Saturday, September 30, 2006

ramadan reading: the virtues of dhikr and al-ghazali

So I finished The Virtues of Ramadan by Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalvi a few days ago. Now I want to go on to reread his book The Virtues of Dhikr. I remember that when I first read that book it was really reassuring because, at the time, I was feeling doubtful about the orthodoxy of "Sufism" but the book discussed a number of hadith on the value of dhikr (including group dhikr). I know some people (especially non-Muslims in the West) see "Sufism" as this cool liberal New Age version of Islam but in reality it is just Islamic spirituality which is organically grounded in the Quran and Sunnah. If you break down "Sufism" to its basic elements it consists of the practices which would be followed by any pious thoughtful Muslim. (Not that I'm claiming to be one).

Also on my Ramadan reading list is the book On Disciplining the Soul and Breaking the Two Desires by Al-Ghazali. Basically it consists of certain sections from Ihya ulum al-din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences) on asceticism and struggling against the ego, translated and annotated by T.J. Winter. I've also read this one before but I could definitely use a refresher. A few years ago I went through a period of being really excited about Al-Ghazali, but more recently I've kind of mellowed out and haven't "touched base" in a while.

Anything I could say right now about how great Al-Ghazali is would probably sound really lame so I'll just leave you with a couple of links:

A biography of Imam al-Ghazzali by Dr. G.F. Haddad

As a continuation of my muslim art of war idea, here is an excerpt from al-Ghazali on Jihad al-Nafs (with links to other scholar's comments on the same topic).

And here is a huge Al-Ghazali Website with a ton of his writings.

Enjoy.

Friday, September 29, 2006

more 9/11 blues

From the AP by way of Third Resurrection:
A Spanish university professor with a long beard and dark complexion said Thursday he was briefly forced off an Air Berlin airliner during a layover on the Spanish island of Mallorca by German passengers who feared he was an Islamic terrorist. (full story)
yet another helping of the post 9/11 blues

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

the racial gap in the grandstands

Businessweek: The Racial Gap In The Grandstands explores how and why African Americans are losing interest in baseball while Latinos seem to be getting more involved. The piece is a bit clumsy in the sense of not acknowledging that many Latinos (especially the players) are also "black". But it still describes an interesting phenomena.

See also:
latinos and baseball

blacks in cuban med school

Since 2001, the Latin American School of Medical Sciences (LASMS) in Havana, Cuba has been admitting students from various countries in Latin America and Africa, as well as low income minority students from the U.S. into its six year medical program (particularly African Americans and some Hispanics). Since the program began in 2001, it has maintained that all of tuition, housing, and meals are free. In some cases the only necessary financing by students is for the trips to Cuba for school and back home again.

Black Electorate: African American Education Free Outside U.S. Borders - Blacks In Cuban Med School by Zekita Tucker

Sunday, September 24, 2006

the akashic records

I'm feeling a little New Age-y today. On Friday I had lunch... wow, won't be saying that for a while...on Friday I had lunch with some folks and we were talking about Rudolf Steiner and a book of his called Christianity as Mystical Fact. The book ended up being a good springboard for conversation (one topic was literal vs. metaphorical language) and it made me more curious to learn more about Steiner.

Steiner believed in something called the Akashic Records which is supposed to be a kind of comprehensive non-physical library of information which can be accessed by individuals with certain spiritual abilities.

Levi Dowling, the author of Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ claimed to have gotten the information for his gospel from the Akashic records. And according to Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson), The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ was one of the sources (in the "ordinary" non-mystical sense) of Noble Drew Ali's Circle Seven Koran.

