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Pattern: There is no X without Y

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a DoubleQuote in two YouTube videos ]
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Today I’ll offer two YouTube videos that beg to be considered together — or at least, I think they do. Why? because they each suggest an “essential ingedient” in life, and that ingredient is very different in the two cases.

First, the bad news:

That’s quite a “call to arms” — and one possible response to it is a similar call made by Joel Richardson on his Joel’s Trumpet blog:

Dear fellow Christians, I would like you all to click here to watch the latest ISIS recruitment video, and tell me what modern Christian movement or expression matches the zeal and commitment of this Satanic movement? Its going to take something far greater than what we are doing right now. Its going to take a prayer and missions movement unlike anything we have seen to date. Its going to take a return to the early Church theology of the cross and martyrdom. Its going to take a genuine Global Jesus Revolution.

That same Joel Richardson, however, also brings some good news:

I explained to my host that unless a supernatural man bursts forth from the sky in glory, there is absolutely nothing that the world needs to worry about with regard to Christian end-time beliefs. Christians are called to passively await their defender. They are not attempting to usher in His return.

So at least from Joel’s perspective, violence is not within the ambit of his Global Jesus Revolution. Others may not concur.

**

Okay, now for the good news:

I suppose I not only enjoy the heck out of this video — I also wonder about it.

How similar, and how different, is the enthusiasm of the largely-Muslim Malinke tribespeople here from that of the ISIS recruits depicted in the video above? Both are of Muslim origin, one from the Sudi Marabout traditions of West Africa, and the other from brutal Zarqawist Salafi-jihadism…

Are they both joyful, or is one filled with fear and anger? And does the different in Islamic tradition explain the difference — between destruction and dance?

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Daveed Gartenstein-Ross twitterstreaming re Iraq & ISIS…

Friday, June 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- today's source of understanding addresses the tensions within the ISIS alliance -- with a question about the Naqshbandiyya tagged on for our readers ]
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Here, including a “ramp-up” from two days ago, is a series of related tweets from Daveed G-R:

Nota bene:

  • We reject Sharia.
  • IAI may eventually have to fight ISIS.
  • **

    While we’re at it, here are two other DG-R tweets on significant topics:

    Daveed’s Spectator cover-article is (appropriately) spectacular, btw.

    **

    Of particular interest to me, in case you read this and know where to point me, is anything re the strength or nominality of connection between the Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi or Naqshabandi army and the Sufi Naqshbandiyya order.

    Thanks!

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    Uways and his significance

    Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- exploring the importance to both Shias and Sufis of Uways Al Qarni, and of the Uwaysi transmission in Sufism ]
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    Uways, the destruction of whose shrine I described today in the first of two posts, was the man to whom the Prophet Muhammad entrusted his cloak on his death (a potent symbol ineed), a prototypical Muslim mystic, an early Muslim martyr who never physically met the Prophet — and the saint who gives his name to the Uwaysis, those Sufis who receive spiritual insight not from a living master but through a spiritual transmission from beyond…

    Beyond what I can easily tell you, but where beyond is not for me to say…

    Diving right in, then, here are two substantial gobbets from Patrick Laude‘s Malâmiyyah Psycho-Spiritual Therapy can also be found — in the same words, I think — in his book, Divine Play, Sacred Laughter, and Spiritual Understanding. Laude is currently Professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar:

    The figure of Uways Qarani is most representative in this respect. Farid al-Din ‘Attar tells us about him: “during his life in this world, he (Uways) was hiding from all in order to devote himself to acts of worship and obedience” (‘Attar 1976, p. 2). ‘Attar also relates that the Prophet had declared at the time of his death that his robe should be given to Uways, a man he had never met in this life. When ‘Umar looked for Uways during his stay in Kufa, he asked a native of Qarn (the home town of Uways) and was answered “there was one such man, but he was a madman, a senseless person who because of his madness does not live among his fellow countrymen (…) He does not mingle with anybody and does not eat nor drink anything that others drink and eat. He does not know sadness nor joy; when others laugh, he weeps, and when they weep, he laughs” (ibid., p. 29). We can already perceive here, in the case of an early mystic like Uways, the dual, and seemingly contradictory, spiritual vocation of ‘obscurity’ and ‘eccentricity.’ The unassuming figure of Uways is, at the same time, blatantly discordant in the social context. This discordant status that is often referred to as ‘madness’ is the mark of the irruption of a transcendent, vertical perspective within the world of terrestrial horizontality. It is akin to a negation of the negation: the Spirit ‘negates’ the distorted notions of the soul, the biases and comforts. When Uways finally meets with ‘Umar, he tells him that it would be better for him that “nobody (but God) would know him and had knowledge of who he was.” To remain incognito can be considered as the leaven of malamiyyah spirituality.

    and in his footnotes:

    In his Kitub ‘Uqala’ al-majanin, an-Naysaburi ranks Uways among four of the best-known “wise fools” with Majnun, Sa’dun and Buhlul. Cf. Dols, p.355.

