The End of November

holiday ornament
I know the holidays are approaching, and I want to wish those who are celebrating a wonderful season. I personally will be enjoying the weeks off reading while buried in a sea of blankets and imagining that it is snowing outside. And listening to how beautiful “Silent Night” is while replacing the blasphemous lines with ones about how Jesus is a Prophet. (“Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.”)

But only in my head. Christians would not appreciate me changing their carols in public, probably.

Muslim aliens

Dear readers! An intriguing and urgent question has been dropped into my inbox!

Would Muslims on Venus only have to pray 5 times every 243 Earth days? Since Venus rotates backwards, would they say the prayers in reverse order? What does this mean for Muslims on Uranus (no anal joke). THE FUTURE OF SPACE EXPLORATION AWAITS YOUR ANSWER WITH BAITED BREATH!

Famed scholars of our planet, how does a Muslim Earthling save xirself the embarrassment of engaging a Muslim Venusian in congregational prayer insensitively timed? Is it appropriate to adapt the Venusian prayer calendar? Upon my scheduled visit to Uranus, should I determine the arrival of Ramadan by the phases of Titania or Cordelia? Is eating Martians halaal?

related: mermaids, giants

Islamic Interpretations–Learning Rugged Individualism from Fatimah bint Qays and A’isha

Over the centuries the greatest loss to the Islamic community has not only been the lack of vigilant participation of strong, opinionated, and unrepentant women but the increasing intolerance of differences in jurisdictions without breaking Islam into sects. The differences that today divide the faith into militant segments had once in fact unified it, because Muslims used to actually care more about each other and respecting Islamic rights than they did about winning—and, most extraordinarily, they understood that one’s afterlife was no one else’s business. This is essentially because there was once a remarkable trust in God and in the nature of truth: if someone were spreading incorrect information, it would by its nature perish, for it is the nature of inoperative devices to perish. Additionally, individuals were held accountable for their own interpretations, and not for those who follow these interpretations, thereby creating a cultural complex in which no one was responsible for “saving” anyone else’s soul: each individual is fully responsible for his or her own interpretations and actions, because human beings are capable of rational thought.

Through this understanding that one should trust God, the nature of truth, and humans as rational beings who are each responsible for xir own beliefs, disagreement was considered natural and idiosyncrasies in practices of faith were expected. In fact, Umm al-Darda, a tabi’yyah, used to pray with the posture of a man rather than of a woman. And it was perfectly fine. (Can you imagine that frantic spew of “corrections” that would ensue today?)

Another example of this mentality is demonstrated by the narration of a hadith by Fatimah bint Qays, a famous scholar whose husband divorced her irrevocably while he was away. In the next few weeks he sent her some barley to pay her expenses, which angered and offended her. She refused to accept it, and in response her husband proclaimed in exasperation, “By God, you will have nothing from me!”

Recounting the tale to the Prophet, she reported that the Prophet had replied in the affirmative, “Your expenses are not an obligation on him.”

So, the Prophet agreed with her. Well, here’s the problem: the Qur’an very clearly states that an ex-husband is responsible for the expenses of his ex-wife until three months after they are divorced. (65:1—6) But Fatimah bint Qays’s ex-husband had sent the provisions prior to the end of the period; according to the Qur’an, he is still responsible for her expenses. In fact (to go back even further) according to the Qur’an, Fatimah bint Qays should have been waiting at her ex-husband’s house during this period—but instead, after consulting the Prophet on the matter, she was staying with her male cousin.

Of course, following the incident Fatimah bint Qays was criticized by several of the Companions for transmitting this hadith, including A’isha, the beloved wife of the Prophet, who blatantly said, “What is it with Fatimah? Does she not fear God in narrating this hadith?” According to A’isha, the Prophet had told Fatimah to stay with her cousin rather than at the home of her ex-husband because Fatimah and her in-laws would frequently quarrel—it was an exceptional case. A’isha, of course, was right to be concerned that the hadith would be removed from its context, since we can see today that so many have been.

