The test

People talk about life being a test. Islam is one of the religions that speaks of a God who put us in this world to test us.

If we are to think of it this way, what is life, this life as a test?

It could be a test of integrity: how many illegitimate temptations (chocolate, atheism, consumerism, anal sex, etc) can we resist? It could be a test of endurance: how much shit we can put up with and still remain cool under pressure. It could be a test of bravery: exposed to the freaky face of God, the roar of the triple headed lion, the Void of Oblivion that Devastates All You Hold Dear, can you place your head upon the guillotine of fana?

It could be an algebraic test: one to flummox the nerdy Rabbinical student at his desk, piecing together the shards of the shattered vessels in tikkun olam, cracking the Ari’s holy code.

For me today, I am thinking it’s a test of Heideggarian authenticity. A test, an exam, where you pass as long as you don’t cheat. We’re all thrown into different examination papers. And our answers are ours alone, we’re responsible for our answers: not only that, we’re responsible for the rubric by which these answers are to be assessed, by a teacher we create out of our own imagination.

The only rule is: don’t blame some other candidate for your answers. Even if you cheated and peeked at their answer – these are your answers alone. Why? Because the other candidates are emptiness, like you are emptiness, but your peeking, that’s a decision, that’s motion of emptiness, the closest thing to a “you” there is. Peeking is the same as blame, the same as castration: a cheat. (It’s like the poor old nowhere man constantly deferring truth in a thesis that cites all sources other than himself.) Don’t spoil the illusion by cowardly pinning (castrating) this empty motion onto someone else (another examinee, an ex wife, colonialism, the state). It is a distraction from the motion: and motion is all we’ve got, what the Quran calls a tie of kinship (to the Cosmic Womb).

It’s about freedom. The examination paper is more or less given to you, you are thrown into it. But all that happens after is your responsibility.

Ramadan Reading: Lanqan il Jorn

During May, when the days are long,
I admire the song of the birds from far away
and when I have gone away from there
I remember a love far away.
I go scowling, with my head down
so much that songs and hawthorn flowers
aren’t better, to me, than the frozen Winter.

Never shall I enjoy love
unless I enjoy this faraway love,
since I don’t know of a better and worthier one
anywhere, near or far away.
So abundant and sovereign her merits are
that down there, in the Saracen’s realm,
I wish I were held in thrall for her sake.

Sad and pained shall I depart
if I don’t see this faraway love.
I don’t know when ever I shall see her,
so far away our countries are.
So many are the crossings and the roads
that I can’t tell.
But be everything as she likes it.

It will certainly feel like joy when I ask her,
for the love of god, to be hosted;
and, if she likes it, I shall lodge
near her, although I come from far away.
Conversation is so pleasant
when the faraway lover is so close
that he would long to be welcome with kind intentions.

I trust the Lord’s fairness
in having formed this faraway love,
but for each consolation I achieve
I get two ills, because I am so far away.
Ah! Why didn’t I go there as a pilgrim,
so that my staff and hooded cloak
would be beheld by her beautiful eyes!

God, who created all that comes and goes
and shaped this faraway love,
give me strength, since I already have the intention,
so that I see this love far away
in reality and in a fitting place
so that rooms and gardens
shall seem to me to be new palaces.

He is true who calls me grasping
and longing for a faraway love
since no other merriment pleases me as much
as enjoying a faraway love.
But that which I want is denied to me
since my godfather made it so
that I love and am not loved.

But what I want is forbidden:
Cursed be my lord
Who has decreed that I be not loved!

The Cause and Effect

There are good reasons for why outcasts (be they EDL, Hackney youth, Kyrgizstani nationalists) riot, stomp and shout, burn and loot.

But to “blame” the violence on a “social cause” is not permitted, from Love’s perspective (Allah’s perspective).

And when they debate in their Fire, the weak say unto those who were proud: we were a following you. Will you therefore rid us of a portion of the Fire? Those who were proud say: we are all here. Allah has judgement between slaves. (40:47-48)

The Fire was lit long before any rioter put match to gasoline.

Now, does this actually mean that those who have rioted, stolen, beaten women, committed crimes within this city: do they really go to a burning hell forever?

No, they don’t “go” to hell. They persist within the Fire as we speak, and what facilitates their persistence is the cause-effect routine. This is a Shaitanic gimmick/mental contraption, where the self blames others for its woe, accusing others, desiring from others (because blame entails a capitalism of difference, of having/not having, and that entails accusation/desire, and that entails hatred).

