The Lark Ascending and The Soul’s Ascension

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

It is now four years since my late father, (Al-Hajj Al-Haafidh) Syed Shahid Ali, passed away. (In this connection, interested readers might want to read the tribute I wrote to him on Friday 24 May 2013.)

As I stated in a post commemorating my reflections last year entitled “Of Gardens of Peace, Manifold Graces and Seizing The Time“, much has happened in the intervening period, some of it good and some of it not so good, but all of it as viewed from my limited human perspective.

In what follows, I want to reflect briefly on some of the apparent good that has taken place since the post from the previous year. Once again, I have been blessed by God/Allah with a number of opportunities to further develop and apply my (Islamic) decolonial thinking in various settings.

  1. I was invited to become a moderator of the Decolonial Islamic Studies Facebook group which was established in Summer 2016 and which now has 3500+ members.
  2. I gave an invited talk entitled “An Introduction to Islamic Decoloniality” at the Decolonise Not Diversify Festival in Birmingham on 8 October 2016.
  3. I presented a paper entitled “Heidegger and the Islamicate: Transversals and Reversals” at the Heidegger in the Islamicate World international conference which took place at the University of Bern in Switzerland on 2-4 November 2016. A revised version of this paper is to be included as a contribution for a forthcoming book in the New Heidegger Series.
  4. I gave an invited lecture entitled “Islam and Decoloniality” as part of the Islam and Liberation Theology Series at Oxford University on 29 November 2016.
  5. I gave an invited lecture entitled “The Decolonial Question Concerning Computing” at the Can Science Be Decolonised? KCL WiSTEM Conference in London on 18-19 March 2017.
  6. I gave an invited presentation entitled “Decolonising Computing” at the 6th eSTEeM Annual Conference: STEM Futures – Supporting Students to Succeed, Towards a Framework for Inclusive STEM Education at The Open University, Milton Keynes, 25‐26 April 2017.
  7. I have had an extended abstract entitled “Decolonizing Information Narratives: Entangled Apocalyptics, Algorithmic Racism and the Myths of History” accepted for presentation at DTMD 2017 – the 6th International Difference That Makes a Difference Conference, part of the IS4SI-2017 Summit: Digitalisation for a Sustainable Society at Gothenburg, Sweden on 12 – 16 June 2017.
  8. I have had an extended abstract entitled “Transhumanism and/as Whiteness” accepted for presentation at the Transhumanism- The Proper Guide to a Posthuman Condition or a Dangerous Idea? Workshop, part of the IS4SI-2017 Summit: Digitalisation for a Sustainable Society at Gothenburg, Sweden on 12 – 16 June 2017.

Truly a huge barakah from The Most High.

Unfortunately, I have not yet had an opportunity to visit the grave of my father at the Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery this year since my mother has recently been somewhat unwell, but we will visit there soon, after Ramadhan and Eid-ul-Fit, insha’Allah.

I should like to end this post with the following piece of music which continues to move me and which made me think of my father when I recently listened to it:

Peace

VIDEO: Understanding Agamben’s Homo Sacer in Less Than Ten Minutes

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Interested viewers are invited to check out the following short video explaining the concept of Homo Sacer (Latin for ‘the sacred man’, ‘the accursed man’) in the thought of white Italian philosopher Georgio Agamben.

According to the entry in Wikipedia, originally, Homo Sacer referred to a figure of Roman law denoting a person who is banned from political society (the polis) and who may be killed by anybody, but not sacrificed in a religious ritual. As the entry goes on to state:

The meaning of the term sacer in Ancient Roman religion is not fully congruent with the meaning it took after Christianization, and which was adopted into English as sacred. In early Roman religion sacer, much like the Hebrew קָדוֹש qadoš, denotes anything “set apart” from common society and encompasses both the sense of “hallowed” and that of “cursed”. This concept of the sacred is more in line with the Islamic notion of haram.

I find the ‘opposing’ connotations of ‘sacred’ and ‘cursed’ associated with the idea of homo sacer extremely interesting; however, it is not at all clear to me that the Islamic notion of haram has this oppositional sense.