But Fatimah was not stopped. Not even by Umar, who also disapproved of the narration of this hadith as he perceived it as a contradiction to the Qur’an. (Later jurists would conclude that it is not contradictory, with the explanation that the Qur’an is referring to provisional divorces whereas Fatimah’s divorce was definitive. Additionally, the verse itself does not dictate that women must stay with their ex-husbands or be provided for by their ex-husbands for the three months following the divorce, only that it is their right [which one can choose to practice] and in fact asserts they should not be oppressed or pressured.) Even despite the fact that Umar was a famously patriarchal man, he did not attempt to prevent Fatimah from narrating this hadith and greatly influencing jurisprudence, demonstrating the power rendered to women during the early stages of Islam. Fatimah continued to transmit the hadith and lived as she pleased, and she continued to be a famously respected scholar with great authority and acceptance in her community. Everyone stopped for a minute, glanced at her disapprovingly, then shrugged and went on with their lives. After all, the hadith itself affected only her and her personal practice of religious freedom, and her actions did not inflict harm on other members of the community, nor did she infringe on the rights of others to practice Islam as they believed it should be practiced.

Differences in interpretation were inevitable, and it was the right of the interpreters to adhere to these beliefs without pressure to conform to the majority. Women’s rights to independent reasoning were so inarguable that women continued to publicly teach opinions that were vastly refuted and remain highly respected citizens of the religious society.

Another example is a hadith narrated by A’isha, concerning breast milk. A man is not allowed to marry a woman who had been his wet-nurse. One day a woman came to the Prophet and said that one of her slaves had reached manhood and he made her husband uncomfortable whenever he entered the house. The Prophet replied, “Give him some of your breast milk, then you will become unlawful for him and then your husband will be at ease.” She did so, and her husband was at ease.

Much to the disagreement of many of the Companions, A’isha interpreted this to mean that if a woman gave an adult man her breast milk, it would have the legal effect of making marriage between them unlawful. Those who disagreed with her had astoundingly good reason—particularly the Quranic verse 2:233, which states that children have completed their breast-feeding after two years, suggesting that breast milk would have no impact on voiding a marriage with men drinking it after the age of two. Among the Companions, other wives of the Prophet disagreed with her, stating that the permission was particular to the woman whom the Prophet had addressed merely so that her husband would feel at ease, and not for everyone. Other Companions opposed Aisha’s interpretation on the basis of other hadiths, including the Prophet’s statement that breast-feeding is out of hunger; in other words, when a child is grown enough for nutrition other than breast milk and can satisfy xir hunger by solid food, the act no longer qualifies as breast-feeding.

But A’isha—beautiful, glorious A’isha!—did whatever the hell she damn well saw fit. Because she was awesome. And even though I disagree with her here (it’s not often I disagree with A’isha), and find her interpretation of the incident quite absurd, it is impossible not to admire A’isha, not to love her. Sharp-tongued A’isha in all her intelligence and magnificence continued to narrate the hadith and use her interpretation as guidance, and jurists continued to cite it.

The power acquired by the Companions and the closeness some of them had to the Prophet did not permit them to inhibit the distribution of interpretations they opposed. Information was public domain. They differed without dividing, and those who differed did not lose solidarity or respect from their communities.

And now when a woman, with the argument that it violates the message of spiritual equality in Qur’an itself, rejects the hadith of Abu Huraira—of whom A’isha herself disapproved—that insists women must pray in the back, she is accused of twisting Islam to fit her own agenda, even though the precedent of individuality has been set and no one in the past would have dared place themselves in the position of God and judge intentions, even though so many before have rejected the hadith of much more prominent figures such as Fatimah bint Qays and A’isha. When a woman leads men in prayer—as the Prophet himself allowed Umm Waraqa to lead men in prayer—she is the recipient of death threats and is violently betrayed by her own sisters.

“What’s your nationality?”

You mean ethnicity.

Well, I like parallel universes and far away places and standing on a balcony in the cool night air watching the lights in the mountains. Sometimes I’m shy around animals and accidentally play treble clef with my left hand. I like wondering to a friend what amoebas would dream about and feeling warm and happy when xie says xie thinks they dream about swimming and asexual reproduction and fascinators. I love saucy, spiral pasta and add jalapenos to everything I can. Occasionally I will tell you that you’re using the term irony incorrectly, but that is because you are, and maybe we can watch a documentary on oceans sometime?

Oh, right. My ethnicity. Do you still care to know?

