Thursday, July 26, 2007

what happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen...

I'm currently in an extremely carnivorous (not vegetarian-friendly) city and I think it will be much harder to eat halal. Up until now, I've been able to avoid meat almost completely and would only eat meat if it was zabiha and a Muslim friend was specifically inviting me to a homemade meal. (I wouldn't go out of my way to eat meat). But now it seems like being vegetarian would mean eating salad all the time so I think I'm going to supplement my diet with seafood. I'm basically Hanafi so I'm still thinking about how shellfish is going to fit into all that.
Another consideration is if I go out to eat, even if I order the veggie burger or the grilled fish, I don't really know what else was cooked in the same wok or grill. In my previous location I knew how the food was being prepared so that was only an occasional passing thought, but now I'm eating out all the time so it is more of an ongoing concern. At the moment I'm thinking "what happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen" (or else I'll be left with eating salad all the time). Hopefully I'll be able to transition to a situation where I'm doing almost all my own cooking eventually.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

a joyful work

A friend recently shared this poem of Hafiz with me, so I'm going to share it with you. And hopefully my new job will turn out to be a "joyful work" and not the alternative.

Last night
God posted on the tavern wall
A hard decree for all of love's inmates
Which read:
If your heart cannot find a joyful work
The jaws of this world
Will probably grab hold of your
Sweet ass

Thursday, July 19, 2007

plaza granada

For various reasons I'm having less time to write these days. I'm thinking of moving to a new location. I still have to think a lot more about what I want in a neighborhood but one area I'm looking at is near an old shopping center called Plaza Granada. Hmmmm..... Maybe I'll have to change the name of the blog...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

pain and suffering in theology

I think our understanding of unfairness in the world is mostly relative and based on our imagination which is based on our experiences. Even if the world were objectively better we would just adjust our expectations for happiness and fulfillment upwards and still suffer accordingly. If the average lifespan could be increased to 1000 years, then when someone dies at 316 folks would still say: "What a shame, she was cut down so young. She had so much of her life ahead of her". If no one ever got diseases like cancer or multiple sclerosis or Huntington's then atheists would use paper cuts to question the mercy of God.

I also think it works in reverse. If one of those bug species, where the female eats the male after sex, evolved into intelligent and sensitive creatures with technology and civilization but the same basic means of reproduction, they wouldn't necessarily be more likely to doubt God's mercy. They would probably just accept that violence was a part of their life cycle and move on. (Consider how, even for us human beings, in certain parts of the world family life is marked by violent rituals and customs, often with religious sanction).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

nur az zaman (light of the age)

I wouldn't necessarily insist on all the theological claims below, but I'm glad to support the discussion of such an important Muslim scholar. The following is from Yusuf Yearwood:

Nur az Zaman

This yahoo group is dedicated to An-Nur a Zaman (the Light of the age) Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio and the true flag bearers of the Shehu's minhaj (methodology) The Jama'ah of Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio in America. It is mentioned by the great wali (friend) of Allah Shaykh Mukhtar al Kunti "The perfected friends of Allah in this age are three. One is an Arab who resides beyond Syria. His light is the light of La illaha ill Allah. The other is a Fulani in the land of the blacks, Uthman Dan Fodio. His light is the light of the seal of the Messenger of Allah, which was on his left shoulder. As for the last one his light is the light of the heart of the Messenger of Allah" Based on this and many other statments, there is consensus that the great mujadid (renewer) of the 12th Islamic century was Shaykh Uthman dan Fodio.

The Jama'ah of Shehu Uthman dan Fodio in America is directly connected to the broader community of Shehu Uthman through our Sultan, Al Haj AbuBakr ibn Muhammad At-Tahiru (residing in Mayurno, Sudan)the 16th caliph and direct descendent of Shehu Uthman dan Fodio. We are dedicated to reviving the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sawws) by following the traditions of those great scholars who came before us and by adhering to the minhaj (methodology) of Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio and his community until the advent of Al-Mahdi(Peace be upon him).

This yahoo group is open to all Muslims.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

my native costume

I'm a big Martin Espada fan but I especially like this poem because I actually have worn that outfit on multiple occasions in different combinations, so in some sense, it really is my "native costume". I guess that either means that 1) Martin Espada and I share a similar poetic sensibility growing out of our condition as educated Latinos struggling to navigate the cultural contradictions which are implicit in living and working in Anglo environments or 2) I still need help dressing myself.

