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The saints of television

Friday, August 12th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — on St Clare’s feast, two tales of miraculous television, and the fragmented memory of a third ]
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Today, August 11th, is in the Catholic calendar the Feast of St Clare of Assisi, friend of St Francis and patron saint of television:

SPEC DQ miracles of television

In celebrating her day, I cannot but remember the Sufi al-Sha’rani, whose capacity #20 as recorded in Arberry‘s little book has long delighted me.

I believe similar, more detailed stories are told of other Sufi saints, one of whom (if memory serves) saw and greeted from Spain a master in Damascus or Baghdad with whom he would subsequently meet.

I should look into that..

Of Easter Fires

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the beauty and the burning ]
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Today was Easter Day for the Orthodox, and the Resurrection was celebrated with what Fr Janjic describes as Holy Fire in Jerusalem.

Fr the Orthodox, this event is both a liturgy, spreading from Jerusalem around the globe —

— and a miracle — an intersection of the divine with earthly existance:

Thus one might say the vertical enters the horizontal plane.

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Sadly, a similar celebration in New York was followed shortly thereafter by tragedy:

Much of beauty was consumed:

— and in an eerie echo half way round the world, a church in Australia blazed

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For more on the miracle, see the Description of the Miracle of Holy Light (Holy Fire) that happens every year in Jerusalem:

The ceremony, which awes the souls of Christians, takes place in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. The date for Pascha is determined anew for every year. It must be a first Sunday after the spring equinox and Jewish Passover. Therefore, most of the time it differs from the date of Catholic and Protestant Easter, which is determined using different criteria. The Holy Fire is the most renowned miracle in the world of Eastern Orthodoxy. It has taken place at the same time, in the same manner, in the same place every single year for centuries. No other miracle is known to occur so regularly and so steadily over time. It happens in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth, where Christ was crucified, entombed, and where He finally rose from the dead.

One celebrant, the late Orthodox Patriarch Diodoros of Jerusalem, described the miracle thus:

I enter the tomb and kneel in holy fear in front of the place where Christ lay after His death and where He rose again from the dead. I find my way through the darkness towards the inner chamber in which I fall on my knees.Miracle of God. At a certain point the light rises and forms a column in which the fire is of a different nature. Here I say certain prayers that have been handed down to us through the centuries and, having said them, I wait. Sometimes I may wait a few minutes, but normally the miracle happens immediately after I have said the prayers. From the core of the very stone on which Jesus lay an indefinable light pours forth. It usually has a blue tint, but the colour may change and take many different hues. It cannot be described in human terms. The light rises out of the stone as mist may rise out of a lake — it almost looks as if the stone is covered by a moist cloud, but it is light. This light each year behaves differently. Sometimes it covers just the stone, while other times it gives light to the whole sepulchre, so that people who stand outside the tomb and look into it will see it filled with light. The light does not burn — I have never had my beard burnt in all the sixteen years I have been Patriarch in Jerusalem and have received the Holy Fire. The light is of a different consistency than normal fire that burns in an oil lamp… At a certain point the light rises and forms a column in which the fire is of a different nature, so that I am able to light my candles from it. When I thus have received the flame on my candles, I go out and give the fire first to the Armenian Patriarch and then to the Coptic. Hereafter I give the flame to all people present in the Church.

— and there’s a great deal more of considerable interest at the above link.

Happy Easter to all my Orthodox friends!

Miraculous!

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — miracle in Egypt, human perfection in Russia ]
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It’s not entirely clear, then, why he would need to be “shriven ” — have his confession heard and be granted absolution — by Abbot Ephraim

To be fair, though — Putin‘s exact words, as reported in the body of the Independent post:

It appears that the Lord built my life in a way that I have nothing to regret.

Not quite the same thing as “God wanted him to be perfect” — although, doesn’t God want that for everyone? Matthew 5.48, at least in the King James version.

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Meanwhile in Egypt:

When the promise of the miraculous is disappointed

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the role of promise and illusion in recruitment, disappointment and disillusion in CVE ]
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Here’s an example of promise and disillusionment from the early Afghan jihad: upper quote below from Abdullah Azzam, lower quote from Mustafa Hamid.