Against my position, it might be argued that, for example, certain foodstuffs are designated haram in the sense of ‘off limits’ or ‘forbidden’ in The Qur’an (5:3, 6:145, 16:115), while al-masjid-ul-haram (which is mentioned 15 times in The Qur’an) refers to the ‘sacred mosque’ in Makkah. However, I think the matter is readily resolved if the adjectival term al-haram is rendered as ‘inviolable’ rather than ‘sacred’, and the focus shifts from the ‘committed’ [to Islam] (al-mu’minoon) to the ‘rejectors’ [of Islam (al-kaafiroon) and the ‘associators’ [with God/Allah] (al-mushrikoon); masjid-ul-haram is ‘off limits’ to the rejectors / associators. I therefore want to suggest that the meaning of haram is indeed that of ‘off limits’ or ‘forbidden’ (but not ‘cursed’) in all instances. I also want to contrast the Arab qāf dāl sīn (ق د س) to the Hebrew w קָדוֹש qadoš, drawing attention to the fact that within The Qur’an, in all 10 instances, the former invariably has a singular meaning of ‘holy’ or ‘sanctified’.

However, what particularly interests me about the notion of Homo Sacer pertains to the issue of sovereignty and ‘the right to kill without impunity’. In this connection, I am reminded of the following sign / indicator (ayat) in The Qur’an:

(2:258) Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord [merely] because God/Allah had given him kingship? When Abraham said, “My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death,” he said, “I give life and cause death.” Abraham said, “Indeed, God/Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.” So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [by astonishment], and God/Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.

What interests me here is the link between sovereignty / kingship / dominion (mulukiyyah), the proximate and existential power over life (hayat) and death (mawt), and the shift from the terrestrial / micrcosmic to the extra-terrestrial / macrocosmic in order to effect a rhetorical manoeuvre.

Peace

Of Gardens of Peace, Manifold Graces and Seizing The Time

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Gardens of Peace Tree

It is now three years since my late father, (Al-Hajj Al-Haafidh) Syed Shahid Ali, passed away. (Interested readers might want to read the tribute I wrote to him on Friday 24 May 2013.)

Much has happened in the intervening period, some of it good and some of it not so good, but all of it as viewed from my limited human perspective.

Last year, I reflected upon some of the apparent good in a post entitled ‘REFLECTION: Of Death, Time and Certainty‘, where I referred, among other things, to the development and presentation of a short course in Granada, Spain in April 2014 entitled “Towards an Islamic Decoloniality“.

Since I wrote that post, I have been blessed by God/Allah with a number of opportunities to further develop and apply my (Islamic) decolonial thinking in various settings. Continue reading

AUDIO: This is Your Life

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Check out “This is Your Life” by non-white (attempted) Muslim rapper, Osama in London:

http://www.blog.co.uk/srv/media/dewplayer.swf?son=http://data8.blog.de/media/792/7055792_79079947c2_a.mp3

Here are the lyrics:

(CHORUS)

This is your life, your death, your life
This is your life, your death

(VERSE 1)

Giving them bread and circuses
Circuses and bread
Keeping them entertained
Jolly fat and well-fed (no need for)
Shotgun to the head they’ll
Happily comply
Sign on the dotted line
Until the day that they die
But they are already dead cause they
Have not responded
To the Call of Allah and His Messenger, Muhammad
Too busy shop shopping for the designer label
The Brand of “The Man” on the hand (that’s the plan)

(VERSE 2)

Read in The Noble Qur’an
Allah Most High is The Teacher
I hope that it reach you
Open your heart let it speak (to) you
Consuming like cattle
That’s the trait of kuffaar
Who are preparing themselves for The Fire, An-Naar
Confused and dazed
Trapped in the maze
Sodoku may well be the latest craze
But it certainly won’t save
You from yourselves and the
Whispering whisperer (who whispers in the heart of men)

(VERSE 3)