It occurs to me that in the Quran (and hadith) there are many different references to a Book, or the Pen, or writing (e.g. [22.70] Do you not know that Allah knows what is in the heaven and the earth? Surely this is in a book; surely this is easy to Allah.) and that possibly some of these references are consistent with the concept of the Akashic records. The Quran tends to evoke the anthropomorphic image of angels following us with pieces of paper (made from trees?) writing down what we do (in what language?) with ball-point pens. But perhaps that concrete language is really refering to something different like the Akashic records? Allahu alim.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

ramadan mubarak y'all

it's the first day and I'm already staring at the clock waiting for the sun to set... maybe I should go outside. That way I could get some fresh air. Read a good book. Look at the sky... and wait for the sun to set.

pope benedict: the first year

Alternet: Pope Benedict: The First Year by Matthias Beier (originally in Tikkun). A reasonable overview of the current pope and some of his Eurocentric tendancies. (The more I think about it, "Eurocentric" is just the right term to use. "Nazi" is inflamatory and inaccurate. "Islamophobe" is to blunt and doesn't cover everything. But "Eurocentric" really does cover a wide range of his implicit and explicit actions.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

the neocon's lexicon

In These Times: In The Neocons’ Lexicon Salim Muwakkil deconstructs the contradictions which lie behind the Right's use of the term "Islamofascism".

the world faces us hegemony or survival

Chavez's September 20th speech to the UN General Assembly

ramadan on saturday?

In a surprise move, ISNA and the Fiqh Council of North America are anouncing that they are using astronomical calculations in order to determine the beginning of Ramadan. The Fiqh Council's explanation of their position is given here. I'm not sure what to think. On the one hand, I've always been told that sighting with the naked eye is what is important. And something in me finds this "old school" approach appealing. At the same time, I'm also tired of all the disagreement (even at a local level) over when Ramadan begins. At least the Fiqh Council's approach seems to have some potential for promoting greater unity among Muslims in North America. Also, it wouldn't be the first time that greater scientific knowledge has had some impact on the religious behavior of Muslims in North America. When Muslim immigrants first came to the US, many of them tended to pray southeast (We are mostly north and west of Mecca) but once they had a better understanding of geodesics they started to pray northeast. Perhaps this is similar?

Monday, September 18, 2006

ramadan right around the corner

Wow, it seems like Ramadan is sneaking up on me. It is right around the corner... less than a week away. To get ready I'm going to try to review the rules on fasting in some of my "favorite" fiqh books. I also want to reread the section The Virtues of Ramadan from Tablighi Nisab by Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalvi. I feel like this year Ramadan will be harder than usual. I don't think I want to get into why. It just will be. Keep me in your dua.

more on pope benedict and islam

The often-insightful Juan Cole has recently produced two entries in the wake of Pope Benedict's gaffe on his Informed Comment blog: Pope: Manuel II's Views of Muhammad are not My Own and Pope's Trip to Turkey in Doubt (Both the entries and the comments are full of good information on the subject)

Also, for a more "big picture" perspective, you might want to check out: Benedict XVI and Islam: the first year by Islamic scholar, Abdal Hakim Murad

osama found

latest message from osama bin laden

Where do people get the idea that Muslims have no sense of humor?
Google Video: Latest Message from Osama Bin Laden

skipping towards armageddon

Skipping300



I recently started and am almost finished with a book published by Soft Skull Press and written by Michael Standaert called Skipping Towards Armageddon: The Politics and Propaganda of the Left Behind Novels and the LaHaye Empire.


Overall, I would say that the book is a good survey of the subjects covered in the subtitle. Standaert explores how the Left Behind novels can be viewed as political propaganda on behalf of the Religious Right and he also explains Tim LaHaye's extensive and varied connections to extreme-right and evangelical circles.

I was a bit surprised by how far to the right some of Tim LaHaye's connections go: the John Birch Society, Christian Reconstructionist groups which want to bring back stonings and slavery, anti-semitic organizations, militias, etc. And it was interesting to see Standaert trace some of the political implications of Premillenialism (one of several possible Christian views on the end-times). Specifically, Premillenialism teaches that the Second Coming of Christ will occur before the 1000 year period of peace, justice, and prosperity. In this view, a utopian existence will be ushered in by Jesus through supernatural means, and so efforts to improve our lives through human means (the UN, international co-operation, progressive social movements) will necessarily be considered suspect.

