Heightened Senses

Hello. I'm Imraan. This is the only thing I own outright; and yes, I'm wearing a T-shirt.

Month: March, 2013

“But he cried through the depths of darkness…” (21:87-8)

Yesterday I found myself reading these verses by Rumi, the masterful Persian mystic (from the Islamic tradition), and felt that I had to share them.

Just in case you didn’t know, ‘Allah’, is the Arabic term for God (the same God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Bible, regardless of what some people will try to tell you). Then there is

is the mention of ‘Khazir’ (Khidr more commonly), ‘The Green One’ – a revered figure in the Islamic tradition often charged with carrying out spiritual tasks by God, who was said to possess some mystical insight, and a righteous dispossession.

One night a man cried, “Allah, Allah!”
until his lips became sweet with the sound.
The Evil One approached him as he stood chanting,
and asked “How now, chatterbox?
Where is the answer to your insistence?
Who replies to you ‘Here am I?’
No answer comes from the Throne:
how long then will you mindlessly go on crying ‘Allah?'”

Broken-hearted, the man ceased his chant and lay down to sleep.
In that sleep he dreamed a dream, and in that dream the
holy mystic Khazir appeared before him in a green garden. The saint spoke:
“Why have you desisted from the mention of God?
How is that you now despair of calling on Him?”

The dreamer replied,
“I ceased because no ‘Here am I’ was coming to me.
I fear therefore I may be turned from His door.”

Khazir answered, “God says: ‘Your cry of “Allah” is itseslf My “Here am I,”
just as your pleading and agony and fervor are My messenger.
All your twistings and turnings to come to Me were
My drawing you that set you free.
Your fear and love are the snares to catch My grace.
Under each “Allah” of your whispers many a “Here am I” ‘”

At least to my mind, these verses say something profound in opposition to the dominant, materialist worldview that our friends in the ‘Academy’, especially in the Natural Sciences (how’s that for ironic?) seem to uphold. Causation in the linear sense appears here to be profoundly insufficient in understanding Reality. Whether or not Rumi is suggesting (and I know very little about him, alas) that the very act of chanting His name is a manifestation of the Divine Mercy – that our connection with God is so pervasive and sewn-into the fibre of our existence that we fail to realise how connected we are actually in fact…or if it means that we ought not to see our pleas for ‘help’, or our yearning for Him as a spiritual endeavour that originates in our own agency rather than His…I cannot be entirely sure. Maybe he meant something else altogether.

But we have the problem today of seeing ourselves as ‘apart’ from the Reality of things (and I find this a grave difficulty with the various apologists from the great Monotheistic traditions, Islam included), through which we insist on placing barriers between God’s ‘Will’ and that which is manifested through it – i.e. creation. No, I’m not saying in the more pseudo-spiritual fashions, or even in the demonic traditions (see what I did there :p) , that we are all deities therefore and that we possess Divine Agency thus, and can manifest our wants independently and so for – far from it!

Yet what we see is a hermeneutic sense of ‘separateness’ through which we try and ‘rationalise’ without recourse to the Revealed or inspired traditions our place in the cosmos (which might be in part where the analytic tradition, so impacted by the dualistic tendencies, has gone astray).   Thus we place tremendous intellectual barriers between us, and Him, and our approach in trying to reconcile ourselves with our existence; I can’t provide an alternative framework for viewing the world (though I’m currently reading Dr Nasr’s Islamic Philosophy from its Origin to the Present: Philosophy in the Land of Prophecy which seems to be making a good go of it!) but increasingly the ‘rationalistic’ lens appears gravely inadequate when trying to reconcile our metaphysical beliefs/structures we perceive with the epistemological observances we make of the world, which are often wholly reliant on those metaphysical presuppositions (remember my previous post on David Berlinski?). Thus, is God merely a metaphysical construct or is He part of the lived epistemology of our world? Or both?

This translation is from The Inner Journey: Views from the Islamic Tradition (Ed. William C. Chittick); ‘PARABOLA Anthology Series’; (Standpoint; ID: Morning Light Press), 2007; 205.

