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Shahbaz Qalandar shrine bombing DoubleQuote

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — qawwali vs bombing — tragic though this week’s deaths are, music, poetry, and devotion transcend death ]
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I thought this horrific announcement:

deserved a response of a very different order:

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That’s it, that’s my response.

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By way of background:

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar of Sehwan, whose shrine in Pakistan was bombed this week, was an Ismaili Shiite poet-mystic, perhaps best understood via his poetry. Shehram Mokhtar in a Master’s thesis on Qalandar writes:

His title of Shahbaz (royal falcon) is associated with him because of the mystical and spiritual heights he attained. This is reflected in his own poetry: “I am the royal falcon, that has no (fixed) place i.e. I am always in flight; I cannot be contained in any place; I am the phoenix, that cannot be restrained in any symbol or form” (Qazi, 1971, p. 26).

Further:

The third title associated with saint’s name is Qalandar. Muhammad Hussain bin Khalaf Tabrizi, the writer of a famous Persian dictionary defines Qalandar as someone “so much spiritualized that he is free from social and customary inhibitions and taboos” (Mohammad, 1978, p.7). Many other references have used terms like, “intoxicated in spirituality” to define the term Qalandar. The title of Qalandar has been associated with three saints, Lal Shahbaz, saint Bu Ali Sharfuddin of Panipat and a female saint Rabia Basri (Mohammad, 1978).

A taste of his poetry gives a taste of the man:

I am burning with Divine love every moment.
Sometimes I roll in the dust,
And sometimes I dance on thorns.
I have become notorious in your love.
I beseech you to come to me!
I am not afraid of the disrepute,
To dance in every bazaar.

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is both transgressive – a frequently overused term, yet entirely applicable in this instance – and transcendent.

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It’s not always easy to get a fix on Sufi poet-saints. Consider this tale of Kabir, a Muslim from Varanasi, who obtained initiation from the Hindu saint Ramanand:

One of the most loved legends associated with Kabir is told of his funeral. Kabir’s disciples disputed over his body, the Muslims wanting to claim the body for burial, the Hindus wanting to cremate the body. Kabir appeared to the arguing disciples and told them to lift the burial shroud. When they did so, they found fragrant flowers where the body had rested. The flowers were divided, and the Muslims buried the flowers while the Hindus reverently committed them to fire.

Shahbaz Qalandar’s death seems similarly shrouded in mystery – so much so that the quai-authoritative Wikipedia entry for him reports both “Died: 19 February 1275 (aged 98-99) and “Lal Shahbaz lived a celibate life and died in the year 1300 at the age of 151. “

It is his death – considered as his marriage with the divine beloved – that is celebrated at the three-day urs (literally: marriage) festival, attended yearly in Sehwan by upwards of a half-million devotees, at which the divine love is glimpsed through a dance – the dhamaal – similar in function to, though not the same as, the sama dance of the dervish order order founded by Qalandar’s contemporary, Jalaluddin Rumi. The dancers’ characteristic experience is one of divine intoxication, mast.

It was Qalandar’s shrine / tomb that was the site of the IS-claimed bombing this week.

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With appreciation & and hat-tip to Omar Ali, and condolences — also to Husain Haqqani, Raza Rumi, Pundita, and all those who live, work and or pray for a peaceable Pakistan.

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..

A trumpet voice above Trump’s

Monday, July 25th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — for those wishing for discourse above the political fray ]
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Yesterday, Sunday, I was going to post a “Sunday surprise” about a voice that transcends that of Donald Trump — the voice of Alison Balsom, trumpeter extraordinaire. But my thread linking Balsom and Trump was a slender one — Trump and trumpet — and I thought better of it, and deleted my reliminary notes for that post.

