Inter(ned) Faith

interned-faith

Inter(ned) Faith by Professor A.L.I.

Thomas Munro had a vision of Raghavendra Swami,

Just as I had a dream of my own Samadhi,

For a piece of my heart is buried deep in Shirdi,

And another is covered by Karbala’s sands barely,

And the other vital organs are scattered beyond,

Amongst constellations like Trisanku body parts.

Put together like the rivers that flow unto sea,

The source is the same, this path is for me.

My ablution, an abhishekam performed with water,

From a well in Samarra, the bloodline of martyrs,

And my pilgrimage to Mecca begins in Sabarimala,

My fasting, a practice learnt from a devout mother,

And charity, in the blind generosity of my father,

And prostration learned by bowing down to elders,

So Islam’s rhythm was nestled in Vedic vessel,

And the cultural practices of traditional Tamils,

This is the complexity that helps to form me,

Yet ignoramuses like our president cannot see,

That Islam is everywhere, from the cycles of seeds,

To the circumambulation of atoms in the deepest of seas,

To banish this is to banish self, the essence is peace,

To war with oneself is the sickest disease.

 

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I Am a Muslim Because of Saint Thomas

saintthomas

Dear World,

If I you label me a Christian, due to my love for Jesus Christ and Mary, my adherence to the lessons taught by him, it is because I learned Christianity not from colonizers but from Saint Thomas.

Saint Thomas was the apostle of Jesus who migrated to South Asia and guided many towards the love of Jesus, and worship of God almighty.  What he taught was so close to the principles in the Old Testament that when Western Christians encountered the Malabar and Tamil Christians they exclaimed that these Christians were too Jewish in their practice.  They avoided pork and observed the Sabbath and these were qualities that seemed far from the practice of Roman Catholicism.

The Christians in Asia at that point had not been edited by the Council of Nicea, nor were they split in thought by a break in Eastern Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism, and they also weren’t part of the narrative that would see Martin Luther and John Calvin amongst others challenge the power of the Church.  King James hadn’t issued the Bible they were reading and somehow they were coexisting alongside the oldest Jewish Community of the Diaspora, Hindus of various practices and varnas, as well as Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims, not to mention Buddhists and Jains.  This was a pluralistic society that saw commonality and love.  This is the Christianity I know and practice, though you see my practice as a Muslim—the essence is the same.

I have Saint Thomas to thank for that, and to honor him, I created this piece:

Peace,

Ali

Merry Christmas.

An Open Letter To Saudi Arabia

OpenLetterSaudi

1/2/2016

Dear Saudi Arabia,

The word “dear” is a common salutation in any letter, but I feel so conflicted using it in this instance, since not only are you not dear to me, I actually despise you, for what you are, what you have done and continue to do and ultimately what you symbolize in the world.

I write this on behalf of your people, many of whom are my friends and whom I consider extended family members, who languish in your state, unable to speak, watching helplessly as you prey upon basic human rights of your own citizenry.

I write this on behalf of the tortured and executed innocence of your archaic injustice system, where upper social class and male privilege hold greater sway than both truth and justice.

I write this on behalf of immigrant workers, who come to help build your nation, who you treat like animals, and who you further victimize in ways too gross and too numerous to mention.

Despise You

I do despise you for how you have treated Tamils, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, East Africans and other racial groups who constitute a modern day slave labor system in your nation, complete with the viciousness of the days of old; and yet this is not the main reason for this letter.

I do despise you for how my friend (name omitted for security reasons) and his family are brutalized by the elites of your nation, despite being Saudi himself, and have no recourse for justice, since you have a system that blames the victim, when that victim represents a minority of any kind; and yet this is not the main reason for this letter.

I do despise you for how my aunt and uncle were treated while they lived in Riyadh, where he was working for AT&T, and the tales they told me of what they experienced and what they saw with their own eyes, and again this is not the main reason for this letter.

