‘My SUFI GHUTI’ by Sana Janjua

I clear my goddamn throat
with organic, saffron-shaded, Sufi Ghuti-

its superfood ingredients hand picked
from indigenous, stolen territories
by migrant workers and undocumented laborers,
patiently turning their ethanol-dusky sweat
into plastic-protected fruits I peel labels off from
– a brew of California apples, BC berries
reddened, like desire, with local beets-
which I lick as a concoction to give my
goddamn chest a birth-inducing thrust

to say “ALLAH!”,

as I gurgle out the news of a
“bomb nearly as nuclear as a bomb can be”
-thrown acid-facedly on Afghani soil-
into a pale sink turning blight and spongy
like my own mindless mind.

Some native informant,
I contemplate,
capture the scene of this acid faced-ness

-Phallic Pentagon: the imperial center
of rape, and rupture-

and make an award winning documentary,
so I could applaud
with all my limbs in limbo,
like a freak unleashed.

Every night, as a narcotic balm,
I turn to my Sufi Ghuti
– licking it-
to assuage my guilt of seeing too much suffering
with a tradition
set aside for balancing the worse with the good
-a tradition that a few good men
(residing in an hypoxic,
upper class intellectual wardrobe)
curated to get past the thorny delirium

that organizing and agitating,
and losing one’s mind happens to be-

because the oppressor ambushes from
“both sides now”, as Joni Mitchell sings.

Adrift on a low sail and high moon,
I soften the edge of the Ideological
with the narcotic mirth of my Sufi Ghuti,
and whirl into misty obscurantism

-the throttled misery of a child in echolalia-

as I ponder if it’s Marx or Bakhsh,
that makes me more air-lifted?

To my lover,
I write: I will fight for the visa
regardless of the contradictions-
so dialectical it sounds that I,
feeling enough ghuti-ized,
hum my forlornness
into the lungs of the daylight.

But, the night descends, you know,
and, I get lonely.
It feels like the end of days, as Syrians tell us,
and frankly speaking,
the Promised Messiah isn’t coming to town this year either.

(April 14, 2017)

Sana Janjua is a poet, performer and playwright who is a Founding Member and the President of Surrey Muse. She works as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse, and enjoys working in the field of mental health.
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Goodbye Sabri

sabri

Written by Randeep Singh

I was not a fan of Amjad Sabri. I don’t know any of his tunes. Why am I mourning his passing?

Sabri was one of the leading singers of qawalli in the subcontinent. As part of the Sabri brothers, he performed in dargahs, concert halls and stadiums around the world.

He was shot dead today in Karachi. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. In the past ten years, Pakistan’s Sufi Islamic culture has been bombed, murdered and assailed. Shrines are attacked, worshippers are killed and festivals are fired on.

No one is pure in the Land of Pure. Not Sabri, a devotee of Allah and His Prophet. Not Farid or Data Ganj, Sufi poets and cultural icons of Pakistan. Only the new guardians of Islam show the straight path. They are the masters of the day of judgement …

Goodbye Sabri. May your voice lift the spirits of those you left behind. May Pakistan preserve your legacy and the spirit of its culture.

Why Criticizing Islam is Not Islamophobia

Hallaj

Written by Randeep Singh

Writing in the wake of Charlie Hebdo in Al-Jazeera, Abdullah Al-Arian argues that Islam has been “unfairly criticized and ridiculed” by the West for centuries. Such a history, he writes, has prejudiced the West into into painting Islam as illiberal and intolerant.

Islamophobia is a reality. So too are problems within Islam and the Muslim world. Islamophobia should be condemned; but not criticizing or questioning Islam or Muslim societies.

If I criticize Islam for engendering patriarchy, the persecution of minority groups and its smug, supremacist view of itself, it’s because I have criticized Christianity for the same reasons. I oppose Christian organizations for their homophobia, without hating Christianity. I criticize Israel without hating Jews. I criticize Islam without hating it. I am not hating or fearing anyone: I am striving for equality, inclusion and justice regardless of who or what we are.

