Statement of belief 2013

Long time no capture on your immanent plane!

The Friends of Design’s new work, “The Divisions of Love” is almost ready for worldwide release courtesy of Fernmind Unilectic Press. For those who remember your love, I offer the following (free, fully downloadable) preview — the entire album and cover art with lyrics.

This work succinctly presents my relationship to God (and religious practice) better than any more academic theology could, and, as an act of art, avoids the tangled info-bio-karmic web that often results.

The love’s sweeter than wine,

The Tailor

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The First Time I Prayed with Muhammed

It was some time in 2009. I spent the night praying in what is now the girls’ room.

At some point during my recitation, reality shifted, so that the Qur’an coming from my mouth became like a kind of tunnel, so that I was praying with (or within) Muhammed. Not a concept, but the man, the real man. I was standing in the room, now, but was also acutely aware of the trans-spatial-temporal nature of the contact. I was definitely standing in Seven Kings and yet, simultaneously, in 7th century Arabia. I was struck by how alien he was in form to me, and at the same time I comprehended his point, who he was exactly in relation to me.

I’ve spent a fair amount of effort trying to make sense of that experience – or, more accurately, enumerate it’s implications using the vocabulary at my disposal. It’s one of the reasons I was writing the Doctrine with such conviction, bordering on arrogance, particularly when it came to Islam (a religion I really know very little about). And that experience also sources my communication failure to Muslims.

Because these kinds of experiences are very personal, very subjective, aren’t they? And they are objectionable to religious people, for that reason: at least, religion in the sense of a normative, rationalist tradition (that denies the possibility of personal experiences). I’d certainly be fine with the truth of it being entirely subjective — an hallucination, brought about by a confined space, a day’s fasting, fatigue the repetition of the act of prayer, etc.

As I have learnt, “my” Muhammed, the one I met/hallucinated, the one I’ve been trying to enunciate since — he appears to be quite different from the one understood by the scholars of Islam. To begin with, that Muhammed, the scholars’ Muhammed, doesn’t time travel (though he’s an excellent and just statesman).

At least from the scholars’ perspective, if you have met Muhammed, you can’t be a Muslim. From time to time I find myself rather let down with respect to this irony.

A Tailor’s Doctrine: free copy courtesy of Fernmind Unilectic!

From introductory remarks by Immanuel Moon, friend and disciple of Musa Qamarbayev (author of A Tailor’s Doctrine).

What can be said of Musa Qamarbayev? A gifted academic and enlightened mystic, a belated, tragic emissary of the Light, for the opening decade of the 21st century London, his teachings directly illuminated the faces of his friends and astonished and darkened the visages of his enemies. The details of his biography are well known: his calling from the Tradition of his birth into the religion of Islam, his claim to visions of the Godhead, to metaphysical silsilah to the Prophet himself, his consequent public attempt to promote a new age of marriage between the hidden Tradition and the (very visible) Islamic religion via a modernist stance rooted in Western Philosophy. Then there is the sordid gossip and scandals associated with this, what can only be acknowledged in retrospect as mistaken proselytization. The repetition of all this would be redundant here.

All I wish to add is the testimony that I was privileged to have known him as a teacher and friend.

The book you hold in your hands is his unfinished magnum opus, A Tailor’s Doctrine. I am grateful to Qamarbayev’s widow Gauhar for permitting Fernmind access to the material. It is likely that Musa would not have approved of the distribution of the work in its current, imperfect and sketched form: he was a perfectionist in all ways. However, given that, since his death, there is now a growth of “secondary” material claiming Tailorite authencity, some with less than honourable intention, Gauhar has agreed to release her husband’s notes. Her hope is that Fernmind provides the world with a truthful, definitive and primary source of Tailorist theosophy. Her condition, gladly accepted, was that we make no effort to change, augment or reconstruct Musa’s draft Doctrine. Apart from some minor spelling corrections, the document remains as it was found on his hard drive. Grammatical errors, unfinished sentences, omissions of words: all remain unchanged. The ordering of the fragments is preserved as Qamarbayev intimated (noting that it is likely this ordering would have been changed in a final draft). Unfinished though it stands, the document remains entirely Musa’s, free of editorial refactoring or comment. It is as close as the reader will get to Musa: to know him more, the difficult onus is on them to extrapolate.

Qamarbayev was working on the final two chapters when he met his untimely end. It should be clear to reader that, by this stage, the author had acknowledged the nature of his failure, if he had not yet fully grasped and confronted the implications of failure to his project.