The book was kindly gifted to me by someone I hold very dear, and I highly recommend its various essays (which are rather short and eminently readable), with the various masters of Islamic philosophic/mystical traditions, not least of all Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr (one of my heroes).

Timothy Winter on Salafism

Again, here’s a principled, intellectual, moralistic critique – by an intellectual giant in the West; a principled, ‘mainstream’ Islamic scholar, Timothy Winter – of the contemporary Salafi ideology that’s sweeping the Islamic world

(I’d argue that it’s an anti-intellectualist, anti-philosophical, ‘protestant’ form of interpretation of scripture and canon – sometimes with an overemphasis on literal meaning) with disastrous results on the intellectual health of the Islamic community – critical faculties seem to be cast away, despite the fact that this Salafi worldview is an hermeneutical construct.)

That said, there are plenty of people who belong to this school that one can have a meaningful conversation, I met many at university, for example – however my concern, as Seyyed Hossein Nasr points out – that the dominant theology behind Salafis and other groups have not been able to produce heavyweights in the senses of al-Ghazzali, Ibn Sina, Mulla Sadra and so forth. Certainly, these latter figures have contributed to the Islamic mystical climate for the most part – however the worldviews that they espoused had a much broader application – there are ontological, epistemological, ethical criteria outlined by these great visionaries that could prove utterly beneficial when Muslims face the challenges of a modern, secular, imperialist hegemon, as well as when it comes to dealing with internal affairs, the relationships to their own dictatorial governments, etc.- these are things that don’t seem to occur any more because of perhaps an over-reliance on ‘authority’ in a hermeneutic sense. That said, I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

Whatever path takes you there, I guess. But I wonder if we might be able to expedite our own progress if we just permitted ourselves to reflect more, just a little…? Not to be afraid of our thinking if we remained steadfast to our fundamental Islamic beliefs – Tawhid (divine ‘Unity’, I guess), Revelation, and importantly, the place of the intellect in relation to this.

Below, I’ve pasted a brilliant talk by Seyyed Hossein Nasr on the need for philosophy in the Islamic world that you will get immense benefit out of. He is a true moral heavyweight, and a very brilliant man at that. Not to mention a polymath. Please watch, if you’re interested.

A Struggle for Compassion – (Please share, reblog, etc.)

There are those beings that have touched our lives in profound ways – guiding us with that torch of Hope where we only saw Darkness. Emily Collingridge was one such being…a Saint…a human manifestation of Mercy, of Patience, of Love.

Yet I had never met her – but the hope and help that she provided through her invaluable book on Severe M.E let me know, when I relapsed almost two years ago to the day, that I was not alone. When I was cast into a very dark and scary world of Severe M.E.Today marks one year since she passed away at the age of 30 – after a long-fought battle with Severe M.E – a disease which had crippled her since the age of 6. Yet in her ‘later’ years (and it is such a tragedy just to call it that), she wrote a book from her bed, over the course of a few years, even when she couldn’t physically write, to inspire both hope and pragmatism to the lives of the so many who have had to endure this vicious, crippling illness, not just because of what it does to their bodies, but the emotional trauma it causes to them, their families…and perhaps most tragically, to the strain it puts on the humanity of those who are supposed to be working in the compassionate profession.For me, Emily – through her book – provided as space of hope, of empathy, of understanding, where the medical establishment could do no such thing and shrugged their shoulders in bafflement.

I periodically post things about this condition – not only because it has contributed to making my own life extremely difficult these past six years, but because there are those whose suffering is much greater than mine. This condition has a way of ravaging almost all of your resources – where the physical act of living can be a struggle for your sanity. There are those who cannot raise their heads from their beds, who are fed through tubes, whose physical pain would be deemed unbearable if a ‘healthy’ person would experience it just for an hour.