Call me a majnoon, madman or call me a nutter
I’d rather be insane in the membrane than
Living in the gutter
In the country of the blind, they say the one-eyed man is King
But I’d rather be a pauper than caught up in “the bling”
No time for pimp-player stepper strutter
What melts in your mouth is not butter (but the placebo)
Effect that helps to keep your mouth shut shutter
And as it takes its course you start to stutter
Mumble and mutter

Interested listeners are also invited to check out the following other tracks by this rapper:

Empire
Looking for Ayesha (not Mrs White Supremacy)
Be Like Muhammad (not Mr White Supremacy)

Peace

COMMENT: The Fear of Struggle

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

One of the principal fears that many, if not most, non-white people / Victims of Racism (White Supremacy) share is the fear of extreme harm, i.e. direct and / or indirect violence, being done to them by Racists (White Supremacists) if they attempt to RWSWJ (Replace White Supremacy With Justice).

This fear is so intense that many VoRs choose to become “House Slaves”, i.e. complicit with the system of Racism (White Supremacy) and silent about its injustices. While understandable from a purely materialistic, ‘survivalist’ and “this-worldly” (or dunyaawi) perspective, from an Islamic Counter-Racist perspective, such a stance is tantamount to cowardice and contrary to the mandate of God / Allah who states the following in The Qur’an [=Final Proclamation of God/Allah to Humanity]:

(16:90) Indeed, God/Allah orders / commands / mandates (yamuru) equalisation (al-‘adl) and promotion of the good / beautiful (al-ihsaan) and giving to those close by, and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.

Consider the example of Musa / Moses (peace be upon him) who expressed fear when commanded by God / Allah to go to Pharaoh, the oppressor, and persuade the latter to abandon his oppression in favour of a path of self-purification and spiritual growth (tazkiyyah). God / Allah informed Musa / Moses that He was with him (and his brother Haroon / Aaron) and that they should do as commanded, which they did. (The narrative is presented in fragments at various places in The Qur’an including (20:42-48), (79:15-19) and elsewhere.) In short, they implemented prophetic practice which is to “Speak a Word of Truth to a Tyrant Ruler”. (Of course, there is an appropriate etiquette / adab in carrying out this task: It must be done with a view to promoting goodness and beauty (2:83), speaking unambiguously using words direct and to the point (4:5)(33:70), words which are just and equitable (6:153), and in a manner that invites the listener to hear what is being said to him/her (20:44)(31:19).) Importantly, according to Sherman Jackson, author of Islam and The Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection (2005),

only where the causes of suffering are confronted, that is, with perseverance and reliance on God, are imaan [i.e. security with God] and spirituality enhanced. To acquiesce in the face of unearned suffering is both to evince a paucity of faith in God and to forfeit the opportunity to increase it. (p.187)

But what if carrying out the aforementioned task, i.e. confronting the tyrant, results in death? What about the example of those who have been slain at the hands of Racists (White Supremacists) in the contemporary era such as the late Malcolm X (al-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz) and others?

In this connection, I invite readers to reflect on the following signs / indicators (ayaat) in The Qur’an:

(3:169-170) And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of God / Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision, rejoicing in what God / Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty, and they receive good tidings about those [to be martyred] after them who have not yet joined them – that there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.

(4:95) Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled [by injury or are blind or lame, etc.], and those who strive hard and fight in the cause of God / Allah with their wealth and their lives. God / Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, God / Allah has promised good, but God / Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward.

In closing, I should like to invite interested listeners to listen to the following spoken word poetry by The Last Poets:

 

AUDIO: The World is Perishing

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Gardens of Peace Cemetery

Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery, Ilford, England (UK)

The recent passing of my father reminded me of the following track by non-white rapper, Masjoon, and I thought I might share it with interested listeners:

http://www.blog.co.uk/srv/media/dewplayer.swf?son=http://data8.blog.de/media/563/7052563_256da2d620_a.mp3
Masjoon – The World is Perishing

Here are the lyrics:

(Opening)

The World is Perishing
Technology will Not Save Us

(Chant – The Last Poets)