Thus the later chapters shift considerably in mood from the book’s initial cheery optimism (witnessed most acutely in the author’s preface, written in the premature expectation of publication with a well known Sufi publishing house). Had he lived on, perhaps Musa might have revised the entire work. Maybe he would have bypassed the Islamic project(ion) completely. Or, knowing his character, he might have attempted to simply encode the failure within the proceedings (the chapter at Jihad certainly hints at this, Musa’s own battle for hearts and minds being won through the ironic misprison of its acknowledged failure). Alternatively, he might have simply returned to the womb of his own Tradition, completing the divorce with Islam and creating something else entirely, something far greater, something less rooted in a pretense at religious authority.

For Qamarbayev’s actions were pretense, make no mistake. His closest friends, disciples and lovers would not deny this. He was a pretender to the garb of Islamic Sufic authority. He (mis)presented himself to the Muslims and Sufis of London — as one of them. But he remained a stranger, from his venture’s joyful initiation to its inevitable end. If truth be told, I know for a fact that he had very minimal Islamic background and even less Sufic initiation. Four years before he commenced writing this work, he had not even set foot in a mosque before. He knew no Arabic, worked from Qur’an and hadeeth literature in translation alone, basing his observations, essentially, on internet and library searches. He earned no apprenticeship with a teacher. He possessed a number of translations of Rumi and ibn Arabi: but openly boasted to me that he had never opened them, save to check the odd reference or quote.

Privately, he spoke of personal revelations that bypassed the need for formal instruction and scholarship, laughing that he never read the manual even in his day job. But that’s the point: these were personal revelations, deriving from something novel and individual, not (as he mistakenly misrepresented them) standing in any real lineage to the theological discourses of Sufism and Islam.

In retrospect, we could say that real value of Qamarbayev lies, not his failed aspiration to revolutionize general Islamic tafsir (interpretive science), but in the side-effect of his project: the communication of something unique and new, the intimate, private circuitry of his own soul, at a particular stage along its own unique path. We’re all on different journeys, we all have acquired some wealth along the weay: but it is not often that we make such an elaborate and public exhibition of where we are at in that journey, it is not often that so much of that wealth is shared (albeit in an unusable, foreign currency). It is unfortunate (or, more accurately, inevitable, hence this book being essentially a tragedy in the classical sense) that Musa chose to speak his own private Truth by resorting to the general matter, the verses, tropes and metaphors of a superpower amongst world religions.

By its own rules of spiritual lineage and cultural constancy, by its own nature as a Book carrier, Islam must never accept the clothing of this particular tailor, lest they cease to be. This is not a moral criticism of Islam: it is a law of physics, one that Musa (perceptive though he was in so many other things) chose to ignore. In doing so, he created the garment for a different ummah entirely, the Islam of some other, absolutely orthogonal universe.

A Christmas Nasheed: Saba Mahmood, Progressive Islam, Postcolonial Subjectivities and Hajar

Sheikh Yufist, Imam of the Dangerousnutter-on-Sea mosque, penning his Christmas hutba.

It was the jummah before Christmas, and Sheikh Yufist (the Imam of the Dangerousnutter-on-Sea masjid) was delivering the guest hutba at Visible College.

The Professor was in attendance, breaking a several month long abstinence. An abstinence begun in the somewhat acrimonious aftermath of his previous Islamist fiasco, but which had gradually calmed into a blissful and noiseless state of permanently temporary ambiguity between his own Faddakian Autonomous Zone and the Walled and Wailing City. There was, however, a good reason to be in attendance: he was hosting a distinguished research visitor from the Far East who, with the refined and balanced character of his people, managed to maintain the group prayer as a rule. He had not intended to bring this friend to the College jummah, as the hutbas were generally of a low quality. Given the choice, he would have preferred the Urdu speaking masjid because, not knowing any Urdu, there was a no chance of comprehension and irritation. Unfortunately there was no time to go elsewhere.

Oh well, he resigned himself: this jummah might always present an opportunity for a reactive observation or two. Sometimes the worse the hutba the better in that respect. That’s how it worked out last year: a terrible hutba led to his solving the problem of the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. Who knows, this jummah might even provide the elusive conclusion to pages of his ongoing roman à clef, now long overdue for completion.

