Wednesday, May 25, 2005

hiding and revealing

Hide the faults of others deep in the earth

If shame is what their actions make you feel.

But if you mirror both their good and bad

Then you yourself must be like polished steel.

#378: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

The Sufis have a concept of "prudent dissimulation" called taqiyya which allows them to express ideas that could be deemed heretical or blasphemous if they were not careful. I decided to search under hide and found this advice with its imagery of a mirror that one holds up so others can see themselves more clearly. The mirror must be polished, clean of personal shame or guilt. If we blame others for our own shame then we are poor mirrors.

Rumi uses steel for the mirror in this verse but this has other associations besides being shiny when polished. It is also hard and resilient, used for the cutting edge of blades and the points of arrows and spears. We use a certain hardness to make points and to "cut through the crap" of self-deceit or delusion.

I've been in a discussion with "doubtless" on Sufism and I've been recalling earlier discussion (if you can call it that) with "nbhatti67" at in which he claimed to hold a mirror up to me to show me how ugly my posts were. His mirroring was so preposterously different from what I posted that I felt inclined to laugh at him. However, there is always a grain of truth even in nonsense, there is never smoke without fire. It's true that my posting was driven by hate and ultimately by fear, fear of being overcome or overrun by Islamic forms of tyranny in the guise of terrorism. Islam is currently colouring our landscape whether we like it or not.

I'm currently struggling with this issue of pointing out errors, bagging Islam especially for the arrogance and ignorance of its adherents, its dogmatic and fanatical perspectives. I can see so clearly in "doubtless" that a different kind of dogmatism can arise, a dogmatism that says that Islam is evil or worthless or despicable or abominable. Did Sufis like Rumi also hold this view but secretly? When Al-Hallaj begins his Tawasin with great praises for Mo(hammad), is he essentially begging for his life and freedom? Is this genuine?

Herein lies a great fault of dogma and insistent orthodoxy: surely it drives unorthodox speculation underground, surely it forces this kind of protective dissimulation, surely it causes the waters to be muddied time and time again. Hope is not lost, however. I think Rumi is saying that one can present oneself as exemplary, one can polish one's own mirror-steel. This is enough. It both protects the holder and achieves the purpose of pointing out the errors of the beholder.

It's always dicey to criticise. Dicey too, to avoid it altogether.


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