    Uways is also, and quite tellingly, the ‘patron’ of Sufis who do not have a living master: “The Sufi tradition has distinguished a special group of seekers: those whose sole link with the teaching is through Khidr himself. There are those rare Sufis who do not have a teacher in the flesh. (…) They have been given a special name: uwaysiyyun.” Sara Sviri (1997) p.98.

    It is interesting to note that Uways Qarani is both a norm and a shocking exception in the world of early Islam. He is a shocking exception in so far as his asocial perspective and ascetic disposition took him away from the communal establishment of the ummah that is, in a sense, the very identity of Islam. Still, at the same time, Uways al-Qarani is referred to in at least two ahadith that make of him the spiritual pole of the community. Two interesting facts must be commented upon in this context: first, the Prophet declared that on the Day of Judgment and later in Paradise, God will give the form of Uways to 70,000 angels so that nobody could know, even in the thereafter, who is the actual Uways. This hyperbolic and symbolic manifestation of anonymity is quite suggestive of the principle of ‘invisibility’ that presides over the malamiyyah way. Secondly, when referring to Uways in connection with ‘Umar, ‘Attar carefully avoids any expression that would seem to give precedence to Uways over ‘Umar: “You should know that Uways al- Qarani was not superior to ‘Umar, but that he was a man of detachment vis-a-vis things of this world. ‘Umar, as for him, was an accomplished perfection in all his works.” (op.cit. p.31) ‘Umar’s perfection is defined in terms of presence and action in the world of men, whereas Uways’ perfection is understood in terms of separation from the world. Given its emphasis on equilibrium between the two worlds, Islam cannot extol Uways’ virtues to the point of “otherworldliness.” Moreover, the Prophet’s robe is no doubt a different kind of investiture than the line of succession in the khilafat: it points to a spiritual authority like the khirka (cloak) of the Sufi Shaykh; but this type of investiture and eminence must remain hidden.

    This ‘madness’ is also related to the function of the American Indian ‘contrary’, Sioux heyokao or Hopi kochare, or the “grey one” of the Apaches, who embodies the apparently senseless reversal of terrestrial and social norms of behavior.

    **

    Thyere’s a lot packed into these two chunks of Laude’s — poetry, legend, hagiography, insight — and I’ve quoted them in extenso because they save me quoting shorter extracts from half a dozen other sources [ eg: 1, 2, 3, 4 ].

    For a more detailed understanding, I should probably finesse my way to a copy of Julian Baldick‘s Imaginary Muslims: The Uwaysi Mystics of Central Asia.

    **

    A wise fool, then, in that global tradition of sacred folly which extends from Shakespeare‘s Lear’s Fool via Chuang Tzu to the Koshare of the Hopi rituals — and to the Sufis, a wali, a friend of the Beloved.

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    Of Omar Hammami — and dying more than once?

    Friday, April 26th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- dying more than once in hadith, in press reports, in Rumi and John of the Cross ]
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    The American mujahid in Somalia, Omar Hammami [see his Wikipedia bio], who has been tweeting back and forth with various “U.S. national security professionals” [see this Wired piece], reported yesterday that he had been shot in the neck “by Shabab assassin” [see this piece by Clint Watts at Selected Wisdom]. JM Berger, who has been in close correspondence with him, tweeted:

    Omar has indeed been in dispute with Shabab, the group he originally joined [see this LWJ post], and his own most recent tweets, sent eighteen hours ago as I write this, were these:

    Omar Hammami may or may not still be among us, although recent reports suggest with caveats that he survived the attack…

    That’s the background.

    **

    From my point of view, the most interesting discussion anyone had with Hammami in the last day or two was this exchange between Hammami and Jeremy Scahill, whose book Dirty Wars has just hit the stands:

    Characteristically, Omar has a light tone — yet speaks to the issue in the context of his theology…

    **

    There are, it seems to me, basically three ways that one might imagine dying more than once. The first — and it’s the one Hammami himself was referring to — is found in the hadith in Bukhari [Volume 4, Book 52, Number 54]:

    Narrated Abu Huraira:

    The Prophet said, “… By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.

    Let the intensity of that hadith — and Hammami’s reference to it, a little earlier [?] on the same day he was shot — sink in.