“First Day, Last Night
Beginning of The End
Of the Twilight Life”

(Chorus)

Innamaa ad-dunya fanaa
“Truly, The World is Perishing”
And truly, you can do nothing

(Verse)

Contemplate
Reflect on Your State
Existential Condition
Fruits of Your Labour Turned Sour
You Placed The Power
In The Babylon Tower
Now The Tower is Falling
Angel of Death come Calling
Soul out The Body is Crawling
Time to Face The Most High
For Today is The Day That You Die

Peace

A Tribute to My Late Father

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Syed Shahid Ali (1930-2013)

On Monday 20 May 2013, my elderly father, (Al-Hajj Al-Haafidh) Syed Shahid Ali, aged 82 years passed away in a South London hospital.

His funeral took place two days later on Wednesday 22 May at the Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery in Hainault, Ilford.

In what follows, I should like to share with interested readers a brief account of his life and death.

Life

My father was born in 1930 in Jodhpur, India to a large and relatively affluent family tracing its ancestry to Iran. However, while my father led a rich and interesting life, it was not an easy one.

To begin with, he was sent alone to Saudia Arabia by his father at the age of 8 years to memorize The Qur’an (i.e. become a haafidh) and only returned to India 4 years later, speaking fluent Arabic yet having almost forgotten his mother tongue (Urdu). Unfortunately, during his stay in Saudia Arabia, my father was treated like a servant and sometimes beaten. This experience left behind a number of deep scars, not least of which was the sense of abandonment associated with him being sent as a very young child to a foreign land.

Another traumatic episode in his life took place in 1947 during the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. My father was 17 years old at the time and the last member of his family to leave India for Karachi when he was arrested and imprisoned. Apparently, my father was good at making crystal radio sets and this ability led to his being suspected of spying for the Pakistan Muslim League. During his time in prison, he was tortured by Hindu officers and was only able to secure his release through the intervention of a Sikh prison guard. Again, this traumatic experience haunted him throughout his life, resulting in a dislike, if not outright hatred, of Hindus and a resolve never to return to India.

After studying at the University of Karachi, my father spent a brief time at Al-Azhar in Egypt attending various Islamic conferences as a member of a Pakistani delegation before traveling to England to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952. Seven years later, he married my mother, a white revert to Islam; nine years after that, I was born, followed by my sister three years later.

I remember my father as a very organised and punctual man who worked hard to provide for his family. During his period of residence in the UK, he had a number of jobs including working part-time in a bakery and in London’s Science Museum. Finally, he became a Civil Servant and it was during this part of his working life that he was subjected to a prolonged campaign of overt victimisation by a Racist (White Supremacist) who prevented him from obtaining promotion. This resulted in my father suffering a period of depression which was deepened by the death of his elder sister in Pakistan who had been a strong maternal figure in whom he had confided and from whom he had always sought advice.

Towards the end of his life, particularly during the last few years, the memory of these traumatic episodes increasingly plagued my father and contributed to a decline in his mental and physical health. (In addition to suffering from depression, he had a number of physical ailments including prostrate cancer and was later diagnosed as suffering from Paget’s disease.) Even my mother, who cared for him unstintingly throughout their married lives, was unable to get him to talk about his unresolved issues. It is my belief that his eventual refusal to talk, even to close members of his family, was a consequence of his inability to obtain answers to the same question that he wanted to ask each of those who he felt had wronged him: “Why did you do this to me?”

Yet there were many brighter aspects to his very full life.

Foremost of these were the fact that my father was a deeply religious man. In addition to being a haafidh, he had performed the Hajj (i.e. pilgrimage to Makkah) and was regular in his prayer (salaat). On another important note, he was an avid reader and had a small ‘library’ of books at his home covering a range of subjects, principal of which were Islam, the history of the Arabs and the natural world. (My father also enjoyed watching natural history programmes on television.) One of the most memorable events in my life, which I think occurred when I was about 14 years old, was when my father brought home a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and proceeded to inform me that he had briefly met the late Al-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz when the latter had visited London in the 1960s. This event triggered my desire to find out more about the NOI (Nation of Islam) and the “Black Muslims”, reinforced by our family viewing of the television adaptation of Alex Haley’s Roots some years earlier.