Hold You Responsible

As an American I hold you responsible for all the 9/11 hijackers who came from your country. I hold you responsible for Bin Laden and your export of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which has hijacked the lives of many people, including Americans overseas and continues to hold our tax dollars hostage in military expenditures. I hold you responsible for the Janjaweed, for Boko Haram and for ISIS, all of whom you directly or tacitly support.

But these are not the greatest reasons for why I hate you.

Saudiquote

As a Muslim I hold you responsible for hijacking Islam. In your backwards pseudo-intellectual interpretation of the faith, you have birthed every single example of Islamic terror we see in the world and have made the word terror inextricably connected to Islam in ignorant minds as a result. You gave birth to Islamophobia, because your form of Islam is one that we should fear. You hijacked hajj, the holy pilgrimage, which you don’t even hold on the proper day and your mismanagement has cost thousands of lives.

And still these are not the primary reasons for my disdain.

I hold you responsible as a human being, who sees your citizens, impish oil sheikhs, who travel to places like Los Angeles and London, prey upon women with brutal sexual violence and escape their crimes by using the façade of diplomatic immunity and paying off those who compromise their own values for filthy oil dollars. I am in disbelief that women and both religious and ethnic minorities are treated with greater disdain and inequity than that experienced by those groups before Islam.

Disgust

The greatest reason for my disgust of your regime is the simple fact that all of these valid critiques are looked upon you as a sources of pride and that this pride fuels even greater abuses such as your financial and military support for the genocide in Bahrain and the extermination of the Houthi people in Yemen. The news of your execution of Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, whose only crime was to ask for open elections, speaks volumes that you are a regime who is so wrapped up in the cloak of your perceived self-importance that you strike out at any that you can who disagree with you. You destroy shrines and world heritage sites to make space for your own aggrandizement, but also because those places represent legitimacy and you know you’re an illegitimate ruler of Holy Lands.

This is why I cannot go on the Hajj. I have family and friends who have gone, but I do not believe I can. I cannot enable the misperception that the false hajj you lead is legitimate. I cannot allow one cent to directly inure your kingdom of benefit from my coffers (I know that my usage of gasoline does, and I am taking steps, pun intended to remedy that as well). I cannot allow a visa stamp be looked on by my children, the students I teach as tacit approval of your regime and I cannot practice the cognitive dissonance that so many do who feel the same way.

So I have to deny myself a holy pilgrimage that I longed to do even before I became Muslim and prayed for every day since, and instead devote my prayer to your demise—that from your ashes a just regime emerges that is more in tune with the egalitarian and scientific principles of the true Islam. I will devote my time as an artist and educator to speak out against you and I hope that the Islamophobes in my country take a moment to listen, so that they know that where their legitimate fear can be directed. I will use my words to enliven those you’ve killed, thinking they have gone away—so do not think Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr is dead, he is very much alive and his voice will only grow louder as I add my voice to it, and invite those who are like-minded to do the same.

سیری ناپذیر-89840-shia muslim

There are those Muslims who may read this and say that I’ve gone too far and that the hajj is a pillar of our faith, and yet if Husayn ibn Ali and Zaynab bint Ali, the grandchildren of the Prophet Muhammad could break their hajj and leave Arabia just as the usurper Yazeed became Caliph—I believe I am justified in doing so.

There are those Americans who read this and wonder why I am focusing all my energy on you, when there are so many other despotic regimes in the Middle East—and it is because you are the reason for many of their existences as well and I’d rather focus my attention on the head of the beast rather than its tentacles for if you kill the head, the rest will fall.

How do you kill the head; a head created by lies and emboldened by ignorance? With truth and knowledge. This open letter is just the beginning. I have been relatively silent till now, but I can no longer sit pat while innocent people are killed–

You have awoken in me and others who are brave enough to stand with me your greatest nightmare—we will be the truth seeking missiles that will dismantle the infrastructure of your lies and the knowledge bearers who will water the thirsty while rooting out the ignorance you depend on for your existence. Your days on this earth are numbered.

