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Songwriter and musician Richard Thompson, a Muslim who came to that faith via Sufism which today's Islamic "puritans" regard as a heresy, speaks for himself, of course, below -- but "the human heart externalized" description struck me as true of pretty much all scripture if one allows for any and all aspects of "the human heart," including some particularly nasty ones touched upon in the Qur'an and the Torah, both of which prescribe taking human life (among other strange and shocking dictums) quite often and rather offhandedly:

This is a religious question but I'm not asking it in a silly attempt to put you on the spot but rather as someone who has been put off from embracing Islam because muslims tell me that music is haram. When you became a muslim did this come up a lot for you and was there a standard 'defence'? For example, I know there is disagreement about it among muslims and that some of the hadith used in the debate are considered weak. Or did you put the whole question of music to one side where your religion was concerned? Stuart

[Richard Thompson:] In the world of Islam, you can find the whole range of attitudes to music. The puritans, like the Wahabbis and the Taleban, grab a lot of headlines these days, but I think the opinion of the majority is less severe. The Sufis generally have used music in a sacred way, but in the time of Abdal Qadir Al-Jilani, for instance, music was discouraged because it was associated with invocation of demons. In Pakistan, you have the whole range from ecstatic Qawwali to Taleban puritanism. The Qur'an says nothing about music, or any of the arts, and certainly doesn't forbid music; the hadith (traditions of the Prophet) say a few things, but there are some questionable traditions there. What is the Qur'an but the human heart externalized? To follow one's heart, one would say that that music is a natural, joyous human expression.

I for one will take "the human heart" served up directly rather than through such a scriptural filter -- and Abrahamic monotheism not at all, thank you very much, with salutes to those like RT and beloved Rumi, who've made their way past the gore and the endless litany of rules and rituals to that which binds and enlivens "the human heart" in endless beauty and love.

"What is to be done, Oh, Muslims
For I do not recognize myself.
I am neither Christian, nor
Jew . . .nor Muslim.
I am not of the east, nor of
the west . . ."  --Rumi

One Door Opens  
by Richard Thompson

One door opens, another shuts behind
One sun sets and another sun she rises
Love comes to you in old familiar ways
Love comes to you in shadows and disguises

She may quit you, she may forsake you
Drift away like a phantom in a fever
Who walks in to your heart of solitude
Who walks into the lair of the deceiver

They say it was my turn
They say I had it coming
They say that’s what you earn
For living through a lie
If I could have my way
I’d leave it all tomorrow
There’s sorrow if I stay
I’ve other fish to fry

When love breaks like a precious string of pearls
A thousand memories, they roll away and scatter
Make believe that there’s ice runs through my veins
Shrug my shoulders, as if it doesn’t matter


The four years we studied in college to get our degree in Middle-Eastern languages, civilizations, religions, history, arts, geopolitics and diplomatic studies, took us through more than a thousand years of history, a mosaic of climates, cities, deserts, mountains, villages, seaports, local hues of Islam, niches of civilizations, economic interactions, local and distant wars, influence struggles and amazing places of centuries of peace and cultivation of art and science that Europe did not have the means to match in the Middle-Ages...

What i say now and would not have said then for fear of not receiving my diploma is that in all those billion galaxies of people and relationship, religion and politics is only an excuse for much deeper concerns, like Safety and Respect* and by saying that, i am the same idiot as Machiavelli was who said aloud what all the princes have always known and he got imprisoned for that.


*I worked for five months in Israel to blend and continue the study of the language and civilization and one word you hear a lot is "bitakhon": safety, and how the aggressor, the other race is described, as an animal, a predator, presented me with a whole new range of racist semantics although i thought i had heard it all back home.

The dehumanization of the adversary is the first step toward atrocity. The U.S. has a long and shameful record of this process, having been built on the blood-soaked lands of red folks and largely via the sweat of enslaved black folks. Anyone not white enough or "properly" Christian was seen as (at least potentially) subhuman through most of the this country's relatively short history.

The child has been brought up to believe he is a Jew, a Muslim, he even has been branded in his flesh like cattle (circumcision) to make sure he doesn't forget; his mother's fears and craving for comfort have been passed into his blood through her milk as ideals of values that will preserve that niche of comfort, through the patriarchal in-formation (shepherding) of these mother's cravings called religion he has been structured as a soldier, properly coward and trained to kill without questioning authority ....