The cause-effect routine is a contraption, a contraption of capital. It’s a Shaitanic dhkir that keeps people’s true Selfhood locked within a ghetto of blame and desire.

What’s the solution? Breaking the cause-effect, the blame dhikr routine. Ceasing to blame causes, universally.

The Qur’an always performs, it displays its meaning, physically embodying them, not as metaphors, but the Truth is given within each physical sign.

And so, literally, the Fire is one person blaming the other.
There Fire is nothing but blaming causes.

Because there is only one True Cause, and one True Effect, devoid of blame and accusation. It is called Allah, enunciating that message to us, in Love, of Love.

Should the Qur’an make us happy?

1. Foreground or background?

During Ramadan, people often don’t complete their reading (with understanding) of the Qur’an, it is common to regularly fail in contemplating the entire set of surahs. Instead they focus on other aspects of the fast, like cutting back on sin, being kind to family and strangers, remembrance of tawhid, being less materialistic, campaigning for charity etc. Very worthwhile Muslim activities. But with the Qur’an running in the background, not in the foreground.

This is strange, because Ramadan is a celebration of the Book’s reception. Ought it not be in the foreground?

But the Qur’an is not an easy book to read during your fast — and by read, I mean read with some attempt to understand its signs (by utilizing a translation, irrespective of whether indirect into English first or a “direct” translation into your own head if you know Arabic).

Almost all the Muslims I know (I don’t know that many, admittedly) do not read the entire work, preferring to dip into selective reading of passages they find appealing. Many also recite the Arabic (or participate in taraweh) without considering the meaning at all — with, I’d hope, the consequent baraka of the ritual experienced.

A reason for this is that the Qur’an, on a whole, is not an immediately uplifting or inspiring document. The Qur’an doesn’t immediately make us happy. And so a Muslim seeker would be forgiven for not following the prescription  that an entire cycle of its reading be completed during the Holy Month … particularly with some attempt at “understanding” that we’d expect to be implicit in that prescription.

Continue reading “Should the Qur’an make us happy?”

Fasting and sacred time-space

We stand within a sacred time-space. It’s tangible, accessible, open, waiting for you.

Don’t get distracted (unless it’s part of your embodied practice, your cultural habitus, in which case we make no effort to compel). Don’t get distracted by the paraphernalia of the glass (the rites of fasting) when it’s the wine that is freely available on this night (when it’s the sacred time-space open to you).

Unless you are a religious personality, the glass is incidental, it is not even the beginning (and certainly not the end) of the sip (the time-slip).

The beginning is inner oblivion (and in form may be carried by the act of fasting), then there is reading, then there is entry, refuge.

Suficore versus Islamic Piety

(Really need to get Sally to sing this song, it’s a weak draft from 2 years’ ago that might make its way onto the second album.)

Islamic Piety: How is this Islamic? Music is haram, right?

The Tailor: Correct, there is a strong opinion within the Fiqh of Islam is that music is haram. This opinion cannot be disputed by myself — it may be disputed by people who live within the ummah though, because the fiqh is a constantly evolving and often self-contradictory group negotiation. But this video — and all the videos I have authored are not Islamic — because they fall outside of the scope of that group negotiation, they are made in ignorance of fiqh, not in negotiation (retaliatory or amicable). This is Suficore, which is something else entirely.

Islamic Piety: If this is “something else entirely”, then kindly remove your tags that associate your videos with Islam and Muslims — and employ a different tag which correctly corresponds to what this is meant to be. This is not even Sufi qalam/music. If you have invented a new musical movement please give it a new name and don’t defame Islam and Sufism in order to bring fame to you movement.

Tailor: I’m sorry. Those tags are now deleted.


In the spirit of honesty, I should add that I composed that song after my first little “break” from Islam in 2009 — I wrote it the day I found I couldn’t take another jummah prayer. Up to that moment, for more than a year, I’d tried hard to maintain a serious practice of the religion of Islam. This included praying 5 times a day, finding a jamat prayer whenever possible and never missing a jummah group prayer, including listening to the entire hutba (sermon). But it become increasingly difficult to maintain this practice, because the hutbas were so awful and — to my ears — the exact opposite of the religion of my soul. Don’t get me wrong, non-Muslim reader: the sermons were not preaching some kind of radical violent jihadist Islam, as the tabloids might want you to imagine. They were always focused on issues to do with fiqh, with how to live, how to cultivate a particular piety that is alien to me, unnatural to me. They worked to create an image of God — and a comportment of piety towards that image — that was not so much fearful as uncomfortable — not a personal Love that comes comforts (even if its descent/withdrawal is fearful) — but perhaps, at best, an benevolent King’s Mercy balanced with other Kingly attributes, including a wrath/irascibility that curiously appeared to resemble a kind of judgmental cosmic south east asian uncle.