    **

    The second, “secular” way to have “died” more than once is through faulty intelligence and / or journalism — and that’s what JM Berger is on about when he tweets:

    Indeed, such reports led to the 2011 release of a nasheed in his name, though he may not have sung it himself:

    Now Hammami has apparently resurfaced, with two new a cappella songs that appeared on the web earlier this week. In “Send Me A Cruise,” Hammami begs to be plastered by a tank shell, a drone attack or a cruise missile, so that he can martyred like some of the heroes he names, including Al Qaeda leaders Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Laith al-Libi. In his trademark tuneless drone, he claims “an amazing martyrdom” is what he “strive(s) for and adore(s).” “Send me a cruise like Maa’lam Adam al Ansari/ And send me a couple of tons like Zarqawi,” chants Hammami. “Send me four and send me more, that’s what I implore.”

    More generally, false reports of AQ leaders dying hither and yon have become so common that I posted a DoubleQuote about it last year:

    **

    Here’s where it get’s most interesting…

    For a third view of dying more than once, we can turn to the mystical tradition. Thus the Prophet Muhammad is credited with the hadith “Die before death” by Jalaluddin Rumi, who in his Mathnawi, VI, 3837-38 writes:

    The mystery of “Die before death” is this, that the prizes come after dying (and not before).
    Except dying, no other skill avails with God, O artful schemer.

    The death before death here is the death of the nafs, the “self” — the true martyrdom of the greater jihad. As Peter Lamborn Wilson puts it in his Introduction to the Sufi Path:

    Man’s authentic existence is in the Divine; he has a higher Self, which is true; he can attain felicity, even before death (“Die before you die,” said the Prophet). The call comes: to flight, migration, a journey beyond the limitations of world and self.

    Of course, St John of the Cross wrote in much the same vein:

    This life I live in vital strength
    Is loss of life unless I win You:
    And thus to die I shall continue
    Until in You I live at length.
    Listen (my God!) my life is in You.
    This life I do not want, for I
    Am dying that I do not die.

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    Ashura: the Passion of Husayn

    Sunday, November 25th, 2012

    [ by Charles Cameron -- today's solemn commemorations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India in comparative religious perspective ]
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    I was listening to Mozart‘s Requiem last night, and it is rich in grief shot through with glory. That’s the thing about mourning celebrations in which death is accompanied by the “sure and certain hope of the Resurrection into eternal life”.

    One such observance is found in Shia Islam, and falls this year on the 25th of November — today. It is the day of Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, and its epicenter is at Karbala in Iraq. As the saying goes:

    Every day is Ashura and every land is Karbala.

    For the Shia, Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn, grandson of the Prophet, at the Battle of Karbala, when he refused to give allegiance to the Umayyad caliph Yazid. Husayn’s martyrdom is dramatized in Ta’zieh, passion plays, giving us a hint that the martyrdom of Husayn at Ashura figures in the devotional life of the Shia much as the passion and death of Christ figures within Christianity, both in passion plays such as that at Oberammergau and in Catholic rituals such as the Stations of the Cross. This may seem a far-fetched analogy to some of my readers, but both deaths are viewed as redemptive. As another saying has it:

    A single tear shed for Husayn washes away a hundred sins.

    **

    As you can see depicted in the lower panel above, Shiite mourning can include flagellation with chained blades, not something that sits easily with most westerners — yet as Roy Mottahedeh has said (quoted in SA Hayder, Reliving Karbala: Martyrdom in South Asian Memory):

    Self-mutilation in emulation of the “passion” of heroes who are human yet divine is no stranger to the West: flagellants who whipped themselves both in penance and in remembrance of the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus appeared in almost every western European country in the Middle Ages…

    The upper panel above depicts Husayn’s horse, riderless and bloody, and can perhaps give us some sense of the dark ceremonial beauty of the occasion for those whose grief transcends time and unites them in aspiration with Husayn himself — their flagellation attesting to their wish that they themselves could have stood beside him on that day so long ago, standing for truth against an army of injustice.

    **

    Their grief may be trans-temporal, but the possibility of dying for their faith persists to this day, for Sunni militants of the jihadist sort view Ashura differently — primarily as a day of fasting first performed by Moses and continued by Muhammad — and detest the breakaway sect of the Shia as rafidun, heretics.

    In Iraq, Ashura there has seen millions of pilgrims visiting Karbala this year, with comparatively little violence:

    Millions of Shiites flooded the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala on Sunday for the peak of Ashura rituals, which have been largely spared the attacks that struck pilgrims in past years. A bomb wounded 10 pilgrims in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, but it was the first such attack since a car bomb against pilgrims killed three people on November 17.