Sincerely,

Professor A.L.I.

From Zaria to the Zarih

Zakzaky

The Trials of Zakzaky and Zeenah

By Professor A.L.I.

Yaro was the first Nigerian I ever met—he was from Lagos and for a time, back in the early 1990’s he would be my roommate. Since then I’ve made profound connections with many Nigerian people of various tribes, ethnicities and linguistic backgrounds. Some have adopted me into their families as an extended member, trusting me with their family suya recipes and dodo-making techniques–this type of familiarity and love breeds both interest and a sense of belonging and so as a result I’ve been tuned to Nigerian frequencies for years–listening to news about its people and nation.  This is how I came to know of a unique movement to reform Islam in Nigeria, led a person, who was returning Nigerian Muslims to the practice of Islam as exemplified by the family of the Prophet Muhammad, and he is known as Sheikh Zakzaky.  I write this piece on the heels of troubling news about Zakzaky, his family and his followers–and for all I know at the time of this article and piece being written, they could all be dead.

Ibrahim Yaqoub Al-Zakzaky is an Islamic scholar from Zaria, Nigeria, who studied Islam and continued to study it until he re-connected to its primary sources, which include the narratives belonging to the family of the Prophet.  Most Muslim ulema (scholars) or psuedo-scholars as they should be called, are not life long learners and limit the scope of their study to the memorization of Qur’an and ahadith.  Hence they have a hard time relating to the realities of the modern world, as they have not understood the context of these texts, nor those who embodied its values like the family of the bloodline of Muhammad through his only surviving child, Fatima.  These narratives have been threatening to the Saudi regime (in its illegitimacy) as well its Wahhabi-Salafi octopus, whose tentacles stretch out over the globe as ISIS/DAESH, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram.

The latter group works its wickedness in Nigeria at the behest of its Saudi paymasters and it is this group I suspect is behind or at least in the very least involved in the latest Nigerian military backed atrocities carried out in Zaria against Zakzaky and his family. Last year Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah lost three of their sons at what is referred to as the Qods Day Massacre, a peaceful protest of Nigerians commemorating the significance of Jerusalem to Muslims.  A week ago, it seems that Sheikh Zakzaky, his wife and three more of his sons were killed along with their followers in estimates that range from 1000-6000 people by the Nigerian military in Zaria.   Reports of a mass grave with over 800 bodies have just been verified by independent human rights organizations in the area but no one has yet heard from Zakzaky or his wife Zeenah—however we are being told by the Nigerian military that they are in custody.

I am greatly troubled by this as an educator and a Nigeriaphile because I’ve followed Zakzaky’s career from afar and admire what he has tried to do. Those who follow the news casually may remember the global lament and attention paid to the kidnapping of 300 girls by Boko Haram; it was Zakzaky who was the main critic of this organization before this tragic event, its other numerous atrocities, and throughout the mass kidnapping episode up until the recent massacre, which may have claimed his life.   Even as global news ceased to talk about the happenings in Nigeria, focusing their lens on ISIS and other tentacles of the Wahhabi kraken, Zakzaky kept his focus on Boko Haram.

Sheikh Zakzaky worked fervently to build ties between Muslims and Christians both in and outside of Zaria. At one point, due to his following he was referred by many outside observers as the most influential Islamic leader in Nigeria and when he transitioned, as he learned to a form of Islam emblemized in the practice of the family of the Prophet; it put him at odds with Saudis who have invested heavily to spread of their Wahhabist interpretation of Islam in the region.  Their ideology, which is based on the re-Arabicization of Islam preached by 14th century ideologue Ibn Taymiyyah, in which figures like Muawiyya and Yazeed, former caliphs who targeted and eventually murdered the family of the Prophet are considered hero figures.