SPEC DQ miracles azzam & hamid

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It seems that disappointed hopes are and/or should be a major focus in countering violent extremism, ie places where the jihadist recruitment “narrarive” fails when it comes in contact with ground reality. Because a caliphate that is losing ground is no caliphate. Because a caliphate that diverges from its own ideals and standards is no caliphate. Because the food is terrible, or battle turns out to be more real than bargained for:

[ order of these two NYT paragraphs reversed here at Zenpundit ]

During nearly a year in contact with New York Times reporters, Abu Khadija expressed gradually growing discontent. His grievances ranged from relatively mundane issues like eating canned food and being deployed to a front line far from his family because of a lack of fighters, to discomfort with the group’s strategic priorities and its extreme violence.

“I can’t eat, I feel I want to throw up, I hate myself,” he said, adding that the executioners had argued over who would wield the knives and finally settled the issue by lottery. “Honestly, I will never do it. I can kill a man in battle, but I can’t cut a human being’s head with a knife or a sword.”

Jessica Stern makes a similar point on NPR:

I think that we need to hear a lot more from people who leave ISIS – somebody who says, gosh, I joined. I thought I was going to be making the world a better place, and it turned out that it really wasn’t what I imagined, that there were atrocities that I didn’t want to be involved in. There are people who are saying that. We need to amplify those messages.

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The quote in the upper panel of the DoubleQuote above comes from Azzam’s collection, The Signs of Ar-Rahmaan in the Jihad of Afghanistan. There are many miracles (both mujizat and karamat) described there. Among them, one of the most interesting to me concerns the Miraj and al-Aqsa mosque:

Informing the people of the details of Baitul Maqdis after the night of Me’raaj.

Rasulullah sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam said: When the people denied (the Me’raaj), Allaah Ta’ala revealed the Baitul Maqdis to me and I informed the people of its details whilst looking at it.”

The Miraj was the prophet’s night journey to the Noble Sanctuary / Temple Mount (Bait al-Maqdis) in Jerusalem, from whence he ascended the heavens and was given the instructions for Muslim prayer. The Noble Sanctuary was Islam’s first Qibla or direction of focus in prayer.

The quote in the lower panel above comes from Mustafa Hamid in his forthcoming book with Leah Farrall, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan. In it, Hamid illustrates both the spiritual aspirations and disappointed hopes at play in that earlier jihad.

I have discussed Azzam’s and others’ descriptions of miracles previously in such posts as Of war and miracle: the poetics, spirituality and narratives of jihad, Azzam illustrates Levi-Strauss on Mythologiques, and Gaidi Mtaani, the greater scheme of things. Such stories are profoundly moving to those who are open to believing them.

In Mustafa Hamid’s words, we see the equal and opposite influence unleashed when such stories, offered as promises in recruitment, prove unsubstantiated by reality.

A hat-tip to Myra MacDonald, who pointed me to this quote.

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Side note:

Students of comparative religion may find the following paragraphs, quoted in the Azzam compilation from the Deobandi scholar Ashraf Ali Thanwi of interest:

Karaamaat and Mu’jizah do not occur by a person’s design — that whenever the Nabi or Wali wishes he can execute such an act. Such acts only occur when Allaah Ta’ala in His Infinite Wisdom wishes to exhibit the act. It then occurs whether a person desires it or not.]

A karaamah does not indicate that the person performing such an act is better than others. In fact, sometimes the karaamah decreases his status in the sight of Allaah, due to fame and vanity entering his heart. It was for this reason that many of the pious personalities used to make istighfaar (seek forgiveness) when a karaamah would manifest itself at their hands, just as they would make istighfaar when sins are committed

The statement “It then occurs whether a person desires it or not” reminds me, for instance, of the tale told of St Teresa of Avila, friend and colleague of St John of the Cross:

Legend tells it that as Teresa was in the choir singing among her sisters one day, she began to levitate. When the other nuns started to whisper and point, Teresa lowered her gaze and realized that she had risen several inches above the stone floor. “Put me down!” she demanded of God. And he did.

There’s a deeper truth hidden in St Teresa’s request, I suspect: grace is not taken, it is given.