Anyway I’d been torn because I wanted to keep that practice up, I had fallen in love with the idea of a jummah prayer — and with the spirit of a group congregational rite.

But I couldn’t go on and so I spent the night in retreat, really quite worked up about things. I recited and meditated and worried. And then I felt hit by a wave of comfort, of personal Love that reminded me … it’s all alright, all systems are a masjid. And that wave constituted my fajr prayer, the birds outside my window calling an azan.

And so that song really is as non-Muslim as you can get — not so much un-Islamic as straightforwardly not Muslim, the exception to Islam’s rule: it is a song in which I felt Love’s personal comfort descend upon me … a reassurance that I no longer had to worry about the physical masjid and the rites of jummah (I’m talking about a personal comfort mind you — I no longer had to worry — of course the ummah of Islam must preserve and maintain and guard these rites). Hence the objections I quote above — are very much genuine concerns and in the spirit of accuracy — she was quite right — it was wrong to tag the video with Islam.

When reading the continual emails and complaint feeds I have been receiving since I started this blog with its video and facebook portals, I am constantly amazed at how perceptive Muslims within the piety movement are when it comes to policing their territories. To the ordinary viewer this sounds like a silly, kind of hippy song. But piety hears and immediately springs to action.

Islam, Shah: Referencing how to Reference

A Sufi Muslim: Missing out on Islam means that Westerners who read Sufi works (by people such as Idries Shah and Inayat Khan, translations of Rumi and Hafiz) will be missing out on the location of the vineyard of Truth, even if they are getting the odd shipment of Wine.

The Tailor:

This is true, but again depends on how the Sufi works are being read.

On the one hand, how can you read Hafiz or Rumi without a detailed knowledge of the Qur’an? You’d miss all the references!

On the other hand, consider Idries Shah.

Shah has written many notes regarding “food” and “cooking” and “recipes”. He is often understood — by his non-Islamic readership — to employ these metaphors to describe the process of learning/knowledge transmission. But people are missing out on the fact that he is offering a Sufi tafsir (cooked) on the nature of what “halal food” (and what “dietary laws”) mean in Islam: he’s talking about real food here, literally real food, not a metaphor.

Another example from Shah would be the following. Skip ahead to point 3:38 in the following video

It may be clear to a Sufi schooled in Tailorite Islam that Shah is offering a tafsir on the Islamic laws of inheritance. These laws are quite complicated and great pains are spent to detail them in the Qur’an. Shah’s tafsir is that these laws are configured in such a way as define a mental “coming together” in the seeker, whereby different components (“children”) of the seeker’s Gnosis harmonize according to a Cosmic Mathematics, catalyzed by another mental agent called the “Nur”, “Teacher”, “Prophecy” or “Muhammed”.

But wait! Stop!

The Qur’an itself contains a lot of references to Torah, Talmud and Gnostic scripture. Islam has a lineage as well.

If I’m perfectly honest, my understanding of Islamic inheritance really comes from my study of inheritance in Jewish sources, not directly from any “Islamic” writing.

So couldn’t we apply the same argument regarding reading the source material — to Muslims, particularly those who live in this information age? If it is incumbent on readers of Rumi to read Qur’an (in Arabic preferably) to really get the source, then is it not also incumbent on readers of Qur’an to read Torah at least (in Hebrew, preferably), to really get God’s references (his self-citations)?

Or is it possible that we can receive without the need to cross check references? Is God’s transmission a rooted tree — or a rhizome? If we as children receive wealth in inheritance, how important is the father to that wealth?

(Shah’s video contains the answer, based, as it is, on solid Qur’anic foundation. And no, it’s not as simple as saying, “wealth” is transmitted, so let’s forget the father.)

And We certainly know that they say, “It is only a human being who teaches the Prophet.” The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, and this Qur’an is a clear Arabic language. (16:103)