I wouldn't insist that all Premillenialsts are like this, but I think that in many evangelicals, Premillenialsim is woven together with conservative/reactionary political ideas to form a coherent and seamless (and somewhat problematic) worldview.

Perhaps more later...

an extensive excerpt from the book (pdf)
Soft Skull: Skipping Towards Armageddon
Eight Diagrams: An interview with Michael Standaert
The Huffington Post: Boycotting the Image, but Not the Word? (about a violent video game based on the Left Behind books)

Planet Grenada's past:
number of the beast
the rapture
christian reconstructionism
wayward christian soldiers

Saturday, September 16, 2006

beyond visibility: rethinking the african diaspora in latin america

CALL FOR PAPERS

Beyond Visibility:
Rethinking the African Diaspora in Latin America


University of California-Berkeley March 1-2, 2007

Abstract Submission Deadline: November 3, 2006



In recent years there has been an explosion in scholarship that goes beyond recognizing the presence of Afro-Latin Americans and towards interrogating this topic more deeply. Through this inaugural conference,we intend to build on this momentum--advancing inter-disciplinary scholarship on the African Diaspora in Latin America by moving towards research that critically engages the theoretical and methodological challenges of this research. Organized by the Afro-Latino Working Group at UC Berkeley’s Center for Latin American Studies, we aim to create a forum for graduate students to dialogue with established scholars whose work explores the African Diaspora in Latin America. This conference will foster new dialogues about race, ethnicity, culture, society, economy,politics and nation in the academic world. The conference will feature a series of graduate student panels as well as a faculty keynote and roundtable discussion from preeminent scholars working on the African Diaspora in Latin America. We invite abstract submissions from current graduate students on a diverse array of topics and disciplinary orientations that are both theoretical and empirical in content. The conference is oriented towards graduate students pursuing projects about the African Diaspora in the Americas (including Mexico,Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean). Specifically, we strongly encourage papers that address under-theorized regions in the Americas as well as comparative and regional works.

We offer the following themes as submission suggestions:
Theory and Pedagogy: New Directions in the Field
Social Movements and the Politics of Race
Media and Cultural Representations
Identity, Race and Ethnicity
Migration and Transnationalism
Folklore and National Identity
Comparative Historical and Literary Analysis

500 word abstracts should be submitted to the organizing committee via email as word documents or PDF files. Please submit abstracts by November 3, 2006. Submissions should include the abstract, current contact information, presentation title and current C.V. Accepted authors will be notified by December 15, along with full submission guidelines for papersand/or presentations. Full papers are due on January 5. All papers and presentations must be available in English. Papers will be made available through the Center for Latin American Studies.Submissions and inquiries should be sent to: afrolatinogroup@berkeley.edu or via USPS to

Vielka C. Hoy, Afro-Latino Working Group,
660 Barrows Hall,#2572
Berkeley, CA 94720.
Please check the website regularly for updated conference and registration information

Friday, September 15, 2006

better than pork

another joke:

A priest and a rabbi found themselves sharing a compartment on a train. After a while, the priest opened a conversation by saying, "I know that in your religion you're not supposed to eat pork. Have you actually ever tasted it?"

The rabbi said, "I must tell the truth. Yes, I have, on the odd occasion."

Then the Rabbi had his turn of interrogation. He asked, "Your religion, too... I know you're suposed to be celibate, but...?"

The priest replied, "Yes, I know what you're going to ask. I have succumbed once or twice."

There was silence for a while. Then the Rabbi peeped around the newspaper he was reading and said, "Better than pork, isn't it?"

moishe and the pope

to keep things light... a joke:

About a century or two ago, the Pope decided that all the Jewish people had to leave Rome. Naturally, there was a big uproar from the Jewish community.