Yet this disease is constantly mischaracterised in the press, is dismissed by much of the medical establishment, and is granted virtually no funding to help to find treatments that might take the edge off, or help to promote recovery. Please read Emily’s Appeal today, if there is one thing you can do – I am a firm believer that change will only come for this community if we start from acts of passive compassion. Just try to understand it first…be ‘aware’, pray if you can.

If you can then do more, please do so; yet if you ask many patients, the first thing they’d say is that they would just appreciate some awareness. Not because they’re martyrs – they are already living with such a plight – but because they are systematically victimised and betrayed by the institutions that are supposed to protect them, and all those that are vulnerable.

May she be at Peace, finally.Links:
Emily’s Appeal:http://www.blogistan.co.uk/blog/mt.php/2011/05/28/me-awareness-emily-collingridges-appeal

An Obituary for Emily Collingridge:
http://www.blogistan.co.uk/blog/mt.php/2012/03/20/emily-rose-collingridge-1981-2012

http://www.stonebird.co.uk/contributors.html#lifewithme

Silent Screamsmy account of life with Severe M.E for M.E Awareness Week 2012.

M.E Awareness Video by Daisy H.:

On Prayer (Salah)

Here’s a truly beautiful exposition of what it means to pray, both in a symbolic sense, as well as looking more deeply into the point of the spiritual practice in itself. Whether you’re a Muslim or not, whether you’re more ‘spiritual’ than religious, there is something profound to be said about a ritual that you dedicate a portion of your life to in perfecting. So watch this, please.

The connection with God is a longstanding commitment – it doesn’t, as far as I’m concerned, generally happen overnight  – in the sense that if we wish to reap the benefit of a relationship with the the Essence, there is work to be done on our part.

I often find that life can be overwhelming – this isn’t a phenomenon located in me only. Think about it – living as we do, we are constantly seeking ‘something’, something that is in fact external to us. Whether it is that we seek to clear up our time, and hastily complete our chores…or seek wealth, and rush to work in pursuit of the sustenance that we feel we ‘ought’ to have…or in pursuit of another – whatever it is we seek…have you noticed yet how empty your life feels sometimes? When you are left alone in that silence – when you suddenly, quite rarely perhaps, find yourself awake in the dead of night unable to sleep yet are unable to do much else? Or when you find yourself all alone at home with your chores completed for the day, and there’s nothing good on TV? What is it about our condition that necessitates us being so ‘busy’ all the time?

Shaikh Hamza Yusuf here speaks about the cornerstone, the ‘marrow’, the essence of Islam – the Prayer . But he expresses not in ritualistic terms:  it as a profoundly spiritual practice if its disciplines are observed. When the emptiness of life is swept aside in the face of the fullness of the Divine presence. Perhaps the most beautiful point of this talk is when (around minute 18) Shaikh Hamza speaks about prayer as the ‘falah’ – the ‘harvest’. This is a term that is called during the ritual call to prayer  – it is often translated as ‘success’ – but it actually means the ‘harvest’ – if you miss this blessed event is to miss the fulfilment of your life. I think that that is beyond profound, and worth thinking about regardless of what faith you belong to.

“I have said th…

“I have said that ignorance is bad; but there is one thing worse than ignorance, that’s applied ignorance!”

Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Helen Prejean – Poverty and Death

This is a truly great watch – Prejean, in my view, is revolutionary in her thought. Whatever your thoughts are on the death-penalty (I, for one, am against it for socio-economic reasons, as well as theological ones, i.e. no just jurist exists, as far as I’m concerned), she makes an important link between poverty and crime. This is only 3-minutes in length or so, so it shouldn’t take up too much of your time.

There is a fundamentally astute point made here – that class matters when it comes to conviction rates in the United States when it comes to death-row inmates; why should that be?

And give the relative his right, and [also] the poor and the traveler, and do not spend wastefully. Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful. (Qur’an 17:26-27)

Think of the images that this verse conjures. What is it that we are being told about being wasteful? What are the social/economic consequences of such thing, or the lack of such thinking in the first place. Wastefulness suggests almost parity between the Devils – what capacity have we to debase ourselves…, eh?…

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