My Native Costume

When you come to visit,
said a teacher
from the suburban school,
don’t forget to wear
your native costume.

But I’m a lawyer,
I said.
My native costume
is a pinstriped suit.

You know, the teacher said,
a Puerto Rican costume.

Like a guayabera?
The shirt? I said.
But it’s February.

The children want to see
a native costume,
the teacher said.

So I went
to the suburban school,
embroidered guayabera
short sleeved shirt
over a turtleneck,
and said, Look kids,
cultural adaptation.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

you say you want a revolution...

I have no big plans for the fourth. I'm about to grab some lunch. Hopefully I'll be able to make more progress with cleaning out my room. If I have time, I'll pick through Zinn's A People's History of the United States and reread what it has to say about the American Revolution.

see also:
"when in the course of human events..."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

i and i and thou

So from time to time I tend to ride on strange trains of thought. A while ago I wrote a post called the tao passes the turing test which tried to give an alternative way to think about God's existence (or more specifically, God's intelligence). Then I started to wonder if one could make use of Martin Buber's distinction between I-It relationships (objective, detached) and I-Thou relationships (loving, unconditional) to make a similar point. It isn't really surprising that Buber says it is possible to have I-It relationships with other people because it is all-too-easy to find examples of alienated, dehumanizing relationships. The funny thing is that Buber says it is possible to have I-Thou relationships with trees...

which for me evokes some lines from the Spearhead song, "Of Course you can"
In school they tried to tell me
that a rock is not alive
but I have seen a volcano growin' up and die
In school they tried to tell me
that a tree it couldn't feel
but I have felt a tree and it was bleeding for real
In school they tried to tell
me animals couldn't talk
but they can understand it when a dog starts to bark
in school they tried to tell me
man doesn't have a soul
"whet happened to his" I say "cause mine is
still whole!"

But if I-Thou relationships are possible with trees, then perhaps with "the Tao" as well? In other words, the question of God's personhood may have more to do with our subjective perspective than God's objective ontology. So if a hardcore skeptic has trouble accepting a theistic personal God, perhaps another kind of spiritual path would start with belief in a not-necessarily-personal Ultimate Realty (the Tao, Higher Power, Nature) but would then still find meaningful ways to relate to this Reality as an intelligent (in the sense of Turing) Thou (in the sense of Buber). Just a thought.

But that's all background. Actually the thought which most directly inspired this post was the question of whether anyone out in the blogosphere had ever compared Buber's terminology with the Rastafarian use of the phrase "I and I". And a couple of Google searches later I came across Caribbean blogger and published author, Geoffrey Philp and his fascinating post on Reggae, Rastafari and Aesthetics.

And more recently I was reading in Sadiq Alam's post Language of the Sufis how within Islam, mystics have also used pronouns in unconventional ways in order to transmit a higher level of truth. In fact, one could probably draw other analogies between the relationship between Rastafarianism and Christianity and the relationship between certain Sufi orders and Islam. But that will have to wait for another day.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

turtle island muslims

Turtle Island is a Native American term for North America and Turtle Island Muslims is a website dedicated to the thoughts and experiences and Native American Muslims. Two pieces which I would recommend are Goodness Outside of Muslim Cultures? by Umm Zaid and Burying 'Digging for the Red Roots'. Both really challenge Muslims to deepen our understanding of Native cultures and their relationship to the Muslim community. In order for Muslim dawa-workers to avoid the mistakes of Christian missionaries, it is essential to think about the issues raised here.

moors gate - bab el magharbeh

Moors Gate is a remarkably well-done Moorish Science website. "New Age-y" at times, but nevertheless with interesting articles.

Grenada's past:
moors, snakes and st. patrick

two latino ex-muslims

I would disagree with several of the comments made by GustavoMustafa (an Iranian-Afghan/Mexican ex-Muslim) over at in his very brief post Latino Islam Esquina: Recognizing the Feminine in Divinity but I think he has some interesting things to say about cultural difference.

From Islam to Unitarian Universalism by Hafidha Acuay made me a little sad. Acuay was raised as an Afro-Latina Muslim but eventually made her way to U-U. I hope that Muslims are able to read her story as a cautionary tale about some of the failings and inconsistencies of the Muslim community and what some of the consequences are.

related Grenada links:
living islam out loud
return to guadalupe
different trajectories: quraysh ali lansana