    Farther afield, what the Pakstani police describe as a “major terror plot to attack the Muharram processions in Karachi” was avoided this year when “large amounts of explosive material, two suicide jackets and grenades” were confiscated during a raid, with the Minister for Religious Affairs declaring that the Tehreek-e-Taliban were behind the plots. Elsewhere in Pakistan:

    At least five persons were killed and over 70 others injured on Sunday when a Shia procession was targeted with a bomb at Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan’s restive northwest, the second such attack in the city in as many days.

    Meanwhile in Kabul:

    For the past week, the Afghan capital has been draped with black cloth arches and festooned with huge colored banners. Mournful, pounding chants pour from loudspeakers across the city, filling the air with slow martial intensity.

    The dramatic display is all part of Muharram and the 10-day Shiite festival that commemorates the slaying of Imam Hussein, a 7th-century holy figure and early champion of Islam. But it is also a symbol of the growing religious and political freedom that Afghanistan’s long-ostracized Shiites have had in the past decade.

    That’s from a Washington Post piece yesterday titled Afghan’s Shiite minority fears a return to old ostracism — and the next two paragraphs bear out the title:

    Now, as Western military forces prepare to leave the country by 2014, Afghan Shiites, most of whom are from the Hazara ethnic minority, fear that their window of opportunity may slam shut again, leaving larger rival ethnic groups as well as Taliban insurgents, who are radical Sunni Muslims, dominating power.

    “Everything we have achieved, our ability to come out and participate in society, has been in the shade of the international community and forces,” said Mohammed Alizada, a Hazara Shiite who was elected to parliament in 2009. “We are very concerned that once they leave, the fundamentalists will reemerge, ethnic issues will return, and we will lose what we have gained.”

    Tribal politics, sectarian issues, the impending departure of US forces, the Taliban, cross-border alliances — and the sheer power of devotion — all these are intricately intertwined in today’s Afghanistan and its future. We may do well to understand something of the meaning of this day of Ashura, in our own calendar, 25th November 2012.

    **

    Annemarie Schimmel, the great Harvard scholar of Islamic mysticism, has a fine essay on the poetry of Ashura, encompassing both Sunni and (strongly Shia-influenced) Sufi traditions, Karbala and the Imam Husayn in Persian and Indo-Muslim literature. The mindset is very different from contemporary secular westernism, seeing death itself — and the grief that accompanies it — as a prelude to resurrection, and thus part of the timeless love-play of God with those who love him:

    In having his beloved suffer, the divine Beloved seems to show his coquetry, trying and examining their faith and love, and thus even the most cruel manifestations of the battle in which the ‘youthful heroes’, as Shah Latif calls them, are enmeshed, are signs of divine love.

    The earth trembles, shakes; the skies are in uproar;
    This is not a war, this is the manifestation of Love.

    The poet knows that affliction is a special gift for the friends of God, Those who are afflicted most are the prophets, then the saints, then the others in degrees’, and so he continues:

    The Friend kills the darlings, the lovers are slain,
    For the elect friends He prepares difficulties.
    God, the Eternal, without need what He wants, He does.

    **

    The spirit here is not too far from that of the Greek philosopher Plotinus, who wrote in his Enneads [III.ii.15]:

    Men directing their weapons against each other- under doom of death yet neatly lined up to fight as in the pyrrhic sword-dances of their sport- this is enough to tell us that all human intentions are but play, that death is nothing terrible, that to die in a war or in a fight is but to taste a little beforehand what old age has in store, to go away earlier and come back the sooner.

    together with that of the early Christian Father, Origen, who wrote [De Martyrio, 39]:

    And let each of us remember how many times we have been in danger of an ordinary death, and then let us ask ourselves whether we have not been preserved for something better, for the baptism in blood which washes away our sins and allows us to take our place at the heavenly altar together with all the companions of our warfare.

    **

    In India, indeed, the martyrdom of Husayn takes on an interfaith character in some places, as Hindus and Christians join Muslims in Ashura commemorations, as Naim Naqvi relates:

    One can observe the richness and beauty of the diversity of Indian Culture at the occasion of Muharram. Since the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, Muharram ceremonies are observed all over the world including India. Hindus take part in them with great reverence and devotion. The tragedy of Karbala has become the harbinger for interfaith understanding in the Indian sub-continent. Participation of Hindus in the mourning rituals of Imam Hussain has been a feature of Hinduism for centuries in large parts of India. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and even Christians observe Muharram. In the city of Varanasi which is the holiest city for Hindus many Hindu families participate in Muharram processions.

    Describing the participation of one such Hindu family in Orissa, we read:

    District police chief Lalit Das said Padhihary family has been doing this every year for the last 338 years, adding other local Hindu families also participate in the procession.

    Muslims said it reflected the perfect harmony between the two communities in the area.

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