And as expected, the hutba was indeed weak, if not exactly bad. The sheikh railed against the dangers of the West, in typical fashion but, this time, with a seasonal twist. “You are students at this College, in this English country, and people here — maybe other students, maybe your lecturers — expect you at this time to conform to their ways. But their ways are those of jahiliya, ignorance. And you as Muslims, you have made a solemn pact with Allah subhanahu wa-ta’ala, not to return to that: if you return, you commit a serious sin and you risk the hellfire. So if someone says ‘Merry Christmas’ to you, do not reply back, oh my brothers. Tell them proudly you are a Muslim and that to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Isa (upon whom be peace) is shirk: we do not celebrate the birth days of any prophets! We submit to the one Allah alone, not to the grave Christian error of a God-in-a-man! Do not reply back ‘Merry Christmas’, even though you feel the social pressure of lecturers and students — that pressure is nothing more than shaytan’s whisper! And beware, oh my brothers, shaytan is closer to you than you think. There are those, they are even here, in this jummah, maybe even sitting beside you — who call themselves Muslims but they are munaqfiq, hypocrites: they will tell you it’s just a conventional greeting, this ‘Merry Christmas’, they who will argue for so called progressive Islam, secular Islam. But that is just their way of saying compromise with our enemies!”

And so on.

After the hutba the Professor met the Wild Haired Postcolonial Theorist, the Builder and the Geographer at a local cafe.

“I think that bit about munafiq was directed against me,” said the Builder. “You know he’s been banging on against Christmas for three weeks solid now. The College was got concerned so they called me in to mediate between the Rector and the students who invited him, but that seems to have only added fuel to the fire. There’s a real lost opportunity here: they could be speaking about Mariam, the fact that she’s mentioned more times in the Qur’an than in the Gospels. Instead they’re wasting their time on this stuff: of course there never was any danger we’ll all start celebrating Christmas, it’s insulting to the audience to even suggest this might be a temptation.”

“Oh, nuts to the colonial forces of Visible College! If you are serious about a true awakening of the student body, you ought to stop talking to the authorities and start giving hutbas yourself,” said the Geographer to the academics (the Professor, the Builder and the Wild Haired Postcolonial Theorist all worked in various departments within the College). “Work with the Muslim student association, not bemoan their poverty after prayer. Form an Tawhesive assemblage of students and academics. Just think of how powerful a force that would become for good. They respect you already as teachers, right? They’ll respect you if you sat down and explained it all to them, your reading, gave them the zakat of your marifat. What if the Professor and the Builder were to give a double hutba, say, about nature of your trip along the A12, what you saw, what you became at the end of that road. Of course you’ll have to step down from the high tower a bit — that’ll do you good too. Just say it clearly, without the difficult academic language. Bring them along for the ride, next time you head out that way, why don’t you?

“It would be funny too,” he mused, laughing, “improbably so: all those East End rudeboys and you camp academic types working to free the ummah from its enslaved mindset.”

Tovarisch, if I related 1/46th of what I came up with in my last Ramadan Reading, loudly and clearly without the academic language, the people would kill me,” replied the Professor. “Plus, I’ve got this massive Christmas tree at home, so there’s my credibility blown.”

“We’ve got a little one too actually,” chuckled the Wild Haired Theorist. “I didn’t realise kuffardom was a size competition.”

We leave the men at their cafe and move forward a few hours, to the Ilford maisonette of Sheikh Yufist. Having stayed up a third of the night in recitation, making his Witr prayer and miswaking his teeth and putting on his thermal underpants, the sheikh was settling down to bed.

But what’s this? A scratching at the window. Outside, a storm is raging, and the rain weighs down heavily. The window was accidentally left half open, and the winds bellow the curtains out, like three sails (lightning flash) like three giants walking toward him (flash) like three angels, now towering over him, cowering in his nightgown.

“W-Who are you? What manner of jinn are you?” he whimpers.

“We are the triple spirit, thrice named, of Christmas past, present and future,” the being replies.

Continue reading “A Christmas Nasheed: Saba Mahmood, Progressive Islam, Postcolonial Subjectivities and Hajar”

Iqraa!

Ramadan’s revelation begins with the Angelic command — iqraa! — to read, to recite. To read the signs correctly. To recite the signs of Allah.

To live through their Prophetic alignment, their Prophetic unlocking. All signs indicate Divinity’s Love, but their misreading prevents us from comprehending this. Their correct reading allows us to recite their full worth in Truth, as the Angel commands.