So, the Pope made a deal. He would have a religious debate with a member of the Jewish community. If the representative won, the Jews could stay. If the Pope won, the Jews would leave. The Jews realized that they had no choice. They looked around for a champion who could defend their faith, but no one wanted to volunteer. It was too risky. So, in desperation, they finally picked an old man named Moishe, who spent his life sweeping up after people, to represent them. Being old and poor, he had less to lose, so he agreed. He asked only for one condition to the debate. Not being used to saying very much as he cleaned up around the settlement, he asked that neither side be allowed to talk. The Pope agreed.

The day of the great debate came. Moishe and the Pope sat opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Moishe looked back at him and raised his index finger. The Pope waved his hand in a circle around his head. Moishe pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope pulled out a communion wafer and a glass of wine. Moishe pulled out an apple.

The Pope stood up and announced, "I give up. This man is too good. The Jews may stay.'

An hour later, the cardinals were all around the Pope asking him what happened. The Pope said, "First, I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was still one God common to both our religions. Then, I waved my hand around me to show him that God above was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground, showing that God was also right here with us, in our midst. I offered the wine and the wafer to show that God absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?"

Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around Moishe, amazed that this old, somewhat feeble man had done what all their scholars had insisted was impossible! "What happened?", they asked. "Well," said Moishe, "first he said to me that the Jews had three days to get out of the city. I told him that not one of us was leaving. Then, he told me that this whole city must be cleared of Jews! I let him know that we were staying right here." "And then?" asked a woman. "I really don't know," said Moishe. "He took out his lunch, so I took out mine."

papal bull

Benedict XVI's latest gaffe made me miss John Paul all the more. I first saw the picture below on Muslimahsoul's blog after Pope John Paul had passed (aand before Ratzinger had been chosen). Originally, I had included a link to her site but then she decided to close for business so I feel like sharing the image here:

2005_04_grafpope

The current Pope's recent anti-Islamic comments were made in the context of an academic talk titled "Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization" where he quotes the 'erudite' Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and 'an educated Persian' saying:
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The defenders of the current Pope are correct to point out that he was not saying these things himself but was only repeating a quote. On the other hand, the talk still included some misleading (although less incendiary) statements about the role of reason in Islam. And in any case, Benedict XVI has already made comments previously about the Christian (i.e. non Islamic) character of Europe and other topics which stronly suggest that his papcy does not bode well for future Muslim-Catholic relations.

Grenada's past:
ratzinger - benedict xvi
harry potter and the book-burning benedict
final call interview with immortal technique
the passing of the pope

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

our man in havana

Black Electorate: Our Man in Havana by Armstrong Williams is a brief reflection on Castro and US-Cuba relations.

the jihad of imam shamyl

The timing probably could have been better but I still wanted to follow-up on my earlier piece on the greater jihad: a muslim art of war. One section of this hypothetical book would include the thoughts and reflections of Sufis who participated in physical jihad but to be honest, I haven't found a whole lot of material along these lines. I have been able to read a little here and there about fighters with a strong mystical bent who have appeared in Africa and the former Soviet Union but I've had trouble finding their actual writings. (If anyone out there has any suggestions or leads in this regard, I'd be happy to hear about it.) In the meantime, if you like this topic, you might be interested in reading the article: The Jihad of Imam Shamyl by Kerim Fenari which discusses several different Sufi leaders who fought against the Russians in the Caucasus region.

Grenada's past:
so white they named white people after them

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

legal update in the case of mumia abu jamal

reaction mixed to schwarzenegger remarks

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's taped comment that Cubans and Puerto Ricans are feisty because of their mixed black and Latino "blood" set the blood of some Democrats boiling, but others say it's no big deal.

