Wednesday, March 01, 2006

as I am a woman

I said I would take my heart back from you, but I can't,

Or that I would live on without this pain, but I can't.

I said I would banish desire for you, but I can't.

I swear to you, as I am a man, I can't.

#1296: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Today's quatrain seems like an obvious follow-on from yesterday's where Rumi was pleading to have his heart back. In this one, he is insisting that he simply cannot take it back. He is caught up, committed, trapped, enthralled. And he keeps repeating "I can't". He is clearly aware here of some inner imperative and he is identifying it with manliness. He is talking of soul things: courage, suffering, aspiration. There are no outer actions implied, no evident behavioural consequences.

I've been focussing more and more of late on the current historical and political developments in and around Islam. I've been wondering how that relates to Rumi and especially to the soul. Is the soul merely "inner" and therefore disconnected from these "outer" happenings?

This morning, I read in my local newspaper a Muslim lawyer's apologist response to a recent statement by Australia's Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, to the effect that Muslims seeking to introduce sharia law should leave the country. Here is an excerpt:

Indeed, Costello's comments about those seeking to establish sharia in Australia do not go far enough. What he should have said was that those seeking to establish only sharia (outward liturgy) without its spirit (inner liturgy or the spirit of the law) should find another country and another religion.

Christ castigated rabbis who followed the letter, but ignored the spirit, of sacred law. Muslims believe the sharia to be an updated version of the same law, the outer manifestation of the same Abrahamic values. However, this must exist in tandem with an inner manifestation - given a variety of labels by Muslims and commonly known in the West as sufism.

A minority of Muslims seek to establish sharia without sufism across the world. They are the source of virtually all terrorist groups in the Muslim world. Their theology is regarded by mainstream Muslims as isolationist and fringe. They distort sharia by imposing it on people without the inner discipline of sufism. They are openly hostile to sufi tradition.

These people seek to destroy Islam from within. They are arguably more of a threat to Muslims than non-Muslims. Hence, the majority of their victims are Muslims. Costello would like to see such people leave Australia. Most Muslims, on the other hand, would prefer to see these people leave our planet.

Irfan Yusef: A soulless distortion of Islamic law

Yusef is identifying sharia with outer manifestation here and insisting that it should be accompanied by "its spirit" or inner manifestation, that he identifies with sufism. Sharia on its own is without soul. Sharia combined with sufism seems, by implication, to be fine.

I find all of this quite confusing. Sufism is not something you can establish or insist on. Soul is not something you can legislate for. You can ask that a person not yield to temptation, but you cannot ask that the temptation never occur. What the soul desires is not subject to the "free will" that must be assumed in tandem with legal judgment. If, as Rumi insists, "I can't" (but follow my natural inner law) then how I can be punished for this? It simply makes no sense.

I suspect that Yusef is trying to apply the law to more and more private areas of our lives. If he had his way, if he had his sharia and his distorted sufism, we would all become accountable for our beliefs, for our aspirations, for our opinions and convictions. Sheesh! Give me sharia on its own any day in lieu of this additional mind policing.

Yusef is also wrong in regard to the facts about sharia and sufism. As a typical apologist, he trundles out the usual rhetoric about "a minority of Muslims" who want sharia without sufism. This supposedly insignificant minority rules and dominates in Saudi Arabia in the guise of Wahhabism. It stands guard over the Muslim sacred sites. Every Muslim performing the Hajj enters a country where Sufism is outlawed. What is "minority" about that?

In a different guise as radical Shi'a Islam, this sharia-only "minority" rules over Iran, a Muslim nation forthrightly vowing to exterminate the Jews of Israel and to use a developing nuclear capability to achieve that. This is neither a "minority" nor an insignificant or powerless force in world politics.

Wahhabism and Salafism also cover large sectors of Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries. They are technically a minority but, through their readiness to resort to violence, they have far more influence than their numbers alone would suggest.

As for Sufism, it remains alive in the poetry and the music. These are things that cannot so easily be tampered with or controlled. Almost every other aspect of Sufism, however, is strictly controlled. The Sufi schools are run along dogmatic, ritualistic, "outer manifestation" lines every bit as bad as the regular mindless madrassas. Sufism is not a significant force within the Islamic world, neither in an institutional sense nor in a spiritual sense.

There really is only one kind of sharia in the world today: it is a sharia without soul. Just like Allah, sharia takes no partners. And just like sharia and just like Allah, Islam itself is without soul.

Dear Irfan Yusef, You might fool some of the people some of the time but I see right through your empty pretensions.

And you know what? I feel totally loyal to Rumi in speaking up like that. And furthermore, I feel totally loyal to my womanhood, just as he felt loyal to his manhood.


At Thursday, 02 March, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Sorry, didn't have time to read the whole thing, but one line stood out: "There really is only one kind of sharia in the world today: it is a sharia without soul." Ouch!

At Thursday, 02 March, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Quite good enough, Bob! Picking out a word or line that you like is fine with me.

I think we humans are talking a lot right now ...


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