Representing Women

I’ve noticed that highly intelligent women who are anti-feminist have a tendency to examine their own nature and proclaim conclusively that feminists are full of shit, limiting social functionality to biology. And while feminists are inclined to be much more aware of the nuances—and more often the expanses—that make women different from each other, it seems we occasionally participate in variations of this projection, most likely because it is an internalized device of patriarchy.

And this is a serious shortcoming. I can’t even begin to understand how one can not recognize falsely attributing her own characteristics to other women as essentially intellectually dishonest, if not a heinous betrayal of the emerging recognition of the female sex in its complexity. For example, I’ve come to the conclusion (even with zero experience) that I am not designed for sex without commitment. I know what I am; I am sure I harbor the most declaredly primal of cravings and behaviors, but even in hypothetical expressions of sexual freedom, monogamy is inevitable and ultimate—if not initially, then gradually. However, I would never impose these characteristics on another woman and assert that it is her nature simply because it is mine, or infringe on her rights and freedom to satisfy the criteria for her sexual contentment, or—most importantly—assess the validity of her womanhood.

Qualifying oneself as the archetype produces results of a deeply fallacious perspective and can only breach intellectual honesty. It amuses me the same way do those who believe in evolutionary psychology (yuck) yet are so ready to dispose of the qualities evolved over thousands of years that result in contrary evidence.

Appreciating Social Justice from the Unseen

I want to talk about ji’had (struggle), and I want to talk about it at its most basic elementary level to demonstrate how it relates to social justice, and, is essentially, at the core of striving toward it. And I want to do this by considering the configuration of human beings.

God began the creation of humankind
Out of but clay […]
And God proportioned humankind
and blew unto it
something of God’s spirit. (Qur’an 32:7—9)

The word spirit in Arabic is ruh, derived from the same root as rih meaning wind–which insinuates the quality of spirit: it is not something that is visible to the human eye, but like wind, is known through its effects, and fastens to the body in that it allows the body on every cellular level to live. The result is life, and God is the creator of life—spirit—and all life belongs to God, but although the characteristics of spirit are divine in that they are from God, they are not identical to God, just as angels are the radiance of God and not God Godself.

Angels are a kind of spirit (but not all spirits are angels) and are made of created light, the opposite of created darknesses. As mentioned in an earlier entry, all light is the radiance of God’s light, which is uncreated and has no opposite; —nothing can exist that is absolute darkness because nothing exists outside of the realm of God. Therefore, there is only one light that is uncreated (God) and many created darknesses that cannot hold together without the single reality of God’s light. What is distant from God is darkest, but must still possess some quantity of created light (God’s radiance) as it exists within the realm of God as God’s creation.

The opposites of created light are created darknesses, but there is no opposite to uncreated light—no opposite to God, and nothing like God. The characteristics of spirit are divine, but only as God’s radiance. And spirit is the single created reality that holds together many darknesses that are otherwise disunited. And it is the single reality that holds together the human body, which is a degree of darkness, unlike angelic bodies (and spirits) made entirely of light (and thus having no free will to employ evil). Without spirit to unite our bodies, they would crumble to reveal their true nature: nothing but earth and water.

The Qur’an states that the human body is made of clay, a combination of earth and water. Through an examination of these two components, we may understand the attributes of human nature: both earth and water are heavy, dull, and infinitely divisible, but water remains composed as a single form even as it divides. And while earth is dry and dark, water is penetrable by light. These attributes are the qualities of human beings: we are created of a substance that is heavy and dark but penetrable by light. We contain in our essence all the characteristics divinely denoted: compassion, power, patience, beauty, gentleness, yearning, mercy, love, generosity, justice, life. But we aren’t always these things, and that is because we are made of not only spirit but of body. And from our bodies come majesty, pride, distance, detachment, and severity.

But to be worthy of being a human being, of whom the best are said to surpass the status angels (and of whom the worst are said to be lower than dust and unworthy of the title of human), is not to become entirely of spirit, or become angelic, or to condemn the human body which God has created for us—but it is to constantly struggle in our duality, as souls borne from the joining of our spirit and body, and give precedence to attributes that are closer to God. To constantly struggle and give precedence to mercy over vengeance, to compassion over detachment, to beauty over cruelty, to intensity over severity, to modesty over pride, to desire over majesty. After all, we must have bodies in order to realize spirits. How can an angel become intense when there is no darkness to intensify its light, to perpetually overcome?