From the root, if he doesn't properly identify he fears his mother will abandon him to wild animals ("expose him" as Socrates said), he is condemned to be stuck in "educated" negative emotions, called religion and ideals. The soldier undergoes ideals, religions, authority, while the warrior faces the aloneness, abandonment and his relation to wilderness and culturelessness, motherlessness.

Originally posted to zow on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:00 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I met RT once (7+ / 0-)

    and he had really huge & powerful hands, no surprise there.  His grip hurt for days afterwards; no wonder when he plays it sounds like 4 guitars at once.

    Best of RT's Sufi-type songs is IMO "Bird In God's Garden" off of that first French Frith Kaiser Thompson record; close second to "Night Comes In" off the immaculate Pour Down Like Silver, which is one of the best albums ever made by anyone ever if you ask me.

    A great great great interview or panel would feature Cat (Yusuf Islam) Stevens and RT on the subject of music and Islam, I'd pay to see that ;)

    "Some of you are going to die... martyrs, of course, to the Freedom that I will provide!"

    by emperor nobody on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:22:06 PM PDT

  •  The notion that right and wrong (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wildweasels, A Voice, Larsstephens, budr, zow

    should be determined through any "scriptural" filter, whether it is interpreted "liberally" or "conservatively" or anywhere in between, is the real problem.

    It eliminates any possibility for common ground and agreement on universal principles.

    It abdicates individual responsibility to figure things out using one's innate intelligence.

    It is fatally and inexorably flawed, utterly failing to prevent its abuse and misuse.

    Religion is never the answer. It's not even the right question.

    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

    by RandomActsOfReason on Mon May 11, 2009 at 10:02:58 PM PDT

  •  I wouldn't question Islam so much (4+ / 0-)

    if the main purveyors of Islam, which is the Middle East, didn't practice it like medieval Europe practiced Christianity, if not worse. Thankfully, Christianity reformed itself in beliefs and practice, which is why Europe and the Western World moved forward and today, we have a generally acceptance of other viewpoints, don't outlaw criticism of religion, accept women, most accept gays(even against most churches), etc. Islam needs a reformation. I will not yield to cultural relativism, and accept the hardline Islam the middle east gives us, along with all the radical Mullahs, Sheiks, Muftis, and Ayatollahs. I don't hate Islam, I believe however, that more people like Wafa Sultan must become prominent, and reform Islam. Things like the attempted assassination of Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi when he was in ENGLAND, is why Islam's name isn't very good in the West.

    •  My take on Islam (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      deaniac20, avalonbear, Larsstephens

      What would have been the effect on Islam if the concept of monasteries were present? The ultra fanatical, conservatives could isolate themselves from the world and live their ideal version of the life of the Prophet?

    •  There are over a billion Muslims in the world... (5+ / 0-)

      You will find at least one Muslim in almost every country.  The Middle East does not speak for all Muslims.  In fact most Muslims are even from the Middle East.  There are more black Muslims than any other kind of Muslim.  People really don't know that though.  They think that Arab/Middle Eastern Muslims are the face of Islam.  Well, it's not true.  There is not one face to Islam.  Islam is one of the few religions that from the start did not discriminate against one's race.  That's why there are so many that come from all over the world.  The Middle East does not speak for this Muslim in the least.  A great example of somebody that probably can connect with what you're saying is Rep. Keith Ellison from Minnesota (I pretty much agree with him on every political and social issue).  He's a Muslim...the first Muslim elected to Congress...and here's what he said...

      no one should be "cut out of the American dream: not immigrants, not gays, not poor people, not even a Muslim committed to serve his nation."

      I see him as a voice for Muslims of the West.  He's a great voice and not somebody who is stuck in the past.

  •  sufis seem pretty cool as religions go. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    their focus seems to be ecstatic celebration of god & not politics. they would almost be anti political. like these guys -

    "Michele Bachmann is like the demi glace of wingnuttia." - Chris Hayes, Countdown, 2/18/09

    by rasbobbo on Mon May 11, 2009 at 11:52:32 PM PDT

    •  A religion based on ecstacy? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AaronInSanDiego, rasbobbo

      ecstatic celebration

      So they are just getting their jollies? There is a church down the road that has "Addicted to Jesus" on their sign. I see bumper stickers that say "High on Jesus". So perhaps the motivation for joining a religion is the same that makes others roll a fat one? I have to think about this.

      As if things could get worse without getting better.

      by A Voice on Tue May 12, 2009 at 04:01:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Much better than your previous diary n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JDsg, JesseCW

    Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82
    This sig is the former home of a witty Monty Python quote.

    by AaronInSanDiego on Mon May 11, 2009 at 11:53:46 PM PDT

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