(see full story)

I'm not sure how I feel about the above. Yes, the comment is definitely ignorant and offensive but it doesn't put me in a "feisty" mood. He said it in private but apparently the recording was hacked from his office computer system so that actually raises some privacy issues which makes me a bit sympathetic to him. In the grand scheme of things, the saddest part of this whole affair is the fact that so many other elected officials have made comments which were much more ignorant and offensive but their political careers remained basically unscathed.
--

The above link died but here is a replacement.

more chavez of arabia

chavez_of_arabia2
La Voz de Aztlan editorial: Chavez of Arabia

Monday, September 11, 2006

reading is fundamental (five year old picture)

bush_reading_9-11

chavez of arabia

Here are some very Grenada-esque pieces on Hugo Chavez and the connections he is making in the Middle East and Africa:

La Voz de Aztlan: "Chavez of Arabia" Greeted as Hero in Damascus
Aljazeera: Winning Arab hearts and minds by Dima Khatib
Adisa Banjoko: I dunno why, but I'm kinda starting to dig Hugo Chavez....

cuba and the non-aligned movement summit

Fidel Castro is to preside over the Cuban delegation to the 14th Non-Aligned Movement Summit and will receive various dignitaries, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, affirmed Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque before close to 1,000 foreign and national correspondents accredited for the event, which officially begins this Monday September 11 with a meeting of experts representing their countries.

See Granma: Fidel recovering satisfactorily and will head the Cuban delegation

Friday, September 08, 2006

the forer effect or 'into every life a little rain must fall'

You might start to think this has become a Taoist website... I' ve gotten more interested in the I Ching lately. I think there is a certain amount of beauty and order in how the book is put together. And the answers it has been giving are rather... uncanny and useful in their own way. For the most part, I chalk it up to the Forer effect also known more cynically as the Barnum effect. ("There is a sucker born every minute") I also think that as people we are more alike than we realize and so any sufficiently detailed description of the individual human condition will impress us as accurate.

In his original study, Forer gave subjects a personality analysis followed by the following 'result':
"You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic."

Yeah, you and everyone else in the world... and so on average, Forer's subjects found the above description pretty accurate.

But think about it, even if you are 'one in a million' that means there are 6000 people just like you. I honestly believe that one of the functions of scripture is to remind us that we are not unique. We all exist in a common human condition. That's how scriptures "work". That's how texts written over a thousand years ago in a distant land can still ring true... in spite of the printing press and the internet and indoor plumbing and nuclear power and digital watches, people are still people. But more on that later.

the radical middle way

I recently found an interesting British Muslim website called the radical middle way. The name may seem like an oxymoron at first glance but I think it fits in rather well with some points which I've tried to make here on Planet Grenada. "Radical" means taking things to the root. And at its root, Islam is opposed to extremism. The violent extremists are the superficial ones. The "deep" radical Muslims are trying to make positive contributions to society.

Perhaps I'll go into more detail in a later post, but at times I'm struck by the similarities in tone between orthodox Islam and Orthodox/Catholic Christianity (as opposed to Protestantism and other minority Christian movements). I have a theory. Suppose we view religions as things which may have a divine origin, but are still shaped by historical situations and also contain bits of human wisdom. Then it makes sense that those faiths which have been the "official" religion of entire civilizations and empires for a very long time will have acquired a certain sober maturity. Such faiths will have produced hundreds of great mystics, poets, philosophers, legal scholars and artists; great tyrants and great rebels. They will have spanned across various nationalities and cultures. They will have experienced periods of great prosperity and wealth and also periods of war and disorder. They will have had to find ways to inspire the greatest of saints but still speak to the greatest of sinners.

I mention all of this in this particular context because it helps make a point about the "deep" Muslim attitude towards terrorism. Orthodox traditional Islam, the Islam followed by most Muslims for most of Islamic history has been the dominant religion of an entire civilization. It has been a religion which has built into it, a certain amount of respect for authority and stability. And so its nature is to build up social institutions rather than tear them down. More later.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

ghettonomad

I just found a cool site by Luqmaan Williams, a thoughtful Black American Muslim blogger, called ghettonomad. It hasn't been updated in a while so maybe he is AWOL (i.e. living a real life instead of spending way too much time in front of a computer) but if he is "around" cyberspace, I hope he would be interested in joining Third Resurrection.