Today, though, I read Humera Afridi‘s Dance of Ecstasy: Bridging the Secular, Sacred, and Profane, and found therein:

Amjad Sabri, an eminent Pakistani qawwal -— a Sufi devotional musician in the tradition of world-renowned Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and son of the famous singer Ghulam Fareed Sabri of the Sabri Brothers — had been shot dead in his car in Karachi ten days earlier by the Pakistani Taliban. He’d been praising the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his noble family a little too much for the Taliban’s liking. And so they had their way with him. In a nation inured to violence, Sabri’s death, nevertheless, struck at the communal soul of Pakistan. ..

Thousands of Pakistanis came out on the streets, united in grief, to protest Sabri’s death. Sabri was a child of Pakistan’s own soil. He belonged to a venerable, centuries-old musical dynasty. His spiritual attunement and the muscular faculty of his voice transported people to ecstasy, raising mere mortals above the denseness of an earthly, mired existence, above differences of class and wealth into a celebration of the Divine. Sabri’s music was a glorification. And it belonged to a distinct tradition of South Asian music, a legacy irrefutably inherent in the DNA of Pakistan, twinned to the devotional practice of Islam and its syncretic cultural roots in the region. Invoking a transcendent joy, Sabri’s qawwali created a milieu of harmony—completely antithetical to the Taliban’s backward, beclouded ideology of hate which thrives on sowing seeds of discord.

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It’s that second paragraph I’m interested in, because it says so exactly what I was trying to get at in my deleted post about Alison Balsom: that “mere mortals” can be lifted, lofted “above the denseness of an earthly, mired existence, above differences of class and wealth into a celebration of the Divine”.

Here’s a taste of Amjad Sabri, for those who appreciate the Sufi tradition and the haunting ecstasies of the Qawwals:

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And here’s Balsom, whose trumpet voice likewise lifts us, for those with ears more attuned to the western classical tradition:

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— and best of all, though I’ve posted it here before:

Turkey — keeping an eye out for Gülen

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a substantial side-current in the coup attempt draws attention to Gülen, who presently lives in the Poconos and is heavily involved in US charter schools ]
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I don’t have anything fresh to say about the situation in Turkey beyond what others can say, but my interest in religious movements has long focused my attention on Fethullah Gülen.

Like his rough contemporary Harun Yahya aka Adnan Oktar — celebrated for his Islamic creationism — Gülen was a student of the late Said Nursi. He is reported to have been influenced by the works of Rumi, Ibn Arabi, and other sufis. Gülen has strengthened one sphere of his considerable influence by encouraging academics to write about him, and I’m not sure as to how much of what has been written as a result is the flattery of courtiers, and how much reliable scholarship — but for what it’s worth, Heon Kim‘s Gülen’s Dialogic Sufism: A Constructional and Constructive Factor of Dialogue, published in the then-Gülenist newspaper, Zaman, discusses both Gülen’ssufism and his interest in interfaith dialogue.

He’s certainly an interesting fellow to watch.

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From Twitter:

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Aha!

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Go figure.

The Champ: knockouts, protests, sufism and the man

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Muhammad Ali ]
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The knockout:

Obviously, the champ was a knockout — and this photo is almost certainly the loveliest photo of a sporting event I have ever seen — victory and defeat in perfect symmetry:

Ali mandala of victory
Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images via The Guardian

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The protestor

quote-there-is-one-hell-of-a-difference-between-fighting-in-the-ring-and-going-to-war-in-vietnam-muhammad-ali

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The sufi:

How did your dad come to embrace Sufi Islam, and what attracts him to it?

My father has a collection of books by a man named Hazrat Inayat Khan. They’re Sufi teachings. He read them front to cover. They’re old and yellow and the pages are torn. They’re amazing. He always says they’re the best books in the world.

My father is very spiritual — more spiritual now than he is religious. It was important for him to be very religious and take the stands he did in earlier years. It was a different time. He still tries to convert people to Islam, but it’s not the same. His health and his spirituality have changed, and it’s not so much about being religious, but about going out and making people happy, doing charity, and supporting people and causes.

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The man:

How Ali wld like to be remembered

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May he cross the bridge and attain the lake.


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