Sunday, September 25, 2011

soul on islam / hang time

what happens in mecca stays in mecca

Wow, I remember being shocked and surprised when I read that Mecca had a McDonalds... This is so much worse.

Behind closed doors – in places where the religious police cannot listen in – residents of Mecca are beginning to refer to their city as Las Vegas, and the moniker is not a compliment.

To the al-Saud monarchy, Mecca is their vision of the future – a steel and concrete metropolis built on the proceeds of enormous oil wealth that showcases their national pride.

Yet growing numbers of citizens, particularly those living in the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, have looked on aghast as the nation's archaeological heritage is trampled under a construction mania backed by hardline clerics who preach against the preservation of their own heritage. Mecca, once a place where the Prophet Mohamed insisted all Muslims would be equal, has become a playground for the rich, critics say, where naked capitalism has usurped spirituality as the city's raison d'être.

But a number of prominent Saudi archaeologists and historians are speaking up in the belief that the opportunity to save Saudi Arabia's remaining historical sites is closing fast.

"No one has the balls to stand up and condemn this cultural vandalism," says Dr Irfan al-Alawi who, as executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, has fought in vain to protect his country's historical sites. "We have already lost 400-500 sites. I just hope it's not too late to turn things around."

Sami Angawi, a renowned Saudi expert on the region's Islamic architecture, is equally concerned. "This is an absolute contradiction to the nature of Mecca and the sacredness of the house of God," he told the Reuters news agency earlier this year. "Both [Mecca and Medina] are historically almost finished. You do not find anything except skyscrapers."

The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of Mecca's millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades alone.

From The Independent: Mecca for the rich: Islam's holiest site 'turning into Vegas'

I remember when I first became Muslim I took a certain amount of comfort in the fact that Muslims seemed less susceptible to the Hal Lindsey / Millerite /Harold Camping / Jack Van Impe / David Koresh -type error of reading endtime prophecy in everyday events. Even now I would say I'm not so apocalyptically-minded but I still can't help but think about how according to the hadith of Gabriel, one of the signs of the end is "that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute herdsman competing in constructing lofty buildings."

For further evidence that Saudis are going to hell in a handbasket check out:
The Guardian: Saudi princes throw parties boasting drink, drugs and sex

See also:
the holiest parking lot in the world
the hajj and the apartheid train

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

abou ben adhem

I first heard this piece by James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784 - 1859) a few years ago at a conference on education and social justice. At the time, it was recited by Bob Moses who shared it as one of the few poems he had been forced to memorize in school. I recently found the poem again when I was browsing through a used bookstore this weekend. It is interesting to me that Hunt chose to give his protagonist an Arab name (literally the father-of-the-son-of-Adam). I wonder what was going on with Orientalism in Hunt's world that he was willing to make an Arab (Muslim?) the paragon of humanistic virtue?

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

100 thousand poets for change

This seems to be a world-wide event and I'm impressed at the level of participation they were able to get. Expect the planet to spin off its axis and enter a higher vibrational state on September 24. Find a spot near you.


600 Events – 450 Cities – 95 Countries

Join other poets around the USA and across the planet, on September 24th, in a demonstration/celebration of poetry to promote serious social, environmental, and political change.

TO REGISTER YOUR EVENT for 100 TPC write to us at:

Or if you just want to participate in an event, check the website to find contact information for an event near you!

Friday, September 09, 2011

latino muslims after 9/11

Latino Muslims Define Their Identity 10 Years After 9/11

mos def, ya sin, and "government names"

Mos Def is changing his name to Yasiin! The name is actually old news to some of his fans. A few years ago on The Ecstatic album he said clearly (in Spanish) on the track No Hay Nada Mas: "Mi primero nombre es Yasiin Dante" (sic). So I suppose the real news is at the end of the year he is retiring the name "Mos Def":

Get More: Sucker Free

Coincidentally I've been thinking about names a lot recently. Earlier this week I started to write down ideas for a spoken word piece riffing on the concept of "government name" and was intrigued by the different kinds of names and ideas about names which are out there.

For a large mass of people, there is a simple identification between their "real" name and their "government name" but not everyone takes that identification for granted. Many Jews will have a Hebrew name given at circumcision which is different from their public/government names. Similarly, there are Asians in America who might use an Anglo name as their public name but their "real" name used with family is different.

Obviously many rappers and performance poets adopt flashy and distinctive stage names. Also actors and comedians choose names which hide or obscure their ethnic origins or emphasize/de-emphasize their connections to show business dynasties (list of stage names). But if you look at the full range of naming practices, people change their names for all sorts of reasons (religious, spiritual, cultural, personal and familial, social, economic, idiosyncratic, etc.)

An interesting distinction between the Nation of Islam and more orthodox Islam lies in their attitudes towards names. For example, the Quran (33:5) says "Call them by the names of their fathers" and orthodox Islam puts a certain amount of emphasis on acknowledging ones lineage and not denying paternity. So there are many converts who, even when they adopt a "Muslim" name, they will keep the surnames they were born with. (e.g. Abdul-Hakim Jackson, Nuh Ha Mim Keller). For the Nation, on the other hand, most African-American surnames are treated as European-derived "slave names" and replaced with an X, but there is a tendency to keep ones given name. (e.g. Malcolm X, Clarence 13X, etc.)

For Muslims, Ya Sin is a fairly common name which comes from the name of a surah known as the heart of the Quran.

Heart of the Qur'an: A Commentary to Sura al Yasin by Ayatullah Dastghaib Shirazi
The Heart of the Qur’an: Reflections from Surah Ya-Sin by Hamza Yusuf Hanson