And if we need a little help, we can definitely learn from jinn: spirits whose bodies are made of fire, the most famous of whom is the devil himself, who—overtaken by arrogance—refused to bow. Don’t make the same mistake he did and think yourself better than other creatures. There is much we can learn from the good of their examples, and much we can understand from the composition of their beings. Fire is both incandescent and dark; a deceptive combination of light and shadows. It is luminous as it rises, but cannot escape what it needs to fuel it. It demands magnificence and destroys all others, and in that is it arrogant and envious, tempting humans to use the science of magic by which jinn are contacted and mistaken for the greatness of God. It burns with desire to be close to God, and in that it is pious and pristine, drawing itself toward angels with its luminous nature and impassioned devotion.

In becoming human, we maintain both dualities of the radiance of light and the darkness of bodies and constantly prefer the attributes that bring us closer to God—we are in a perpetual state of struggle and elevation. And we must be compassionate, knowing, desiring, loving, and just. And this, wrapped in the constance of our very being, is the most primary ji’had.

“Don’t call me special.”

An instructor in New Jersey threatens a student, who records in on camera. Watch the video here, embedded at the top of the article. Trigger warning. Serious trigger warning. The student makes a simple request, and his voice is calm and polite throughout the entire video. The instructor, whose voice rises to dangerous levels, looks like he’s about to physically attack him. The instructor’s fists are clenched for the majority of the video.

Transcript:

“Don’t call me special.”

“What? Oh my God, fucking *** tard. Jules, just what do you think you’re in here for? What does the title on the front of that school say? SPECIAL EDUCATION.”

“Don’t call me special.”

“What would you like me to call you Jules.”

“Normal. Just don’t call me special.”

“Are …what’s the definition of normal?”

“Um—”

“You wanna be called normal but YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS! That makes a WHOLE LOTTA SENSE.”

(instructor walks toward board, then turns back around)

“What do you want me to call you Jules?”

“I don’t know. Just don’t call me special.”

“What’s gonna happen—?”

“Don’t call me special.”

“What’s gonna happen to me?”

“Don’t call me special.”

“Alright, what’s gonna happen to me?”

“I’m just telling you, don’t call me special.”

“I will say whatever I want about you. You don’t like it, OH WELL. You know what, the truth hurts. Reality hurts.”

“When I get out of this school, you ain’t gonna be calling me special no more.”

“You know what, Jules? I will kick your ass from here to Kingdom Come until I’m 80 years old.”

“Don’t threaten me.”

“What’re you gonna do? What’re you gonna do? YOU GONNA GET A CHOPPER AND CHOP ME? Like I’m scared. You’re never gonna be able to beat me ever. You’re never gonna be big. You’re never gonna be tough. That’s the real world. You threatening me?”

“I’m not threatening you!”

“You said when you get out of this school you’re gonna do something. What’re you gonna do—?”

“No, I didn’t!”

“–What’re you gonna do?”

“Get out of my face.”

“What’re you gonna do?”

“Don’—”

“You didn’t say that? You didn’t say when you get out of school—”

“Get out of my face!”

“—you’re gonna do something.”

“I didn’t—no, I said when I get out of this school, what’re you gonna say then. When I get out of this school—”

“When you get out of this school, I’ll be right there. You tell me where you are and I’ll call you anytime–“

“—I said when I get out of this school—then—”

“—there ain’t gonna be a stinkin thing you can do.” (student attempts to speak) “There ain’t gonna be nothin’ you’re gonna do. There ain’t gonna be nothing you’re gonna ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER, EVER, do!”

“Get out of my face.”

“What’re you gonna do? What’re you gonna do?”

“Just get out of my face.”

“I be where I want WHEN I want. What’re you gonna do? You won’t do a thing.”

“Get out of my face.”

“You don’t see me movin’ do you? Do you see me moving?”

“Get out of my face.”

“You ain’t gonna do a thing. NEVER.”

“Alright. Just get out of my face.”

“You ain’t NEVER gonna be big enough or bad enough. Never! That’s the truth. That’s why they *inaudible* You ain’t never gonna make it *inaudible* Life sucks. Reality sucks. Walk into the real world.”

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