Why does the Angel instruct us to read? Because God’s Mercy is unbounded Pleasure, and God Loves us to know unbounded Pleasure. To read the signs correctly, to recite by this command, is to be seized by the spirit of God, the ruh of Love that runs through all souls, that binds the cosmos and humanity, and to speak God’s tongue, God’s language. No longer an “I” (or a “they” because the ego is always a nation, a multiplicity) speaking their own/”owned” words and intended meanings, their owned means to power (because individual language games are always power games that construct selfhoods). To recite, to read by this command is to enter into an event that is monumental, fearfully awesome in its implication: no longer an “I” (or a “they”) assembling power structures of finite significance, but God speaking through us, reciting His Truth through us, reciting His Qur’an through us.

And this seizure, this recitation — reading correctly — is the unbounded Pleasure of Allah’s Mercy, Loving to be Known through recitation reciting. That’s why the Angel commands.

“I”/”They” disappear. They are slain by this Angelic command. It’s momentarily painful when it happens, fearful in the utter oblivion that strikes falsity’s wink, but Celestially Beautiful in consequent awakening to eternal Reality, the experience of her smile of Joy. To read is to recite, is to speak, is to act, is to throw the dust of the earth of ayat, a fractal cloud of shimmering, sparkling sand, each grain an ayat of Truth: to read is to cast this dust, in test, against the “they”. And this act of throwing is called the Gracious Test of Tafsir, the test of living and the struggle of reciting correctly, nobly. A Test of a Tafsir that is “of Himself” ultimately, a Tafsir that Loves to be Known: the full realisation of this fact is its individual achievement, when spoken correctly, when speech corrects.

And self-reflexively, our Angelic recitation commands us to recite the very nature of correction as recitation in marvelous mantra:

It is not you who slew them; it was Allah: when you threw, it was not your act, but Allah’s: in order that He might test the Believers by a gracious trial from Himself: for Allah is He Who hears and knows. (8:17)

And all correct reading comes to us as a Mercy from God, because our tongues are tied. And all misunderstanding, all misreading is from “them”, from the lower nation of the “I”: it is “their” stasis, their sealed heart. This Mercy runs through the habitations of the hearts, purifying them, ennobling these abodes in traces Glorious and Joyful: this Mercy running through us is called Guidance, the Recitation. It is called the Book of Love. It is called Qur’an. There is no better Guidance, if the people could understand.

Oh Allah, grant Ramadan’s command upon your loving beloved, in eternal cycles of reading. Grant this slave’s lips a reading that traces the beauty upon beauty of your Book. Let me speak your words of Love once again.

Fatimah’s hair

A woman's hair acts as a mirror conduit of light upward into her sister's domain, but a hijab keeps regulation.

The fracture of the ummah begins after the Prophecy withdraws, with the family drama over inheritance (Fatimah claimed she was given the land of Fadak and this was denied her) and succession to rule as King (Ali or Abu Bakr). Some sources tell us that when Abu Bakr and Umar came to the house of Ali, demanding allegiance to Abu Bakr as king, Fatimah threatened to remove her hijab, revealing her hair. Upon this warning, Abu Bakr departed.

What is Fadak and what is the nature of Fatimah’s hair, that it should be fearful to the Caliph? (He is the correct Caliph for the unfolding, let us make this clear at the outset — the order of the Four Caliphs is right, correct and Divine).

She wears a hijab of speech, acts and intimation — a woolen, patchwork hijab. Beneath it is her hair, which form reflective conduits of light from the inner mirror of the secret Feminine (the Feminine that is beneath the the other known Feminine of engendered differentiation). Her hair acts as a mirror conduit of reflected Light upward into her outer sister’s codomain, but the hijab of Fatimah maintains regulation of this Light into difference.

This is why she is given this separate land, the secret land of Fadak: it is from the depths of this land that the reflective conduits flow outwards. The land of inheritance that her father gifted through entering into his cloak. This land is separated from the Caliphate, from the kingdom (and I am actually speaking symbolically here all the way, remember — this is all a psychological drama). Her inheritance is separate from the other female form of the shariah (my version of the true shariah, not the literalist nonsense we can discount). It is the “otherness” of Prophecy or the intimacy of Prophecy: that which belongs to Prophecy directly, rather than that which Prophecy relates to and transforms. Like the difference between being milk and being offered milk.

Continue reading “Fatimah’s hair”