Dabiq issue #5 – Ibrahim challenges Nimrod

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — tracing the same tale from Ibrahim challenging Nimrod as quoted in Dabiq back to Midrash Rabbah ]
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I ended my last post, An end times update & the Islamic State, with a DoubleQuote:

SPEC DQ sunrise west

Sources:

  • Foreign Policy, In a New Ukraine, the Sun Rises in the West
  • Discovering Islam, Rising of the Sun from the West
  • **

    But then, d’oh, a new issue of Dabiq comes out, and on p 4 there’s a reference to Qur’an 2.258:

    Have you not considered the one who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship? When Ibrahim said, “My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death,” he said, “I give life and cause death.” Ibrahim said, “Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.” So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [by astonishment], and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people [Al-Baqarah: 258].

    What’s that book title? The Sun Also Rises

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    That’s quite an intriguing exchange, you know, for Dabiq to be quoting — especially considering that Ibrahim is the caliphal name of al-Baghdadi, that Dabiq preaches the millah Ibrahim, and so forth.

    There’s more to the story, of course.

    The Qur’an 21.51-71 goes into more detail:

    We gave Abraham aforetime his rectitude — for We knew him — when he said to his father and his people, ‘What are these statues unto which you are cleaving?’ They said, ‘We found our fathers serving them.’ He said, ‘Then assuredly you and your fathers have been in manifest error.’ They said, ‘What, hast thou come to us with the truth, or art thou one of those that play?’ He said, ‘Nay, but your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth who originated them, and I am one of those that bear witness thereunto. And, by God, I shall assuredly outwit your idols, after you have gone away turning your backs.’ So he broke them into fragments, all but a great one they had, for haply they would return to it. They said, ‘Who has. done this with our gods? Surely he is one of the evildoers.’ They said, ‘We heard a young man making mention of them, and he was called Abraham.’ They said, ‘Bring him before the people’s eyes; haply they shall bear witness.’ They said, ‘So, art thou the man who did this unto our gods, Abraham?’ He said, ‘No; it was this great one of them that did it. Question them; if they are able to speak!’ So they returned one to another, and they said, ‘Surely it is you who are the evildoers.’ Then they were utterly put to confusion saying, ‘Very well indeed thou knowest these do not speak.’ He said, ‘What, and do you serve, apart from God, that which profits you nothing; neither hurts you? Fie upon you and that you serve apart from God! Do you not understand?’ They said, ‘Burn him, and help your gods, if you would do aught.’ We said, ‘O fire, be coolness and safety for Abraham!’ They desired to outwit him; so We made them the worse losers, and We delivered him, and Lot, unto the land that We had blessed for all beings.

    And behind that telling o the story, there’s the Midrash Rabbah, in which we read [p. 311] that Abraham mocked customers of his father’s idol-manufacturing business, with the result that his father handed him over to the King, Nimrod — himself an idolater:

    Thereupon he seized him and delivered him to Nimrod. ‘Let us worship the fire’ he [Nimrod] proposed. ‘Let us rather worship water’, which extinguishes the fire,’ replied he. ‘Then let us worship water!’ ‘Let us rather worship the clouds which bear the water.’ ‘Then let us worship the clouds!’ ‘Let us rather worship the winds which disperse the clouds’ ‘Then let us worship the wind!’ ‘Let us ratherworship human beings, who withstand the wind.’ ‘You are just bandying words,’ he exclaimed; ‘We will worship naught but the fire. Behold, I will cast you into it, and let your God whom you adore come and save you from it.’ Now Haran was standing there undecided. If Abram is victorious, [thought he], I will say that I am of Abram’s belief, while if Nimrod is victorious I will say that I am on Nimrod’s side. When Abram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved, he [Nimrod] asked him, ‘Of whose belief are you?’ ‘Of Abram’s,’ he replied. Thereupon he seized and cast him into the fire; his inwards were scorched and he died in his father’s presence. Hence it is writteN, AND hARAN DIED IN THE PRESENCE OF (‘AL PENE) HIS FATHER TERAH

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    I shall have more to say about Dabiq 5 in further posts — the whole magazine is a bit much to digest at once.


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