In addition to being a very fit person who exercised regularly, went for daily walks and ate a healthy diet, my father also had quite an infectious personality. Despite his many trials and tribulations, he had a good sense of humour and was somewhat of an extrovert. (He was also one of the most smartly dressed people I have ever known, a trait that I have not inherited.) He was very sociable and both my parents always made people welcome at their house, including my and my sister’s friends.

Although there was almost 40 years age difference between us, and many differences in taste and cultural outlook, as I grew in years and learning, I like to think that we became closer, at least insofar as we had more things in common, things that we both regarded as of decisive importance, viz. God/Allah, Al-Islam and The Qur’an. In addition, our political views began to converge, my father becoming increasingly critical about the Pakistan movement following our discussions and more radically ‘Islamist’ in orientation: I recall how much he enjoyed reading Sayyid Qutb’sMilestones which I had recommended to him (he purchased a number of copies of this book to give to people) and also World Arrogance by Ahmed Zidan. He also abandoned his former ‘rosy-tinted’ view of his adopted country, England, seeing it for what it is – a Racist (White Supremacist) land whose successive governments were/are committed to “Empire” / “Pax Britannica”, viz. maintaining, expanding and refining the subjugation of all non-white people, especially those in the so-called “Middle East” through its establishment and continued support of the Zionist [=WS/R] “settler state” of Israel.

Death

As my father’s only male offspring, I was given – rather, honoured with – the responsibility for arranging the funeral and afforded the opportunity to perform all the Islamic funeral rites, which commenced with preparing my father’s body for burial. This involved washing his body (ghusl) in accordance with prescribed rites (manaasik) and then perfuming it before placing it in a shroud (kafan). After this, female members of the family including my mother, sister, wife and daughters and family friends were invited to pay their last respects. I then led the congregation in the ‘noon’ prayer (i.e.salaat-ul-dhuhr) before carrying out the funeral prayer (salaat-ul-janaazah). Male members of the congregation were then invited to pay their last respects to my father before his body was taken to the grave site (qabr) in a coffin carried by myself and other males. I was permitted to enter the grave and lay my father to rest with his body facing towards Makkah. A number of wooden boards were then placed inside the grave at an angle so that the earth / clay piled on top of it did not disturb his body. Those at the burial site, all of whom were male, were then invited to cast three pieces of earth / clay into the grave – symbolising life, death and resurrection – before the grave-diggers piled up the remaining earth / clay into a mound. I then made a short supplication (du’a) to God/Allah, seeking His forgiveness for my father’s faults and mistakes in life and petitioning that he be granted a place in The Garden (Al-Jannat), and similarly for other recently deceased. I also invited the congregation to reflect on my father’s love for and commitment to God/Allah, The Qur’an and The Deen of Al-Islam. After this, I received condolences from the male members of the congregation before they disbursed and I brought the female members of the congregation to the grave in order that they might make supplication for the ‘self’ (nafs) of my late father.

All gratitude (shukr) and praise (hamd) are due to God/Allah who made it possible for me to remain in a state of serenity throughout the entire proceedings which took place in a dignified and peaceful manner.

Conclusion

I have too much to thank my father for: giving me life by the permission (idhn) of God/Allah, nurturing me, supporting my primary, secondary and tertiary education, instilling in me the love of knowledge, God/Allah, Al-Islam and the Arabic language. I only hope that, by the Grace of God/Allah, I can build on the solid foundations he provided me with and try to contribute something of constructive value in this, the “nearer world” (ad-dunya).

I shall miss his company, our conversations, his smile and laughter.

May Allah (swt) forgive him his mistakes and grant him a place in The Garden (Al-Jannat). Ameen.

In closing, there are no better words than those given in The Qur’an [=Final Proclamation of God/Allah to Humanity]:

(2:156) “Truly! To God/Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return”

Peace