"you can't keep me out of my own house"

The article A Debt Paid In Full: Latin & African-American Relations within the Orisa Community from the Roots and Rooted website deals with the ironic paradox of how in the past "white" Latinos worshiping Black gods had been opposed to African-Americans being initiated into Santeria and Lucumi. Now, things are more open, but some tension remains between African-Americans and Latinos within the Orisa community.

see also:
santeria and islam

my god... othello is a good play

My God... Othello is a good play.

I was a fan of West Wing when it was on the air. And I'm recently reminded of one episode; Ellie which was full of so much political/family drama around the President Bartlet's relationship with his daughters (More than average for the show anyway) that at one point the President exclaims: My God, King Lear is a good play!

I'm just in that kind of mood. I'm hoping mine ends better.

Wikipedia: Othello
Unofficial West Wing Transcript Archive

Grenada's past:
jimmy smits and the west wing

Sunday, September 03, 2006

moore organized religion

following up on alan moore and organized religion:

I would say that there are two main trains of thought which push me towards Moore's way of thinking about organized religion. (And I'm not saying that I agree with him, just that I'm not unsympathetic.)

One "train" comes from thinking about the essential centrality of "La ilaha illa Allah" (no god but God) in Islam. Both too good to be true? and no god but God give orthodox references which strongly suggest that the only condition for salvation is sincere belief in "no god but God". That's it. The answer. The only requirement. Nothing else. And everything else is extra. I'm not trying to give a fatwa here. I'm just saying describing what comes to mind when I read those particular hadith.

But if tawhid is the only requirement, then what are the rest of the Islamic laws and principles for? Well, many of the religious practices (ibadat) like reading the Quran, salat, dhikr) are primarily means to reinforce and sustain a belief in La ilaha illa Allah. After all, mankind was made forgetful. Another portion of shariah's guidance provides sound advice for living a good individual life. And of course, much of the shariah is related to promoting a peaceful and justly ordered society (which some may think of as social control). In any case, I would say that the more an individual is impressed by "no god but God", then these other functions of Islamic law would tend to fade in significance along with every other trapping of organized religion. As the hadith goes:

Sahih Bukhari
Volume 1, Book 3, Number 131:
Narrated Anas:
I was informed that the Prophet had said to Mu'adh, "Whosoever will meet Allah without associating anything in worship with Him will go to Paradise." Mu'adh asked the Prophet, "Should I not inform the people of this good news?" The Prophet replied, "No, I am afraid, lest they should depend upon it (absolutely)."

A second train of thought which makes me sympathize somewhat with Moore's critical attitude towards organized religion starts with thinking about the legacy of Malcolm X. Malcolm is often presented as a "poster boy" for Sunni Islam, but if you stop to check, he actually spent much more time as a member of the Nation of Islam than he ever spent as a Muslim outside of the Nation. (He was assinated less than a year after he left the Nation). Secondly, I don't mean this as a criticism or insult in any way, but I honestly don't know how "orthodox" or "Sunni" he really was when he died. Yes, he left the clear shirk of the Nation and was disillusioned by Elijah Muhammad's adultery but I don't know what beliefs he had in terms of Abu Bakr or Ali, in terms of the validity of hadith, following a madhab, finality of prophethood, etc. For all we know, Malcolm X might have become an Ahmadiyyah had he lived longer (after all, the Nation relied on Ahmadiyyah literature in addition to the writings of Elijah Muhammad) And yet, in spite of his ambiguous orthodoxy, Malcolm X is (and rightfully so) considered one of the most exemplary Muslims America has ever produced. The fact that he was an individual commited to one God and social justice trumps more pedantic concerns about theological correctness, at least in the grand scheme of things.