Zakzaky’s work with the Nigerian Muslim community flourished and names like Fatima and Ali, as well as Zaynab and Husayn, became re-introduced to the people–even as their shrines were attacked in the Middle East by Wahhabi-Salafi extremists.  His peaceful marches reminding Muslims to stand up against all forms of oppression, in solidarity with Christians and other groups was a revolutionary concept in a region that was once controlled by the British through divide and conquer strategies.  In Zakzaky people had an individual who represented human beings, and was loved by Christians and Muslims of various denominations–and this love made him a target by those who profit off of war.

Yaro once told me that the people of Nigeria, especially his people who honored and invoked Orishas as conduits to the divine, would truly understand and embrace Islam in its original sense, instead of the Arabized Islam that was being proselytized to his people.  He argued that Islam with respect for the family of the Prophet was more in line with culture of saintly veneration, of conduits to the divine and I find myself unsurprised by Zakzaky’s success in Nigeria as a result.

Sheikh Zakzaky developed a powerful Islamic movement centered around the commemoration of the event of Ashura in Karbala, which retells and reenacts the story of how the caliph Yazeed murdered Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad along with his family and tortured and chained Zaynab, his sister, after murdering her children and cutting off their heads to display in his Damascus palace.  Yazeedian methods are still being used by the ISIS/DAESH’s and Boko Haram’s of the world–and the story of a family who stands up to such violence, unwavering in their faith, remains a powerful testament to true Abrahamic principles and as a result Zakzaky’s efforts spread like wildfire and threatened fringe extremist groups like Boko Haram because their form of Islam requires the ignorance of their adherents to the peaceful & justice oriented way Islam was practiced by the family of the Prophet.

Hearing the news of Zakzaky’s capture/torture/or demise, I felt compelled to write in my personal journals and was urged to share my reflections by my extended Nigerian family members, Yaro and Abdul-Rahim, an American Islamic scholar who, like me felt so broken-hearted over the most recent tragedy to befall Zaria and Zakzaky that he compelled me to write a piece and tell Zeenah and Zakzaky’s story as only a Hip-Hop educator can by telling this story and asking the questions we have all had hearing of this tragedy and so I have and the lyrics to my piece follow the video below:

From Zariah to the Zarih by Professor A.L.I.

I spit like oil slicks that Shell spills in Niger delta

Exposing corrupt politicians, spirit of Saro Wiwa

Invoke brother Ken, before other men,

Understand this battle is commerce of elements

They coerce presidents; replace ministers,

With the sinister, the most wicked on this earth,

The sickness they insert, into wombs so at birth

Young seeds will wield, the weapons that assert

The will of the beast, so righteousness stay alert

See a Sheikh emerge, sparked by Hussain’s thirst

A Shia, but at first, was just another brother

Who understood Islam, but not Yemeni cover

Given sight, blinded by light, of the mother

Of her father, like Fatima there is no other

He shuddered, then evolved, and led his people

Became target, they fear, revolution’s sequel…

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

From Zaria to the Zarih, Islam is what he studied

Till photos emerge, of a body left bloodied

Why was he threat, a cleric guiding heretics

Who’s pockets knew lint more than money Arabic

An advocate for unity between Abrahamic branches

Representin’ PEACE, is kryptonite for the kraken

Whose tentacles damage, strangle whole planet,

The Taliban in Kandahar, brotherhood in Kemet

Isis is global cris, Boko Haram’s a cancer

For West Africa, its head lives in Saudi palace

So Zakzaky’s movement used for target practice

His followers are slaughtered, mass graves stacked six

Of his sons martyred, divide and conquer tactics

The Zariah Massacre, is the epitome of tragic

Zeenah and Zakzaky’s story is that of sacrifice

Like Jesus and Husayn, the resurrection and the life

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

Shout out to my my Nigerian fam… my Yoruba fam, my Ibo fam, my Fulani fam, my Hausa fam… It’s all love… PEACE from Cradle to the Grave.