communication from the Divine to us. However, we are generally asleep to this fact due to our hang up with a “literal” interpretation of the signs that are put before us. That is, the majority of humanity is engaged in a narrow perception of the world based on a linear, rationalist-materialist history of how we got to be where we are.

    For example, a nationalist might say: “I don’t want migrants in this country, because they will steal the jobs of my children and change my culture.” Alternatively, a liberal might say: “Multiculturalism is proven to be of real value for our society — we encourage immigration because different peoples enrich society, economically and culturally. Furthermore, it is a moral duty to protect asylum seekers from more cruel regimes.” But in both cases, the two speakers will have failed to grasp the a priori Divine communication inherent in “country”, “children”, “culture”, “economics”, “shelter/asylum” and “immigration” (although at least the liberal is a potential work-in-progress). We might say that these signs (and their possible positive configuration) have direct, personal relevance to our journey: because we are all immigrants seeking the Shelter/Shekhinah/Sakina of perception (perception being the choices we make to configure signs). So when we make a shelter for asylum seekers (“physically” or “literally”) we are, in fact, uttering Divine speech — and if we understand this clearly, then we are also Reading Divine communication and changing ourselves in the most personal way (it’s not a general charity, it is a personal transfiguration/ascent).

    Now, the liberal and the racist of the above example are at a disadvantage, because they are cut off from the personal understanding of the signs. In effect, they are immigrants who are not admitted into the Country, who are without Shelter. This is personally dangerous for them.

    Back to Islam — the young people who you speak of who feel this pressure to interpret the Qur’an literally — these people are simply following the wider herd’s tendency to do this with life. Because the Qur’an is a Divine Speech that is “condensed” into a single book — if you like, it is like the world of all possibilities shrunk down so you can hold it in your hand — then it is extremely dangerous to perform any kind of literal interpretation therein. It is one thing, for example, to be asleep to the true signs involved in a single, specific political debate about immigration — it is entirely another to be asleep to the true signs involved in the entire sign-complex of “war/jihad”!

    Any good?

    Love and Light,

    The Tailor

  13. Alison Jarrett said:


    I hope this finds you well. My name is Alison Jarrett and I am currently a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics and Political Science, studying Global Media and Communications. I found your blog through a maze of links in the blogosphere. :)

    At the moment I am beginning the empirical research for my dissertation which seeks to identify motivations among young British Muslims who create and maintain their own blogs and websites. I am looking primarily at motivations originating from Islamic identity, British identity and online youth culture identity. I am interested in learning about why they keep religious blogs, what sorts of things they write about, and the kinds of responses they get from readers.

    For my specific research project, I am looking for young Muslims, age 18-35, who keep a religious blog or website. After reading through some of your blog, I would love to get some insight from you; it would enrich my research immensely.

    If you wouldn’t mind answering some questions, could you please let me know the best way to contact you? I have a quick survey to send, which you can fill out online, and from the surveys I’ll be selecting interviewees.

    I would greatly appreciate any help or advice, and please don’t hesitate to ask questions if you want more clarification on my work. The finished report is due to be released around November, and I will happily share my research and findings.

    Thank you and have a beautiful day!

    Best regards,
    Alison Jarrett
    MSc Global Media and Communications
    London School of economics and Political Science

  14. Astonishing style. I would like to write that way.

  15. Abd Rahman said:

    Salamo alaykom, your blog post “Ramadan Reading: a Few Notes on the fourteenth Juz” is password protected how do I obtain a passord?

    • tailorofthegoodgarment said:

      SLM Abd Rahman, jazakallah khair for your interest. It’s now uploaded and public — though probably still quite “private” all the same :) Love and Light, your friend the Tailor

  16. serap avanoglu said:

    thank you, for your Deleuze-Sufism links.

  17. Dear Mr. Hicz, Ms. Deen, et. al

    I am a student of Kazakh culture and religion at Stanford University. I am interested in writing about your work (Friends of Design, Rainbow Connection, Fernmind etc.) for my blog, Eurasia Eurasia. Could you please contact me so that I can learn more?

    Dennis Keen

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