The fight for freedom of expression is not a clash between civilizations. It has been happening within the Muslim world for centuries. Mansur Al-Hallaj (856-922) became a martyr for proclaiming “I am the Truth (God).” Sarmad (1590-1661) too was martyred for his “heretical” views. Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) challenged the mullah for his sectarian views. In modern times, Nazim Hikmat (1902-1963), Saadat Hassan Manto (1912-1955) Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984) and Naghuib Mahfouz (1911-2006) have all been imprisoned, exiled or censured for their art and political views.

Criticism of the Muslim world as illiberal and intolerant today is likewise vindicated. Just ask Raif Badwai, the blogger who recently received 50 lashes in Saudia Arabia. Or ask Aasiya Bibi, the Christian women who languishes in prison on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan. Or how about Salman Rushdie?

Without change, the Muslim world will become progressively more intolerant and creatively barren. Denying any criticism of Islam produces a culture which is afraid to ask questions and unable to find answers.

The Sufi Legacy in South Asia

nizamuddin

Written by Randeep Singh

On September 13, 2014, the Hari Sharma Foundation in association with a number of arts and cultural groups, presented the conference, “Spirituality, Humanity and the Marginalized: The Sufi Legacy in South Asia” and a musical concert “Songs of Waris Shah, Bulleh Shah, Kabir, Lalon Fakir and Rabindranath Tagore.”

One of the musical highlights was the husband-wife team from Bangladesh, Farida Parveen (on voice and harmonium) and Ghazi Abdul Hakim (on flute). Ghazi on the bamboo flute turned music into poetry, filling the concert hall with the colour of Bengal, taking us beyond the streams and paddy fields.

Farida Parveen sang the songs of Lalon Fakir with a gusto and a tenderness in her earthy tones. The concert also featured Enakshi Chatterjee from Calcutta who opened with songs of Tagore and Madan Gopal Singh from Delhi who sang songs of Sultan Bahu and Bulleh Shah and others.

The highlight of the conference was Dr. Nile Green (UCLA) and the ensuing discussion. Green’s presentation, “Mazaars for the Marginalized” underlined the pluralistic, cosmopolitan dimensions of Sufism, of its journey across trade routes by caravans from Khurasan eastwards to Turkey and southwards through the Khyber Pass into Hindustan.

That plural and cosmopolitan spirit, Green spoke, is heard in the tradition of Sufi poetry and music which filtered into India from Khurason. It is in words like “Auliya” (Arabic), “Pir” (Persian) and “Baba”(Turkish), epiphets for Sufi masters and in the shajars (genealogical trees) of Sufis tracing their ancestry to Samarkand or the Hejaz. Sufi shrines included Greek Christians in Turkey as they did Hindus in India.

The appeal of Sufism to the marginalized according to Green was in its creation of a space where social power was redistributed more evenly. Sufis also acted as important intermediaries between the ruler and the common man in economic, political and legal matters and Sufi institutions provided food and medical care to the poor.

The piety and inclusiveness of the Sufi was questioned during the discussion period. Sunera Thobani mentioned how the Sufi pirs themselves had vast estates and wealth, whereas Habiba Zaman pointed out how Sufi spaces often clearly excluded women. Green himself pointed out today how Sufis became kings of Libya upon that country’s independence or how those of Sufi lineage sit in parliament in Pakistan. Green also reminded us of the hierarchy within Sufi orders, no where more uncompromising than in the relationship between the murshid and the pir.

One member of the audience asked whether Sufism or “Islam-lite” was a way of making Islam more acceptable and congenial to a post-911 West. Whether it is remains a topic for further discussion. But what Green reminded us is that Sufism has always had an appeal beyond just Muslims and the shariat and the importance of its role in shaping culture, Islamic or otherwise.